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Correct fat balance will improve feed efficiency

With rising commodity prices and some variable quality grass silage, driving feed efficiency will be crucial if margins are to benefit from the upward movement in milk prices.

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Feed efficiency can be improved by feeding correct fat balance #dairy

With rising commodity prices and some variable quality grass silage, driving feed efficiency will be crucial if margins are to benefit from the upward movement in milk prices.

 

Mike Chown, UFAC UK sales manager, says the current uncertainly regarding exchange rates is pushing up the prices of many feed ingredients which will impact diet costs. At the same time, initial analysis of first cut silage suggests a lower energy feed which will require more supplementation.

 

“It will be really important to make sure the diet is used as effectively as possible. A great number of management factors will influence feed efficiency, all of which are within the farmer’s control. New research shows the balance of fats in the diet can have a big impact too.”

 

He says trials show the importance of ensuring sufficient rumen inert unsaturated fats in the diet, explaining they are required in the small intestine to make full use of all the free fatty acids and nutrients.

 

“These free fatty acids are a major source of energy in dairy cows. To increase the efficiency of the whole diet, the key is to improve the efficiency with which they are used. To do this, they have to be converted back to triglycerides before they can be absorbed for use by the cow. This process requires glycerol. If diets are short of glycerol the cow has to metabolise it from blood glucose, meaning less glucose is available for milk production, driving down overall feed efficiency. As such, feeding rumen inert unsaturated fats with glycerine improves feed conversion.”


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Trails

The trials at the University of California with 350 cows compared three diets. The first as a control diet with no added fats. The next had saturated C16 fat added while the third had a balanced supply of saturated and rumen-inert unsaturated fats. All the diets were balanced to contain the same levels of energy and protein. The only difference was the makeup of fats.


The cows on the control diet produced 1.66 litres/kgDM while the cows on the balanced diet produced 1.76 litres/kgDM, an increase in feed efficiency of 6 per cent. However, the group fed the diet with added C16:0 produced 1.5 litres/kgDM, a reduction in feed efficiency of 10 per cent. Adding the wrong type of fat meant the whole diet was used less efficiently, pushing up cost per litre.


“The economic impact of this can be considerable. Based on milk at 18ppl and a TMR costing 15p/kg DM at 24Kg DMI, the benefit of feeding a balanced supply of fatty acid would be 42p/cow/day, which adds up to £16,800 for a 200-cow herd for a 200-day winter. Clearly the actual economics will depend on individual circumstances.”

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