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Selko | Dairy Performance

TRACE MINERAL MANAGEMENT

Making dairy farming sustainable by improving digestibility of fibre in dairy cattle

The key takeaways from this article

  • Dairy farmers often use milk production and production of solids as a key performance indicator
  • Feed efficiency is an important key performance indicator to improve profitability and to reduce the environmental footprint of dairy farming
  • Fibre digestibility has a big impact on feed efficiency of dairy cattle.
  • Feeding IntelliBond hydroxy trace minerals improves rumen function of dairy cows, increases NDF digestibility and production of volatile fatty acids and increases milk production.

The importance of improving feed efficiency on a dairy farm

Increasing feed efficiency means that more milk is being produced out of the same amount of feed. This will reduce the environmental footprint of the dairy farm because the amount of greenhouse gasses per liter of milk produced will go down. Next to reducing the environmental footprint, improving feed efficiency of dairy cows will also increase the income over feed costs, making dairy farming more profitable. Whereas in beef, swine and poultry farming, feed efficiency is the most commonly use performance indicator, dairy farmers often use milk production and the amount of milk solids produced to measure the performance of the farm. As a result, potential gains in feed efficiency often go unnoticed.

How can feed efficiency of dairy cows be defined?

Feed efficiency in dairy cows can be defined as the amount of milk per unit of dry matter consumed. This can be calculated in a number of ways. A commonly used way to calculate feed efficiency of dairy cows is to divide the kg of Energy Corrected Milk (ECM) by kg of Dry Matter Intake (DMI). In this case, the amount of milk is corrected to 3.5% fat and 3.2% milk protein by using the following formula: ECM = (0.327 X kg milk) + (12.95 X kg fat) + (7.65 X kg protein).

How can feed efficiency of dairy cattle be influenced?

Feed efficiency in lactating dairy cows can vary from <1.3 to >2.0. As a result, the income over feed costs and the environmental footprint of dairy farming can vary enormously between dairy farms. There are several factors that have an impact on feed efficiency of dairy cows such as:

  • Digestibility of feed
  • Milk production
  • Feed intake
  • Days in milk
  • Forage quality
  • Forage quantity
  • Age of the cows
  • Protein level of the ration
  • Somatic cell count
  • Body weight change
  • Fat percentage of the milk
  • Rumen acidosis
  • Environmental stress
  • The amount of exercise and grazing
  • Pregnancy
  • The use of certain feed additives

Out of those factors, digestibility of the feed is one of the most important ones. In ruminants, a well-functioning rumen is key to ensure maximum digestibility of feed. Trace mineral management can have a serious impact on rumen function and thus on digestibility of the diet of dairy cows.

Feed efficiency of dairy cows is a key driver of dairy farm profitability

Feeding IntelliBond trace minerals improves digestibility of fibre in the diet, enabling cows to produce more milk out of the same amount of feed.

Learn more about how Selko IntelliBond helps to improve fibre digestibility to optimize performance

Selko | solutions based on science

Increase your milk production by improving fibre digestibility

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Figure 1: Sulphate sources of trace minerals were shown to be significantly more soluble in the rumen of cattle than IntelliBond[1].

Improving feed efficiency of dairy cattle through trace mineral management

Sulphate trace minerals are commonly used in footbaths because they readily release their trace mineral ions, which are known to be antimicrobial. This is highly desirable when they are used to deal with hoof related infections. Within the rumen, this antimicrobial effect of sulphates is highly undesirable. Unfortunately, the sulphate salts that are commonly used in dairy feed are highly soluble in the rumen, resulting in high peak concentrations of free metal ions[1].

In contrast, the hydroxy forms of trace minerals in IntelliBond are largely insoluble at a pH of 4 or higher. The rumen pH of dairy cattle is typically between 6 and 6.5, so hydroxy trace mineral crystals are essentially insoluble within the rumen. In the abomasum, where the pH is usually below 3, the crystals dissociate layer by layer, resulting in a gradual and sustained release of trace mineral ions into the duodenum. As a result, the bioavailability of hydroxy trace minerals in IntelliBond is high, but peak concentrations in the rumen and other part of the GI tract always remain low (see Figure 1).

Figure 2: percentage improvement of fibre digestibility in 14 studies in carried out in cattle on different diets. A positive effect on fibre digestibility was found in 12 out of 14 studies.

Feeding IntelliBond improves fibre digestibility

The negative impact of sulphate salts on the rumen microflora reduces their ability to digest fibre, in term resulting in a reduction of feed efficiency. Multiple studies carried out by different independent research groups[2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9] have proven that completely replacing sulphate trace minerals with IntelliBond will avoid high levels of metal ions being present in the rumen. This will result in a significant improvement of fibre digestibility (see Figure 2). A meta-analysis of all studies carried out with IntelliBond showed an average improvement of NDF digestibility of 1.7%[10]. University research in dairy cows has shown that each one point difference in NDF digestibility can represent an extra 0.25 to 0.3 kg of daily Energy Corrected Milk production[11].

The improvement of rumen function results in an increased production of volatile fatty acids

Optimal rumen fermentation and improved fibre digestibility result in an increase of volatile fatty acids, which are an important source of energy for the dairy cow. In a trial by Guimares et all[12], two groups of animals were included. One group was fed sulphate trace minerals, the other group was fed IntelliBond. Feeding IntelliBond instead of sulphates resulted in an increase of VFA production in the rumen of 21%, resulting in an increase in propionate production of 15%.

