Article: Improving feed efficiency on your farm

Author: Janine Roemen (ZLTO) - 12 January 2017

Within the project Minerals Mood, 23 dairy farmers have registered the daily feed efficiency of their cows with the feed monitor of AgroVision. The differences are significant according to Teun van Oosterhout of ZLTO.

Source: ZLTO

ZLTO, AGROvision and ABZ Animal nutrition have joined forces within Minerals Mood. Teun van Oosterhout, Jurian van Lith and Corné van Rees are calculating the feed efficiency based on the nitrogen and phosphorus levels and energy values (VEM). This is part of their graduation project at HAS University of Applied in ‘s- Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands). The aim of the project is to provide dairy farmers more insight into what they are feeding, and what the effects are on milk production.

The 23 dairy farmers are divided into two study groups. At the first meeting, big differences between farms became clear. “Especially in terms of the farm-specific excretion of phosphors and nitrogen, and the the nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the feed. That’s because the composition and quality of the feed differs between farms. But you can adjust this with concentrates and by-products.”  

All farmers had to enter their feed information in the “feed monitor” of AgroVision. Van Oosterhout: “Then the app calculates the feed efficiency, meaning how many kilos of milk a cow can produce based on the dry mass of the feed. We explained this to the farmers, and started up the feed monitor for every farm. We continued by sifting the manure on each farm, to get an overview of what’s being digested, and then we measured the percentage of dry matter in roughage. With a shaker box, we evluated if the feed was mixed well, so that every bite is the same for a cow. Finally, we analysed all results, and together with the dairy farmer and feed advisor we discussed further improvements.”  

John van Dijck from Haghorst is one of the participating farmers. He wanted to know how he could improve his feed efficiency. “We wanted to know where we stand, and also if other farms are doing something different than us. You can always learn something from other farms. You will be even more aware, and watch more closely at what you do and what the effects are.”  

The feed monitor demonstrated the effect of new cutting corn. "We had dry silage with a relatively high proportion of resistant starch. We saw a drop in the the feed efficiency, because of a delayed digestion. However, we were able to adjust the ration by adding enzymes.” 

Van Dijck feeds on average a daily amount of concentrates 6 to 6.5 kg, and a maximum of 11 kg for high-yielding cows.

The dairy farmer would like the project to continue. “I think you always need be up to date as a farmer, no one is too old to learn. Of course, projects like that are too short: you only get to see the effects over a longer period of time. You can see how theory relates to the practice, including the weather influences on the roughage.”