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Animal Health & Nutrition

RSS By: Rick Lundquist, Dairy Today

Rick Lundquist is an independent nutrition and management consultant based in Duluth, Minn. He provides livestock production advice.

Beer Drinking at the Dairy Science Annual Meetings

Aug 10, 2012

Tasting is believing: The few grams of yeast we include in cow diets really may be doing something.

The research papers and symposia presented at the American Dairy Science Association meetings in Phoenix last month were prepared and published before anyone knew that the country was in for a long, hot, dry summer. Otherwise, the presentations may have directly addressed the high feed prices caused by the drought and the forage shortages in many areas of our country.

But while the scientists were presenting their data in the auditoriums, the talk in the hallways was mostly about the drought and what was going to happen to feed prices and supplies. There were lots of dire predictions but no real solutions. So what did we do? We drank beer.

More precisely, we sampled beer brewed with different yeast strains by a guy who plays with this stuff for a living. I tasted beer (in Dixie cups, not pints) that was brewed with identical recipes of barley and hops, except that the yeast was varied with each batch. It was amazing the different flavors that the various yeast strains imparted to the beer. One of the yeast strains resulted in an unmistakable clove and banana flavor in the beer. Other flavors were more subtle but definitely there.

I’ve been feeding yeast in rations for years. It’s very difficult to measure yeast responses in the bulk tank. But tasting is believing, and this was the most convincing demonstration I’ve seen. So the few grams of yeast we include in cow diets really may be doing something. I guess controlled research and meta-analyses are trumped by beer.

Actually, there were other take-home messages from the meetings too. Feeding excessive protein is not only expensive, but is detrimental to reproduction and production in some cases. The 18% protein milk cow diet should be a thing of the past. With $600 soybean meal, try ratcheting down the protein in your rations. As long as you provide adequate amino acids, you may be surprised how low you can go without affecting milk production. Monitor blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels in individual cows to insure adequate nitrogen for the rumen bugs. BUNs are preferable to milk urea nitrogen (MUN) because there is usually less variability. BUN levels in the 12 – 14 mg/dL range are adequate. Obviously, lowering protein can result in huge feed cost savings this year.

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