Production Brief: Lower Crude Protein

May 3, 2012 10:51 AM

Save dollars and the environment.

Many dairy herds have the potential to lower their ration crude protein level by 0.5 to 1.0 unit without impacting milk production, says Larry Chase, an Extension dairy nutritionist with Cornell University. Significant economic and environmental impacts can accompany these changes.

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How far can you lower protein?

Dairy producers are realizing they have two incentives for lowering crude protein levels. One is improved profitability from more efficiently converting feed nitrogen intake to milk nitrogen output while maintaining or improving milk production. Income over feed cost increases, along with income over purchased feed costs as those costs decrease.
Secondly, feeding rations with less crude protein decreases the excretion of nitrogen into the environment and lowers ammonia emissions. The number of acres needed for land
application of manure decreases. When ammonia emission regulations are implemented, the lower animal emissions will be beneficial.
A limited number of commercial dairy farms have already taken the step of feeding lower crude protein rations, Chase says. The opportunity to further lower crude protein on these farms may be limited, but they demonstrate that lower crude protein rations can be used while maintaining high levels of milk production.
When determining if a herd is a candidate for lower ration crude protein levels, ask these questions:
• Is the current crude protein level greater than 16.5%?
• Is the herd milk urea nitrogen level greater than 12 mg/dl?
• How consistent are daily feeding and feeding management procedures?
• How consistent are forages? Is forage dry matter analysis done at least two to three times per week?
• Do the nutritionist and dairy producer both believe this approach will work?
• How will responses to this adjustment be monitored?
—Source: Adisseo, edited by Dairy Today
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