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.
Just like in Aesop's fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, the tortoise teaches us that “slow but steady wins the race”. Well, the same can be said about transitioning your herd’s feed from last year’s rations to this year’s.
There are many factors to think about before introducing your cows to new feed, especially as they are facing upcoming winter challenges. The new silage needs a minimum of four weeks to properly ferment (or shorter if you use a science-based, research-proven silage inoculant). What is key here, is that the fermentation process causes radical changes in the pH of the corn and the fermentation profile and nutrient digestibility can continue for few months after the corn is ensiled. Therefore, the nutrient composition of the two feedstuffs may differ and should be analyzed to give you a better idea of what you were, and will be, feeding.
“Abruptly introducing new feed can wreak havoc on your cow’s gastrointestinal tract (GIT), that is why it should be introduced slowly. Two nutrients of most concern in the new ration are neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and starch. Too much fiber is filling and can cause her to consume less dry matter, and nutrients. She will certainly need the energy and nutrients from the feed during the colder months to maintain energy balance and produce to her full potential,” says Dr. Kimberley Morrill, Technical Services Manager for Chr. Hansen.
What Producers and Nutritionist want from an Effective Probiotic
Dr. Morrill tells us, “We conducted a survey of dairy producers and nutritionists, asking them what they wanted from an effective probiotic. Those results showed their three highest priorities for feeding a direct-fed microbial (DFM) product (figure 1a; 1b). Taken collectively, clearly the emphasis for a DFM for the dairy market should be to improve the health and efficiency of dairy cows by supporting their normal, stable GI functions, including the digestive, absorptive, barrier, and immune functions.
Steady feeding of an effective probiotic
Daily feeding of an effective probiotic can help your cows tackle nutritional and health challenges by maximizing the nutrients from the forage. Probiotics also help keep the GIT healthy, particularly if there are issues with feed quality. A novel four-strain probiotic that combines Lactobacillus animalis and Propionibacterium freudenreichii, with two highly researched Bacilli, Bacillus licheniformis and Bacillus subtilis has been shown to improve the capacity of dairy cattle to get nutrients from their feed, to absorb those nutrients throughout a healthy digestive system, and to reduce the energy-robbing, milk reducing impact of harmful bacterial infections in their gastrointestinal (GI) tracts.
Side Bar: The impact of this science-based, research-proven probiotic was tested in the field using observations made on approximately 110,000 dairy cows (Jersey and Holstein) from 14 commercial dairies in three states. Data were collected from one week before and through 90 days during the daily-feeding of the probiotic. Its continuous use increased fiber (NDF) and starch digestibility by 6.5% and 1%, respectively, and reduced the variation of these two metrics of digestive efficiency.
Getting a good understanding on starch and NDF content of your silage is good information for your nutritionist so they can help your cows get the most from their feed. Chr. Hansen provides a Nutrient Scorecard which can help you gather and share this information with your nutritionist.
Remember to learn from the tortoise: slow and steady wins the race, and in this case, your patience and planning will help your cows reach their full genetic potential.