The benefits of alkalised feeds on dairy cattle diets have been appreciated for many years now, but FiveF believes the recent launch of an alkalised pelleted feed gives scope for further performance improvements and better feed efficiency.
FiveF’s feed manufacturing partners can now create AlkaNut from a special grain-based concentrate made from Home n’ Dry and cereals, which they say can have a dramatic impact on feed performance – particularly in cases where the feeding system, or production level, put pressure on digestive stability and feed intake through excess acid load.
Nutritionist Malcolm Graham says Alkanuts can help maintain better feed intake and overall animal condition, while consistently delivering higher output.
“They allow much higher levels of starch (cereals) to be fed safely when required in the diet, and consequently have proven particularly successful in a number of applications to safely improve the digestibility of the whole diet,” says Mr Graham.
“High cereal, fast fermenting, high energy feeds can be formulated to replace slow fibrous feeds without risking digestive upset. This enables cows to eat more forage and base diet, giving them better energy status, better yield and better fertility,” he adds.
Often, acidosis occurs when high volumes of feed are fed through the parlour or robot feeders, which can make it difficult to deliver effective and timely alkalisation. The creation of Alkanuts combats this by allowing 8-12kg per cow, per day, of high starch, high cereal feeds.
“This is way in excess of what could be delivered with conventional feeds, which have a double acid loading effect, being acidic themselves, and creating acid load through fast rumen fermentation after ‘slug’ feeding,” says Mr Graham.
From a production aspect, Mr Graham says safely feeding higher starch and cereal diets tends to improve milk protein levels and fertility – particularly at higher yield levels – through improved supply of glucogenic energy.
He also adds that in a well-fed rumen, simultaneous feeding of fast fermenting energy and protein reduces the need for costly bypass proteins and, typically, allows a lower protein diet to be formulated at any production level.
Feeding an effective level of Alkalised feeds has been proven to typically raise dry matter intake across the herd by about 1kg per day, which Mr Graham says can lead to better body condition and better fertility, but is also enough energy for more than two litres of milk.
“Even at today’s modest milk prices, that is a return of 50-60p for a cost of 18p or less [a benefit to the bottom line of about £1100/month/100 cows]. The benefits for the highest yielders in the herd can be even greater.
“Many farmers are now reporting the double benefit of better output, combined with better overall cow well-being, in particular for their freshest calved and highest potential cows,” he adds.
NORTH Yorkshire-based dairy farmer Mark Berry, has been feeding Alkanuts for the past eight months, as part of a successful change of system, which has seen him dramatically cut back on inputs.
He says: “We were initially forced into lowering our inputs because of the falling milk prices a couple of years ago, but we’ve found that since we’ve stopped pushing yields, the cows are far healthier – it has improved their fertility and we now have very few cases of mastitis.
“The average yield has dropped from 9,500kg to 7,500kg, but because of the health benefits to the cows and the lower input costs, we’re actually still better off. Regardless of what happens with the milk price, I wouldn’t go back to a higher input system again; this way is definitely better for us and the cows.”
Now running a 100-strong Holstein milking herd and 150 head of youngstock, Mr Berry – who farms 200 acres alongside his father, Malcolm – has also started rearing heifers and selling them newly-calved, which has helped supplement the lower milk prices too.
“I remember being told that when milk prices are low, it’s not what you make, it’s what you save that matters, and it’s following that philosophy that’s got us through the past couple of years.”
Mark introduced a rotational paddock grazing system a few years ago, which has enabled him to keep the cows out for longer (April-October last year, and until November the following year). Additional red clover has helped increase protein levels (to 17-18%) and through the parlour in winter, the cows are fed grass silage, brewers’ grains and cake from FiveF partner Dugdale Nutrition, which has included AlkaNut since last June.
Mr Berry explains: “Because of their grass-based diet, dropping cake in the parlour can often upset their stomachs, but the addition of AlkaNut has definitely helped prevent this. There’s a lot less acidosis in the cows and newly calved heifers and cows are able to eat a bit more without it upsetting them.
“I never cut back on quality when it comes to feeding, but it has to work, and this definitely works for us, with our forage-based system – otherwise I wouldn’t still be using it eight months down the line.”