It’s essential to make sure the rations you receive include the feed ingredients you purchased.
By Dr. Elliot Block, Research Fellow, Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition
To ensure ration consistency, performance and herd productivity, it’s essential to make sure the rations you receive include the feed ingredients you purchased.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case because product swaps-outs occur for a variety of reasons. These changes can result in feeding a ration that does not match the formulated ration, which can cause animal health and performance issues and may negatively affect your bottom line.
Talk It Over
To avoid these potential swap-outs, it’s important to communicate clearly and specifically about exactly what the ration should include for each and every batch of feed mixed and fed on your dairy.
For instance, if the diet is to include a specific brand-name product, everyone who has a hand in delivering the feed must know the ration is to include the specific ingredient not just the generic name, like stabilized potassium carbonate versus a commercial potassium supplement, for example.
When considering feed ingredients, keep the following factors1,2 in mind so that rations deliver on expectations:
• Understand how the ingredient works in the cow and investigate ingredient palatability and expected animal response.
• Avoid duplicating technologies when selecting ingredients. Also, discover which group or groups of animals respond best to the ingredient and make sure their ration contains that specific ingredient.
• Feed reputable, research-proven products. Examine the data so that you select ingredients based on proven research and not simply on testimonial input.
• Make sure the research was conducted on dairy cows (or heifers), and examine the details of the trial to make sure it’s a fair comparison.
• Check the P value (Probability) of trial outcomes to ensure statistically validated results. For example, a P value of <0.05 means there is less than a 5% probability that the response difference between two treatment groups was due to a random reason.
• Look for repeatable results from multiple trials and experiments.
• Monitor cows. Track key factors like milk component production, body condition, reproductive parameters, overall herd health and/or heifer growth to determine whether the ingredient is worthy of your ration.
• Ask for third-party certifications that help ensure feed companies adhere to good industry practices through random audits and strict manufacturing guidelines.
Lastly, feed ingredient swap-outs matter because not all products are created equal, nor are all products of the same quality.
Just because a product contains Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) doesn’t meant it contains EFAs in the same amount or configuration as another product. Since every product contains proprietary properties they are not interchangeable, and often work differently in the cow—which can change performance as well as your return on investment.
Work with your nutritionist and feed suppliers to ensure you get exactly what you pay for.
Take the time to be your own best advocate and work with your nutritionists and feed suppliers to ensure you get precisely what your ration is supposed to include—every time. Good communication costs nothing, while losses due to poor ration communication can quickly and negatively impact your dairy’s profitability.
1 Ferguson JD. Additives in Dairy Rations. University of Pennsylvania. Available at: http://research.vet.upenn.edu/dairynutrition/AdditivesinDairyRations/tabid/3716/Default.aspx Accessed August 23, 2013.
2 Hutjens MF. Strategic Use of Feed Additives in Dairy Cattle Nutrition. 1998. University of Illinois Extension. Available at: http://www.livestocktrail.illinois.edu/dairynet/paperDisplay.cfm?ContentID=156 Accessed August 21, 2013.