Editor's note: Martha Baker, of Amherst, N.Y., technical consultant in dairy sales for Purina Animal Nutrition, handled the following case.

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of interest in processing corn silage differently than in the past.

Yet, differences in processing can bring about differences in feeding value. “The more we process any feed, the more available the nutrients become,” says Martha Baker, technical consultant in dairy sales for Purina Animal Nutrition.  

Recently, Baker was called to a 1,000-cow dairy in Michigan. The farm had been asking how it could get better. Production was strong at 90 pounds per cow per day, but the farm wanted to increase it to 100 pounds. And components had been off for about a year. Milkfat had historically been around 3.6 percent to 3.7 percent, but now it was 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent

In the past year, the dairy had started to use Shredlage™, which comes from harvesting whole-plant corn silage more vigorously than conventional methods.  

When you process the corn plants as Shredlage™, it feeds differently, Baker says. Many of the fatty acids in the corn plant are more available to the cows than with traditional processing.  

She asked the farm owners if they were feeding fat any differently, and they said “no.”

“When I see components at 3.3, 3.4, I have to ask, ‘what are we feeding that may be contributing to that level versus a higher level?’” she says.

Her suggestion was to replace some of the unsaturated fats coming in through cottonseed and tallow with a commercial product containing saturated rumen-inert fat.

Within a six-week period, milkfat bounced back to 3.7 percent and milk production crept up a bit too ― to 93 pounds.

With the higher value of components in a component market, the producer achieved greater revenue. “So, we helped them reach their objective and move the dial,” she adds.

Bottom line: “As we continue to learn how to process our feedstuffs to optimize rumen efficiency for the cows, we are also realizing that we are providing the cow with more nutrients than they had access to in the past,” Baker says.

It’s a nice problem to have. But as plant geneticists provide us with more digestible plants and equipment dealers come up with creative new ways to process corn silage, everyone needs to keep up with differences in feeding value.

“It’s really exciting the doors that continue to be opened up,” she says.