Figure 3: milk production in kg/day in cows supplemented with sulphates, a mixture of sulphates and organic trace minerals or with IntelliBond[13].

Improvement of fibre digestibility results in an increase of milk production

In a trial carried out by Cornell University[13], milk production was increased in early lactation cows fed IntelliBond compared to cows fed sulphates. (see Figure 3). The IntelliBond group reached peak production sooner and produced 3.5 liters milk more at the peak of lactation. Dynamics of lactation persistency in dairy cows indicate that 1 kg of extra milk at peak lactation is equal to 200 kg of extra milk per lactation. A more recent study by Daniel et al[8] confirmed that dairy cows fed IntelliBond will have a significant increase in milk production.

Increasing dairy farm profitability with IntelliBond

Feed efficiency of dairy cows is an important driver of dairy farm profitability. Feeding IntelliBond trace minerals improves digestibility of fibre in the diet, enabling cows to produce more milk out of the same amount of feed. This effect of feeding IntelliBond is the result of avoiding the use of sulphates. It is therefore crucial to aim at total replacement of sulphates in the ration by IntelliBond. Depending on the milk price, the incremental cost to move to IntelliBond to supplement a cow during her entire production cycle can be earned back within 3 to 4 weeks, resulting in an excellent return on investment and a significant improvement of income over feeding costs of a dairy farm.

Download more research and documentation

You can access all of our documentation about Selko protocols, sustainable dairy farming and latest research insights about Dairy Cow transition management.

Selko IntelliBond, Improving fibre digestibility to optimize performance

Feed efficiency in dairy cows can be defined as kg of Energy Corrected Milk (ECM) per kg of dry matter consumed. Feed efficiency in lactating cows can vary from <1.3 to >2.0. There are a number of factors that have an impact on feed efficiency but improving digestibility of feed can have a huge impact on feed efficiency.

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References

  1. Caldera, C.E, Weigel, B, Kucharczyk, V.N, Sellins, K.S, Archibeque, S.L, Wagner, J.J, Han, H, Spears, J.B. and T.E. Engle (2019). Trace mineral source influences ruminal distribution of copper and zinc and their binding strength to ruminal digesta. J. Anim. Sci., 97:1852-1864.
  2. Faulkner, M.J. and W.P. Weiss (2017). Effect of source of trace minerals in either forage- or by-product-based diets fed to dairy cows: 1. Production and macronutrient digestibility, Journal of Dairy Science 100:5358-53-67.
  3. Miller, M.D, Lanier, J.S, Kvidera, S.K, Dann, H.M, Ballard, C.S. and R.J. Grant (2020). Evaluation of source of corn silage and trace minerals on lactational performance and total-tract nutrient digestibility in Holstein cows. J. Dairy Sci., 103:3147-3160.
  4. Guimaraes, O, Jalali, S, Wagner, T, Spears, J and T. Engle (2019). The influence of trace mineral source on fiber digestion, rumen fermentation characteristics, and mineral solubility in beef cattle fed a low-quality forage diet. J. An. Science. 97, Issue Supp. 3: 167.
  5. Guimaraes, O, Wagner, T, Spears, J and T. Engle (2020). Influence of trace mineral source on digestion, ruminal volatile fatty acid and soluble mineral on steers fed a dairy type diet balanced to meet requirements for a high producing lactating dairy cow. J. An. Science. 98, Issue Supp. 3: 133–134.
  6. Caldera, C.E, Weigel, B, Kucharczyk, V.N, Sellins, K.S, Archibeque, S.L, Wagner, J.J, Han, H, Spears, J.B. and T.E. Engle (2019). Trace mineral source influences ruminal distribution of copper and zinc and their binding strength to ruminal digesta. J. Anim. Sci., 97:1852-1864.
  7. Genther, O.N. and S.L. Hansen (2015). The effect of trace mineral source and concentration on ruminal digestion and mineral solubility. J. Dairy Sci., 98: 566-573.
  8. Daniel, J.B, Kvidera, S.K. and J. Martín-Tereso (2020). Total-tract digestibility and milk productivity of dairy cows as affected by trace mineral sources. J. Dairy Sci. 103 (10).
  9. Van Kuijk, S, Swiegers, P and Y. Han (2022), Hydroxychloride trace minerals improve apparent total tract nutrient digestibility in Bonsmara beef cattle. Livestock Science: 256(4):104820.
  10. Ibraheem and Bradford, Michigan State University 2020, personal communication.
  11. Oba, M. and M.S. Allen (1999). Evaluation of the Importance of the Digestibility of Neutral Detergent Fiber from Forage: Effects on Dry Matter Intake and Milk Yield of Dairy Cows. J. Dairy Sci., 99:589-596.
  12. Guimaraes, O, Jalali, S, Wagner, J.J, Spears, J.W, and T.E. Engle (2021). Trace mineral source impacts rumen trace mineral metabolism and fiber digestion in steers fed a medium-quality grass hay diet. J. An. Science, 99(9): 1–7.
  13. Yasui, T, Ryan, C.M, Gilbert, R.O, Perryman, K.R. and T. R. Overton (2014). Effects of hydroxy trace minerals on oxidative metabolism, cytological endometritis, and performance of transition dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 97: 3728-3738.14)
  14. Lee, C, Copelin, J.E. and M.T. Socha (2022). Effect of zinc sources and experimental conditions on zinc balance in growing wethers. Animal Science.