Adequate ration balancing is a crucial component of a dairy farm budget. Undetected nutrient deficiencies or excesses can have different and variable effects on cows’ performance and health. Nowadays more feed ingredients are available to be included in dairy diets.
With feed comprising the largest operating expense, nutrient composition of feed ingredients and feeding strategies are the key profit drivers in modern dairy farms. The DKC’s Feed Library publishes recent research on the main feeds included in dairy cattle diets.
Digestible fiber is an important nutrient in corn silage fed to lactating dairy cows. A recent metanalysis published by Danish researchers reported that across studies (29 experiments and 96 diets)
Triticale (× Triticosecale) is a hybrid of wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale) developed during the late 19th century. This cereal combines the grain quality, productivity, and disease resistance of wheat with the vigor and hardiness of rye.
Sorghum is a tropical grass grown primarily in semiarid and dry regions. It has become an important cereal crop because it is heat and drought tolerant. As forage, sorghum hybrids with the brown midrib (BMR) gene are becoming popular in the U.S. because their lower water requirement compared with corn. Average starch concentration in BMR sorghum silage is lower than in corn silage; however, fiber and fiber digestibility contents are very similar in these forages.
Pomegranate trees (Punica granatum L.) originate from East Asia and are traditionally grown in semiarid and subtropical areas. Pomegranate fruit consists of three parts: the arils (about 40% of the fruit weight); seeds (10%); and the peels which include the husk and interior network membranes (50%). During the industrial manufacturing of pomegranate juice, large amounts of co-products are produced.
Rumen buffers such as sodium bicarbonate are commonly included in lactating cow diets to stabilize rumen pH. Recently, calcareous marine algae have been used for buffering dairy diets. Lithothamnion calcareum is a red alga of the Corallinacea family whose main feature is the formation of calcium and magnesium carbonate precipitates in its cell walls. Calcium and magnesium are the major minerals of this alga, and other trace elements include iron, manganese, boron, nickel, copper, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and strontium.
The large expansion of the canola crushing industry that occurred in North America in the last decade has increased the supply of canola meal for the animal feed industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service reported canola meal production in 2017-18 in the U.S. was 1.08 million tons.
The use of cactus for feeding dairy cows in dry areas has been increasing mainly due to its high efficiency of water use, rapid dissemination, high water and energy content, and high forage yield. Opuntia stricta is a large cactus originated in central America that can grow up to two meters in height.
Sugar beet is a temperate climate crop grown mainly for production of sucrose. Beet pulp, the main co-product obtained during the process, is a common ingredient in dairy cow diets. Beet pulp is a good nonforage fiber source with high levels of digestible fiber and pectic substances.
Soybean meal, canola meal, and corn distillers’ grains are good sources of protein for dairy cows. Since they have different rumen undegradable protein (RUP) content and amino acid profile, feeding diets that include two or three protein sources is the best strategy for covering amino acids requirements in high producing cows.
Corn (Zea mays L.) is nowadays the main cereal grain included in dairy cow diets in the US. Nonetheless, the cold weather of the west of Canada and some of the European countries is not adequate for cultivating corn, being wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), the main cereal grain produced in those areas.
Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) is a perennial legume crop grown for centuries in Europe and the Middle East. It is named commonly “healthy hay” largely due to its condensed tannins (CT) content which inhibits protein degradation in the rumen, thereby minimizing the incidence of ruminal tympany (bloat).
Faba beans (Vicia faba) is a grain legume that may be considered as dual-purpose feed for protein and starch contents. Due to its high protein (28 – 32% dry matter; DM) and starch contents (40% DM), faba beans can replace both protein meals and cereal grains in dairy cow diets.
Berry fruits contain vitamins (C, E, folic acid) and other biologically active substances such as tannins, saponins, flavonoids, phenolic acids… that may be beneficial for ruminants. These substances can potentially stimulate the microbial metabolism in the rumen and improve fermentation of nutrients.
Whey is a coproduct of the cheese or casein manufacture used as an animal feed supplement. Despite its high energy density, its usage is limited in high production cows due to the low protein content in proportion to the salt and lactose content.
Flax is a cool climate crop grown mainly for production of fiber and food. Its seed, linseed, is rich in oil which contains more than 50% of the essential fatty acid alfa-linolenic acid (omega-3). Linolenic acid is converted into eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, precursors of eicosanoids such as prostaglandins.
There are a wide variety of forage crops used in the United States for dairy farms. One of the most common is oat as it provides the benefit of diversifying crop rotation. In fact, over 1.3 million hectares of oat were planted in the United States with over 60 percent of the output used for forage.