Take Advantage of Nutrition Technology
Archie Devore has spent a lifetime helping dairy producers become more efficient at food production. The first 40 years in the United States. The last 10 years he has been in nine different countries through USAID’s Farmer to Farmer program.
While his scenery has changed, helping producers adopt and use new technology has been a constant.
In the U.S., dairy operations that are still going strong have changed a lot. Not just with the adoption of freestalls, rotary parlors, synchronized breeding programs, and heat-stress abatement protocols but with improved nutrition. The adoption of TMRs, DCAD diets, bypass proteins and amino acid balancing have led to healthier cows and helped us grow milk production to feed the world.
“No matter where you dairy, if you put the right ingredients in front of cows they will produce a lot of milk,” says Archie Devore, retired extension dairy specialist and consultant now living in Lincoln, NE. In some countries that he works with it is a matter of trying to feed their own people. But the goal both here and there is efficient, profitable milk production to feed the world. Taking advantage of proven nutritional technologies can help us do just that.
Growing dairy production in Lebanon
Devore’s first trip to Lebanon through USAID’s Farmer to Farmer program was in 2009. At the time sugar beets, barley and wheat were the primary crops. Milk production was low.
The government’s goal was, and still is, food security. They want to be able to feed the 2.5 million people who live there and the 2.5 million refugees that have arrived from Syria. Since the Lebanese eat a lot of soft cheese, yogurt and dairy; improving milk production was a good fit for that goal, recalls Devore.
Lebanon is a small country, just over 4,000 square miles, with a fertile valley and growing conditions that are similar to the high plains of Colorado. To produce more milk they needed good forages and grains. Growing corn for silage was the first step. The first harvest was chopped too early. The silage did not ferment well which resulted in off-flavored milk. We went back the next year and taught them how to do a dry matter test with a microwave and scale, says Devore. Corn silage improved and so too did milk production. Soon they were also growing alfalfa, formulating rations, feeding cows by group, and larger dairies were delivering TMRs.
The traditional way of feeding dairy cows in Lebanon – regardless of days in milk or milk production – was to feed chopped straw with barley, wheat, soybean meal and some bran. Consequently they had a very high incidence of displaced abomasums. Once rations with corn silage and alfalfa became available producers began to see clinical and subclinical cases of milk fever in pre-fresh cows.
Better nutrition eliminated the need for DA surgeries, but it created a new problem – hypocalcemia. But, there is proven nutritional technology to alleviate the clinical and subclinical milk fevers. Balancing pre-fresh rations for reduced-DCAD was the solution.
Liban Lait, a 1,200 cow dairy in Lebanon, was the first to try using reduced-DCAD diets with SoyChlor for pre-fresh cows. The result was almost instantaneous. Milk fevers – both clinical and subclinical – and the cascade of problems that often follow went away.
Producers in Lebanon want to learn. They listen; they ask questions and they are eager to try new things. We explained how SoyChlor helps prevent low blood calcium at calving; which in turn, helps prevent the metabolic diseases that can plague cows at calving, explains Devore. They test urine pH regularly. They are learning to monitor body condition scores. They follow the protocols for using reduced-DCAD diets and they see great results.
Large and small producers in Lebanon call SoyChlor a “miracle cure” for preventing milk fevers and fresh-cow problems. But it’s about applying sound nutritional technologies to improve cow health and productivity. No matter where you dairy, reduced-DCAD diets for pre-fresh cows are a great tool in the nutrition toolbox.
With all of the improvements made, such as better feed ingredients, balancing rations, using proven nutritional technologies, and grouping cows based on their nutritional needs, milk production in the high group for the 1,200-cow dairy now averages 100 lbs/cow/day.
The great thing about working with Liban Lait, says Devore, is they have been very willing to share what they learn with smaller producers. Lebanon now has many mid-size and small producers who have improved their cows’ nutrition because of what they learned from Liban Lait. They produce more milk; they have improved their standing of living and some have grown their herds. They all share a common drive for efficiency. They have very little land base and a lot of people to feed.
Evaluate new technologies
Researchers around the world continue to advance our understanding of dairy cow nutrition and of dairy’s carbon footprint. New nutritional tools are always being developed.
Feeding reduced-DCAD diets in the pre-fresh ration is just one example. Changes in theoretical length of cut for corn silage, new corn hybrids better suited for silage, and balancing diets for amino acids are just a few of the tools in the nutritional toolbox today. Researchers continue to learn more about feeding cows in order to be more efficient producers of milk and subsequently reducing the dairy industry’s carbon footprint.
As Devore has worked with producers around the world he has always believed that if new technology can make one’s life less cumbersome, and improve their production efficiency that he would share those ideas. Every dairy producer should be open to new advancements, to new technology that can help them become more efficient producers of milk.
The key for each producer is to evaluate the options and adopt the ones that make sense for your dairy. No matter where you dairy, if you want your cows to milk well you have to get the right nutrients in front of them.