Nutritionist e-Network - December 2012

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Dec. 21, 2012
Welcome to the Nutritionist e-Network, published by Dairy Herd Management® magazine. This issue is sponsored by Danisco, Elanco Animal Health, Kemin Industries, Lallemand Animal Nutrition, Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition, Novus International, Soy Best and Zinpro Corp.

  Sponsored by Lallemand Animal Nutrition

Advice for setting MUN targets
People pretty well agree that an “acceptable” milk urea nitrogen level is in the 11 to 15 range. But there can be variation between herds and within herds. A MUN value of 11 mg/dL may be normal for one herd, while a value of 13 mg/dL may be normal for another. Now, a study by researchers at Virginia Tech and Purdue University has quantified how much variation may be due to overfeeding protein, all else being equal. Researchers studied the MUN levels in five commercial herds, plus the Virginia Tech herd. They found that when other variables are held constant, a one-percentage unit change in dietary protein concentration results in a 1.1 mg/dL change in MUN. However, this may be too steep of a curve for some herds. If a herd is at 17.3 MUN and wants to get down to 12, it would have to reduce dietary crude protein by 4.8 percentage points (4.8 x 1.1 = 5.28, the difference between 17.3 and 12). Depending on where crude protein is to begin with, a 4.8-percentage-point reduction in crude protein could hurt milk production. Therefore, “one should assess all aspects of the operation before resorting to reduced protein feeding to achieve an MUN goal,” the authors write in the December edition of Journal of Dairy Science. Genetics is one factor that influences a herd’s MUN level. “In the absence of selection measures, a producer may have inadvertently selected for a herd of cows that are predisposed to elevated MUN concentrations,” the authors say. They go on to discuss variation within herds and setting MUN targets that take this variation into account. Read the abstract.

Subpopulations targeted for oral calcium supplementation
Lame cows and high-producing cows are good candidates for oral calcium bolus supplementation. That’s the word from scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. who recently authored a paper in the Journal of Dairy Science. In a study, cows that were lame before calving and supplemented with oral calcium boluses had improved early-lactation health compared with lame cows that were not supplemented, the authors wrote. And, cows that had high milk production in their previous lactation — greater than 105 percent of herd rank — produced 2.9 kilograms or 6.39 pounds more milk at the first DHI test after calving compared with similar high-producing cows that were not supplemented. “These results indicate that dairy herds already experiencing a very low incidence of hypocalcemia can target a subpopulation of cows (i.e., lame and high-producing) that will respond favorably to supplementation with oral Ca boluses,” the authors said. To read the abstract from the December 2012 Journal of Dairy Science, click here. And, here is the full text version.

More research needed on CLA-fortified milk
There have been discussions over the years whether the diets of cows can be enhanced to encourage production of conjugated linoleic acid, which has health benefits for consumers. See, “Is CLA-fortified milk on the horizon?” The goal of a recent study from Cornell University and Ohio State University was to increase the CLA content of milkfat while avoiding a reduction in milkfat synthesis. Yet, they weren’t able to overcome a reduction in milkfat yield using certain supplements, such as soybean oil and vitamin E. Further research is needed. Read an abstract in the December edition of the Journal of Dairy Science.


 Sponsored by Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition

Q: How can excessive intakes of sulfur and potassium cause problems in dairy cows?

The following was provided by Bill Weiss, dairy scientist at Ohio State University.

A: Proper mineral nutrition of dairy cows is essential for high milk yields, efficient reproduction, and good health. Meeting the 2001 NRC requirements for dairy cows in most situations will result in adequate status for most minerals. However, for some minerals and some situations, NRC requirements are inadequate and additional supplementation will be necessary.
     Experiments conducted after the NRC was published have shown that the NRC requirement for manganese (approximately 15 ppm) is inadequate to prevent a deficiency, and the actual requirement is probably 30 to 50 ppm. Other newer data suggest that the NRC requirement for cobalt (approximately 0.11 ppm) may not result in optimal vitamin B-12 status, and cows may need at least twice as much cobalt (approximately 0.25 ppm).

(Continue by clicking below)
[To read the rest of Dr. Weiss' answer or leave a comment, click here]
Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition
 Sponsored by Soy Best

Soy Best

Prices reported the week of Dec. 17-20 by professional dairy nutritionists
or commodity brokers in five key dairy regions.

fine ground or

Soybean meal


alfalfa hay
(170-185 RFV)

  Truckload quantities delivered to the dairy ($/ton)

Eastern Wisconsin

$271a $472c $312-$355 $270

SE Pennsylvania

$318a $534d $280 $230

Texas Panhandle

$301a $491 $335 $310

Southern Idaho

$316a $524 $375 $240

Central California

$316b $523 $395-$397 $265
a Fine ground shelled corn
Steam-rolled or steam-flaked corn

c 46 percent to 48 percent soybean meal
47.5 percent soybean meal

PRACTICE BUILDER: 5 last-minute gifts for farm clients
Sponsored by Zinpro Corp.


