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Better Milk Price But Higher Feed Costs
25/03/08

Utilising grazed grass as efficiently as possible in our dairy herds is particularly relevant this year, given the added squeeze from higher input costs and the opportunities presented by the rising milk price, according to SCA NuTec’s ruminant specialist Norman Downey.

SCA ruminant specialist Norman Downey

SCA ruminant specialist Norman Downey

Grazed grass is the cheapest feed available to dairy producers, despite the fact that nitrogen fertiliser prices have risen considerably. Some producers may be tempted to scrimp on fertiliser applications. But this may not be wise as it could have a detrimental effect on grass and grazing quality and quantity. Much better to ensure that applications are accurately targeted and that very little grass protein passes straight through the cow. The aim is to help her to utilise as much from the grass as possible and, as a result, produce more milk from grazing.

To help producers do this, high-value protein in grass must be balanced with a ration that is high in rumen energy and contains ingredients, such as SCA NuTec’s Amino Protek, that can help to ‘trap’ as much of this protein as possible.

This sugar-mineral complex works by improving rumen efficiency. Much of the inefficiency in protein is in the rumen and one prime culprit is the bugs in the rumen that eat rumen bacteria and create ammonia that is converted to urea and excreted as urine.

Providing these bugs with extra energy drives them to work harder to capture the protein and break it down into microbial protein that can then be diverted to milk production.

Another advantage of ‘capturing’ the protein in the rumen is to prevent a large proportion of it from passing through the rumen wall as ammonia. This can have a negative effect on fertility.

Although the ammonia is quickly converted to urea and excreted, high levels of ammonia are associated with lower fertility rates, increased mastitis and feet problems. And, to make matters worse, the cow also wastes energy through converting ammonia to urea. A cow grazing 25% crude protein grass will require the same amount of energy to convert ammonia from surplus dietary protein into urea as it needs to produce 1.25 litres of milk.

Added at the rate of 100g per cow per day, UK trials with Amino ProTek have shown a yield increase of between two and 2.5 litres of milk per cow in their first 200 days of lactation and more persistent yields in mid- and late-lactation cows.

It has always been possible to justify using Amino ProTek on cost grounds – even when milk price was 18ppl, but now there is an even more marked advantage. This ‘rumen energy’ additive costs just 9.5p per cow per day and the results show a return of at least 36p based on a milk price of 25ppl – a four-fold return on investment.

As we see further milk prices increases this cost advantage will look even better. And as input costs continue to rise, making the most of grazed grass and dairy rations as a whole will also become increasingly important.

link Nine Hundred in Frame for 2008 RABDF Gold Cup
link Yorkshire Dairy Farm Walk: Milking Grass for Profit
link Union Outlines Necessity for Milk Price Rise

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