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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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Milk fat depression (MFD) syndrome is a prevalent problem in many dairy herds feeding high-yielding dairy cows. A significant increase in understanding of MFD syndrome occurred in the last several years, and, clearly, different factors may be acting individually or together to result in a lower milk fat content. This article is focused on some of the possible dietary factors involved with MFD.

One of the first steps nutritionists evaluate when they face a MFD problem is the dietary effective neutral detergent fiber (efNDF). Penn State University developed a method to evaluate the dietary efNDF which is based on the particle size of the forages or the total mixed ration. A minimum dietary efNDF guideline of 22 percent is required to provide a healthy rumen environment and maximize a cow’s intake, milk yield and composition.

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Selenium (Se), like the other trace minerals, is necessary to sustain life and is essential for basic physiological functions in both animals and humans. While the daily requirement for these minerals is obviously small, their importance to and impact on the health and well-being of livestock and humans are well documented in research. Fortunately, the difference between deficiency and toxicity with most of these trace minerals is believed to be fairly broad, allowing for the wide range of supplemental regimes used around the world.

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With drought and heat-stressed corn [...], mycotoxin levels could be elevated leading to animal health risks. Corn grain may exhibit signs of fungi growth and kernel damage.

Mycotoxins are toxic byproducts produced by fungi that infect feed crops due to insect damage or stressed plants. These fungi produce mycotoxins that can include aflatoxin, zearalenone, T-2 and DON (deoxynivalenol) that can impact dairy cattle performance for several reasons, including:

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Sub-acute rumen acidosis (SARA) is a prevalent problem for dairy herds as characterized by having more than 25 percent of cows sampled via rumenocentesis four to eight hours after a total mixed ration (TMR) meal with ruminal pH less than 5.5. Ruminal pH is largely a function of the balance between the production of volatile fatty acids from the fermentation of carbohydrates, their neutralization by salivary and dietary buffers and their removal by absorption across the rumen wall or passage from the rumen, and SARA is caused by the consumption of high amounts of ruminally-available carbohydrate, low amounts of effective fiber or both.

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Feed is the single-largest expense in milk production. Many other livestock industries use feed efficiency as a benchmark for performance; however, dairy producers have only recently started to evaluate feed efficiency. Differences in production systems prevent a straightforward comparison of feed efficiencies. The following [article] discusses how to measure and use these values.

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The role of trace minerals in animal production is an area of strong interest for producers, feed manufactures, veterinarians and scientists. Adequate trace mineral intake and absorption is required for a variety of metabolic functions including immune response to pathogenic challenge, reproduction and growth. Mineral supplementation strategies quickly become complex because differences in trace mineral status of all livestock species is critical in order to obtain optimum production in modern animal production systems.

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