Editor’s note: This Practice Builder is from Harvest PR & Marketing, a strategic communications firm serving clients in the food and farm segments. For more information, visit

The gift-giving season is an excellent time to treat the farmers in your life to something special, while also showing support for agriculture at the cash register. Harvest PR & Marketing has compiled a list of five last-minute gift ideas.
     “We wanted to create a list of suggestions that inspires our friends in agriculture to support their own this holiday season,” says Heidi Nelson, principal of Harvest PR & Marketing.
  • U.S. cotton to keep you warm. Cotton tees, blue jeans and work gloves are the unofficial uniform of rural America, and for good reason. The fabric is durable, comfortable and breathable. For a limited time, Cotton Incorporated is giving away free cotton work gloves just for signing up for its Whole Cottonseed e-newsletter, which provides regular updates on the cottonseed supply. Did you know cotton also is a food crop? Flavor-infused cottonseed oil from Acala Farms, including Hot Habanero and Jalapeno Lime, is guaranteed to warm you up and is a delicious taste of how America’s cotton farmers are Getting More out of Cotton.
  • A book to bring peace to the plate. Resource limitations, animal welfare and biotechnology are just a few issues creating confusion and conflict in the grocery store. In her soon-to-be-released book, No More Food Fights!, one of North America’s leading farm and food advocates Michele Payn-Knoper calls for decorum instead of mayhem in the conversation around food. The book’s very design lends itself to exploring both sides of the issue. One side is aimed at consumers and the other toward producers. To break stereotypes, the book describes farmers who don’t wear overalls but use technology to produce food and preserve the environment, dairy farmers who work on “cow comfort,” and how hard farmers work on sustainability. She naturally guides readers from both sides to “reach across the plate” in an effort to bring peace to the table. To reserve a signed copy, order by Jan. 18 at
  • Market updates for an instant edge. With a subscription to Commodity Update, farmers receive timely market data, from corn and soybean meal to milk, cheese and butter prices, on their cell phones via text message. Farmers love the service, because it gives them an information edge. In fact, 88 percent of farmers surveyed preferred the Commodity Update service more than a cap or jacket. Enjoy a free trial, or order a 1-year subscription for $99.95. Volume discounts available. Visit
  • Fresh fruit for healthy eating. Specialty crops such as U.S.-grown apples and pears play a starring role in holiday gift baskets, and are a healthier alternative to the season’s sugar-laced sweets. Fruits provide essential nutrients, fiber and energy to help farmers power through a long workday. The Fruit Company delivers orchard freshness to your doorstep; or assemble your own basket with tips from USA Pears. Or, take a tip from our great-grandmothers: give the gift of Christmas apples, and witness the satisfaction as your special someone enjoys a traditional holiday gesture from simpler times.
  • Donation to fight hunger. Donating to charitable organizations like Farmers Feeding the World not only feeds the hungry today, but also helps educate the public about the critical role advanced agriculture plays in fending off the world’s number one killer: hunger. Farmers Feeding the World helps provide solutions through agriculture development organizations like Heifer International and relief organizations like Feeding America. This season, and all year long, join other farmers in their mission to end world hunger. Donate today!
FEED UPDATE: 2013 grain prices will be dictated by weather
Sponsored by Novus International


Grain prices for 2013 will hinge on favorable weather patterns following the devastating 2012 drought in the Midwest, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist.
     “It’s all about the weather,” says Mark Welch, grains marketing economist. “You’ve got higher prices, and the yield potential is greater if they can get rain.”
     Texas farmers will plant more corn to take advantage of higher grain prices in 2013, Welch said.
     “Sorghum is a better fit for a lot of areas of Texas and those marginal areas competing with cotton, so sorghum is a better alternative,” he said. “If we get a lot of moisture, it will also benefit wheat and there will be a lot of incentive to keep that wheat crop for grain.”
     Welch said if favorable weather patterns develop in 2013, it will set up farmers to plant surplus acres of corn and other grains.
     “I think we are going to see a huge increase in production of grain,” Welch said. “Corn production in the U.S. was cut from 13 billion bushels to a 10.5 billion bushel crop due to drought this year. World production outside the U.S. set a record high for 2012 — the biggest corn crop ever outside the U.S., 22 billion bushels, and it will continue to increase.”
     Welch said the U.S. is importing Brazilian corn for livestock feeding operations in U.S.
     “For years, we have been the biggest corn producer, user and exporter; the U.S. was the world corn market,” he said. ”We continue to hold the leadership position in each of those categories, but with margins that are shrinking. World competition is on the increase.”
     Welch said with favorable weather and normal yields in 2013, production will be higher, but so will use.
     “Corn use will rebound as supply concerns ease,” he said. ”Corn use declined in every use category tracked by USDA due to high prices in 2012. Use will come back, though not as quickly as we may increase supply. “I think that’s the key for 2013. If we have a normal weather year, with more acres planted, supply will outrun demand. If it gets dry again, supply remains a concern, and we could be right back to $8 to $10 a bushel for corn,” he said.
     Farmers looking for marketing options should consider taking profits a little along the way throughout 2013, Welch said.
     “I think as we lay out the marketing year, there are key elements to watch as we move along the crop calendar do some pre-harvest marketing,” he said.

