Expert Answers - April 20, 2012

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The following answer is excerpted from a presentation by Mike Hutjens, professor emeritus of dairy science at the University of Illinois, at the  Western Canadian Dairy Seminar in March.

  • Precision feeding. This can be defined as delivery of the same ration and form every day to every cow. Blending rations with consistent feed processing, resulting in the same physical form and nutrient content ration in each batch of feed every day, will be needed. Examples include:
    • Measuring forage quality when harvesting. NIR sensors on the chopper will capture real-time forage yield, dry matter changes and the nutrient level of the forage before it is stored.
    • Commercial forage-testing labs provide summaries of specific forages from the dairy farm over several samples and time periods.
  • High forage-based rations. High-forage-based rations (over 65 to 70 percent of the ration dry matter) will become economically attractive. As competition for corn and soybeans continues between human food uses and bio-fuel production, the dairy cow may not compete economically for these high-quality food resources as feed.
  • Designer dairy products. Cows will produce fatty acids (type of milk fat) in milk that will improve health and avoid diseases. An example is CLA or conjugated linoleic acid. Specific dairy proteins could also be a valuable food resource to reduce or slow memory loss. Improved weight loss may be achieved with whey proteins. Calcium and vitamin D may have future human health benefits.
  • Genomic and gene engineering. It could help researchers find “the combination of genes” that (achieve favorable goals). By selecting these genetic markers and turning on or off these genes, cows could produce milk containing 2 percent milkfat instead of 4 percent fat, which my reflect consumer demand and lower energy needs of high-producing cows. Illinois researchers have identified genes that are up-regulated (turned on) or down-regulated (turned off) based on the diet the dry cow consumes, which may impact metabolic risks in transition cows.
  • New rumen-based feed additives. Enzymes may increase feed digestibility, providing more nutrients for the cow or rumen microbes and resulting in less manure… Direct-fed microbes will be identified through selection and DNA finger-printing that can enhance rumen fermentation, reduce lactic acid buildup and improve cell and cow immunity. Essential oils are a class of feed additives that offer alternatives and opportunities.
  • Computer technology and software programs. In the future, we may not balance for NDF, but balance each fiber fraction (lignin, hemicellulose and cellulose) to predict performance. Computers will “see” and adjust for feed particle size, heat stress impact on the rumen environment and pH, impact of cow comfort on feed intake and digestion; they will refine dietary cation-anion difference calculations, adjust mineral levels based on bioavailability, and predict nutrient efficiencies (dry matter, protein, energy and minerals) delivered by the ration feed ingredients monitored by feed models.


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