With tight margins, do all you can to both breed and feed for pounds of protein, says Mike Hutjens, University of Illinois dairy nutritionist.
Current Federal Order prices are running about 50¢/lb. higher for protein than butterfat, he notes. “Milk protein is more valuable than milk fat,” he notes. “And most dairy farmers are paid for pounds of milk solids, not volume or percentage of components.”
So center your breeding program to select for pounds protein and total milk solids, because that is what you are ultimately paid for. Next, work with your nutritionist to ensure you’re doing everything you can to economically boost milk protein.
The first step is to enhance feed intake and the use of energy by rumen microbes because they supply most of the protein cows produce in milk. It’s critical nutritionists balance rations using metabolizable protein since this feeds rumen microbes. Rumen undegraded protein then needs to be supplemented to compliment bacterial amino acid sources.
“Amino acid balancing should be done if the herd is producing more than 2.5 lb. of true protein per cow per day,” says Hutjens. For Holsteins, that’s typically 80 lb. of milk at 3.1% protein. For Jersey, it’s 60 lb. of milk at 4.1% protein.
Lysine and methionine are the first limiting amino acids. “Select rumen undegraded protein with desired amino acids: Lysine—blood meal or heat-tread soy; methionine—corn by-products. Histidine may be limiting on grass-based forage rations,” Hutjens notes.