When looking for ways to improve milk production it’s important to rule out non-feed related issues that could be a factor. To assist you in evaluating your feeding program, Purina Animal Nutrition experts recommend these five tools:
1. A forage particle separator (such as the Penn State Shaker Box) is a tool that provides information on how feed is delivered to the cow, including particle length, effective fiber, and potential for sorting.
2. A 1/16” screen can determine if corn has been ground fine enough. If corn is too coarse it will not be utilized efficiently by the cow. If 90% or more of ground corn passes through this size screen then the grind is considered excellent; 80% to 90% is considered very good, 70% to 80% is considered good and <70% definitely needs improvement.
3. A temperature probe can determine if secondary fermentation is taking place in silos. Secondary fermentation causes silage to lose its nutritional value prior to reaching the cow. Safety is of the utmost concern when working with bunker silos and drive-over piles of silage; be very cautious when measuring the temperature of the silage face.
4. Collect a composite manure sample and submit it to a laboratory for evaluation of fecal starch content. The goal should be to have fecal starch content less than 4% to 5%. According to University of Pennsylvania research, for every point higher, 0.7 lb. of milk is lost. Use a 3/16” screen to wash a manure sample and check for the presence of corn kernels and oilseeds passing through and evaluate fiber particles. Long forage particles indicate a faster rate of passage out of the rumen.
5. Evaluate body condition scores throughout the lactation.
“Use these tools to evaluate the big picture and then start fine tuning the ration,” says Dr. Frank Janicki, technical sales specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition LLC.