Nutritionist e-Network - October 2011

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Oct. 21, 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


Identify at-risk fresh cows
Editor's note: In the Nov. 20, 2009, edition of this newsletter, we reported on new research at Cornell University for identifying at-risk fresh cows. The cows are at risk for metabolic disorders, decreased reproductive performance and lower milk production. Here is an update on how that research is being applied out in the field:

A 1,000-cow dairy in western New York is reaping the benefits of a testing procedure for at-risk fresh cows. "We see a reduction in DAs and the number of animals that need to be treated for metritis or other fresh-cow disorders," says veterinarian Michael Capel, of Perry, N.Y. Each week, farm personnel or licensed veterinary technicians from Capel's clinic test the blood of healthy cows between three and nine days in milk, specifically looking for elevated B-hydroxybutyrate levels above 12 to 13 milligrams per deciliter. Cows that exceed that level have subclinical ketosis and are at risk for other problems. Once the cows are identified, the farm treats them for four days with propylene glycol and B vitamins. It has made a big difference in the cows' outcome. This procedure can be used at both the herd level and the individual cow level, says Daryl Nydam, assistant professor of ambulatory and production medicine at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Herd screening can be accomplished by taking blood samples from a representative number of fresh cows. Irrespective of herd size, you want to test a minimum of 12 cows that are three to 14 days in milk, Nydam says. Fifteen cows or more is even better. If 15 percent or more of those animals have elevated non-esterified fatty acid (NEFA) levels or elevated B-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) levels, it is a red flag. Again, a BHB level above 12 mg/dL is considered too high; for NEFAs, it is greater than or equal to 0.6 milliequivalents per liter in postpartum animals. When at-risk animals are identified and the proper intervention strategies are employed, like the New York dairy mentioned above, the cows make about 3 pounds more milk per day in the first 30 days of milk, Nydam says. And, their risk of developing DAs is cut in half, as is their overall risk of being culled from the herd, he adds. If you know that a number of cows are freshening with elevated NEFA or BHB levels, you can make the appropriate management changes. Perhaps the farm needs to make improvements in stocking density or cut down on the number of pen moves the animals are making. And, Nydam says he is a big believer in controlled energy diets for prepartum cows. " If you get (the controlled energy diets) right, you will have a much lower incidence of high NEFA and/or subclinical ketosis postpartum," he says. (For more on controlled energy diets for prepartum cows, see the Expert Q&A section of this month's newsletter.)

Step up calf nutrition in cold weather
Falling temperatures can compromise calf growth and health. "At 68 degrees F, whole milk will allow (a 90-pound calf) to gain about 0.75 pound per day," says Robert Corbett, dairy veterinarian and nutritionist in Spring City, Utah. However, if the temperature drops to 32 degrees F, calf growth will suffer. "Even on a whole milk program, which has a much better nutrient content than a 20:20 milk replacer, we still are going to have weight loss when we get down into freezing conditions," Corbett said during a recent Dairy Calf & Heifer Association Webinar. Work with your clients to adjust the solids content of milk/milk replacer to accommodate weather conditions and calf growth.

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: With a single dry period diet, how do I control for energy intake?

There is increased interest in having a single diet for dry cows rather than separate diets for far-off and close-up cows. Jim Drackley, professor of nutrition in the department of animal sciences at the University of Illinois, addresses three possible strategies for accomplishing this. The following answer is adapted from a paper he presented at the American Association of Bovine Practitioners conference in September.

A: In light of the apparent desirability of feeding to allow cows to meet but not greatly exceed their requirements for energy during the dry period, there are at least three approaches that could be implemented to achieve this goal. The first is to feed cows only poor-quality roughages and other dietary ingredients that would minimize the potential for excessive energy intake. This is the concept that was the default management option on many farms several decades ago. However, the dangers are that excessive variation of ingredient quality may promote inconsistent intake of nutrients, the ration may provide imbalanced nutrient profiles, and such feeds may be contaminated with molds or toxins. This is not a desirable mind-set or approach and it will not be considered further here.
     Two better approaches are:
  • Limit-feeding: Formulating a diet of moderate energy density (1.50–1.60 Mcal NEL/kg DM) and limit-feeding it in amounts of dry matter (DM) that would meet the average Holstein cow or heifer requirement of 14–15 Mcal daily.
(Continue by clicking below)
Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition

