Nutritionist e-Network - November 2011

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

  Sponsored by Lallemand Animal Nutrition


Monensin helps with heat stress
Over the years, Lance Baumgard has documented the physiological effects of heat stress on a cow. During heat stress, a cow will partition nutrients differently when it is in a thermo-neutral state. Glucose that would normally be used for milk production often gets diverted for other uses during times of heat stress. Because it generates less metabolic heat to burn glucose than fat, a heat-stressed cow prefers to utilize more glucose in her muscle and organs, says Baumgard, an associate professor of animal science at Iowa State University. And, that means less glucose is reaching the mammary gland and the cow is deprived of an important building block for milk production. But, in a research study in the November issue of Journal of Dairy Science, Baumgard and other researchers at Iowa State show that monensin-fed cows have a 10-percent higher rate of appearance (or production) of glucose per unit of dry matter intake than control cows. That can help maximimze glucose entry into the cow’s energy pool. Read abstract.

Give cows plenty of time to eat
Dairy cows are often overstocked. Some farm managers are now also using ‘slick bunk’ management (feeding to zero refusals) to save on feed costs, but this practice can reduce the time that cows have access to feed. Both practices may increase competition and affect feeding behavior in dairy cows. A recent study published in the November Journal of Dairy Science by researchers with the University of British Columbia's Animal Welfare Program tested the effects of overstocking at the feed bunk and restricting feed access time on the behavior of lactating Holstein cows. They found that overstocking and reduced feed access time increased competitive behavior at the feed bunk and reduced the time that cows were able to spend feeding. These behavioral responses were greatest when the effects of overstocking and reduced access time were combined. For instance, results show that restricting time access to feed in conjunction with overstocking resulted in cows consuming a third of their daily dry matter intake in the two hours after feed was delivered but that this practice also coincided with five times as many displacements during this period. Read abstract.

Heifers can succeed on distillers grains
If you’re looking for a high-quality heifer feed with a lower cost than traditional corn and soybean feed grains should consider distillers grains, says Tamilee Nennich, Purdue Extension dairy nutrition specialist. Although distillers grains have typically been fed to lactating cows because of their demand for protein, recent Purdue University studies show that distillers grains are a viable feed option for young heifers, though other research has shown distillers grains can be introduced as early as the calf starter diet and are a viable feed option for young heifers. "We've seen similar growth performance whether producers are feeding distillers grains or more traditional feeds, such as corn and soybeans," Nennich says. "We also found that it doesn't matter if an animal is being fed in a feedlot and has a diet based on harvested forages or if that animal is grazing. Distillers grains can be an option in either situation." While the nutrient values of distillers grains varies, Nennich notes that they typically have about three times the protein, fat and mineral content of corn because starch is removed from the grains during ethanol production. Because of the higher nutrient values, if you feed distillers grains, you need to monitor the heifer's overall diet to be certain she is getting proper nutrition.

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: What about feeding hay with calf starters?

The following answer was provided by Al Kertz, Dairy Field Technical Service with Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition.

A: Recently, there seems to be conflicting results when hay is also fed with calf starters. How can this be interpreted and applied?
    Let’s first look at the biology, and then what may be confounding factors. Studies done primarily in the 1950s and 1960s found that the volatile fatty acids (VFA) produced in the rumen in the order of first butyric, followed by propionic, and then by acetic led to development of the rumen papillae and functionality of the rumen. Yet, that is the opposite of the proportions of these VFAs produced in the rumen by normal fermentation, especially forage/fiber fermentation. Forage also ferments more slowly, and has an overall lower digestibility which results in more gut fill. If forage is not fed to young calves, then the key is to avoid marginal ruminal acidosis.
    Adequate particle size in the calf starters must be present to stimulate chewing, which then results in saliva production for buffering and more nearly normalizing rumen fermentation. This avoids marginal ruminal acidosis and also favors fermentation resulting in enhanced butyric and propionic fatty acid production. These VFAs are then absorbed through the rumen wall (because they are short chain, which makes them volatile), where butyric is metabolized and plays the leading role in rumen papillae development.

