Avoid sodium bicarbonate for efficient production of milk solids

Published Friday, 29th December 2017
Maximising rumen efficiency is critical in the drive for high yields from forage

When it comes to buffering rumen acidity, switching from sodium bicarbonate to the slow-release rumen conditioner Acid Buf will increase total milk solid production and overall feed efficiency, according to recent research conducted at University College Dublin (UCD).

Independently proven gains

In this latest trial, using Acid Buf instead of sodium bicarbonate lifted total milk solids (milk fat plus protein) by 4% (2.35 vs. 2.25 kg/cow/day), and feed efficiency by 8% (1.62 vs. 1.50).

The independent study was carried out at University College Dublin (UCD), with the findings presented at the American Dairy Science Association annual meeting in June last year. And the results are backed up by two previous independent studies, at the University of Georgia and Stellenbosch University.

Best value for money

The only rumen conditioner on the market proven time and again in animal research trials around the world, Acid Buf is so effective that it only requires a dose of just 80 g/cow/day.  

“And Acid Buf isn’t just a rumen conditioner,” adds Dr Derek McIlmoyle, AB Vista’s EMEA Ruminant Technical Director. “The calcium and magnesium contained in Acid Buf is also highly bioavailable, therefore CalMag inclusions can be reduced to take account of this.

“Combined with savings from the low inclusion rate, it makes Acid Buf easily the most cost-effective rumen conditioner currently available.”

Acid Buf calcareous marine algae-based rumen conditioner:

  • Optimises rumen pH and helps prevent acidosis
  • Maximises time rumen spends between pH 5.8-6.2
  • Increases fibre digestion, raising milk solids production

The result? Same intake, greater efficiency, more production.

Substantial acidosis threat

However, countering sub-acute rumainal acidosis (SARA) is main reason why most farms include Acid Buf in both winter and summer rations.

“In the past it’s been estimated that in Europe, 22% of newly-calved cows experience issues with SARA,” Dr McIlmoyle continues. “However, rumen fermentation can be significantly compromised even before acidosis becomes noticeable. It’s why rumen buffering is so important.”

Understanding the differences between the various options available is also critical. Although both Acid Buf and sodium bicarbonate are capable of reducing the extent, rate and duration of rumen pH drop, there are significant disadvantages to using sodium bicarbonate.

“Not only is Acid Buf more efficient, but it appears that sodium bicarbonate lowers acidosis risk by increasing the rate of passage through the rumen,” explains Dr McIlmoyle.

“So effectively it’s reducing rumen acidity by simply limiting the availability of ration ingredients for fermentation. The inevitable consequence is that some of the nutritional value in the ration is lost, and feed conversion efficiency suffers as a result.”

Reliable on-farm performance

For Northern Ireland dairy farmer Andrew Reid, optimising rumen fermentation efficiency is an integral part of a feeding strategy that’s seen annual yields hit 10,000 litres/cow, with milk fat at 4.11% and all on a system using grass as the primary forage.

Based at Laurel Hill Farm, Lisburn, in County Antrim, the 200 Holstein Friesians are fed a year-round total mixed ration (TMR) based on a combination of grass silage, straw, soyabean meal, maize meal and soya hulls. Rather than increase cow numbers the aim is to increase production by pushing for better yields, whilst also improving fertility and keeping on top of health problems.

“ The only way to keep yields this high and maintain butterfats is to make sure the rumen spends as much time as possible working as efficiently as possible," says Andrew.

“At this level of production you simply can’t cut corners, and using Acid Buf rumen conditioner has been essential to keep the rumen environment optimised.”

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