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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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Distillers grains with solubles (DG) is a unique feedstuff providing protein, fat, highly digestible fiber and minerals, all of which can be utilized in dairy rations. Distillers grains with solubles are coproducts from the manufacture of ethanol. Although other cereal grains, such as sorghum, wheat or barley, can be used to produce ethanol, the predominant cereal grain used in the United States to produce ethanol is corn (Zea mays).

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Remember when gas prices approached $3.50 a gallon? It had a tremendous impact on our economy. Hybrid vehicles were on back order, and dealers were practically giving away SUVs. Despite the high prices, we still went to the pumps and filled up our tanks. Why? Because we needed the fuel to run our cars and trucks, and operate our businesses.

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You just hired the best nutritionist, purchased a new mixer wagon and payloader and your recent college graduate daughter has come home to run the feeding program, but as far as you can tell things are going downhill fast! What’s up?

During these times it’s important to realize there are three rations on the dairy farm:

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If you find yourself reading the title of this [article] twice, wondering what “space” has to do with the diet of a dairy cow, you are not alone. Nutritionists and producers regularly discuss terms like pounds of dry matter intake (DMI) or percent protein or how many megacalories of energy or grams of calcium or what is the ratio of calcium-to-phosphorus. None of these discussions even comes close to mentioning space as an important consideration when planning or troubleshooting a milking cow’s diet.

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The basic premise used by all nutritionists when formulating rations is that each mouthful of the diet is balanced with respect to the known nutrient requirement of the target animal. The diet must contain the necessary nutrients to support maintenance, growth, production and health. Feed additives should be present to provide the appropriate level of protection from disease and other maladies. In all cases, the levels must be controlled so as to be neither deficient nor toxic.

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The science surrounding protein and energy nutrition, no matter the livestock species, is a couple of generations ahead of mineral nutrition – particularly trace mineral nutrition. Yet finally there are signs that mineral nutrition science might one day catch up.

One sign of progress is industry and academic interests using ‘organic’ minerals in lieu of inorganic forms of zinc, manganese, copper and selenium. The initial focus is on reproductive issues and on enhancing immune response and milk quality – areas where trace mineral availability may be limiting. Another issue is environmental accumulation of minerals in manure spread on cropland.

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