Editor’s note: The following case was handled by Sarah Daugherty, independent consultant with GPS Dairy Consulting.

Last fall, following a seasonal change-over in feeds, an 800-cow farm in Minnesota experienced a steep decline in milk yield among the cows in the fresh cow/early lactation/breeding barn.

Dry matter intake remained high at +65 pounds. Other factors, such as a change in post-calving health or diminished forage quality, were ruled out as the cause for the decline in yield. The forage base ― alfalfa haylage and BMR corn silage ― was of outstanding quality before and after the change-over of feeds.

In early November, nutritionist Sarah Daugherty submitted the total mixed ration fed to high-production strings for analyses and evaluation via the Fermentrics system. For more on Fermentrics, click here.

Results from Fermentrics suggested the need to provide for additional productivity from the “slow pool” of ration nutrients, consisting mainly of fiber.

In response, citrus pulp was added to the diets as a source of soluble fiber, and some production was recouped. At a later date, dairy-quality alfalfa hay was procured and added as a source of forage fiber and soluble fiber. Yet, the immediate result of this move was not as favorable.

By early February 2012, the amount of combined fat and protein shipped per cow was back to original levels. Although milk yield was slowly, steadily improving, a gap remained compared to previous milk yield for the herd.

Daugherty asked GPS Dairy Consulting colleagues, Don Deetz and Marty Faldet, for their perspective on the case.

The group collaborated on the case by sharing files on a file server, via e-mail and conference calls.

The results from the Fermentrics evaluation were considered, and the current feedstuffs and ration were placed into the context of the Cornell Net Protein Carbohydrate System.

Due to high dry matter intake of the herd (and rapid passage of feed from the rumen),  priority was placed on feedstuffs which could provide energy to rumen bacteria from the “slow pool,” but in quickest fashion ― before the rapid passage rate of feed removed the nutrients from the rumen.

The most desirable candidates were soy hulls, corn silage and corn gluten feed.

Based from discussions with her GPS colleagues, Daugherty implemented changes that brought continued improvement in milk yield. Milk production was not only restored to previous levels, but total yield of combined milk components (pounds of fat and protein) are now greater than previous levels of performance for the herd.

In this case, direct application of emerging tools (Fermentrics and Cornell Net Carbohydrate Protein System), combined with collaborative discussions among consulting professionals, led to gradual and eventual benefit to the client.