Nutrition Plus

Dairy Nutrition Plus

Volume 12, Issue 2 March 2016

Take Advantage of Nutrition Technology

Take Advantage of Nutrition Technology

Archie Devore has spent a lifetime helping dairy producers become more efficient at food production. The first 40 years in the United States. The last 10 years he has been in nine different countries through USAID’s Farmer to Farmer program.

While his scenery has changed, helping producers adopt and use new technology has been a constant.

In the U.S., dairy operations that are still going strong have changed a lot. Not just with the adoption of freestalls, rotary parlors, synchronized breeding programs, and heat-stress abatement protocols but with improved nutrition. The adoption of TMRs, DCAD diets, bypass proteins and amino acid balancing have led to healthier cows and helped us grow milk production to feed the world.

“No matter where you dairy, if you put the right ingredients in front of cows they will produce a lot of milk,” says Archie Devore, retired extension dairy specialist and consultant now living in Lincoln, NE. In some countries that he works with it is a matter of trying to feed their own people. But the goal both here and there is efficient, profitable milk production to feed the world. Taking advantage of proven nutritional technologies can help us do just that.

Growing dairy production in Lebanon

Devore’s first trip to Lebanon through USAID’s Farmer to Farmer program was in 2009. At the time sugar beets, barley and wheat were the primary crops. Milk production was low.

The government’s goal was, and still is, food security. They want to be able to feed the 2.5 million people who live there and the 2.5 million refugees that have arrived from Syria. Since the Lebanese eat a lot of soft cheese, yogurt and dairy; improving milk production was a good fit for that goal, recalls Devore.

Lebanon is a small country, just over 4,000 square miles, with a fertile valley and growing conditions that are similar to the high plains of Colorado. To produce more milk they needed good forages and grains. Growing corn for silage was the first step. The first harvest was chopped too early. The silage did not ferment well which resulted in off-flavored milk. We went back the next year and taught them how to do a dry matter test with a microwave and scale, says Devore. Corn silage improved and so too did milk production. Soon they were also growing alfalfa, formulating rations, feeding cows by group, and larger dairies were delivering TMRs.

The traditional way of feeding dairy cows in Lebanon – regardless of days in milk or milk production – was to feed chopped straw with barley, wheat, soybean meal and some bran. Consequently they had a very high incidence of displaced abomasums. Once rations with corn silage and alfalfa became available producers began to see clinical and subclinical cases of milk fever in pre-fresh cows.

Better nutrition eliminated the need for DA surgeries, but it created a new problem – hypocalcemia. But, there is proven nutritional technology to alleviate the clinical and subclinical milk fevers. Balancing pre-fresh rations for reduced-DCAD was the solution.

Liban Lait, a 1,200 cow dairy in Lebanon, was the first to try using reduced-DCAD diets with SoyChlor for pre-fresh cows. The result was almost instantaneous. Milk fevers – both clinical and subclinical – and the cascade of problems that often follow went away.

Producers in Lebanon want to learn. They listen; they ask questions and they are eager to try new things. We explained how SoyChlor helps prevent low blood calcium at calving; which in turn, helps prevent the metabolic diseases that can plague cows at calving, explains Devore. They test urine pH regularly. They are learning to monitor body condition scores. They follow the protocols for using reduced-DCAD diets and they see great results.

Large and small producers in Lebanon call SoyChlor a “miracle cure” for preventing milk fevers and fresh-cow problems. But it’s about applying sound nutritional technologies to improve cow health and productivity. No matter where you dairy, reduced-DCAD diets for pre-fresh cows are a great tool in the nutrition toolbox.

With all of the improvements made, such as better feed ingredients, balancing rations, using proven nutritional technologies, and grouping cows based on their nutritional needs, milk production in the high group for the 1,200-cow dairy now averages 100 lbs/cow/day.

