When it comes to optimizing a cow’s ration for milk components, there are three areas that dairy producers should focus on for maximum results.
Too often people try to jump to amino acid balancing as the answer to maximize milk components. But it really starts with forages.
1. Put up quality forages
You can’t correct something that’s uncorrectable. If forages are put up poorly there’s not a lot that can be done. Mold impacts rumen fermentation and if you’re dealing with moldy forages you will not be able to maximize rumen performance and therefore milk components, no matter what you do.
Focus on making sure forages are harvested at the correct moisture, packed well, stored well – using two layers of plastic, and an inoculant to insure they are free of molds and yeast. It’s not just about the quantity of forages put up, it’s also about quality forages.
2. Properly mix and deliver TMR
After quality forages, making sure the total mixed ration (TMR) is mixed properly is the next step to maximize components. It can be as simple as a TMR being over or under mixed – both change what the cow actually eats and how the ration ferments in the rumen. Both scenarios will cause issues with rumen pH and health. The ration should be as consistent as possible at every feeding.
One of the herds that we work with ran a TMR audit. Based on the information from the audit, adjustments were made in the mixing order of the feeds and the mixing time. The herd’s butterfat test went up .20 percent and protein went up .10 percent. We didn’t change the ration, we just changed how it was presented to the cows.
Kicker plates, knives and weight bars should have periodic maintenance performed to make sure they are performing as they should be. Something as simple as driving over a pothole can cause the weight bars to be off kilter. In addition to making sure rations are being mixed properly, feed should be pushed up regularly to reduce slug feeding which can alter rumen pH which in turn impacts diet digestibility.
3. Balance for lysine and methionine
Methionine is the first limiting amino acid in corn silage and soybean meal based rations, and amino acids can help to maximize components. However, too often people just balance for Lysine and methionine without making sure the other pieces of the puzzle are in order.
Once a farm has ensured it’s putting up the highest quality forages possible and made sure the feed is being delivered consistently to the cow at every feeding, then the ration should be balanced for amino acids.
Cow comfort also plays a vital role in top milk production. Read these 8 cow comfort tips
for more information.
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