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Apr 21, 2022

The fiber effect: How to improve income-over-feed costs in dairy herds

Apr 21, 2022

How to improve income-over-feed costs in dairy herds

Ruminants have the unique ability to degrade and ferment fiber through microbial activity. Forage is a major fiber source and can be either grown on farm or available locally at a more competitive price than concentrates. Optimizing the ration to maximize fiber digestibility helps cattle extract more energy from forage and improves feed efficiency, income-over-feed costs, and, finally, farm profitability. A better understanding of how fiber is degraded in the rumen helps identify the changes that can help reach this goal and make sure fiber is no longer an untapped energy source.

Ruminant nutrition ration formulation is a compromise between raw materials, forage prices, and nutrient availability of each of the feed components.

As energy is coming mainly from fiber degradation, one of the solutions is to optimize the rumen function, which leads to optimal digestion of fiber from all types of ruminant diets. This can be supported by the use of scientifically documented rumen modifiers such as the specific live yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 (LEVUCELL SC).

The specific live yeast helps boost the efficiency at which feed is transformed into energy, principally through improved degradation of fibrous material. This specific live yeast has a beneficial effect on microbial fiber degradation by stimulating the growth and fibrolytic activity of fiber-degrading bacteria and fungi populations. Moreover, the live yeast promotes an optimal rumen environment, with a beneficial action on rumen pH.

As a result, LEVUCELL SC is able to improve feed efficiency by 3-7% under standard or stressful production conditions (Figure 1). This represents a valuable tool that allows for the forage portion of the diet to be maximized and gives producers and nutritionists the possibility to increase milk or meat revenue per kilogram of feed — or allows them to optimize feed costs while maintaining similar revenue.

Levucell SC effects dairy cow feed efficiency (average of several trials).
Figure 1. Levucell SC effects on dairy cow feed efficiency (average of several trials)

It gives producers and nutritionists the opportunity to switch from one ration to another depending on their specific situation — without compromising on feed efficiency, which supports greater flexibility and resilience.

Improving feed efficiency while safeguarding animal welfare has always been an important objective for nutritionists. In the current context of raw material pricing, this goal continues to be a major priority. Improving fiber degradation is one of the keys. Getting every last nutrient out of the ration helps protect the narrow margins of farm managers.