Submitted to: Extension Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: October 29, 2012
Publication Date: October 29, 2012
Citation: Hall, M., Chase, L.E. 2012. Feeding cows during drought: forage substitute and by-product feeding. In: Proceedings of Cornell 2012 Feed Dealers Seminars, October 29, 2012, Cortland, New York and Oneonta, New York; October 30, 2012, Ballston Spa, New York and Chazy, New York; October 31, 2012, Watertown, New York; November 1, 2012, Canandaigua, New York; November 2, 2012, Varysburg, New York. p. 62-66.
The drought has made 2012 a challenging year. Feed prices for corn grain and soybean meal are high, and forage may be limited in both quality and quantity. In dealing with high feed prices, replacement of purchased corn grain or soybean meal with less expensive byproduct feeds could reduce cost of the ration. If forage is limited, common forage substitutes such as sugar beet pulp or straw provide either fermentable or physically effective fiber sources, respectively, which dairy cows need to provide nutrients and maintain good rumen function. However, a challenge is that formulating rations based largely on both forage substitutes and byproducts (to replace grain) has not been well explored. Do dairy cows need more effective fiber to keep byproduct fiber in the rumen long enough to be digested? We ran an experiment to test some of the possibilities.
We tested inclusion of forage substitutes using 0, 3, 6, or 9% chopped wheat straw as a physically effective fiber source, or 12, 9, 6, or 3% pelleted sugar beet pulp as a fermentable fiber source, on a dry matter basis. The rest of the diets were comprised on a dry matter basis of 20% corn silage, 20% alfalfa silage, 25.5% corn gluten feed, 8% distillers grains and solubles, 5% whole cottonseed, 7% molasses (a 80:20 cane molasses/whey blend), and 2.5% vitamin & mineral mix with monensin. Molasses was added to reduce sorting of the feed. The diets contained approximately 11% starch. Late lactation cows maintained performance on the low-forage, low-starch diets supplemented with byproduct feeds (corn gluten feed, distillers grains, whole cottonseed, and molasses). Using up to 6% wheat straw and 6% sugar beet pulp pellets as a forage substitute gave good performance without noticeable body weight loss or body condition change. If such diets are tried, cows should be carefully observed to assure that body weight is maintained. For comparison, on a 60% forage “more standard” lactating cow diet, cows gave similar milk production performance, had lower intakes, more efficient production, and better income over feed costs than cows on the experimental diets. However, the forage substitute/high byproduct diets are viable substitutes to feed lactating dairy cows when other more traditional feeds are in short supply.