Leweston Farm - Paul Roper

Leweston Farm in the UK is one of the first to use DEMP. Hear farm manager Paul Roper describe his life as a farmer and the on farm trial.


Dairy Solutions

  • A healthy cow should expel the placenta within 24 hours of calving. This is an...

  • Microbial protein is the most efficient source of protein for cows as its amino acid...

  • Feeding cows to maintain a healthy rumen and enhance the activity of rumen...

  • Maintaining gut stability is critical for raising profitable dairy herds. It all starts with...

  • Feed is the largest single production expense on dairy farms. Efficient conversion...

  • Proper nutrition is a critical component if a cow is to maintain a healthy and...

  • Ambient temperature and humidity levels can cause stress to your herd that can...

  • Lameness is often the result of an adverse interaction between the cow and her...

  • Mastitis is an inflammatory reaction of the udder to bacterial (infectious) or...

  • It is now widely recognized that reduced fertility in dairy herds is one of the most...

 

Dairy Challenges

Retained Placenta

A healthy cow should expel the placenta within 24 hours of calving. This is an automatic immune response, so delayed expulsion can be an indicator of poor immunity. Retained placenta increases the risk of metritis and reduces the likelihood of the cow getting back in calf. An effective nutritional tool is to feed organic selenium throughout the dry period and transition. It is also important to achieve good calcium balance, as calcium is needed for muscle contraction. Cows must be fed on a balanced diet right through the transition period. Heat Stress Heat stress is caused by a combination of temperature (particularly high night temperature) and humidity. It can result in reduced feed intake, a drop in production and poor fertility. Cows are most vulnerable through transition and early lactation. Providing shade, ensuring adequate water supply, installing fans and water sprayers, and supplying more feed in the evening than the morning are all effective management strategies. Nutritionists can help by increasing the nutrient density of the diet to account for reduced feed intake.

Dairy Challenges

Protein Supply

Microbial protein is the most efficient source of protein for cows as its amino acid profile is very similar to that of milk. Rumen microbes require a steady supply of non-protein nitrogen (NPN), as well as amino acids and an energy source, to produce microbial protein, which is then directly available to the cow. However, excess NPN can result in raised blood urea levels and reduced fertility and production, so it is important to ensure an optimal, but consistent supply throughout the day. Subsequently, feed ingredients that optimize amino acid and microbial protein supply should be included in the ration. Optimizing rumen function can help maximise cow health, fertility and performance.

Dairy Challenges

Rumen Health

Feeding cows to maintain a healthy rumen and enhance the activity of rumen microbes will result in increased feed intake and improved feed efficiency. The result is more milk produced at lower cost. Rumen pH is a critical factor for good rumen health. If this drops below a critical threshold then SARA can result. The rumen becomes less efficient and cows are more vulnerable to other health issues, such as laminitis and mycotoxicosis. A good balance of energy sources and effective fibre are important and feeding a proven yeast supplement can help to maintain a stable rumen pH.

Dairy Challenges

Gut Integrity

Maintaining gut stability is critical for raising profitable dairy herds. It all starts with the young animals that need support in order to maintain healthy microflora in their intestinal tract.

Optimum rumen function is achieved when the nutrients supplied by the ration maximize the growth and activity of the rumen microflora. The ration must have the right range of particle size to form a good rumen mat, which is essential to retain the finer ingredients in the rumen to be fully fermented and also to encourage “cudding”, a sign that the rumen is working properly.

Fermentable energy is the “driver” of rumen activity. A range of fermentable energy sources along with a yeast culture selected for its action in the rumen will help resist the build up of lactic acid. This should be complemented by protein sources of differing rates of rumen degradability so that the microbes can “capture” all the energy and turn it into microbial growth, increasing both the rate of fermentation and the yield of microbial protein.

Some microbes, particularly the “fiber digesters”, can utilize non-protein nitrogen, and a slow release form of this will help maintain the pool of rumen ammonia at the right level throughout the digestive cycle. This should be used along with more complex immediately-available nitrogen sources.

Dairy Challenges

Feed Efficiency

Feed is the largest single production expense on dairy farms. Efficient conversion of either grown or purchased feed nutrients directly affects the profitability of your operation. Good feed efficiency is not just economically important, but is also a good indicator of nutritional management on your farm.

Globally, forage makes up the major portion of ruminant diets. During the conversion of fresh forage to silage, proteolysis (enzymatic breakdown of protein) naturally occurs, leading to a loss of True Protein (bound amino acids). Numerous studies have found that feeding ruminants silage with a higher True Protein content increased production (more milk / liveweight gain) more than feeding silage with a lower True Protein content - even though the total Crude Protein content of the diets were similar. The amount of True Protein lost in the ensiling process can be significantly reduced by using tools to speed up the rate of acidification and pH drop in the silage.

