Nutritionist e-Network - March 2011

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March 18, 2011
Welcome to the Nutritionist e-Network, published by Dairy Herd Management® magazine. This issue is sponsored by Alltech, Chr. Hansen Animal Health & Nutrition, Elanco Animal Health, JAY-LOR, Kemin Industries, Lallemand Animal Nutrition, Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition, Novus International and Soy Best.

  Sponsored by Lallemand Animal Nutrition


Avoid the 'overnutrition syndrome'
Everyone knows that you shouldn't overfeed dry cows. But new research from the University of Illinois helps to quantify some of the reasons why. In an experiment, animals were assigned to one of three different prepartum energy intakes: (1) a high-energy diet that provided at least 150 percent of energy requirements during late gestation, (2) a restricted diet that provided 80 percent of energy requirements, and (3) a control diet that provided about 100 percent of energy requirements. There were dramatic differences between the groups. "Cows that were fed a ration too rich in energy during the dry period grossly over-consumed energy relative to their requirements," said Jim Drackley, animal scientist at the University of Illinois and one of the authors of the study. After calving, these cows had greater serum NEFA and beta-hydroxybutyrate, the predominant ketone in cows. They also had greater fat accumulation in the liver postpartum, and a higher occurrence of displaced abomasum and treatment for subclinical ketosis compared with cows having controlled or restricted energy intake during the dry period. "Overfeeding energy before calving was detrimental to transition-period adaptations and health," Drackley says. "This is important both for farms using two-group dry cow management, but also for farms using or considering using a single-group dry cow management system." Read abstract.

Mineral nutrition impacts immunity, SCC
When evaluating nutrition solutions to improve milk quality, research has shown that trace mineral nutrition plays a critical role in skin and mammary health, somatic cell count (SCC) function and disease resistance (immunity). In a summary of 14 studies, research shows that feeding a combination of complexed zinc, manganese, copper and cobalt beginning in the dry period and continuing through lactation decreased SCC by 25 percent. By comparison, in studies where the same complexed trace minerals were fed only during lactation (not pre-partum), SCC only decreased by 8 percent.

Role of key trace minerals:

  • Zinc helps maintain the health and integrity of skin due to its role in cell replication and repair, which is an important part of the natural defense mechanism of the mammary gland. It also plays a critical role in keratin formation, helping entrap bacteria in the teat canal and prevent bacteria from moving up into the mammary gland.
  • Copper is also considered to have strong effects on the immune system as it is active in neutrophil (somatic cell) production and affects phagocyte (white blood cell) killing ability. It is also required for antibody development and lymphocyte (white blood cell) replication.
  • Manganese helps improve immune function through enhanced macrophage (white blood cell) killing ability. Macrophages are one of the types of somatic cells released into the mammary gland in high concentrations to help protect against intramammary infections (IMI).
  • Selenium plays a vital role in immune response and has an associated role with vitamin E in protecting the mammary gland. Selenium also allows for more rapid neutrophil (somatic cell) influx into milk following an IMI bacterial challenge and increased cellular kill of ingested bacteria by neutrophils.
In addition, all four minerals help to protect cellular membranes from damage by removing superoxide radicals (free radicals) from the body. Superoxide radicals are normal by-products of cellular protection against infection.

Read more


 Sponsored by Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition

Q: Our milk urea nitrogen (MUN) levels are low, ranging from 8 to 9 mg/dl. I am planning to add 0.2 pounds (90 grams) of urea to the ration. My nutritionist suggested this may not be right. What do you think?

The following answer is provided by Mike Hutjens, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois.

A: Two questions need to be considered before adding urea as your nitrogen source to raise MUN values.
  • A MUN value between 8 and 9 mg/dl could be optimal if your cows capture recycled urea while meeting their protein requirements. Check milk protein test, levels of rumen degradable protein, rumen undegradable protein, soluble protein, and total ration protein content (metabolizable and/or crude protein), and fecal scores. If these values are optimal, your MUN values are acceptable for your herd.
  • If the answers to the previous point are not correct, adding protein/nitrogen is recommended. But, check your soluble and rumen degraded protein levels. If these values are high (for example soluble protein over 34 percent of the crude protein), adding feed-grade urea will raise MUN values as the rumen microbes convert urea to ammonia in the rumen; excess rumen ammonia is absorbed in the blood as ammonia; blood ammonia is converted to blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and excreted in the milk and urine and recycled.