(Continue by clicking below)
Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition

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

Soy Best

Prices reported the week of Nov. 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

$237a $289c $334-$340 $265

SE Pennsylvania

$306a $346d $290 $235

Texas Panhandle

$275a $330 $380 $345

Southern Idaho

$280a $337 $390 $265

Central California

$281b $341 $400-$409 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

Cow comfort always an important variable

Editor's note: This Practice Builder is about Chris Hill, nutritionist for Poulin Grain in Vermont.

An emphasis on cow comfort has helped nutritionist Chris Hill do his work with clients.
     It was obvious at one Vermont farm that the facilities weren’t quite up to snuff. In the fresh-cow pen, half of the stalls had mattresses and the other half had a few inches of sawdust poured over recessed concrete. You could definitely see a preference; when the cows came back from the milking parlor, the mattress stalls would fill up first.
     Then, when the farm put mattresses in the other half, the situation was completely reversed: Cows preferred the stalls with the newer mattresses over the older mattresses, and the newer section would fill up first.
     After the farm owners saw that, they put new mattresses in the high-group pen, consisting of 108 stalls. That pen hadn’t had any mattresses previous to that, just recessed concrete with 3 to 4 inches of sawdust.
     The farm, with Hill’s encouragement, also made the stalls in some of the other pens bigger by moving the neck rail back further from the curb. They also replaced the loops.
     After the improvements were made, Hill says the cows seemed to be lying down more, but he doesn’t have hard data. And, some other changes were made along the way, such as increasing the forage percentage in the diet, so it might also be difficult to make any assessment based on milk production.
     But the farm has gone from a high number of involuntary culls to a situation where it is now selling cows to other farms because it is not expanding and has more cows than the facilities can handle.
     Here is the cull data for the farm since 2006: (The stall improvements were made in 2008).
  • 2006 — culled 225 cows, 40 of them for feet and legs.
  • 2007 — culled 195 cows, 49 for feet and legs.
  • 2008 — culled 267 cows, 64 for feet and legs.
  • 2009 — culled 215 cows, 45 for feet and legs.
  • 2010 — culled 218 cows, 27 for feet and legs.
  • 2011 so far, culled 227 cows, 24 for feet and legs.

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

Big corn harvest could bring relief in 2012

By Bruce Blythe, Dairy Herd Management Business Editor

For dairy farmers and other livestock producers burdened by high feed costs over the past year, 2012 may bring some relief — if they can wait until next fall.
     Corn above $6 a bushel is sure to encourage farmers to plant as much of the crop as they can, raising the prospect of a record harvest that would ease strain on dwindling supplies, analysts say. By a year or so from now, Chicago corn futures may be under $5.
     Rich Feltes, a veteran analyst with R.J. O’Brien & Associates in Chicago, said U.S. corn plantings next year may reach 94 million acres, which would be up 2.3 percent from this year and the highest since 1944.
     Barring major weather troubles, farmers would reap a crop of 14.14 billion bushels, up 15 percent from the 2011 crop and an all-time high, Feltes estimated. December 2012 corn futures, which reflect expectations for next year’s crop, would be poised to drop as low as $4.75, Feltes said, about 15 percent below current levels.
     Among Feltes and other analysts, sentiment is growing that the corn market likely peaked in June with a record rally near $8 and lower prices are in store next year amid an outlook for bigger crops in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Prices for soybean meal, another key feed ingredient, are also expected to weaken next year from high levels earlier this year.
     Meantime, livestock producers should prepare for more of the same, analysts say, with tight supplies likely to keep corn near or above $6 at least through the first half of 2012.
     With corn expected to hold between $5.50 and $7, “Feed costs are going to be historically high” into next year, said Alan Levitt, an independent consultant who writes CME Group’s Daily Dairy Report.
     Even at $6 corn, “dairy farmer profitability is going to be tight next year,” Levitt said. The all-milk price, an industry benchmark, will need to be $18 to $20 per hundredweight for many producers to break even, he said, “and that may be tough to achieve with international prices where they are and seem to be heading.”
     In late trading Nov. 17, corn futures for delivery next month fell 30 cents to $6.12 ¾. Based on current futures prices, corn is expected to exceed $6 at least through July.

