Nutritionist e-Network - February 2012

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Feb. 17, 2012
Welcome to the Nutritionist e-Network, published by Dairy Herd Management® magazine. This issue is sponsored by Adisseo, Danisco, Elanco Animal Health, Lallemand Animal Nutrition, Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition, Novus International, Soy Best and Zinpro.

  Sponsored by Lallemand Animal Nutrition


Does dry-period nutrition affect colostrum quality?To find out, University of Illinois researcher Jim Drackley set out to answer the following questions:

  • Does dry-period nutrition affect colostrum quality or yield?
  • Does dry-period nutrition affect the size and viability of the calf?
  • Does maternal nutrition influence subsequent metabolic or production responses in the offspring?
By analyzing data from existing studies, Drackley determined that:
  • Dry-period nutrition does not affect colostrum quality or yield in cows. Neither colostral IgG nor production levels varied significantly in two studies that compared cows fed various dry-period rations. Supplementation of dry-period rations with vitamins A and E, does, however, increase the content of those important vitamins in colostrum.
  • Under reasonable nutritional management of dry cows, maternal nutrition will have little impact on calf size. However, recent research shows that a close-up diet enhanced with either additional energy or fat resulted in larger calves than in cows fed a single-group, controlled-energy diet.
  • Under reasonable nutritional management of dry cows, maternal nutrition will have little impact on calf viability in-utero. However, over-fat cows are more susceptible to dystocia, which has been proven to suppress calves’ absorption of colostral IgG, and leave them susceptible to a host of other health and performance impairments.
  • To date, results are inconclusive regarding the long-term performance of offspring whose dams were fed a higher plane of late-lactation nutrition. Drackley does believe, though, that results from other species indicate that enhanced in-utero nutrition could permanently impact future performance in offspring through DNA programming. He intends to pursue this question with further research.
Read more of Drackley’s insights on this topic.

Value of propionic acid preservatives questioned
When it comes to putting up alfalfa hay, you want to capture plants at peak nutritional value. However, weather can be a problem. Sometimes, hay will get rained on before it can be baled and producers will use a propionic acid preservative. But new research from the University of Wisconsin Marshfield Agricultural Research Station shows that propionic acid may have limited value. Based on the observations of 42 treated round bales over a two-year period, researchers say the potential to improve nutritive value relative to the cost of treatment is not especially favorable. “Past studies have demonstrated clear benefits from application of propionic acid-based preservatives during packaging of small square bales of alfalfa hay,” the researchers said. “However, results obtained from this study with large round bales were much less favorable. This could be related to the greater size of the bales packages, differences in application methodologies between round and square (plunger-type) balers, or other factors,” they say in an article printed in the January 2012 Journal of Dairy Science. Read the abstract.

Tell us what you think!
Take the Web poll in the "Tell Us What You Think" section of this e-newsletter. The first 20 respondents win a $25 American Express gift card.


 Sponsored by Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition

Q: There are several new and revised ration balancing software programs available to nutritionists today. What are the most important features you look for when evaluating the programs you will use in your practice?

The following was provided by Mike Shearing and Rick Brown, of Venture Milling-Precision Dairy Nutrition in Charles City, Iowa.

A: Today, many nutritionists are using or considering models to balance dairy rations. Models present challenges and opportunities, and can require more time and effort to use than conventional ration software. That being said, many have found the benefits to be worth the cost. Understanding what a model is, and the reasons to use one, can help to determine if one is right for you.
     Much of what we feed to a dairy cow is not used directly by the cow, but rather is fermented in the rumen. The end products of rumen fermentation, such as volatile fatty acids (which provide energy), and microbial crude protein (which provide amino acids), are used by the cow once they reach the small intestine. Feeds which are not fermented in the rumen reach the small intestine where they can be absorbed — or pass through and be excreted as waste.
     Many factors affect the yield of ruminal microbial crude protein and volatile fatty acids; content of physically effective NDF, content and potential rate of fermentation of NDF, NFC, and protein. A dynamic rumen sub-model will take these factors into consideration to generate a performance prediction for a specific ration fed to a defined cow at a defined inclusion of dry matter intake.

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

Soy Best

Prices reported the week of Feb. 13-16 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

$237a $311c $282-$300 $240

SE Pennsylvania

$295a $365d $270 NA

Texas Panhandle

$260a $353 $300 $350

Southern Idaho

$282a $360 $330 $265

Central California

$282b NA $340 NA
a Fine ground shelled corn
Steam-rolled or steam-flaked corn

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

Sponsored by Zinpro

Father-son team provides a complement to each other

Editor's note: This Practice Builder involves Tim and Andy Riordan, dairy nutritionists from Clovis, Calif.

One of the best things that Tim Riordan has done is bring his son, Andy, on board as partner in his nutrition consulting business.
     Tim Riordan says it’s helped bridge the gap with younger producers and their children to have his son working with him.
     Andy graduated about three years ago from Fresno State University with a master’s degree in nutrition. One of his special areas of interest is heifer management.
     Andy says he and his father get along “surprisingly well,” considering they have different personalities. He says he is more aggressive, while his dad is calmer. But it turns out that those personality traits complement each other on various occasions.

