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3 open minutes with Brian Lammers

Progressive Dairyman Editor Audrey Schmitz Published on 28 September 2018

Optimizing milk efficiency and component yield are essential to ensuring a farm’s overall profitability.

Progressive Dairyman Editor Audrey Schmitz asked Brian Lammers, dairy nutritionist for Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), to share his insights on how to best build rations for cows to maximize milk efficiency, milkfat and protein production.



1618pd lammers brianWhy is milkfat yield important to dairy farm profitability?

Lammers: Over the last 10 years, human health research has shown milkfat is a healthy component of human diets, which has led to an increase in the human consumption of butter.

In turn, this utilization has led to a substantial increase in the value of milkfat. Now, on a unit-for-unit basis, milkfat is of higher value than milk protein. This is reflected on dairy farmer milk checks with well over 50 percent of the milk check coming from the fat portion.

Why is milk efficiency important to dairy farm profitability?

Lammers: Feed is a dairy farm’s biggest expense. Increasing the efficiency at which cows convert feed to milk protein and fat can substantially help increase milk efficiency, which positively impacts dairy farm profitability.


Is component yield or milk efficiency more important for dairy producers to focus on?

Lammers: Improving the yield of fat and protein increases a dairy producer’s monthly milk check. However, if the improvement in component yield is concurrent with an increase in feed intake, true improvement in farm profitability may not be realized. With that said, improvement in milk efficiency is a better metric to monitor.

From a big-picture view, what factors are important for driving high component yield and milk efficiency?

Lammers: Management, genetics and nutrition all have an impact on component yield and milk efficiency. However, it takes a significant amount of time before facility and genetic improvements produce observable and financial benefits. Enhancements to diet, on the other hand, can improve milk efficiency within a few days.

What can be done with the ration to improve milk component yield and efficiency?

Lammers: Rations require an optimal type and amount of rumen-available nutrients to provide protein and energy for the rumen microbes, sufficient and effective fiber to maintain rumen health, and the correct metabolizable energy and metabolizable protein (MP) to sustain the cow’s maintenance and milk production needs. Similar to air pressure in a tire, too much or too little of a nutrient can decrease the overall component yield and milk efficiency.


Are amino acids (AAs) important for milk component yield and efficiency?

Lammers: The MP needed by the cow is actually for specific AAs. If a ration is balanced for protein or MP without consideration of the MP AA balance, component yield and milk efficiency will be dramatically lower. Two AAs, lysine and methionine, are recognized as the most likely to be deficient in a dairy ration and are what nutritionists focus on when balancing rations for AAs.

What improvements should I expect with diets balanced for AAs?

Lammers: In most situations, improvements in milk component yield and milk efficiency are high when the diet is supplemented with bypass AAs. In studies where the initial or base diet was short an AA, supplementation to correct the imbalance resulted in a 10 percent improvement in component yield and milk efficiency.

With current values for milk and ration ingredients, the net improvement in efficiency and profitability can be upward of $1 per cow per day.

Are encapsulated or protected AA products effective?

Lammers: Using unique chemistry and manufacturing technologies, researchers have developed lysine and methionine products that are resistant to rumen breakdown while releasing AAs into the small intestine. Some very effective encapsulated AA products are available in the market. Compared with methionine, lysine is a much more difficult AA to protect from rumen degradation, and there is more variability in the effectiveness of lysine products.

Are all sources of rumen-protected amino acids priced the same?

Lammers: The chemistry and manufacturing technologies used to make rumen-protected AA products vary, especially with lysine. Because there is a great difference in product manufacturing, there is also a great difference in purchase cost.

To a great extent, the cost of a protected AA product will be in proportion to the product development and research required to achieve feed stability, rumen protection and intestinal AA release. Low-cost products with little supporting research are not likely to have strong economic benefits.

How do I determine which rumen-protected AA product has the best economic benefit?

Lammers: Using lysine as an example: The lysine product with the lowest cost to deliver MP lysine is the most cost-effective. For example, if Product A sells for $3.30 per kilogram and delivers 300 grams MP lysine per kilogram of product, it has a cost per gram of MP lysine of 1.1 cents per gram of MP lysine.

Furthermore, if the diet needs 10 grams of MP lysine, it would increase the ration cost by 11 cents per cow per day. However, if Product B sells for $2.50 per kilogram and delivers 150 grams MP lysine per kilogram of product, it has a cost per gram of MP lysine of 1.7 cents per gram of MP lysine.

For Product B, supplementing the same 10 grams of MP lysine would increase the ration cost by 17 cents per cow per day. Thus, for a 1,000-cow dairy, Product A is $21,900 more profitable per year to use than Product B. Selecting the right, and the best, rumen-protected lysine product can have huge economic implications to improving dairy farm component yield, milk efficiency and profitability.  end mark

Audrey Schmitz
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