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Stackyard News Mar 06

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Watch grass grow - but catch the protein and use it!

The long spell of cold weather across many parts of Britain has delayed grass growth this spring. But once temperatures increase it will be 'catch-up time', according to SCA NuTec ruminant nutritionist Sion Richards.

Sion Richards
Sion Richards

"Nature deals with keeping to its timescales by making up for lost time," says Dr Richards. "So as soil temperature increases, grass will grow rapidly and it will take up a lot of the available nitrogen. This flurry of activity will result in fresh spring grass with a higher than average protein content."

Although the warmer temperatures will be welcome, the high protein of this year's spring grass could bring its share of problems. "Cows will move from conserved forage with around 13% crude protein to grazed grass, which this year could easily have in the region of 25% and even up to 30%," adds Dr Richards.

The crude protein in grass is very quickly and easily available in the rumen and, unless it is 'slowed down' and used, a large proportion will pass through the rumen wall as ammonia. Not only is this a waste of protein, but the ammonia is toxic and has a negative effect on dairy cow fertility - to the tune of a 35% reduction in embryo production and survival.

"Higher crude protein in spring grass is a problem each spring - but this year more so, and we would advise producers to act now. It is possible to capture some of this protein - results from SCA NuTec trials have shown a 15.5% increase in capture of protein in the rumen."

The trials involved using Amino ProTek, a sugar mineral complex that works by specifically binding to the protein in the rumen. It therefore reduces the amount of protein wasted and, as a result, more protein passes into the small intestine where it is available for milk production.

"Trial results monitoring cows at grass have shown a 1.5 to 2.0 litre a day increase in milk production when Amino Pro-Tek was included in the diet. And the sums stack up. Using Amino ProTek to generate an average 1.8 litre increase in milk, worth more than 30p based on average milk price, costs around 8p a day.

"Apart from the favourable increase in income, health benefits from lower blood ammonia and milk ureas can also be gained from including Amino ProTek, especially at turnout and in a year like 2006."

link Trace element supplementation improves productivity of land
link Giving Surplus Lambs a Chance
link Guard Against Wet Straw In Lambing Sheds

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