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Optimised Ruminant Rations: a Profit Lever in Ruminant Farming


Any increase, however slight, of the annual production of milk and meat is likely to substantially improve the profitability of a ruminant farm. The practical application of precision nutrition in this field is key to optimal productivity. How can one optimise feed efficiency of ruminant rations in order to maximise the overall profitability of a farm?

 

To improve the overall technical and economic performance of ruminant livestock, it is necessary to maximise the nutrient value of their rations. At the farm level, this can be done through the use of various parameters:

 
  • Dairy cattle: feed efficiency = milk production (liters/cow/day) / dry matter intake (kg/cow/day)
  • Beef cattle: feed efficiency = daily weight gain (kg/animal/day) / dry matter intake (kg/animal/day)

Accumulated field data demonstrates a clear relationship between optimised feed efficiency of a ration and the profit margin in ruminant farming, as follows:

Trend: +0.1 extra point of milk production/kg of DM intake  => 0.50€ profit margin per cow per day

To illustrate this point, the graph opposite shows that the most efficient diets are often the most profitable.

The risks of an unsuitable ration

An inappropriate ration will result above all in a waste of nutrient intakes: energy,protein, minerals ... Optimising the content of a ration means increasing the share of nutrients that contribute to the production of milk or meat and reducing the proportion of nutrients designed for other purposes (maintenance needs, undigested nutrients). This helps to limit environmental waste.

An unbalanced ration may also result in health issues at the herd level. Nutritional shortages such as lack of energy, insufficient fibrosity, excess of fermentable energy, excess of degradable protein in the rumen, poor balance between energy and protein intake, vitamin and mineral deficiencies may lead, depending on their length and intensity, to sometimes serious metabolic disorders such as:

  • ketosis;
  • ruminal acidosis;
  • alkalosis;
  • hypocalcemia.

These diseases can have a long-term impact on animals’ health and their breeding performance.

 

A few tips for properly optimising the ruminant ration

To enhance the use of nutrients contained in the ration, several aspects must be considered.

The context of animal husbandry. Before even addressing the issue of nutrition, it is necessary to take into account the overall farming context: genetic potential merit of animals, housing conditions, reproductive performance, health, herd management. Unsuitable living conditions can strongly impact the way a ration is utilised. Depending on the situation, various levels of feeding efficiencies can be achieved (see graph opposite).

Evaluating the available resources on the farm. It is also necessary that forages undergo a thorough analysis based on specific criteria reflecting the way the animal is actually going to utilise these resources:  voluntary intake, nutrient digestibility, ruminal degradability, acidogenic risk.

Comparison of feed efficiency among different herds

Adjustment of the distributed feed. Having accounted for the above factors, one can  adjust the amount of distributed feed to the quantity and quality of forage in the diet while keeping in mind the production targets. A formulation software such as CARTALIM allows for the precise matching of the useful nutrients to the animals' requirements in order to reduce the factors hindering the full realisation of their  potential -- whether related to rationing or herd management. On the basis of an analysis of the current diet, this software is designed to identify the strengths and limits of each ration. Nutritional strategies can then be conceived to maximise optimize protein, fiber and energy content in the future rations.

Optimising the use of nutrients in the diet. Ultimately, the nutritional value of the ration can be maximised thanks to the inclusion of additives with proven beneficient properties (protein enhancement, energy, fibre). In-depth knowledge of how essential oils and plant extracts work in ruminants allows for their targeted use depending on the zootechnical objectives.
 

The feed efficiency of a ration is both an economic and health issue. Its optimisation can be achieved through a better command of nutrition and management techniques based on the identified strengths and areas for improvement of each farm. Experts from the TECHNA Group offer products and services to optimise the evaluation of livestock diets, regardless of their context. For more information, please  contact our experts!

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