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

Soy Best

Prices reported the week of Oct. 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

$260a $320c $330-$350 $250

SE Pennsylvania

$306a $365d $290 NA

Texas Panhandle

$280a $350 $380 $350

Southern Idaho

$285a $358 $410 $265

Central California

$283b $360 $400 $300-$315
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

Consider this silage-sampling protocol

Editor's note: The following Practice Builder was provided by Doug DeGroff, independent nutritionist with Diversified Dairy Solutions, located in Tulare, Calif.

August 27, 2009 is a day that Doug DeGroff, independent nutritionist from California, will never forget.
     DeGroff was taking a silage sample just like he had 1,000 times before. "The particular pile that I needed to sample that day looked safer than many others I've sampled in the past," he says. "Sometimes, you look at silage piles and worry that something could happen and you reconsider taking a sample. But, in this instance, the thought that the silage pile could give away never entered my mind."
     The dairy used a silage defacer and the face of the pile was very smooth. The pile also was not very tall, approximately 12 feet tall.
     DeGroff will never forget what happened next. The face of the silage pile broke away and fell on top of him. "It was like someone sliced a loaf of bread, and the slice fell right on top of me," he says. Approximately 8 to 10 feet of the pile, 12 to 18 inches thick, broke away and landed on DeGroff, burying him. Thankfully, a feeder was nearby and dragged him out of the pile.
     DeGroff immediately went to the hospital. The silage falling on him fractured two vertebrae in his back, damaged five discs and tore several of his ligaments. "People don't walk away from silage accidents," says DeGroff. "I am very fortunate and blessed."
     Prior to the silage accident, DeGroff says he looked at silage sampling and safety very arrogantly. He thought, "It won't happen to me," "I'll be fast enough should the face ever fall," or "I can judge the pile."
    "I'm here to tell you that it can happen to you: you won't be fast enough and you definitely can't judge the pile. Silage safety is a real deal."
     Since the accident, DeGroff has developed a written protocol to safely sample silage. "Not only is the new protocol safe for the nutritionist, but it also gives you a more uniform sample," he explains. "It takes a little longer, no question. But, at the end of the day, I get to go home to my family."
     Here is a look at the silage-sampling protocol developed by Diversified Dairy Solutions:
  • Have the feeder clean out the feed box thoroughly to prevent any contamination with leftover feed. Be sure not to sample the silage used to clean out the feed box.
  • Have the feeder load one day’s usage up to 10,000 pounds in the mixer. This should represent the silage face both vertical and horizontal. Have the feeder mix the silage in the feed box for approximately five minutes.
  • Have the feeder unload silage in a safe area.
  • Using a bucket, collect 10 to 15 handfuls of the silage from different areas.
  • Mix the silage thoroughly in the bucket and then fill and label the sample bag.
DeGroff notes that using a silage defacer and moving the defaced silage to a safe place to collect the sample is the best. But, if the dairy does not have a silage defacer, the above-mentioned protocol is something to consider.

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

Dry weather in the Upper Midwest reduces mycotoxin threat

Last year at this time, there was concern in the Upper Midwest about mycotoxins in the feed because it was quite rainy before the corn and corn silage harvests.
     This year, it's been the opposite. Dry weather has significantly reduced the mycotoxin threat.
     "In general, it was a good year for us," says Alvaro Garcia, extension dairy specialist at South Dakota State University. "The quality is there. We have good corn silage this year."
     Starch in the corn should be more than adequate, he adds.
     However, just because the crop itself was good doesn't mean a person can rest easy. Problems can still arise with poor silage management.
     Indeed, if mycotoxins occur in the Upper Midwest or Central Plains this year, it will be more a matter of the silage not being put up properly and conserved rather than the corn plant itself, Garcia says.
     When it comes to silage management, Garcia says he tries to put a lot of emphasis on proper compaction of forage going into piles or bunker silos.

