“New and affordable technology is available that allows dairy producers to improve the accuracy and precision of feeding,” says Noah Litherland, assistant professor of dairy nutrition at the University of Minnesota. “Precision dairy nutrition is a systems concept that allows producers to account for daily variation that occurs on farms.”
There are five main components in a precision dairy nutrition system:
- Modeling cow requirements
- Feeding management
- Milk nutrient output
- Waste nutrient output
Recently, Litherland and colleagues examined the accuracy of a new precision feeding technology that scans individual ingredients using near-infrared reflectance (NIR) and adjusts dry matter while the ration is being mixed. They compared this technology to weekly adjustment of ingredient dry matter using oven drying (control).
According to results reported at the 2012 Midwest meeting of the American Dairy Science Association in Des Moines, Iowa, the NIR technology, also known as Intelligent Ration Monitoring or IRM, was just as effective at maintaining TMR consistency as traditional oven-drying methods.
There were no differences in TMR dry matter, starch, crude protein, acid detergent fiber and neutral detergent fiber between the two treatment groups. There also were no differences in dry matter intake, fat-corrected milk, milk fat percent and yield, and feed efficiency. However, milk protein was higher for the IRM treatment.
Litherland adds that there were no differences between dry matter content measured in the lab and dry matter measured on farm by the NIR precision feeding system.
"This data indicates that the dry matter measurement by the on-farm NIR equipment agreed with the gold standard of measuring dry matter in a forced-air oven in laboratory conditions," he says.
The conclusion was that cows fed the IRM-adjusted ration performed as well as those fed a ration adjusted using traditional oven-drying methods.