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Amino acid balancing generated a lot of interest due to high component prices in 2008 when Dairy Herd Management conducted the first Amino Acid Balancing Survey. Although milk component prices are lower in 2010, interest in amino acid balancing remains strong. 

The second Amino Acid Balancing Survey has just been completed with responses from more than 1,000 nutritionists, veterinarians and producers.

The producers who responded covered the entire United States with representation from all dairy producing states. The states of Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota represented 53 percent of the responses.

Dairy Herd Management strives to provide useful information on subjects of current interest. Analysis of the responses and comparisons to the 2008 survey are shown below.

Balancing Rations for Rumen Undegradable Protein (RUP) and Amino Acids (AA)

Producers and those formulating rations were asked if they balance rations for RUP and AA.

  • 61 percent of the producers indicated that they balance their rations for RUP, an increase from 49 percent in 2008.
  • Nearly all of those who formulate rations indicated that they do formulate for both RUP and AA (a slight decrease from 87 percent in 2008 to 81 percent).

Typical Increases in Milk Fat, Protein, and Volume with AA balancing

Similarly, producers and those formulating rations were asked what they consider to be a typical increase in fat, protein, and volume when balancing rations for AA.  Their answers were nearly the same, with increases in fat from .09 percent to .13 percent, increases in protein from .09 percent to .11 percent, and volume increases of about 2.0 pounds. This represents no significant changes from the 2008 survey.

Other Benefits from Balancing AA

Producers and those formulating rations and DVMs were asked about other benefits from balancing AA.

  • The highest ratings were given to “Fewer Metabolic Disorders” and “Improved Reproduction.”
  • Compared to the 2008 survey, there seems to be an increase in recognition on “Improved Reproduction” and less recognition on “Reduced Mastitis."
    • “Improved Reproduction”: 39 percent of producers in the 2008 survey said that they saw improved reproduction when balancing for amino acids. In the 2010 survey this increased to 48 percent. 
    • “Reduced Mastitis”: 23 percent of producers said they saw reduction of Mastitis in the 2008 survey. In the 2010 survey this dropped to 14 percent.

Environmental Impact

Producers were asked if they were concerned about environmental regulations impacting their dairy operations; 82 percent responded “Yes.” The primary concern was Nitrogen runoff (73 percent of producers) with Methane air emissions ranking second (31 percent of producers).

Crude Protein

Producers and ration formulators were also asked if AA balancing would reduce crude protein levels. In the responses, 40 percent of the producers and 80 percent of ration formulators recognized that AA balancing can reduce crude protein levels.

The majority of nutritionists and producers believe that Crude protein can be reduced to 16 percent or less when balancing for amino acids.

Distillers Grains

Both producers and ration formulators were asked questions about the use of distiller’s grains. The biggest change from the 2008 survey was the 50 percent reduction in those considering the use of distiller’s grains. Respondents have either decided to use distiller’s grains (the majority) or not to use distiller’s grains.

Feeding rates for distiller’s grains were in the range of 2 to 4 pounds. (dry) per cow per day both in 2008 and 2010.

Convincing sources of information

All participants were asked to rate the value of information from various sources. 

  • Overall participants ranked “University Research”, “Nutritionists” and On Farm/Field Trials as the most convincing sources of information.
  • Individually, producers ranked “University Research” third while those formulating rations ranked “On Field/Farm Trials” as their third choice.
  • Information from “Supplier Representatives, Publications and Web Sites” was ranked lowest overall by the participants with information from “Testimonials from Producers” and “Key Opinion Leaders” also ranked lower.
  • Among the nutritionist and DVMs balancing rations, “University Research” was ranked by far the highest.  In turn, the producers trusted the information they received from their nutritionists.

Key Opinion Leaders and Universities

Those formulating rations were asked which Key Opinion Leaders they closely followed. The top five (ranked at 3 or above on a scale of 1 to 5) are listed below in the order of their ranking. (Mike Hutjens, Ph.D.; Chuck Schwab, Ph.D.; Randy Shaver, Ph.D.; Charlie Sniffen, Ph.D.; Tom Overton, Ph.D.)

The universities considered the best sources of information on amino acid balancing are as follows:

Product Effectiveness – Methionine Sources

Those balancing rations were asked which products they considered the most effective. The question was asked based on increasing fat effectiveness and increasing protein effectiveness. Based on 130 responses, the top four products for each category (ranked at 2.5 or above on a scale of 1 to 5) selected in order of their effectiveness are as follows:

Increasing Protein Effectiveness:

Increasing Fat Effectiveness:

Product Effectiveness – Lysine Sources

Those balancing rations were asked if they formulate with blood meal. Out of the 324 responses, 72 percent said yes and of this, 91 percent used it because of its value as a bypass source of lysine. These results reveal that people have become very comfortable with using blood meal as a source of lysine.

When asked what supplemental lysine products they used to balance amino acids, less than eight responses from people who knew the products were reported. With such a small response, no rankings of those products were justified for this category.