CASE STUDY: A hidden opportunity (or do sweat the small stuff)
Sponsored by Danisco
The following case study was written by Martin van der Leek, dairy nutritionist and veterinarian (, who formerly worked in the United States but now lives in South Africa.

As consultants, the walk-around is a part of our routine. Among other things, we classically evaluate execution by observing the mixing of a TMR load, but there are details that may escape the eye.
     A routine farm visit on a dairy milking 2,200 Jersey/Holstein cross cows in New Mexico revealed one of those hidden opportunities.
     This dairy fed a fresh cow ration and a high cow ration during transition as a means to alleviate fresh cow problems.
     Cows were moved to a primary fresh pen (pen 1) post-calving for five to seven days for intensive observation. A secondary fresh pen (pen 2) followed where cows were routinely examined, marked as OK to breed and moved to the AI pens at around 35 days in milk. Both pens 1 and 2 were fed the fresh cow ration. Cows were moved weekly to the high cow ration, the number also depending on the room available in the AI pens.
     Yet, after observing the staff and reviewing the distribution of cows in pen 2, it became clear that some cows were staying in the secondary fresh pen longer than needed.
     It had always been assumed that cows were being moved at approximately 35 DIM, depending on the calving pressure, and that DIM was being used to select such cows. This was clearly not the case and an appreciable number of cows with DIM greater than 35 DIM remained in pen 2 and on the fresh ration.
     Understandably, the focus should and does fall on the early transition period. Staff is easily distracted by the early lactation fresh cow problems. We may neglect to pay attention to the other end of the transition cow period and cows on the fresh cow ration, even when the fresh cow problems have been resolved. From experience, it is not uncommon for cows to stay on a fresh cow ration longer than is needed or intended.
    Read the full story.


Dairy Herd

Florida Ruminant Nutrition Symposium
Feb. 5-6 at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center, Gainesville, Fla. More information.

World Ag Expo
Feb. 12-14 at the International Agri-Center, Tulare, Calif. More information.

Southwest Nutrition and Management Conference
Feb. 21-22 at the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel and Conference Center, Tempe, Ariz. More information.

Western Canadian Dairy Seminar
March 5-8 at the Sheraton Red Deer, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. More information.

Submit an upcoming event
(all events listing subject to approval).

WHAT'S NEW IN THE LAB: This year, it is really important to track variation in corn silage quality
 Sponsored by Kemin Industries
Editor’s note: The following information was provided by Dairyland Laboratories in Arcadia, Wis.


The lack of starch in corn silage throughout the Midwest this year may provide a significant obstacle to producers trying to keep purchased costs to a minimum.
     Consider this scenario: If a dairy producer had a high corn silage lactating diet, and switched from last year’s average corn silage (36 percent starch) to this year’s (27 percent starch), it would cost over 30 cents per head per day to purchase the corn needed to supplement the ration.
     From a laboratory perspective, it’s unusual to see a trend in forage quality spread over such a large area due to the variety of soil types and agronomic practices. However, this year appears to be an exception with no state in the Midwest averaging more than 28 percent starch in fresh whole plant corn samples. In fact, the states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota each averaged less than 20 percent starch. In addition to the lower average starch content, the Midwest is showing unprecedented variation in quality of the corn silage crop. In most years, the standard deviation for starch content is 5 to 6 percent. This year, the standard deviation for the midwestern states is 11 to 13 percent.
     Variation in corn silage quality across farms will be unusually high, and it seems reasonable to conclude that tracking variation within farms will be more important this year than most.

Fresh Corn Silage

Dairy Herd

Vance Publishing Corp.

Copyright 2012 Vance Publishing Corporation, 400 Knightsbridge Pkwy., Lincolnshire, IL 60069.
All Rights Reserved.

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