How does variation in NDFd affect your ration balancing?

The lower milk prices of 2015 likely have you reviewing your rations and looking for areas to cut costs.  An important question, as part of your review, is how accurately are you at predicting or supplying nutrient demand relative to the degree of variation in digestion that occurs on the dairy?  It may be greater (or less) than you think, but until you know you could be over feeding expensive supplements such as rumen protected amino acids.

There is not a lot of research in this area, but over the last couple of years we have been looking at available data that may help nutritionists reduce cost – while maintaining milk production.  For this newsletter, we will reiterate pertinent points from past newsletters, as-well-as other research to assist you with WHY the variation is costly and WHAT you can do to reduce it.

Dr. David Combs, in his presentation at the 2015 Tri-State conference, said that “milk production from NDFd variation accounts for up to a 5 – 7 pound swing in milk production, and a 2 – 3 pound variation in starch digestion”.

The 5 – 7 pound variation in milk production is associated with 10-14 points of NDFd variation.  Breaking down the question further:

  • How much does digestion vary between cows?
  • And how much does it vary from day to day?

Dr. Rick Grant, in the January newsletter, suggests that true variation in dietary composition day-to-day does occur due to variations in:

  • Forage nutrient composition as well as other feed ingredients
  • Inclusion rates of ingredients due to errors in weighing ingredients and mixing loads
  • Physiochemical characteristics such as forage particle size, moisture, NDF, etc.

Dr. Bill Weis adds to Dr. Grant’s list, of external events that impact variation in digestion, sampling and/or lab variations.

But what about daily variation in digestion in the cow, herself as well as variation between cows?

Depending on these potential variations, we can break down the question even more:

  1. How accurately can we predict microbial protein flow if there is a 10-14 point variation in NDF digestion?
  2. Would a 10-14 point variation in NDFd affect the microbial protein prediction in your computer model?
  3. Would this much variation in microbial protein flow affect your ability to balance amino acids?
  4. If rumen fermentation is more constant, could you better predict that need or amount of supplements to add?

Ralph Ward (CVAS) recently said, “You can’t manage unless you understand the variation”.  BioZyme has been working with independent labs the last few years, utilizing lab techniques to determine Total Tract Apparent Digestion on the farm.  This technique uses a TMR sample plus manure sample to predict potential digestion of various ration components like NDF, starch and protein.

We have also conducted research at Northwest Missouri State University to better determine individual cow variation and variation between cows.  Daily TMR and manure samples were collected from the same group of cows over a nine day period.  The results confirmed Dr. Combs findings reported in his presentation; daily range in NDF digestion varied by 11.2 points and the starch digestion variation was about half of the NDF.

The results clearly reflect variation occurs not only in the TMR, but also in the rumen of the cow, which may be causing greater impact than had been considered.  NDF is the largest component of a dairy diet and the most variable.  You may be addressing the external factors to the best of your ability, but often, these are outside of your control.  What is within your control to help minimize internal cow variation and help you more accurately model rations?  Amaferm.

Amaferm is research proven to increase NDF digestibility across forage qualities and forage types.

NDF graph

Amaferm research across different forages and forage qualities has shown an average improvement in digestion of 4-11 points.   It has also been shown to improve microbial protein flow by over 200 grams per day which helps to fill in the gap when “normal” microbial protein flow is less than predicted.

Reduced variation converts to performance.   Amaferm’s average milk increase in early lactation is 7%. For a high producing cow giving 100 pounds of milk at $.17/ cents per pound ($.37/kg), feeding 5 grams of Amaferm for the first 150 days of lactation, the return to the dairy is $1.09/day or $163.50 per cow over the fed period.

Contact us to add Amaferm to your rations to help minimize variation and increase milk production.