During the transition period, dairy cows are exposed to physiological, dietary and social changes. Cows in fresh lactation experience a negative energy balance: their energy requirements exceed their dry matter intake and as a consequence they tap their own body reserves for energy. Taking into account all these challenges, the risk for developing metabolic diseases such as milk fever, displaced abomasum, retained placenta and ketosis is high in the transition period. Subclinical ketosis, which is difficult to detect, negatively affects general herd health, reproduction, milk production, and is associated with an increase of early lactation culling. It costs the producer an estimated €260 per case. For fresh cows, maximizing feed intake and feed efficiency will boost energy and nutrient availability, thereby supporting milk production and helping to stave off metabolic disorders.
1.Higher feed intake
It is essential to keep dry matter intake (DMI) as high as possible during the close-up period and several weeks post-calving. Aromatic compounds are of particular relevance for cattle, since they have almost three times more taste receptor cells than humans do. Many phytogenic or botanical substances contain sensory-relevant compounds that make feed tastier for cows. These include essential oils, herbs, spices and extracts that provide flavoring properties, particularly aromatic phenolic compounds found in thyme, clove, etc. In a recent trial in Czech Republic, application of a phytogenic feed additive* improved dairy cows’ feed intake and improved energy intake (+1.2%). Moreover, milk yield was improved by +5.1% (p<0.001) as was daily milk solids production (fat +6.7%, protein +1.7%, lactose +4.8%). Milk performance, corrected to energy corrected milk (ECM) according to the guidance of Sjaunja et al. 1991, was enhanced by 3.5% (Figure 1). The milk performance improvement resulted in a breakeven of 0.24 kg of milk and in a return on investment of 8.6:1 based on an underlying a milk price of €0.30/kg.
2.Better feed efficiency
The second tool to support the fresh cow is to increase feed efficiency by increasing digestibility and by getting more volatile fatty acids (VFAs) and nutrients out of the feed. This can be achieved by supplying helpful rumen microbiota with functional components such as nucleotides and glucans. While a number of yeast products with such components exist, it has been shown that breaking down whole yeast cells into fragments using enzymes through a process called autolysis boosts microbial numbers in the rumen. The increase in microbial population leads to improved feed digestibility and increases the production of VFAs such as acetate, propionate and butyrate: leading to a better energy balance and higher beef or milk production.
A trial conducted at the BIOMIN Research Center using an advanced in vitro rumen simulation system demonstrated the benefits of an autolyzed yeast** in terms of digestibility and VFA production. The rumen simulation system makes it possible to continuously observe and measure fermentation parameters in an artificial rumen-like environment for 14 consecutive days. As Figure 2 shows, the autolyzed yeast improved digestibility of the feed and resulted in higher VFA production.
Overcoming challenges with nutrition
Balanced diets and good transition cow management are crucial aspects in a successful dairy operation. Adding an additive to animals’ feed is attractive in terms of increasing feed intake to meet higher energy requirements and in terms of supporting rumen and overall animal health. A selected phytogenic feed additive and a selected autolyzed yeast product support to overcome challenges in feed intake as well as support feed efficiency towards improving animal performance, resulting in more efficient production and greater economic benefit for producers. The benefits recorded here also have application in beef cattle, using the same tools.
*Digestarom®, ** Levabon® Rumen E
This article originally appeared in All About Feed