Nutritionist e-Network - February 2013

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Feb. 15, 2013
Diamond V
Welcome to the Nutritionist e-Network, published by Dairy Herd Management® magazine. This issue is sponsored by Danisco, Diamond V, Lallemand Animal Nutrition, Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition, Novus International, Soy Best and Zinpro Corp.

  Sponsored by Lallemand Animal Nutrition

Make sure iron levels in water don’t get up to 8 mg/L
At the Cornell Nutrition Conference last October, water-quality expert Dave Beede offered a sneak peek into research on iron concentrations in the drinking water of dairy cattle. Read more on his presentation. Now, the research has been published in the February Journal of Dairy Science. In the experiment, Beede and other researchers set up a series of water tubs cafeteria-style, so they could see which tubs the cows preferred based on iron concentrations in the water. Upon first exposure to drinking water, lactating dairy cows tolerated iron concentrations up to 4 mg/L (or 4 parts per million) without a reduction in water intake; however, water intake was reduced with concentrations of 8 mg/L. And, the researchers have added an additional caution: The direct livestock suitability water analysis used by some labs may underestimate the amount of iron in the water. In the “direct method,” some of the iron is chemically associated (bound) with other chemicals in the water and not analyzable. Therefore, what may appear as a favorable 2 mg/L level may actually be an inhibitory 8 mg/L level in reality. So, it’s better to ask for the “acidification method” which determines total recoverable iron. With the acidification method, the water sample is acidified first with nitric acid before analysis, and this acidification makes all of the iron available for analysis. “I recommend that the lab be called to ensure that the acidification step is done before iron analysis,” Beede says. Read the abstract of the February Journal of Dairy Science article.

Does feeding frequency make a difference for wet calves?
Researchers at the University of Minnesota recently completed a study comparing the outcomes of feeding young calves milk replacer (both conventional and accelerated diets) four times a day versus two. Noah Litherland, leader of the research team, said they hypothesized that feeding the same amount of milk replacer — but in smaller meals offered more frequently — would stimulate starter grain intake and improve efficiency of growth and actual growth compared to twice-a-day feeding. The trial included 48 Holstein and Holstein-cross heifer and bull calves assigned to one of four treatment groups:

  • Standard, 20:20 milk replacer fed 2X at 1.5 percent of bodyweight
  • Standard, 20:20 milk replacer fed 4X at 1.5 percent of bodyweight
  • Modified 26:18 milk replacer fed 2X at 2.0 percent of bodyweight
  • Modified 26:18 milk replacer fed 2X at 4.0 percent of bodyweight
This schematic was followed from two to 42 days of life for all calves in the trial. Milk-replacer feeding rates were adjusted weekly to maintain 1.5 and 2.0 percent of bodyweight throughout the trial. All milk replacer was reconstituted to 15 percent solids. All animals were offered fresh water and an 18-percent crude protein starter free choice throughout the study period. Calf body weight and body structure were measured weekly, and fecal scores and starter intake were measured daily. All calves were housed in individual hutches and bedded with straw. The researchers found that increasing feeding frequency in the calves on the 20:20 milk replacer increased starter intake, but had no effect on starter intake for the calves fed an accelerated ration. However, because dry-matter intake via milk replacer solids was greater in the accelerated group, total DMI did not vary significantly between groups. Furthermore, they found that, ultimately, increasing feeding frequency did not affect the growth or gain:feed ratio between the groups of calves. Read the abstract of the February Journal of Dairy Science article.

 Sponsored by Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition

Q: How we can prevent early-lactation dairy cows from becoming 'loser dairy cows?'

The following answer is provided by Donna M. Amaral-Phillips, extension professor in the Department of Animal Science at the University of Kentucky.

A: Successfully transitioning dairy cows back into the milking herd after the dry period is one of the most important pillars associated with well-performing and profitable dairy herds.
     The success of these nutrition and management programs directly relates to the reproductive performance, milk production, and health of cows during this next lactation. Essentially, transition cow programs need to be designed and managed to result in cows eating well after calving and entering lactation with no or very minimal health- and metabolic-related issues, such as metritis, milk fever, ketosis, or fatty liver.
     As dairy researchers learn more about this vital time frame, they have found that subclinical diseases have a substantial impact on future reproductive and production performance and health, may often go undetected, and may be the underlying cause of suboptimum performance in dairy herds...
     Dairy cows that suffer from these issues, whether clinically or subclinically, often are prematurely culled, and in Denmark, these cows are part of the complex that the Danes refer to as “loser cows.” The question we want to consider is how we can prevent early-lactation dairy cows from becoming "loser dairy cows."

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

Soy Best

Prices reported the week of Feb. 11-14 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

$267a $433c $318-$340 $275

SE Pennsylvania

$316a $479d $285 $230

Texas Panhandle

NA NA $335 NA

Southern Idaho

$317a $504 $375 $230

Central California

$317b NA $390 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

PRACTICE BUILDER: Communication skills heightened when dealing with multi-location clients
Sponsored by Zinpro Corp.


Editor’s note: This Practice Builder is from Merrill May, dairy nutritionist from Amarillo, Texas. He is affiliated with Nutrition Professionals Inc.