The great thing about working with Liban Lait, says Devore, is they have been very willing to share what they learn with smaller producers. Lebanon now has many mid-size and small producers who have improved their cows’ nutrition because of what they learned from Liban Lait. They produce more milk; they have improved their standing of living and some have grown their herds. They all share a common drive for efficiency. They have very little land base and a lot of people to feed.

Evaluate new technologies

Researchers around the world continue to advance our understanding of dairy cow nutrition and of dairy’s carbon footprint. New nutritional tools are always being developed.

Feeding reduced-DCAD diets in the pre-fresh ration is just one example. Changes in theoretical length of cut for corn silage, new corn hybrids better suited for silage, and balancing diets for amino acids are just a few of the tools in the nutritional toolbox today. Researchers continue to learn more about feeding cows in order to be more efficient producers of milk and subsequently reducing the dairy industry’s carbon footprint.

As Devore has worked with producers around the world he has always believed that if new technology can make one’s life less cumbersome, and improve their production efficiency that he would share those ideas. Every dairy producer should be open to new advancements, to new technology that can help them become more efficient producers of milk.

The key for each producer is to evaluate the options and adopt the ones that make sense for your dairy. No matter where you dairy, if you want your cows to milk well you have to get the right nutrients in front of them.

From the Maternity Pen
Rumination Monitoring Can Help Improve Transition Cow Health

New technology has made monitoring rumination time fairly simple. And the evidence gathered from current research and on-farm experience continues to show the value of tracking the change in rumination time for a cow or group of cows.

A change in rumination time can be used to identify nutritional problems, find cows in estrus, detect health disorders earlier, streamline fresh-cow examinations and adjust treatment protocols based on cow responsiveness, explains Rick Grant, president of the William H. Miner Institute in Chazy, N.Y. Cows ruminate for approximately 450-550 minutes per day. A decrease in rumination time of 30 to 50 minutes per day, for either a cow or a group of cows, is a good indicator that something is affecting ruminal function and cow well-being. Research shows that rumination often responds to a stressor 12 to 24 hours sooner than traditionally observed measures such as elevated temperature, depressed feed intake, reduced milk yield or other clinical signs.

In fact, new research from Cornell University found that a commercially available rumination monitoring system identified cows with displaced abomasum, ketosis, metritis and mastitis earlier than on-farm personnel doing daily fresh-cow exams (Stangaferro et al., 2015b). They also compared rumination patterns of dairy cows from 7 days before calving to 30 days after calving. The average rumination time for all cows that developed health disorders was less than cows that did not develop health disorders – 439 minutes/day vs. 456 minutes/day. The researchers concluded that starting at 7 days prepartum; cows that suffer from health disorders within the first 30 days in milk have altered rumination patterns.

The evidence shows that rumination monitoring can provide predictive and actionable information that producers can use to improve management of the individual cow, a group of cows and the whole herd, says Grant. The ability to identify health disorders sooner can help producers improve cow care and cow well-being.

You can read Rick Grant’s paper “Biological Importance of Rumination and its Use On-Farm” at:

The chart below shows an example of a fresh cow with low rumination time and the associated health problems that can occur.

Rumination Monitoring Can Help Improve Transition Cow Health

Consultants Corner
You Can Effectively Cool Cows with Less Water

Dr. Jennifer Chen
  • Dr. Jennifer Chen
  • U of California Davis

How much water does it take to effectively cool cows? Little experimental evidence exists about how much water and what droplet size works best to cool cows.

Cows in California’s Central Valley are generally subject to heat stress from April through October. It’s a hot, dry climate. Anecdotal reports show that water use for cooling cows in California ranges from about 6 gallons/cow/day to 72 gallons/ cow/day – a twelve-fold difference. So the question becomes how much water is needed to effectively reduce heat load, asks Dr. Jennifer Chen, post-doctoral scholar at the University of California Davis.

How much is enough?

In their experiment six different soaker nozzles with three flow rates (each with two droplet sizes) were tested. Cows were locked in headlocks for an hour with feed and water. Soakers mounted above the feedline cycled 3 minutes on and 12 minutes off. Total treatment time was 48 minutes which was selected to mimic the length of an average feeding bout.

