Forage alternatives can replace a large fraction of forage in the diet. However, there are some important factors to consider when reducing forage in the diet of lactating cows. Here are some recommendations from experts at Michigan State University:
- Include forages with high fiber concentrations and long particles. Forages vary greatly in fiber concentration and particle size. The forage content of diets can be reduced if forage with higher fiber concentrations and longer particles are used.
- Avoid rapidly fermented feeds. Rapidly fermented feeds containing sugars and starch should be limited. It is important to consider the fermentability of all diet ingredients when feeding low-forage diets because most forage alternatives are more fermentable than forages and are also less effective at stimulating chewing. Limiting rapidly fermented feeds such as finely ground high-moisture corn and molasses will reduce the risk of acidosis.
- Minimize slug feeding. Diets with less coarse fiber require less chewing during eating and can be consumed more quickly, resulting in larger meals before satiety occurs. Although this might be desirable to increase feed intake in some situations, it also can result in ruminal acidosis if fermentation acids cannot be absorbed quickly enough, and the buffering capacity of ruminal contents is greatly exceeded. Overcrowding and feeding for no weighback increase competition among animals and encourage slug-feeding and should be avoided when feeding minimum forage diets.
- Include dietary buffers. Although efforts should be made to reduce fermentability by limiting highly fermentable feeds, and to reduce slug-feeding by providing adequate bunk space, inclusion of buffers makes sense as another way to reduce risk of acidosis.
- Limit non-fiber forage sources with high fat content. Concentration and availability of polyunsaturated fatty acids might limit inclusion rates for some NFFS such as whole cottonseed and distillers grains because of potential milk fat depression. Limitations depend on fatty acid concentration and composition of the NFFS and other dietary ingredients.
Click here to read “Forage Crises? Extending Forages and Use of Non-forage Fiber Sources” by Mike Allen and Jennifer Voelker.
Source: Mike Allen and Jennifer Voelker, Michigan State University