About 20 years ago, as a young nutritionist, I sat in a meeting room in Stephenville, Texas, to learn about the new Dairy NRC published in 2001. At that point in my career, I had been formulating diets for about 10 years and was eager to see how the scientific community would weigh in on topics I was considering in routine ration formulation. Now, in early 2022, after a long wait, the next version of this resource is now available.

Amongst the slew of Amazon boxes that arrived at my home around Christmas, there was a box from NAP. In it was the new Dairy NRC. NAP and NRC: What do these abbreviations stand for? I thought a quick history of these important tools would be in order, as nutritionists reference these items often.

NAP stands for National Academy Press and it works closely with The National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. This sounds quite official, and it is.

This group is tasked with sorting through all available information in various fields of study and deciding what passes the test and is held to be true. It is noteworthy that such an astute group of smart individuals is concerned with ensuring that I include the correct amount of methionine in a dairy diet in western Kansas.

This group publishes the often mentioned and occasionally maligned Dairy NRC. For sure, every dairy producer has heard their nutritionist or feed salesperson mention something about a guideline or requirement in the NRC.

What does NRC even stand for?

This is the abbreviation for the National Research Council. It is this group that forms a committee to bring us the volume officially called the Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle. They also have versions for other livestock species and even pets.

This compilation of peer reviewed nutritional information was first published in 1944, and the one that arrived on my doorstep around Christmas is the eighth edition. Not unlike other volumes that publish successive editions of the same book, this version has the same look and feel of the previous version and will include a plethora of new information released since the 2001 publication. I went ahead and paid the extra to get the hardcover edition. It is a nice-looking book! You can learn more about it and order yours here.

How will this long awaited “rule book” for feeding dairy animals change my world?

Though there have been a few sneak peaks made available through various press and social media outlets, I am still waiting to dig into it. It is times like this where the balance of art and science in feeding dairy cows will be made to lean a bit more toward the science part. This is good.

In some ways, I look forward to this new resource to perhaps become a bit of a judge for issues about which we have debated in the intervening two decades between the seventh and eighth editions. There have certainly been a lot of new ideas, approaches, and discoveries since 2001. In fact, there are some topics we spend quite a bit of time implementing into diets today that aren’t even mentioned in the previous version.

Will we change the way we feed cows after reading this new book?

I am sure no extreme changes in direction will be forthcoming. However, it will be nice to be able to refer to the new Dairy NRC for a requirement or approach that, up to this point, has been a more debatable issue. I look forward to that. If I ask a client to invest a few cents in a nutrient, I like to have the science to back up the economics. Overall, having more solid nutritional guidelines should help us enhance production and improve our client’s bottom line.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2022
January 17, 2022
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