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Feed & Nutrition

Learn about all aspects of the dairy cow ration, from harvest to storage and balancing additives to forage supplementation.

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Fat and fatty acid (FA) digestion and metabolism in dairy cattle is of considerable interest to the dairy industry. The subject has received renewed interest for a number of reasons. First, the addition of supplemental FA sources to diets is a common practice in dairy nutrition to increase dietary energy density and to support milk production.

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When the acres of pasture, grass hay, alfalfa, corn and sorgum silages, and grazing wheat in the plains are all added up, forages account for by far the most acreage of any US crop. In fact, land used for grazing is over 780 million acres – equal to 40% of the entire land area of the US and nearly double the land used for other crops of all types. Add to that the 61 million acres of alfalfa, 15 million for corn and sorghum silages, then add in the grass hays and others, and you can see that forages comprise the vast majority of US cropland. And yet, it could be said that forages continue to be neglected when it comes to fertilization.

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Cereal grains, such as corn and barley, are included as an energy source in rations for lactating dairy cows. Cereal grains contain high concentrations of starch, a component that is almost completely and uniformly digested in the gastrointestinal tract when processed adequately.

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The squeeze on dairy profitability has been getting tighter, and the length of this downturn is exhausting both the financial and emotional state of many farms. “What can I do?” is a common question. A key I have seen in my 40-plus years in the industry is that basics are the foundation of the farm profit. In spite of the technological advances in computers, GMOs, drones, etc., the basics mattered yesterday and they still do today. Highly digestible alfalfa is not helpful if you have not soil tested all the fields you work and applied amendments as indicated.

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Fat and fatty acid (FA) digestion and metabolism in dairy cattle is of considerable interest both to scientists and the dairy industry. The subject has received renewed interest for a number of reasons: First, we now recognize FAs can have specific and potent effects on ruminant digestion and metabolism.

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Spring is just around the corner, which means field work will begin soon and we’ll be cutting first-crop alfalfa in no time. It’s amazing how much work can get done in such a short amount of time, but one process that should receive adequate time is silage packing.

In recent packing density analyses, completed by Vita Plus consultants in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, roughly 25 percent of the corn silage bunkers surveyed had a packing density of less than 15.5 pounds per cubic foot. A density of 15 pounds per cubic foot has been the industry minimum for a while now and, as packing density decreases, you risk dry matter (DM) losses and losing more money. Let’s take a closer look at that financial impact.

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