The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.The health of your herd starts with good rumen management. Healthy cows perform better, and better performance can lead to greater production and ultimately greater profitability. Without a well-functioning rumen, your herd could be more susceptible to a variety of health complications and costly expenses. Two things are vital when it comes to optimal rumen health: a stable, active, and healthy microbial population; and a suitable pH above 5.8. The goal should be to minimize the time that rumen pH drops below 5.8. Without these two things in place, the rumen becomes less efficient at digesting feed.How can you build a healthy rumen environment? By incorporating the three management tips listed below.Create the Right Balance in the Ration:A healthy rumen starts with a well-balanced ration. The right balance of nutrients ensures micro-organisms work effectively, and the cow can obtain the greatest nutritional benefit from the feed. So, how is it done? A consistent and constant supply of nutrients is key for optimal rumen pH and rumen microbe growth and activity. However, it’s all a balancing act. When we think about building a diet, focus on the nutrients critical to a cow’s daily needs like vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates (starch, fiber), fats, protein, and water. It is important to understand how these components interact and what their influence is. The other thing to keep in mind is sorting. Cows will sort based on preference and particle size making uniformity in the mix critical. The end goal is to have every mouthful look the same.Encourage the Growth of Beneficial Rumen Microbes:A nutritionally balanced diet is important as it provides an environment that maximizes growth and activity of microbial community. Rumen microbes work together to break down what a cow eats, turning feed into energy and protein. They produce volatile fatty acids which the cow converts to energy, and the microbes themselves are an important protein source. It’s all about providing the right nutrients to the right populations to digest the feedstuffs a cow eats.Feed Products That Give Rumen Microbes What They Need to Grow:Formulating the precise nutrient requirements in the diet can be a challenge. We must build a diet that feeds both the microbial community as well as the cow. Remember - when we think about the microbial community and the contribution to the cow, it is about the protein and energy supplies. Anything we do to disrupt the balance of the numerous rumen microbial populations can influence how well the cow is able to utilize the nutrients that we are putting in front of her. Work with your nutritionist to explore feed additive options that can influence the microbe populations. In the end, it’s all a balancing act.Building a healthy rumen environment is essential to a cow’s health and digestive process. Creating the right balance in the ration, encouraging the growth of beneficial microbes, and feeding a product that effects the rumen microbes can ultimately improve gut health and immune strength. The result will be increased feed intake, improved efficiency, and more milk produced.