“Concentrate feed fiber variation is just one parameter that’s not generally accounted for in dairy rations,” explained Goeser. “Fiber, protein and starch levels are three parameters that you really need to monitor to increase ration consistency and accuracy.”
A 2012 study at Ohio State University (OSU) illustrated that the variation in NDF among commodity feed ingredients was similar to the NDF variation found in forages. Assuming a 20% inclusion rate and average within-farm variation for concentrate NDF, diet NDF could change by 0.3 to 0.8 percentage units.
4) Inaccuracies impact animal performance
It’s tough for the rumen to adapt to feed ingredient variation resulting in sub-optimal performance.
For example, OSU research conducted last year showed dairy cows fed a diet containing either 7% long-chain fatty acids or 4.8% long-chain fatty acids produced less milk and had lower dry matter intake than cows fed diets with less variation.
5) There are options to deal with variation
While variation will always occur in forages and commodity feeds, you have options to deal with it.
The inclusion of less variable feed ingredients is one area to explore. For example, you can select an ingredient with a consistent level of dietary protein, and then deal with variability for other ration nutrients. At least you can be confident in ration protein.
Another suggestion is to adopt a routine commodity testing program, similar to a testing program for your forages. While commodity feeds are not on hand as long as forages, you can compare nutrient composition of a current sample to that of the previous two truckloads to get a sense of the variability for which you must account in formulating diets.
To learn more about managing your ration to minimize variability and achieve consistent performance, visit www.transition.ahdairy.com/.