Dairy Strategies for Balancing your Herd’s Diet in Winter

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Once your dry matter intakes are on target the second thing to consider is diet balance.

Provide a balanced diet – address the excess soluble protein and insufficient fermentable carbohydrates (starch & sugars)

Shorter winter days with lower levels of sunlight means less sugars are produced in the pasture. At the same time, many pastures have high levels of soluble protein in them, particularly if fertilized with nitrogen. A balanced diet will require that fermentable carbohydrates (particularly starches and sugars) are supplemented to compliment the pasture.

For optimal rumen function the diet should contain 18-22% starch. If fermentable carbohydrate and soluble protein supply are matched then there is a greater likelihood of increased microbial protein production in the rumen, which will be able to be used for milk protein production by the cow.

Cows Eating pasture in Strezleki Hills of GippslandUtilizing more of the soluble protein from the pastures is also beneficial as the excess has to be excreted by the cow, which has an energy cost. Excess soluble protein in the diet has also been shown to have negative impacts on egg quality and early embryo survival. Joining results are likely to be better if the milk protein test is holding or increasing, rather than falling, going into joining.

Keep the rumen healthy – to grow more rumen microbes.

Lush winter pastures will need to be supplemented with some effective fibre to establish a rumen mat. This effectively slows the rate of pasture movement through the rumen and gives the rumen microbes more time to extract nutrients from the feed. 1-2 kgDM of cereal hay is ideal for this purpose. The effective fibre will also help to stimulate cud chewing, which creates more saliva production which contains bicarb to help buffer the rumen. With effective rumination cows can produce the equivalent of 2kg of bicarb in their saliva per day. A healthier rumen environment will mean more microbial protein production and more protein available for the cow to make milk protein.

Cows eating fodder in South West VictoriaFor further tips on ways to improve you milk components please consult with one of our qualified ruminant nutritionists.

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