[To read the rest of Dr. Hutjens' answer or leave a comment, click here]
 Sponsored by Soy Best

Soy Best

Prices reported the week of March 14-17 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

$231a $347 $290-$304 $200

SE Pennsylvania

$305a $395c $255 $170

Texas Panhandle

$256a $370 $260 $230

Southern Idaho

$282a $394 $332 $200

Central California

$279b $387d $330-$340 NR
a Fine ground shelled corn
Steam-rolled or steam-flaked corn

c 47.5 percent soybean meal
46 percent soybean meal
Sponsored by Alltech

Pointers to build a successful veterinarian/nutritionist relationship

Editor's note: This Practice Builder was provided by Keith Sterner, veterinarian with Sterner Veterinary Clinic in Ionia, Mich., and Bob Krieger dairy specialist with Land O'Lakes Purina Feeds in Remus, Mich.

Veterinarians and nutritionists tend to have overlapping roles on dairy farms.
    As a nutritionist, you may have complained a time or two that a veterinarian has encroached on your territory. Veterinarians may complain as well about you encroaching into the area of cow health, disease diagnosis and disease prevention.
    But, in order to be successful and for your clients to thrive, it's important to develop a working relationship with the veterinarians who service your client herds.
    This happens through communication. And, communication is a two-way street. Keith Sterner, veterinarian with Sterner Veterinary Clinic in Ionia, Mich., and Bob Krieger, dairy specialist with Land O'Lakes Purina Feeds in Remus, Mich., have developed what they feel to be a successful working relationship. Sterner and Krieger have worked together on one herd for more than 11 years.
    Sterner and Krieger offer the following advice to build a good relationship with your herd veterinarians:
  • Call the herd veterinarian not only when things are going wrong, but also when things are going right, too. We're all busy, every one of us has information overload, but it's as simple as a phone call just to check in on your client's herd.
  • When there is an issue with a client's herd, at a minimum have a phone conversation with the veterinarian, if not a face-to-face meeting. This ensures that nothing is misunderstood and the client gets an opportunity to hear from both the nutritionist and the veterinarian.
  • You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. There has to be a reality check on the part of the veterinarian and nutritionist. You can't control the weather conditions the crops were harvested under. And once the forages are ensiled, there is almost nothing to be done.
  • Don't blame each other. Everyone is quick to blame the nutritionist, but everything happens through people and you have to work together to solve problems, not blame each other.
  • Do a walk-through together. If you see a problem with too many displaced abomasums, ketosis or other metabolic problems, call the veterinarian and meet at the farm and do a walk-through. Multiple sets of eyes may find things that one set of eyes may not.
  • Have face-to-face meetings. A lot of problems can be solved over the phone, but face-to-face meetings between the nutritionist and veterinarian can pay dividends.
  • Teamwork. Recognize the skill-set the other party can bring to the table. View veterinarians as a resource to reach out to and discuss nutrition and herd-health issues with them.
  • Don't be afraid to voice your opinion. Neither the veterinarian nor the nutritionist can be afraid to voice an opinion if he or she feels something is coming up short on the dairy.
  • Share information. Share not only your notes on the herd with the veterinarian, but also share any new research that you receive with him or her.
At the end of the day, it all comes back to communication. "It's as simple as that, and it's as complicated as that," says Sterner.
FEED UPDATE    A look at feed inputs, including quality and availability.
 Sponsored by Novus International
Sign up for the next Webinar on Cow Comfort, March 18 at 3:00 p.m. EST

