by Jennifer Showalter
ROANOKE, VA — The 67th Annual Virginia State Feed Association and Nutritional Management “Cow” College recently drew around 120 people from up and down the east coast and as far west as Saint Louis to the Hotel Roanoke for three days of informative discussions and presentations.
The Virginia State Feed Association and the Virginia Tech Department of Dairy Science worked hard to organize a conference that featured topics of interest to nutritionists, feed mill managers, and progressive dairy producers. Those in attendance learned about animal nutrition, feed grain markets, risk management strategies for grain and milk, and issues in Washington, D.C.
As in years past, Henry Graves, a soybean meal trader for Bunge, gave an update on the global supply and demand of grains and oil seeds. “In 2011 and 2012, South and North America droughts resulted in the most dramatically tight food stocks situation in modern agriculture,” said Graves. He mentioned that low world supplies of wheat will not allow it to be pushed into feed rations as it was last year. Graves went on to discuss corn, saying U.S. exports of corn are at record low pace. Brazil, Argentina, and Ukraine are currently the world suppliers of corn. “The U.S. corn market share is lowest in living memory,” said Graves. He predicted that the price of soybeans over the next few months will be reflective of demand.
Richard Sellers with the American Feed Industry Association spent some time reviewing the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Farm Bill extension, salmonella, ethoxyquin, and mill inspection tips. He reminded the audience to always remember that inspectors visit to collect evidence that can be used in criminal or civil trails or in a competitor’s complaints.
With transportation costs being so significant these days, companies are having to find the most economical way possible to encourage driver safety. Thomas Pollard, with Perdue, reviewed some of the emerging science that is being introduced into the transportation industry. “Vehicle-based safety systems should not be considered as replacement of management practices. Instead, they should support safety processes,” said Pollard. He encouraged the group to have solid hiring practices, sound driver policies and operational processes, along with technologies that support operational needs. “A well balanced venue of all three, (hiring, safety processes, and technologies), is needed to control and maintain driving risk.”
Dr. Jerry Spears with North Carolina State University shared his insight on some advancements in trace mineral nutrition. According to Spears, the addition of chromium to cattle diets increases insulin sensitivity. Supplementing chromium during the transition periods has shown to increase feed intake and milk production during early lactation and increase their immune response. Chromium supplementation may also improve reproduction, especially in young cows.
Spears went on to warn the audience that high dietary iron content in animal diets may be a practical problem in certain situations. He explained that little is known regarding bioavailability of iron from animal feeds, but ensiling seems to increase bioavailability of iron from soil contamination. Spears pointed out that legumes may provide highly available iron in the ferritin form.
As far as manganese goes, Spears suggested the manganese recommendations in the Dairy NRC appear to underestimate requirements. Congenital joint laxity, dwarfism, domed foreheads, and superior brachygnathism often result when there is a manganese deficiency. He pushed the group to keep in mind that iron, calcium, and phosphorus may increase manganese requirements.
Dr. Greg Bethard with G&R Dairy Consulting, Inc. in Raleigh, NC encouraged those in the dairy business to set goals and track changes. He pointed out that the lowest cost/cwt typically wins. Bethard explained most dairies consist of three enterprises — replacements, farming, and milking cows. He encouraged producers to know and manage their feed cost/cwt, their replacement cost/cwt, and their labor cost/cwt. Along those same lines, he stressed the importance of having an accounting system that correctly categorizes expenses and to remember that margins matter while rations do not.
Preserving forage quality from windrow to feedbunk has always been key, but with the expense that goes into producing feed these days it is even more important. Ev Thomas with Oak Point Agronomics in Hammond, NY explained that the advancements in harvesting technology has brought a new set of problems into play. “The rapid change from sicklebar mowers to disk mowers has resulted in increased ash concentration in hay crop silages. Ash is simply the total mineral content of a forage, both nutritive minerals and contaminants. High amounts of ash in hay crop silages used to be a rare problem but is now much more common,” said Thomas. He encouraged producers to have forage analyses for ash concentration. If the ash content comes back too high, the producer may be mowing too close to the ground or raking too aggressively. He also mentioned that flat knives on disc mowers are better because they have less “vacuuming” action than curved disc mower knives.
As far as rollers go, Thomas admitted it depends on the crop grown as to which is better. Rubber rolls are better for legume and legume-grass type crops, because flails rip legume leaves off the plants, lowering yield and quality. “Flails result in 3 to 4 percent more alfalfa leaf loss than do rolls,” said Thomas. Rubber rolls work fine on grass, but flails are better.
Thomas went on to encourage the group to spread their swaths to at least 2/3 of their mower width with the realization that the narrow the windrow, the more time is needed for drying. “Wide swathing works with any forage crop. The heavier the yield, the more difference it will make. Wide swathing is a no-brainer,” said Thomas.
Moving on to a discussion about silage inoculants, Thomas suggested that they should be considered as part of a dairy’s risk management strategy as a form of crop insurance. Thomas recommended buying from a reputable company that backs its performance claims with research data.
Dr. Gale Bateman with Provimi wrapped the series of presentations up with a discussion on low starch diets for dairy cattle. Bateman explained there is no nutritional requirement for starch but for the energy that it can provide. Therefore, improving starch digestibility can be economically advantageous. Bateman warned those in attendance that when using fats to replace starch to be cautious of the influence of the fat type on DMI and also on milk fat percent. Sugar can be an effective replacement for starch providing similar levels of energy to the cow and the rumen microbes. Batemen encouraged the audience to really study the economics of a diet, “Economics of the diet need to be the ultimate determinate of should changes be made.”
With the vast amount of useful information that was presented, feed industry personnel, nutritional consultants, dairy producers, and many others who work with dairy farm feeding, found the 67th Annual Virginia State Feed Association and Nutritional Management “Cow” College to both an educational and enjoyable outing.
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