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May 2009 Archive for 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.

Observe Cow Eating Behavior

May 26, 2009

By Rick Lundquist

Watching cows eat can tell you a lot. I like to spend a few minutes of each dairy visit just observing what the cows are doing with the TMR, without disturbing them.

Ideally, I want to see the cows eating aggressively, with no hesitation as they eat down through the pile of feed. I want them to take big mouthfuls of feed, raising their heads as they aggressively chew the feed. Sorting is probably a normal cow behavior, even though it is undesirable from our point of view.  I don’t want to see the cow nosing through the feed or leaving circles in the pile, while she sorts through the TMR. If the cows are not eating, I want to see them drinking or lying down and chewing their cud. I don’t want to see them just nibbling at the feed or playing with it or tossing it over their backs.

Proper mixing and feeding management can eliminate sorting and maximize dry matter intake.This includes having a fresh, well mixed TMR available when the cows return from the parlor.

Check silage dry matters regularly and adjust the TMR accordingly.

The TMR should be about 50% moisture to reduce sorting. Adding water or liquid feeds can help.

Reduce TMR spoilage.
 

Feed more often, especially during the summer. Don’t feed spoiled forages. Remove any spoilage layer from the silage pile. Mixer wagons are also a source of mold and can inoculate the feed with mold every time you mix feed, so regular cleaning helps. Feeding calcium propionate or other mold inhibitors can help reduce spoilage during the summer.

Optimize mixing performance for your particular mixer.
 

Don’t overload the mixer. If cows are sorting, try altering the mixing time and order. Each mixer may perform differently with different feeds, so this is something you may have to experiment with. Generally you don’t want to add more than about six individual ingredients and less than 100 lbs of each ingredient to the mixer. Premix some of the dry ingredients if necessary. This prevents weighing errors and reduces over or under mixing.

Confirm the success of your feeding management with cow observations. No matter what the computer says, the cows are always right.

--Rick Lundquist is an independent nutrition and management consultant based in Duluth, Minn. You can contact him at siestadog@aol.com.

This column is part of the Dairy Today e-Update newsletter, which is delivered to subscribers biweekly and includes dairy industry analysis, dairy nutrition information as well as the latest dairy headline news. Click here to subscribe.

 

 

It’s Not Too Early to Plan for Heat Stress

May 13, 2009

By Rick Lundquist

The immediate future is dim for making any money in the dairy industry, but that doesn’t preclude dairy producers from doing their best to provide for their animals. It was nearly 90 degrees last week in South Florida and over 100 degrees in Arizona.

Cows were starting to show the early effects of heat stress already. Considering the dismal price of milk, the inevitable milk loss due to heat stress is not a scenario we look forward to. On top of this, heat stress can also take a toll on rumen health, reproduction and foot health.

Now is the time to plan your summer rations and nutritional management for heat stress. Here are some items for your checklist:

  1. Ration energy. Because of reduced dry matter consumption and hence, reduced energy intake, the natural response is to increase energy density of the ration. This usually means increasing the proportion of grain in the ration. However, heat stressed cows are already prone to acidosis because of other metabolic factors, so higher grain levels may add to this risk. Feeding high quality forages is a better solution. Rumen inert fat or tallow is also a safer strategy for increasing energy density without risking acidosis. Cows require glucose for milk production, so increasing the rumen production of glucose precursors, mainly propionate, will help maintain milk production. Feeding Rumensin is a safe, economical way to maximize propionate production and maintain rumen pH.
  2. Ration protein. Don’t overfeed protein to heat stressed cows. Besides being expensive, digesting excess protein generates more metabolic heat.
  3. Water. This is the cheapest and most important factor for maintaining milk production and health during heat stress. Make sure plenty of water is available and troughs are clean and accessible.
  4. DCAD, minerals and vitamins. Maintain a positive dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) of 20 to 30 meq/100 grams dry matter for lactating cows. Dietary potassium should be increased to 1.4%–1.6% of dry matter during the summer. This should come from high potassium forages and potassium carbonate (not potassium chloride). Magnesium and sodium should also be increased. Keep salt available free choice. Rumen protected niacin may reduce body temperature during moderate heat stress.

In addition to these nutritional strategies, feeding times should be adjusted to the cooler parts of the day and lockup times for treatments should be minimized.

Anyone in the dairy industry is in for a long hot summer this year. I think a boost in milk price would alleviate much of the “heat.”

Reference: Baumgard and Rhoads. The Effects of Heat Stress on Nutritional and Management Decisions. 2009 Western Dairy Management Conference Proceedings.
 

--Rick Lundquist is an independent nutrition and management consultant based in Duluth, Minn. You can contact him at siestadog@aol.com.

This column is part of the Dairy Today e-Update newsletter, which is delivered to subscribers biweekly and includes dairy industry analysis, dairy nutrition information as well as the latest dairy headline news. Click here to subscribe.

 

 

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