Reducing the incidence of SARA has had a big impact on performance at a family dairy farm in South Wales. The 320 all year round calving cows at Garreg Farm, Kidwelly run by Anthony Gibbon average 9500 litres on a diet based on grass silage. High yielders are housed all year round while low yielders go out to graze. The TMR is based on grass silage and no other forages are fed.
The focus is on producing high quality grass silage which is made using their own equipment alongside a local contractor to optimise timeliness and allow more silage to be made in a day.
Twelve months ago, Anthony noticed the cows weren’t milking as well as expected. The diet was moving through the cows quickly and they were showing signs of SARA. The dung was loose and variable and more cud balls were evident.
“At the time the diet was based on 45kg of silage, 6.2kg of a blend with a maximum of 4kg dairy compound per day fed in the parlour. To try and reduce the problems I added 1.3kg of Nutritionally Improved Straw (NIS) to the TMR to improve structural fibre and slow feed passage. The NIS certainly made a difference.” Anthony comments.
In April this year he took on an independent nutritionist who advised fine-tuning the diet further to improve rumen health. They started to feed Biotal SC acidease, a combination of rumen specific live yeast and inactive yeast rich in amino acids, B-vitamins and other growth factors for the rumen microflora.
“SC acidease is formulated to improve rumen pH quickly and consistently,”comments Gareth Jones, Biotal Regional Business Manager in Wales.”
“A trial at the University of Vermont showed that feeding the live yeast element alone reduced the time cows spent at low pH by nearly a third compared to cows supplemented with 170 grams/day of bicarbonate. Feed efficiency was also improved by 4.5%, improving well-being”
“By optimising and stabilising the conditions in the rumen we are improving the feeling of well-being within the cow which has a knock on effect on behavior and how it goes about its daily activities.”
“For example, regular feed intake is good for rumen function and a Spanish study found that cows supplemented with the live yeast strain in Biotal SC acidease had a reduction in the time between meals of 30 minutes with a significantly higher average rumen pH.”
The TMR this winter is made up of 45kg grass silage, 5kg blend, 1.5kg molasses, 3kg ground maize and 1.5kg NIS with no more than 4kg in the parlour.
Anthony is pleased with the results so far.
“I am sure rumen passage has slowed down, we aren’t seeing any cud balls and dung consistency has improved greatly within groups of cows.”
“Butterfats are higher and more consistent. The cows are less restless and more content. We find more cows are lying down and cudding.”
“Herd health is better too with cows better on their feet. As I do the foot trimming I soon see any problems.”
“It is difficult to say 100% how much the SC acidease has improved rumen health but it is working well alongside the NIS and the cows are milking better so I don’t see any need to consider changing anything,” he concludes.
Gareth Jones says that with supply issues forcing up the price of sodium bicarbonate, feeding a specially formulated live yeast based product is a more cost effective way to optimise herd performance this winter.
“While adding bicarb to the diet is seen as a natural solution, it’s really just an attempt to treat the symptoms and fails to get to the root cause of rumen pH issues.”
“Biotal SC acidease is a biological solution that solves the problem of low rumen pH through rumen microflora rebalance; reducing the bacteria that produce lactic acid and stimulating those that consume it.”