August 15, 2017

16/08/2017: Productivity in the face of a changing global context

by Alfredo J. Escribano, DVM, PhD

The global increase in demand towards animal protein, calls for higher productivity, which must come along with higher efficiency in order to both preserve resources and dairy farms’ profitability

This context is leading to important changes in dairy cows’ nutrition. This will be even more severe as more productive animals are being selected also in search of higher environmental sustainability.
Thus, covering dairy cows’ energy requirements remains being a challenge. Intake (DMI) is one of the main factors hindering that cows are able to take from diet all energy they need. 

DMI is reduced during late pregnancy and early lactation, meaning the cows are not able to eat as much as they need. Consequently, cows usually enter Negative Energy Balance (NEB), which has a tremendous effects on cows’ health and farms’ profitability, since it compromises the triangle composed by metabolic health, fertility (open days) and milk production.

In order to cover dairy cows’ energy requirements we need to increase the energy density of the ration, which is carried out by increasing the carbohydrates and/or lipids level of inclusion. Lipids allow reducing the rumen health-related problems caused by high inclusions of carbohydrates (ruminal acidosis).

It is also fair to say that the inclusion of lipids can also have negative externalities if guidelines of administration are not followed. However, after years of improved scientific knowledge, the drawbacks related to feeding ruminants with fats have been overcome, and there is no doubt of the benefits that the use of lipids have led to the industry, either in terms of animal performance or fertility (Rodney et al., 2015), which redounds on global food security (access to food at affordable prices).

Nowadays, academy (and little by little also the industry does so) is going further, looking for details, precision and efficiency. In this sense, the understanding and modulation of animal’s metabolism is becoming an interesting field of action and product development.

Particularly, glucose levels in the transition period are a really important one. NUTRION has a leadership position in the applied research and product development in these areas.

Dairy cows’ nutrition
Dairy cows’ nutrition practice must be efficient while keeping an eye on food security, milk quality and human health. As a consequence of all these improvements, milk production per cow has increased a lot during the last decades, which has been in part due to the increase in cows’ feed intake.

This, however, has led to reductions in diet digestibility (particularly, in lower apparent digestive efficiency), as Potts et al. (2017) demonstrated in their recent study after analysing data from 1970 of the US dairy industry. However, due to dairy cows' greater production efficiency (more milk / unit of feed consumed and digested), production efficiency has increased (Potts et al., 2017); being this last the key parameter to evaluate overall technical efficiency.

It is important also from the food security point of view as a higher technical efficiency reduces the competition for feed/food resources between animal and humans. Moreover, in many countries the dairy industry is not rewarding higher milk yields at the prices farmers need (the typical example is the European dairy industry –and particularly the Spanish one- after the quota system). Currently, higher milk prices come from milk quality parameters (mainly fat %), and this requires specific formulation based on strong scientific/technical knowledge.

Visit the Nutrion website, HERE.

Read the full article, HERE.

The Global Miller
This blog is maintained by The Global Miller staff and is supported by the magazine Milling and Grain
which is published by Perendale Publishers Limited.

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