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by Kevin Jones | Sep 14, 2016

In 2015 Ghost Hollow Consulting celebrated twenty years in business. During that time along with eighteen years of dairy herd management, I witnessed many advances in dairy nutrition. In the 70s, TMR mixers allowed for a more uniform diet. In the mid 80s, the value of bypass protein and bypass fats were recognized. In the mid 90s, the Cornell Net Carbohydrate System (Cornell Model) was released, allowing nutritionists to “model” rations. During the early 2000s, bypass amino acids became more available for amino acid balancing. Recently, lab analysis for starch and NDF digestibility have given nutritionists more tools to maximize TMR performance. All of these technologies have allowed us to take a step up in performance.

What will be the next step? A technology that has been around a while, but has mainly been used in university research settings is the In Vitro Rumen Fermentation System. With this system TMRs or individual ingredients can be quickly analyzed for performance measures that can greatly affect milk production. Using this system, we can quickly evaluate the addition of an ingredient or additive and accurately predict the performance change or lack thereof in the herd. With this system, we can predict the change in performance of feed additives, ingredient changes, new silages, and many other changes that even the most sophisticated modeling software cannot handle.

Modeling software is a great tool. I have used the Cornell Model since its inception in 1994, but models are totally dependent on inputs and all situations cannot be modeled. Feed additives such as yeast, enzymes and essential oils have no inputs in any model to help evaluate the outcome. Model equations are developed from research trials, but there is not enough research time or money to evaluate every scenario. There are many feed combinations that are synergistic and add value beyond what a model would predict just from the feed analysis. In addition, there are some combinations that are detrimental to performance.

This is where our in vitro system, rumenationTM, at GHC Labs can be used to get your herd’s performance to the next level. Using this system, we can evaluate your TMR against high performing TMR’s, troubleshooting the shortcomings and giving advice to increase performance. We can add a specific additive to your TMR to accurately predict the change that additive will have in your herd’s performance and have the results back to you in 48 hours. This saves you time and money in trying to evaluate changes.

We have successfully used Rumenation to evaluate the best additive to give maximum performance for a specific TMR. In one instance, we attempted to evaluate different additives on a current TMR. Using our large library of feed additives, which numbers over 30 different additives and is growing, we sorted out the best two additives for this specific TMR. One cost 7 cents per day and one cost 2.5 cents. We went with the cheaper product and have seen 3-4 lbs. of milk increase.

In another instance, we evaluated a source of alfalfa hay that seemed to be feeding better than the lab test would predict. After running this hay and several other hays of similar RFV value through Rumenation, we determined that this hay produced an extremely high amount of microbial protein compared to the other hays. We were able to remove bypass protein, feed more hay and keep milk production the same, all while lowering cost and increasing components.

This is a five-step process. We run five different samples to get our results. We insert an unground TMR into our cannulated cow to evaluate digestion and corn processing. The second sample is run for 24 hours to evaluate gas production. Total gas produced and the ratio of CO2 to methane is evaluated. Another sample is run and then tested for starch, protein, fat, NDF, ADF and ash to evaluate digestion. One sample is evaluated at five hours for volatile fatty acids to check for proper digestion. The last sample is pulled at five hours to evaluate starch degradability.

Rumenation is going to allow us to continue to use our current models to build good TMRs and then take them to the next level. We have received great interest, and products to evaluate, from many different feed additive companies. The uses for this system are endless. We have put a lot of time and research into making a system that is not only accurate, but gets results back to the dairyman in a very timely manner. Please call so we can discuss how Rumenation can benefit you.


Herd 1 was producing:
• 88 lbs. of Milk
• 3.2% Fat
• Forage was at 49% of DM
• NDF was 36%
• Starch was 23%

Because of the fiber levels, this was not a herd you would expect to be that low. We ran their TMR and all of their forages through the Rumenation system. We found that their forages and starches were more digestible than the ration predicted. Analyzing the 5-hour VFA profile, we saw propionic acid was at 26% and acetic acid was at 53% with an A/P ratio of .76. Herds with more normal fat run around 22% prop and 56% acetic with a ratio of 1.3. When we add Rumensin to a diet it raises propionic acid and lowers acetic, which generally increases milk, but lowers fat test. We added 2 lbs. of soy hulls, lowered corn 2 lbs. and switched from flaked corn to fine ground corn. Fat test responded to 3.6% and milk actually increased a pound.

Herd 2 was under producing:
• 70 lbs. of Milk
• 3.4% Fat
• All forages showed good digestibility when evaluated through Rumenation.
• The evaluation of the TMR indicated very low NDF digestibility, which was counter to what we had seen when we ran the forages separately.

We decided to “build” some TMRs in the lab with this dairies’ ingredients. We left out one ingredient for each run to try to find the guilty party. It turned out that the extruded soy they were using had a high fat level that was rumen available. This along with some wet DDG was adding too much rumen available fat to the rumen and negatively affecting NDF digestion. A higher quality by-pass soy was added and milk responded up 5 lbs. and fat test increased 3 points. Both of these results were completed in less than a week in the lab. Nothing was changed on the dairy until the lab results correctly identified the problem. After the problems were identified, the solutions were easy to implement.

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