The research showed that droplet size did not affect body temperature, respiration rate or skin temperature, explains Chen. However, flow rate did.

Flow rates studied were 0.10 gallons per minute (gpm), 0.35 gpm and 1.2 gpm. Both the 0.35 gpm and 1.2 gpm flow rates effectively cooled cows based on all measures. But when the efficiency of cooling was examined, the flow rate of 0.35 gpm came out on top.

Total water usage for the 48-minute treatment was 4.2 gallons for the 0.35 gpm soaker compared to 14.4 gallons for the higher flow rate. The higher flow rate of 1.2 gpm did reduce the cows’ respiration rate by 4 more breaths/min and kept body temperature lower for 15 minutes longer than the 0.35 gpm flow rate. Still, with the flow rate of 0.35 gpm, cows’ body temperature stayed below baseline for 32 minutes after the cooling treatment was applied. And, each gallon of extra water applied; beyond the 4.2 gallons, decreased the respiration rate by less than 0.4 breaths/minute and kept body temperature lower for only 1.5 minutes.

Overall the flow rate of 0.35 gpm was the most efficient for balancing cooling effectiveness with water use. Because each nozzle typically sprays 2 or 3 cows at a time, this translates to about 1.5 gallons/cow/hour.

Ask the cows

This research shows that you can effectively cool cows with less water. However, you still need to ask the cows how much water is enough. Air temperature, wind, humidity, shade, and water temperature all play a part in determining how much water it takes to effectively cool cows. You can’t just set the soaker system and walk away.

Periodically check respiration rates to see how the cows are handling the heat stress, advises Chen. A respiration rate of 80 breaths per minute or above indicates cows are clearly heat stressed. But California research shows that sometimes you can start to see negative effects of heat stress at lower respiration rates.

Consider downloading the free “ThermalAid” app from the University of Missouri. With it you can enter your zip code to find the temperature-humidity index for your location. It also has a stopwatch that allows you to count breaths for a few seconds and it will calculate the cows’ respiration rate.

The recommended threshold where heat stress starts for cows is often a THI of 72. In Chen’s research, though, they saw benefits of cooling cows once the THI hits 69. Research can help establish guidelines, but the best way to manage heat stress on your dairy is to pay attention to what the cows tell you. To read the paper, “Cooling cows efficiently with sprinklers: Physiological responses to water spray,” please go to:

Beyond Bypass
KetoMonitor Provides Herd Insight

KetoMonitor Provides Herd Insight

Each case of ketosis, both clinical and subclinical, carries an average cost of $289 per case. That cost comes from a combination of decreased milk production, and increased fresh-cow problems such as displaced abomasum and metritis that commonly occur with ketosis. However, with early detection and treatment, about half of that cost can be recovered, says Heather White, assistant professor of nutritional physiology at the University of Wisconsin.

White is part of the team that created a tool called the KetoMonitor. The KetoMonitor utilizes milk test day data and herd records to predict monthly prevalence of ketosis in the herd. Since its release last January, milk samples from about 200,000 fresh cows have been evaluated.

“The first thing we learned,” says White, “is that, unfortunately, many herds that have not been detecting or managing hyperketonemia have a higher than desired prevalence of the disease within their fresh cows.”

Just over a year of data has revealed the following about subclinical and clinical ketosis in the herds testing:

  • Herd prevalence is about 18 percent.
  • Prevalence of first-lactation animals is 6.4 percent.
  • Prevalence of second lactation or greater cows is 25 percent.
  • The 30-day culling rate of cows predicted negative is just 1.4 percent.
  • The 30-day culling rate for cows predicted positive is three times greater at 4.8 percent.
  • Peak milk is 4 pounds less for all animals predicted positive compared to those predicted negative.

The KetoMonitor can be a powerful tool, says White. For example, a 1,000+ cow dairy’s first KetoMonitor report showed a herd prevalence of almost 40 percent. That information led to a review of transition cow nutrition and management and some changes were made. On test day the following month, herd prevalence of clinical and subclinical ketosis had dropped by half. This tool is now part of the dairy’s regular management protocols.