FEED UPDATE    A look at feed inputs, including quality and availability.
 Sponsored by Novus International

Pessimism mixed into hay price projections

By Tom Quaife, editor, Dairy Herd Management

Hay prices should ease this year for producers in the Western states.
     That’s the word from Seth Hoyt, hay market analyst, who spoke at World Ag Expo this week.
     While lower hay prices might be viewed with optimism, there is also an element of pessimism in Hoyt’s prediction. One of the reasons why hay prices will decline is because dairy producers won’t be able to afford as much. “I have lowered prices based on what’s going on in the dairy industry,” Hoyt said. “Right now, we are just producing too much milk,” he said, which is causing lower milk prices.
     When dairy farmers experience economic difficulty, it becomes a problem for hay growers. Dairies are the main customer for hay in the West, and "a lot of dairies are going into a negative cash flow situation," he said. Hoyt now estimates the price of first-cutting supreme alfalfa dairy hay, delivered, will be $260 to $270 per ton in central California this year and $210 to $220 per ton in Idaho. Again, that is a first-cutting hay price and not intended to cover the entire growing season.
     In recent months, central California producers have had to pay upwards of $325 per ton, delivered, for quality hay.
     In the eight-month period from early July 2010 to early March 2011, the price of hay from the Imperial Valley of California increased by $140 per ton, he said.
     Hoyt projects that hay acres in states such as California, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona will be up 3 to 5 percent this year compared to 2011. Yet, even with increased acres, there won't be an abundance of hay, he adds.
     “As a result of high prices and the smaller supplies of alfalfa hay, dairymen have started feeding less alfalfa hay in their dairy rations,” he said. In 2010, producers in California fed their milk cows 11.15 pounds of hay per cow per day, on average, and that dropped to 8.6 pounds in the third quarter of 2011, he said.
     One dairy in Idaho, he said, was feeding 14 pounds of hay in its ration last summer, but now is at 7 pounds. Meanwhile, the dairy increased corn silage from 45 pounds to 65 pounds per cow per day.

CASE STUDY: California nutritionist has become a believer in 3X calf feeding
 Sponsored by Danisco
Editor's note: The following involves Mich Etchebarne, dairy nutritionist from Modesto, Calif.

Some of Mich Etchebarne’s clients are coming to accept the idea of feeding their calves three times a day rather than two — at a higher plane of nutrition.
     A couple of farms have already tried it, and the results have been significant.
     “The calves are gorgeous,” Etchebarne says. They are vigorous, healthy animals.
     Average daily gains in the first 90 days have gone from 1.1 pounds to 1.8 pounds in Jersey herds, and Holsteins are pushing 2 pounds a day.
     The idea behind 3X feeding is to more closely mimic what happens in nature, which allows the animals a better chance of reaching their true genetic potential. In nature, if a calf is left on its mother, it will nurse six to 10 times a day. In addition to 3X feeding, Etchebarne and work associate Jed Asmus advise clients to feed a higher solids content than traditional 20/20 milk replacers.
     Read the full story.

Sponsored by Adisseo

Amino Acid Balancing, or "Precision Nutrition" as it is sometimes referred to, is becoming increasingly important in meeting feed cost economics, environmental restrictions, herd health and component development needs. In the upcoming issues of the Nutritionist e-network, a poll will be used to explore facts and opinions in this developing science.

Click on the link below to enter your answers. The first 20 respondents will win a $25 American Express gift card. Poll results will be posted in the following issue.

This month's poll questions are as follows:

What influences milk prices the most?
  • Butter prices
  • Cheese prices
  • Nonfat dry milk prices

What is the first limiting amino acid in dairy cows? (47 responses)
Histidine (8.5%)
Lysine (46.8%)
Methionine (40.4%)
Amino Acids are not limiting (4.3%)

What is the second limiting amino acid in dairy cows? (46 responses)
Histidine (2.2%)
Lysine (43.5%)
Methionine (47.8%)
Amino Acids are not limiting (6.5%)


Southwest Nutrition and Management Conference
Feb. 23-24 at Tempe Mission Palms Hotel and Conference Center, Tempe, Ariz. More information.

Western Canadian Dairy Seminar
March 6-9 at the Sheraton Red Deer in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. More information.

Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference
April 24-25 at the Grand Wayne Center in Ft. Wayne, Ind. More information.

Mid-South Ruminant Nutrition Conference

April 25-26 at the Embassy Suites at DFW International Airport in Grapevine, Texas. For more information, contact Ellen Jordan at

Four-State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference
June 13-14 at the Grand River Center in Dubuque, Iowa.

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


Tracking disease, treatments, and drug usage in PCDART

Dairy Herd Management
Editor’s note: The following column was written by dairy nutritionist Greg Bethard who works with Dairy Records Management Systems in Raleigh, N.C.

It is a well-known fact that animals get sick on dairies and often require treatment. Increasing attention surrounding specific treatment details is creating the need for thorough documentation on farm. Tracking treatments is relatively easy using Activity Tracker in PCDART, as long as the following information is captured:
  • Treatment records
  • Disease incidence
  • Drug usage
By using the Remark system along with Health Conditions in PCDART, you can answer questions in all three areas with a single entry system. It requires organized and consistent entry of data into PCDART. The 15-character Remark field that is available each time a health event is entered. When entered, the Remark is associated with that event. A good example is mastitis. It is normally best to use one code for all mastitis events, and use a Remark to designate the quarter, bug and drug. Once the mastitis event (say 35) is entered, you have the option to enter a remark. If the following criteria are used in the remark, you can answer many more questions:
  • First two characters are the quarter (RR, LF, etc.)
  • Next four characters are the bug (ECOL, MYCO, STAP, STRP, COLI, etc.)
  • Last nine characters are the drug (SPECT, PEN, etc.)
An example is “LRSTAPPEN”, which would be a left rear quarter with Staph treated with penicillin. Remark files can be set up to help automate the process. You can design a similar remark system for other diseases such as metritis, foot treatments or digestive issues. Once these codes are entered, you can use the Activity Intervals and Remark Filter in Activity Tracker to answer specific questions. Want to learn more about Activity Tracker, Remark Filter, and Activity Intervals? Log on to your account at and view the YouTube videos and help documents or call to set up an account.

Dairy Herd


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