CASE STUDY: Getting the bugs worked out of the system
 Sponsored by BASF
Editor's note: The following case was handled by Fausto Regusci, independent nutritionist from Grover Beach, Calif.

Things were running well at a 2,500-cow California dairy. Production was 86 pounds of milk per cow per day, on average, with excellent components, reproduction and herd health.
    Then last spring, the farm made some ration adjustments to compensate for the high cost of cottonseed. Nutritionist Fausto Regusci received a call a few days later that the cow’s milk production had dropped 8 pounds and most of the herd had very loose manure. He visited the dairy the next day and confirmed this finding: The manure was very watery with about 30 percent of the rolled corn passing through the cows.
    The dairyman informed Regusci that he had not changed anything except removing cottonseed from the ration.
    But there had been some other changes, as Regusci learned upon further investigation. The farm had started feeding new corn silage and changed the company that it was buying steam-rolled corn from.
    Regusci took TMR and silage samples and sent them off to a lab for analysis.
    The TMR and corn silage samples came back with very high yeast counts — 73 million cfu/gram and 43 million cfu/gram, respectively. With those high of counts, it was obvious that the new corn silage had not fermented properly.
    “I knew then that we had aerobically unstable corn silage that can cause reduced intake, milk production and milkfat depression,” Regusci said.
    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 is the most important motivating factor for amino acid balancing?
  • Increasing lbs of milk components
  • Reducing nitrogen excretion
  • Reducing crude protein
  • Herd Health
  • Improved pregnancy rate

What is the second most important motivating factor for amino acid balancing?
  • Increasing lbs of milk components
  • Reducing Nitrogen excretion
  • Reducing crude protein
  • Herd Health
  • Improved pregnancy rate

What is the third most important motivating factor for amino acid balancing?
  • Increasing lbs of milk components
  • Reducing Nitrogen excretion
  • Reducing crude protein
  • Herd Health
  • Improved pregnancy rate

What ration balancing software do you use? (22 responses)
Most popular answers:
NRC models (22.7%)
CNCPS v6 models (31.8%)
Other (36.4%)

Which software package works best for balancing amino acids? 
(22 responses)
Most popular answers:
Brill-Feed Management Systems (13.6%)
CPM (18.2%)
DALEX (13.6%)
Other (22.7%)

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

Western Alfalfa & Forage Conference & Biofuels Workshop
Dec. 11-13 at Las Vegas Hilton, Las Vegas, Nev. More information.

Florida Ruminant Nutrition Symposium
Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at Best Western Gateway Grand Hotel, Gainesville, Fla. More information.

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

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

 Sponsored by Kemin Industries

Track animals by cohort groups

Are you interested in evaluating performance after surviving a record heat wave, including a new feed additive or opening a new silo? If you are looking for tools that allow you to drill down and analyze the performance of cohort groups, Dairy Records Management Systems offers several options within its PCDART software.
    You may be wondering: What is a cohort? A cohort is a group of animals with something in common, and the most common cohort in dairy analysis is a Calving Cohort. By using a Calving Cohort, animals that calved in particular windows can be tracked to access milk production, culling, and reproductive performance.
    If you prefer traditional reports and graphical analysis, a customized report can be created within PCDART’s User Reports. Within minutes a report can be created that shows milk production for first lactation cows sub-grouped by calving month. The Crosstabs option displays a bar graph allowing for a quick snapshot of cohort groups. Your definition of "cohorts" is limited only by your imagination.
    A second option is to use PCDART’s Tracker series to pull data of interest. Activity Tracker can provide insights by cohort group for concerns such as cull rates, metabolic disease incidence and fresh events. Conception Tracker focuses on the reproductive success of the cohort. Finally, the newest addition to the group, Maternity Tracker, shows maternity data by cohort including calving ease, DOAs and heifers born alive. Each Tracker employs specific filters and categories to enable you to focus on animals of interest or discover challenges.
    Customization is the key to gaining insight.
    Contact DRMS at (919) 661-3100 or (515) 294-2526 or visit us online at for more information on how PCDART can provide the tools you need to evaluate cohort groups.


Dairy Herd Management, 10901 W 84th Terr, Suite 300, Lenexa, KS 66214
© Copyright 2011
Vance Publishing Corp. All Rights Reserved.    
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