For some farms, the cost of additional labor and testing for subclinical and clinical ketosis in all fresh cows is prohibitive. This test offers an alternative. When the test shows the herd prevalence is below 7 percent, blood testing is not needed. When prevalence is between 7 percent and 25 percent research shows the expense of blood testing all fresh cows twice is justified. If herd prevalence is above 25 percent blanket blood testing becomes economical to consider.

"Anything we can do to improve transition cow health will improve milk production, reduce the cost of disease and help the cow transition smoother." Heather White

West Central® to Become Landus Cooperative™

West Central® to Become Landus Cooperative™

For more than three decades, West Central® Cooperative has been committed to manufacturing high quality, consistent products. Through our line of branded dairy products, including SoyPlus®, SoyChlor® and PasturChlor®, we deliver quality products plus knowledge, supply chain reliability and exceptional customer service.

In a historic vote in December, the members of our Iowa-based cooperative voted to merge with a neighboring cooperative, Farmers Cooperative Company (FC). Effective April 1, 2016 our unified, farmer-owned cooperatives will become Landus Cooperative™. Our organization will be led by current West Central President and CEO Milan Kucerak.

As our company undergoes this transition, our dairy customers will experience very few changes and can continue to expect the same quality and consistency from our Dairy Nutrition Plus product line. Our manufacturing processes and plants will remain the same.

We look forward to continuing to serve you and deliver quality and consistency with our family of branded dairy products. More information about the cooperative will be available after April 1st by visiting As always, all product information is available at

Quality Corner
Magnesium Plays Vital Role in DCAD Management

Magnesium Plays Vital Role in DCAD Management

Magnesium is an important mineral in dairy cattle nutrition. It serves in many metabolic roles, including the conversion of vitamin D into its functional form – an essential step in successful application of DCAD to boost calcium status at calving. Unlike most other divalent mineral elements, which are mostly absorbed in the small intestine, magnesium is absorbed primarily across the rumen wall in mature ruminants. Consequently, magnesium sources must be readily soluble in rumen fluid if they are to be of much use to cows. Magnesium oxide (MgO) is often used to supply magnesium in dairy diets, but the solubility and bioavailability of magnesium can vary depending on point of origin, manufacturing process, and particle size.

A few years back, Dr. Jesse Goff described a simple method for comparing the solubility of magnesium in different sources of MgO. That procedure was as follows: Place 3 g of each MgO source in a container and slowly add 40 ml of white vinegar (5% acetic acid). Cap container and shake intermittently over the next 30 minutes. Check the pH of each container. Vinegar has a pH of 2.6-2.8. The best MgO sources will bring the pH up to 8.2. The worst MgO sources will bring pH up to just 3.8. pH is a log scale so this represents >10,000 fold difference in the number of hydrogen ions buffered.

Magnesium deficiency is of particular concern to dairymen who deal with high potassium diets and strive to reduce the incidence of milk fever. According to a prediction model generated by the meta-analysis of Lean et al. (2006), adequate dietary magnesium has “a profound effect on reducing the risk of milk fever”. For dairymen who use SoyChlor® as the anion supplement and magnesium source in their DCAD program, there should be “no worries” about magnesium availability. At normal feeding rates, SoyChlor® provides the majority of supplemental magnesium needed by close-up cows. And that magnesium is extremely soluble after reacting with hydrochloric acid during the SoyChlor® manufacturing process.

Bear in mind that there are several nutritional concerns that must be satisfactorily addressed for anionic diets to successfully boost calcium status at calving. Don’t let magnesium bioavailability be a barrier to your success.

Reference: I.J. Lean, P. J. DeGaris, D. M. McNeil, and E. Block. (2006). Hypocalcemia in dairy cows: Meta-analysis and dietary cation anion difference theory revisited. J. Dairy Sci. 89:669-684.