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How to secure rumen function and improve protein efficiency in lactating dairy cows?

With the end of milk quotas, dairy farmers are put under more pressure as they often have to produce more milk with the same resources. This means that dairy cows must be fed denser diets in order to increase feed efficiency. Out of all the nutrients needed to achieve this aim, protein is one of the most expensive. An excess of protein can lead to risks of rumen overload and eventually, to huge economic wastage. Here is what our experts advise to improve protein efficiency while securing rumen function.

ruminant protein efficiencyWhy and how can we increase the density of cows’ diet?

Feed efficiency in dairy cows is the major driver of Income over Feed cost (IOFC). In light of today's environmental and economic context on farm, the aim of nutritionists ought  to be getting more milk from the same dry matter intake (DMI) and to do so we have to work with more dense diets in term of protein and energy. If not well balanced those diets could put the rumen, which is the main engine of the dairy cow, under much pressure and jeopardize efficiency.  

On the energy side, the aim is to be able to increase density of the diet and secure risk of sub-acidosis to safeguard rumen performances and total diet efficiency. This could be achieved by incorporating highly digestible and slow release sources of energy.

Why does the quality of protein matter most for increasing feed efficiency in dairy cows?

On the protein side, increasing efficiency is also to be of primary concerns. Indeed, protein is a major cost in dairy diets and the ratio milk protein yield to protein ingested is in most cases less than 30%. High level protein diets are used to drive milk yield but those diets could end up with a rumen overloaded with ammonia. Part of this ammonia will be converted in urea which will be wasted protein. This excess of urea will also negatively impact fertility. More than quantity of protein, diets should be balanced on the quality of protein and specially the RDP (rumen degradable protein) and DUP (by-pass protein) fractions with a target of 65 and 35 % respectively. Protein efficiency of the overall diet is improved by 5 to 10 % and protein wastage is reduced. Some specific raw materials are well known as a source of by-pass protein (treated soya or rape, corn gluten meal…) but these are not always available on the market.

Essential oils key to reducing protein breakdown

In this field, some natural products based on essentials oils and with specific active ingredients can reduce protein breakdown in the rumen and improve the quantity of digestible protein in the intestine. By doing so, we can improve protein efficiency by either producing more milk with the same level of crude protein in the diet or produce the same level of milk with less protein in the diet.

Would you like to have more information on how to optimise protein efficiency in your cows while still securing their rumen? if so, our experts stand ready to share their insights and answer your questions. Please contact them if there is any way they can be of assistance!

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