Milk components varied significantly, despite consistent milk production.
Rambling Acres in Stetsonville, Wisconsin, consistently averages 95 pounds of milk per cow year-round, with periods of 100-plus pounds.
But despite this stellar milk production, components would continuously vary.
Butterfat levels varied from 3.65 to 3.10, despite the target of 3.65. Protein levels would hit around 2.90, but the target was to stay above 3.0. At the time, the ration consisted of corn silage, snaplage and dried shell corn.
This herd also struggled each spring as corn silage became fully fermented. Butterfat levels would crash and then it would take time and effort to get them back.
After evaluating all possible causes, the herd decided to run a starch digestibility test to see if they could eliminate some of the variability.
Results from the starch digestibility test showed that the herd was feeding an excessive amount of rumen-degradable starch. Based on the results, the herd decided to remove all of the snaplage and most of the dried shell corn from the ration.
Not only did this adjustment change the starch level in the diet but it also meant a ration savings of 20 cents per cow per day.
For the past year, the herd has consistently achieved more than 95 pounds of milk and component levels have exceeded previous goals. Butterfat now stays above 3.65, while protein has steadfastly held between 3.10 and 3.20.
Additionally, because the herd removed the dried shell corn from the ration, what was previously fed to cows is now sold, opening up an additional income source for this operation.
Rambling Acres continues to run starch digestibility tests every couple weeks and when any new feed ingredient is introduced.
“This program helped me to challenge myself as a nutritionist to feed lower-starch diets,” says Vernon Metcalf, a nutritionist in Wisconsin. “It is possible to formulate diets with low starch and get results.”
Rambling Acres has also started to evaluate new corn silage varieties. “They have been experimenting with corn silage varieties and playing around with the varieties, adjusting the ratio of each kind in the ration ... The results have put different corn silage hybrids into perspective.
This information has helped this dairy figure out what to plant for the coming year,” says Metcalf.
Making ration adjustments assisted Rambling Acres in:
• Obtaining consistent butterfat and protein levels year-round.
• Reducing ration cost by 20 cents per cow per day.
• Eliminating the need for shell corn, opening opportunity for the farm to sell excess corn. PD
This program helped me to challenge myself as a nutritionist to feed lower-starch diets. It is possible to formulate diets with low starch and get results. Photo courtesy of Calibrate Technologies.