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What are your animals eating?

April 6, 2010

This is a critical feeding time for dairy animals, their potential production and reproduction will be dictated by intake and feed quality. Spending time now on assessing just what the animal is receiving at this critical time will pay dividends. 

Begin by thinking beyond feeding a kg/DM and find out what is in that kg/DM. The food ration can then be adjusted to cover all the nutritional requirements of the animal. It is not a matter of how much feed they are receiving but what it is in that feed that counts.

The only way to accurately predict and thus make corrective measures is through a comprehensive feed test, one which covers ALL nutritional needs. Your milk production and animal health and performance year in and year out is controlled by the period from when the cow calves to when she gets back in calf.

This period of time exposes the grass fed animal to feeds high in protein loaded with NPN, (Non- Protein-Nitrogen) and low energy (carbohydrate) levels. This lush feed will seldom supply sufficient fibre, thus compounding the problem even further. 

All growing plants take in their nitrogen as ammonia and nitrates from the soil. This is nature's nitrogen pathway from soil to plant. Second round grass is usually high in protein; this will be accentuated if nitrogen has been applied. It can also be high in NPN (Non Protein Nitrogen) and Nitrates (NO3). Animals ingesting such feeds will have difficulty digesting it and this will add an extra stress on an already stressed animal. Serious health problems can result when protein is too high and energy needs are not met. This is magnified if the mineral (electrolyte) ratios are also imbalanced, all of which can cause serious health issues. 

If the minerals are imbalanced the plant will be stressed and the animal consuming it will also display that stress in the form of – poor production, poor conception, mastitis, bloat, foot problem and all other stress related disorders. Supplements of high fibre/ high energy feeds e.g. good quality hay, help to balance the ration and decrease the incidence of health issues.

There are many animal health problems that can be solved by a well constructed diet. Analyse and assess your feed now, prevention is always better than cure.