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Total Dairy Seminar 2016

Experts across three continents join top speaker line-up at TotalDairy16

Totworth Court, Total Dairy Seminar 2016

 Dairy experts from three continents shared the latest thinking in practical dairy herd management at this year’s 11th TotalDairy Seminar at Tortworth Court, Gloucestershire, sponsored by Mole Valley Farmers amongst others.

Speakers from Australia, North America and Europe, covered a wide range of topics from nutrition to fertility, mastitis and animal behaviour at the event on 1-2 June 2016. Among the speaker line-up was world renowned animal behaviourist Professor Temple Grandin who joined a number of leading North American experts.


Professor Grandin took part in a number of presentations and smaller group workshops, including a dedicated farmer session. In a seminar lecture, she emphasised that equipment could not replace good management. “The point I want to get across is - management matters,” she said. She also stressed that there were real advantages to be had from acclimatising animals to situations and handling them quietly. For example, heifers acclimatised by walking through a race had improved reproductive performance shown by improved conception to AI. Tame dairy cows with a small flight zone were also shown to give more milk.


The topic of starch feeding was tackled by both Australian dairy consultant, Professor Ian Lean from Scibus and Professor Sergio Calsamiglia from The University of Barcelona. Both stressed the importance of good management when feeding high starch rations “to avoid walking off the edge of a cliff.”

TotalDairy sponsors and speakers celebrating World Milk Day

 Starch management


Professor Calsamiglia said boosting starch degradability in the ration could drive milk production, maintain milk fat and increase milk protein yields and believed many dairy farmers could benefit from considering processing maize.


“The higher the processing the better and the limitation is going to be the risk of acidosis. But this can be controlled in one part in the diet… however it is also highly dependent, not only on ration calculations, but also management. How accurate are you in guaranteeing a 28% (starch) ration?” He asked. At high starch levels, variation from day to day by as little as 2% additional starch could put cows at serious risk of rumen acidosis.


In a lecture and small group workshop on acidosis, Professor Lean also highlighted that although high fermentable carbohydrate diets could work, management was a must. He said the critical components to success were ensuring cows couldn’t sort the ration and providing adequate bunk space and enough effective fibre in the diet. He also suggested that there was a need to re-think how acidosis was identified and reduce the emphasis on rumen pH as an indicator of rumen upset. Instead, pH could be combined with clinical signs, milk fat levels and looking at rumen volatile fatty acid levels, such as valerate, to enable diet monitoring and produce rations that were both safe and productive.


Transition cow behaviour


Professor Calsamiglia also shared new findings on how specific changes in behaviour pre calving could be used to predict and prevent different transition diseases. “I can tell at least 20 days in advance whether she will have a problem. A cow that will be sick will spend less time at the feed bunk, have less feed bunk visits, less standing/lying swaps, take less steps and lie down for longer,” he said. 


A Spanish trial highlighted that cows that went on to develop metritis at calving showed a strong reduction in time in front of the feed bunk and less steps, three weeks prior to calving. Cows that developed retained foetal membranes also had reduced time at the feed bunk and increased standing times. The patterns in time budgets were shown to be unique, depending on disease development. He said this information could enable automated systems that would allow targeted treatment of “at risk” cows, which would lower costs and increase treatment success.

Calf feeding


In an additional workshop on youngstock nutrition, Professor Calsamiglia emphasised the importance of investing in early heifer growth and said there was a need to reassess feed management.


“After weaning you should aim for daily liveweight gains of 900g/day, but the main limitation of this is the protein level in the concentrate,” he said. 


He recommended calves receive a concentrate of 24-26% crude protein during the milk feeding stage, versus a norm of 20-22%. He also suggested increasing levels from 18% to 22% in starter concentrate and from 16% to 18% when heifers were 4-7 months old.


“Increasing crude protein throughout the calf rearing period has been shown to increase yields in each of the subsequent lactations by 500-1,000kg,” he said.

Source Details

 627 Mole Valley Farmers Newsletter

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