Forage is the least expensive on-farm source of feed for ruminants. Good quality forage contains nutrients that are highly digestible and available to the animal, however, forages contain high levels of both oxygen and fiber. Producers should choose a yeast strain that is proven to utilize oxygen, and also to stimulate fiber digesting bacteria. The strain should also stimulate lactic acid-utilizing bacteria, to maintain pH balance and minimize acidity in the rumen.

Dairy Challenges

Longevity

Proper nutrition is a critical component if a cow is to maintain a healthy and productive life. Monitoring your nutrition program carefully from the moment the heifer is born and through her future productive life is key. Many health disorders are directly or indirectly related to inadequate feeding and nutrition.

Dairy Challenges

Heat Stress

Ambient temperature and humidity levels can cause stress to your herd that can affect performance and health. 

Even mild heat stress can have significant short term effects on productivity. There can also be an impact on overall health and fertility. Higher producing cows are more affected because they generate more heat while digesting the extra feed required for higher milk yield.

Cows are also more affected at certain critical periods. As few as 10% of inseminations in “heat stressed” cattle result in pregnancies, and cows that are stressed in early lactation show poorer fertility 2-3 months later due to impaired follicular development.

“Pre-fresh” and “fresh” are the two key points in the cow cycle around calving when the impact of heat stress is at its most damaging. Heat stress during late pregnancy may reduce birthweights and the quality of colostrum.

Management and nutritional programs should be used together to address poor intake and inconsistent eating patterns that can result in rumen acidosis. 

Management:

  • Provide shade and adequate ventilation
  • Optimize water supply
  • Provide feed during the cooler periods at the end of each day. Allocate 33% of the daily feed in the morning and 67% in the evening.
  • Install water sprayers in the collecting yard and along the feed trough. Use sprinklers that produce large droplets and fans to ensure evaporation of the water.

Nutrition:

Nutritional strategies are associated with the fact that the cows will consume less feed.

  • Increase the concentrate to forage ratio within a balanced diet.
  • Increase the energy density of the ration using bypass fats.
  • Although the cows will be consuming less dry matter, they will still need the same level of minerals. Increase the levels of these key elements and supply them in a highly available form.

 

Dairy Challenges

Lameness

Lameness is often the result of an adverse interaction between the cow and her environment. Managing lameness should involve preventative steps and treating cows as early as possible; clinically lame cows can have reduced milk yields for up to two months before diagnosis!

Contributing factors for lameness include lack of comfortable lying time and insufficient housing conditions.

The nutrition of the cow affects lameness in two main areas: quality of horn growth and laminitis. Horn growth is influenced by trace elements, particularly zinc, through its involvement in keratinization. Supplementing the diet with a highly available form of zinc has been shown to reduce lameness scores. Biotin, also known as Vitamin H or Coenzyme R, has also been shown to be beneficial and should also be considered for its longer term benefits.

Dairy Challenges

Mastitis

Mastitis is an inflammatory reaction of the udder to bacterial (infectious) or mechanical injury (non-infectious). Infectious mastitis can be caused by cow to cow transmission (contagious) or as a result of environmental challenges. It is regarded as the most common and costly disease affecting dairy cattle. In the average dairy herd, the annual cost is approximately $230 per cow, 70% of which is the associated with the resulting milk loss.

Cows should be provided with a comfortable, clean and hygienic environment that will minimize the risk of bacterial and physical damage to the udder, especially during the pre-calving period. This should also be supported by an appropriate “dry cow” antiseptic regime since it has been estimated that up to 60% of infections can be picked up during this period.

The milking machine is potentially a major source of physical teat damage and should be well maintained to ensure a consistent vacuum level with a constant pulsation rate and a regular program of teat cup liner replacement.

A hygienic milking routine is obviously essential but care should also be taken to avoid over-milking. Nutrition also has a part to play in mastitis prevention through maintenance of the immune system.

Dairy Challenges

Fertility

It is now widely recognized that reduced fertility in dairy herds is one of the most important factors affecting a producer’s profitability. The nutritional management of dairy cows has a direct influence on fertility performance, particularly in early lactation.

The focus on fertility issues tends to be at the time of service but, in reality, fertility is a process that starts with managing the quality of the egg to be served, by ensuring correct follicle development and ends with successful implantation of the resulting embryo. Successful fertility therefore depends on the correct management and nutrition for the whole period, from up to 3 months before service until 50 days afterwards.

Any inadequacies in cow comfort and cow management, particularly those leading to stress, metabolic disorders or imbalances in nutrition will compromise fertility.

Energy

If the cow is in negative energy balance (losing too much weight) during the egg management phase, the quality of the egg will be reduced.

Protein

Excess rumen degradable protein (or insufficient fermentable energy) in the ration will lead to surplus ammonia being absorbed across the rumen wall resulting in elevated blood and milk urea levels. If too much ammonia is produced on its way to being detoxified in the liver, it will interfere with sperm motility and disrupt embryonic development.

Trace Elements

The right balance of trace elements in the tissues of the cow is vital for both egg management and embryo development.