CASE STUDY: An ‘ah ha’ moment
 Sponsored by BASF
Editor's note: The following case was handled by Robert Fry, an independent nutritionist with Atlantic Dairy Management Services in Kennedyville, Md.

Robert Fry, an independent nutritionist from Maryland, recently had an "ah ha" moment when he was formulating a ration for a client.
     This 300-cow herd that Fry was working with fed corn silage, sorghum silage and wheat straw for forages. Grains were soybean meal, amino plus, ground barley and ground corn. In addition, a vitamin and mineral pre-mix was fed.
     Inventory on the ground corn and barley was depleted and high-moisture corn was now available, so the ration needed to be reformulated.
     Prior to reformulating the ration, new forage samples were taken. The forage samples showed similar results as previous samples. Fry went ahead with the diet reformulation. The percentage of forage in the diet went down and the percentage of protein in the diet went up considerably. The basal diet was 16.8 percent protein, yet the newly formulated diet had more than 18 percent protein. "A protein percent that high is unacceptable in our area due to the environmental issues with the Chesapeake Bay," explains Fry.
    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 ration balancing software do you use?
  • NRC models
  • CNCPS v5 - CPM
  • CNCPS v6 models
  • Other

Which software package works best for balancing amino acids?
  • Amino Cow®
  • AMTS
  • Brill-Feed Management Systems®
  • CPM
  • Formulate2
  • NDS
  • Nittany Cow
  • Spartan
  • Company Programs
  • Other

What percentage of dairy cows are fed diets balanced for amino acids? (15 responses)
A) 5% (46.7%)
B) 10% (26.7%)
C) 25% (13.3%)
D) 50% (0%)
E) Greater than 50% (13.3%)

What percentage of dairy cows are fed diets which include supplemental amino acids? (15 responses)
A) 5% (20%)
B) 10% (40%)
C) 25% (26.7%)
D) 50% (13.30%)
E) Greater than 50% (0%)

Nearly 100% of the poultry diets in the U.S. are fed diets with supplemental amino acids. How long will it take the dairy industry to reach 90%? (14 responses)
A) 5 years (21.4%)
B) 10 years (28.6%)
C) 20 years (21.4%)
C) Never (28.6%)
 Sponsored by Chr. Hansen Animal Health & Nutrition
Chr. Hansen

California ARPAS continuing education conference
Oct. 27-28 at Harris Ranch Inn, Coalinga, Calif. More information.

Penn State Dairy Cattle Nutrition Workshop
Nov. 9-10 at the Holiday Inn, Grantville, Pa. More information.

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

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

 Sponsored by Kemin Industries

Take a closer look at transition period with Transition Cow Management Report

The transition period continues to receive attention from industry and university alike because of its importance. A cow with a smooth transition period is generally more likely to go on and achieve her full potential than one that struggles with mastitis or stress.
     Dairy Records Management Systems has released the Transition Cow Management Report (DHI-403) to provide a snapshot of a herd’s transition period, thereby allowing consultants and producers to get a quick overview of what is going well and what aspects could use improvement. The Transition Cow Management Report looks at seven aspects of the transition period:
  • Length of Dry Period
  • Fresh Cow Milk Production
  • First Test Fat to Protein Ratio
  • Udder Health
  • Reproduction
  • Survival
  • Distress
Cows are segmented within the report by calving period to allow for a more equal standard of comparison. Goals can be set by looking at the purple line on each measure; each line marks the performance of similar sized herds that are in the top 10 percent. If the bar for the herd being analyzed reaches the purple line, that herd is doing well in that measure. In contrast, if the bar does not reach the purple line there is a segment of the transition period where changes to benefit production and health can be made.
     The pace at which the world operates is making snapshot reports increasingly valuable. The Transition Cow Management Report is the ideal tool for taking large amounts of data and getting a graphical overview so that opportunities for improvement can be easily seen. Contact DRMS for more information about the Transition Cow Management Report at (919) 661-3100 or (515) 294-2526 or visit
     View the report.


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