Get a handle on lameness, animal well-being

Lameness is a major problem in the dairy industry.
    "Lameness affects your best cows," says Rodrigo Bicalho, assistant professor of dairy production medicine at Cornell University. The highest-producing cows are the ones that have the highest likelihood of being lame, he adds.
    High-producing cows often have a lower body condition score because they are working hard to produce milk. "Thinner cows have a much higher likelihood to be lame than a better-conditioned cow," he told those attending the recent Western Dairy Management Conference in Reno, Nev.
    There are various things a producer can do, such as milking cows two times a day rather than three if they are lame. Or, creating a separate pen for lame cows so they are not over-crowded. And, promoting proper body condition is key.
    Research at the University of British Columbia indicates that the incidence of clinical lameness is 26 percent or higher in many geographic regions. Among 43 farms in British Columbia, they found 26 percent incidence, on average, and even higher rates in California and the northeastern U.S.
    A new program from Novus International is intended to help dairy producers enhance the comfort and well-being of their herds so they can better maximize productivity and enrich dairy industry sustainability. That includes getting a handle on lameness.
    The program is called C.O.W.S., which stands for Comfort, Oxidative Balance, Well-Being and Sustainability. The C.O.W.S. program will be offered to individual key Novus customers as a complementary, value-added service. Confidential farm evaluations will be performed by Novus specialists and include:
  • Cow lying time measured with electronic data loggers.
  • Gait scores and hock health.
  • Facility design and management measures that affect cow comfort, including bedding frequency, stall dimensions, neck rail placement, feed bunk space and more.
A customized report is provided to each farm, along with benchmarks of other operations in the region, so producers can gauge whether they have problems that should be addressed.
    A More information about the C.O.W.S. program can be obtained through Novus representatives or by visiting Learn more about oxidative balance in dairy cows by visiting

CASE STUDY: Making the most of his chance
 Sponsored by JAY-LOR

Editor's note: The following information was written by Chad Robbins, dairy nutritionist from northern Ohio. He is affiliated with JBS United Inc.

I had been prospecting a 300-cow herd for about a year. But it was tough getting the producer's attention. The herd began to experience higher levels of ketosis and DAs. This continued to be a problem for the producer, no matter what he seemed to change. The nutritionist with whom he was working at the time advised him to begin adding straw to the ration, and still no results.
    As time went on, and I was getting more of the producer's time and attention, the problem began to reveal itself to me. His cows were coming into the dry period severely over-conditioned; hence, causing a very high level of ketosis, DAs, and death within the first 60 days after calving.
    Now that I knew the problem, I needed to convince the producer that I could solve it for him quicker and better than his current nutritionist. Through the advice of his nutritionist, and being at his wits end, the producer sold a majority of his over-conditioned cows and bought cows to replace them.
    Well, the problem went on for another three to four months with no results. Milk production continued to fall, even with the recently purchased cows.
    I got my chance.
    Read the full story.

 Sponsored by Chr. Hansen Animal Health & Nutrition
Chr. Hansen

Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference
April 19-20 at the Grand Wayne Center in Ft. Wayne, Ind. More information.

Mid-South Ruminant Nutrition Conference

April 20-21 at the Embassy Suites at DFW International Airport in Grapevine, Texas. For more information, contact Ellen Jordan at

Alltech 27th Annual International Animal Health and Nutrition Symposium
May 22-25 at the Lexington Convention Center, Lexington, Ky. More information.

Four-State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference
June 8-9 at the Grand River Center in Dubuque, Iowa. For more information, contact Marcia Endres at or (612) 624-5391.

Joint annual meeting of the American Dairy Science Association and the American Society of Animal Science
July 10-14 in New Orleans. More information.

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

 Sponsored by Kemin Industries

An accurate method of tracking fresh cow milk production

Editor's note: The following information was provided by Erinn Oliphant, manager of outreach services for Dairy Records Management Systems in Raleigh, N.C.

The Milk by Week feature will be available shortly in our newest version of PCDART. Log on to your account at and download version 7.14.0.B.
     The new Milk by Week feature in PCDART Reports provides an accurate method of tracking fresh cow milk production. You will be able to estimate milk for a given week so that the days in milk (DIM) Range and Average DIM are consistent.
     Here is how it works:
  • Fourteen new database items (DBIs) in PCDART track average milk in weeks 1 through 14 (DBIs 641-654).
  • Weekly milk is an estimate of each cow's average production during the week in question.
  • Weekly milk estimates are not projections. They are determined from test day weights in the current lactation, but do not project past the most recent test day.
  • Weekly averages before first test day are estimated using lactation curves for that cow.
  • Weekly averages between test days are determined using linear estimates.
  • Weekly milk for herds that have daily weights is an average of the daily production for 7 days.
Narrowing the milk estimated to a given week removes the wide swings in average DIM on first test that can occur when using First Test Day Milk and Milk from 0-40 DIM metrics. Milk by Week gives you a focused and accurate picture of fresh cow milk production and performance.

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Vance Publishing Corp. All Rights Reserved.    
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