The South African dairy industry has placed immense pressure on milk producers to increase their solids production, specifically butterfat. Mzansi’s farmers are, however, looking for ways to maintain litres while increasing butterfat production in dairy cows.
This week, in our Meadow Feeds segment of Farmer’s Inside Track, ruminant technical manager at Meadow Feeds, Nelita Hildebrandt, chats to us about the not-so-simple ABCs of milk fat.
According to Hildebrandt, some regions in Mzansi, especially the province of KwaZulu-Natal, depend heavily on pasture as a food source.
Therefore, dairy cows on pastures visit the milking parlour twice every day, during which they get a concentrate, says Hildebrandt.
This process, called slug feeding, is not good for rumen health due to the high quantities of starch and sugar levels of this concentration.
“When cows are not in the dairy parlour, they are grazing high-quality pasture, mostly ryegrass which is bred for high energy and low fibre, and it drives maximum milk production.
“Too much fibre will reduce the intake capacity of these cows because of the ruminant’s spatial limits.”
According to Hildebrandt, high-quality pastures are not only high in sugars and low in fibre, but they’re also high in fats, which will add to the energy.
These fats, are however, mostly proportioned towards unsaturated fats.
Hildebrandt states that the desired pH for fibre digesters is between 5.8 and 6.2. A drop in pH below 5.8 is termed sub-acute ruminal acidosis, and below 5.2 is acute ruminal acidosis.
“So, what happens is during SARA or subacute ruminal acidosis [a metabolic disease in high-producing dairy cattle], the population of these crucial organisms will suffer. When the pH drops to 5.2 and below, the health of the cow will be dramatically impacted,” Hildebrandt warns.
If these conditions are not dealt with immediately, these cows may die, she explains.
In the podcast, Hildebrandt also unpacks:
- The challenges for pasture-based systems;
- The backbone of fatty acids; and more.
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