It may be necessary to work a little harder on communication when dealing with clients that have more than one farm location.
     Some clients with three, five or six different locations may not know ahead of time which location they will be at when the nutritionist plans a visit. Often times, it’s the herd manager who is there instead, notes Merrill May, dairy nutritionist who works with a number of multi-location clients in Texas and New Mexico.
     Forming a good working relationship with the herd manager is important, along with making sure the owner is kept in the loop.
     At the beginning of the week, May will let the owner know he is planning a visit in a few days. He has found that some owners like to be notified by text message; some like an e-mail; some want a phone call the night before the visit, while others simply want to be notified after the visit takes place.
     May creates a written report at the end of each visit, and either leaves it on site or e-mails it to the owner, depending on what they prefer.
     Bottom-line: A nutritionist needs a bit more nimble in his communication with multi-location clients than he is with single-location clients.
FEED UPDATE: Alfalfa hay could be cheaper in the West this spring
Sponsored by Novus International


Alfalfa hay prices in the western U.S. may come down or “soften” this spring, according to one expert.
     But the reason isn’t the most pleasant.
     Prices are subject to weakness because the biggest customers for alfalfa hay — dairy farmers — are experiencing financial difficulty, especially the ones in California.
     In some ways, it’s surprising that hay prices haven’t fallen more, points out Seth Hoyt, editor of The Hoyt Report, a weekly hay market newsletter.
     Hay prices have been propped up to some degree by the high price of corn, he told those attending a World Ag Expo seminar on Tuesday.
     “Hay was more competitive in dairy cow rations because of the price of corn,” he said.
     For instance, in central California last September, there was a $75 per ton price spread between rolled corn and supreme alfalfa hay, with rolled corn being the higher of the two. That spread got down to about $20 per ton in January, but has since gone up to $30 to $34, he said.
     Exports have also added strength to the hay price.
     The amount of alfalfa hay going to China doubled in 2012 from 2011, he said. And, the trend will continue into 2013.
     “(The Chinese) are going to need a lot of hay,” he said. The Chinese government wants to double the country’s milk production in the next five years, he said, and that will require a lot of quality hay. Regarding what hay prices will do this year, Hoyt offered a short-term outlook.
     In April, he predicts that prices for early first-cutting supreme alfalfa hay will be around $240 to $250 per ton (delivered) in central California. Similar hay in other parts of the West will be about $200 to $220 per ton, he added.
     “If the milk price gets stronger — $19, $20 or more — then ladies and gentlemen, all bets are off (and hay prices could go higher), because we’re not going to have an oversupply of hay,” Hoyt said.

CASE STUDY: Yes, there was more milk in those cows
Sponsored by Danisco
The following case study was handled by Barry Dye, senior dairy consultant with Purina Animal Nutrition LLC.

A North Carolina mixed breed herd — part Jersey, part Holstein and part Jersey-Holstein cross — expanded from approximately 300 cows in the milking herd to 840.
     Even though the expansion involved a new free-stall barn, the owners felt that given the size of the holding pen and other potential bottlenecks, it was best to switch from three-times-a-day milking to 2X.
     The switch from 3X to 2X occurred in November 2012. Anytime a switch like that occurs, the farm risks losing some milk production — and, in this case, it wasn’t the outcome the owners wanted. They felt there was still untapped milk production potential in the herd, despite the switch to 2X milking.
     So, they challenged nutritional consultant Barry Dye to look at the rations and see if there were some opportunities. Is there more milk in these cows? they asked. Dye reviewed the rations and they looked OK on paper. Dry matter intake didn’t appear to be a problem, either.
     It would require closer inspection.
     Dye turned to a forage diagnostic system known as Calibrate. And, the first set of results certainly got his attention. The rumen undegradable NDF score — a measure of undegraded NDF mass in the rumen — was higher than 100 in a couple of the key feeding groups.
     That told him two things:
  • Dry matter intake may be limited by undegraded feed/rumen fill.
  • More degradable starch is needed in the diet.
Read the full story.


Dairy Herd

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.

Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference
April 23-24 at the Grand Wayne Center in Ft. Wayne, Ind. More information.

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

WHAT'S NEW IN THE LAB: What's new in the lab: carbs, carbs, carbs
Editor’s note: The following information was provided by Rock River Laboratory Inc. in Watertown, Wis.


At Rock River Laboratory Inc., our recent focus has centered on feed carbohydrates.
     Carbs are nothing new or novel; however, finding what percentage of fiber or starch is available for gain or milk production is a constantly evolving challenge.
     Cattle digest fiber and starch during the day in a curved fashion, meaning digestion will eventually plateau. The shape of the fiber or starch digestion curve is unique to each feedstuff and is directly related to how much energy is in that feedstuff. Nutrition professors from Cornell, Miner, and others have advanced ruminant-ration models using dynamic digestion measures (called digestion rates or Kd’s) meant to capture the shape of digestion curves.
     Rock River Laboratory has developed a new calculation titled Dynamic Kd, which incorporates true Lag 24, 30, and 48h NDFDs. This approach is significantly related to TTNDFD, developed by Dave Combs from the University of Wisconsin. Using all three time points and letting the data draw the digestion curve creates a more precise measure for nutritionists to use to improve dairy and feedlot rations. The three time points also better predict feed conversion efficiency.
     The Dynamic Kd means agree with CNCPS v6.1 base library values and can be used in most ration-balancing software packages that accept Kd rates. Guidelines were developed using over two years of raw data are available through Rock River Laboratory.

Dairy Herd


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