Maintaining good rumen health whilst driving intakes

“We house our cows all year round and really drive intakes so that we get good performance, condition and health.”

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Good performance and good rumen health go together according to dairy farmer, Adam Sill.

Adam runs Ash Tree Farm near Ashbourne in Derbyshire, where he milks 260 high yielding pedigree Holsteins three times a day, giving an average yield of 11,300 litres.
With milk supplied to Arla, Adam is keen to maintain milk solids as well as yield,
 as his milk contract rewards constituents. Current performance sees him averaging 3.83 per cent butterfat and 3.18 per cent protein, from cows averaging 36 litres/day at an average of 170 days in milk.
“We house our cows all year round and really drive intakes so that we get good performance, condition and health,” Adam explained. “All cows get the same TMR ration, which is set at M+28 for the cows and M+24 for the heifers, and then they are supplemented through out of parlour feeders at 0.4kg feed/litre of milk above the TMR.”
This approach makes day-to-day feeding a simple job, although it is not without its complications, Adam explained. “The issue with feeding the same ration to all the cows is that late lactation cows do carry a bit more condition and, whilst still well under the national average, we get a few more LDAs than I’d like, but we’ve got to weigh this up against the complexity of rationing the cows.”
The outside ration consists of grass silage, maize silage, straw, wheat distiller syrup, soya hulls, bread, rapeseed meal, a blend of fats, urea and premium minerals. The other key ingredient is Supersaf live yeast, developed by Advance Sourcing and based on Actisaf live yeast.
“We add Supersaf to help us maintain good rumen health whilst driving intakes,” said Adam. “Our nutritionist, David Levick from Kite, recommended it, and it helps us avoid acidosis and increase forage intakes to maximise production. As soon as we first introduced it, we were able to take out the other buffers that we used to feed, and the cows are doing really well with no hint of acidosis or digestive upset, whilst we are seeing a cost saving. What’s more, this has saved around 300g of valuable space in the rumen for other ingredients that have a feed value rather than buffers, which do not.”
“Ration cost is an area that has been quite interesting,” Adam said. “Like all dairy farmers at the moment we are constantly examining our costs and we did actually decide to take the Supersaf out of the ration for a while to save money. What we found was that quite quickly cows were on a knife-edge, with symptoms of acidosis, and so we put it back in and we’ve been pleased with the positive impact that it has on the cows.”
Adam is looking to grow the herd and is currently in the process of extending his housing so that he can take cow numbers up to around 300 in milk. “Whilst the current milk price isn’t great I have seen good results from using the Supersaf and I will continue using it in the TMR as we grow the herd – it certainly delivers!”