Dairy experts from three continents shared the latest thinking in practical dairy herd management at this year‘s 11th TotalDairy Seminar at Tortworth Court, Gloucestershire.
Speakers from Australia, North America and Europe, covered a wide range topics from nutrition to fertility, mastitis and animal behaviour at the event on 1-2 June 2016.
Delegates included forward thinking farmers, vets and consultants, with organisers seeing a 10% increase in farmer numbers, no doubt attracted by the dedicated farmer workshops and practical take home messages.
Among the speaker line up was dairy consultant, Professor Ian Lean from Scibus who flew in from Australia to share his thoughts on acidosis and transition management. World renowned animal behaviour expert, Professor Temple Grandin also joined a number of leading North American experts, while Professor Sergio Calsamiglia from The University of Barcelona added to the European contingent.
Professor Grandin took part in a number of presentation and smaller group workshops, including a dedicated farmer session. In a seminar lecture, she emphasised that equipment could not replace good management. “The point I want to get across is - management matters,” she said.
She also stressed that there were real advantages to be had from acclimatising animals to situations and handling them quietly. For example, heifers acclimatised by walking through a race had improved reproductive performance shown by improved conception to AI. Tame dairy cows with a small flight zone were also shown to give more milk.
Both Professors Calsagmiglia and Lean, stressed the importance of good management when feeding high starch rations ‘to avoid walking off the edge of a cliff.’
Professor Calsagmiglia said boosting starch degradability in the ration could drive milk production, maintain milk fat and increase milk protein yields and believed many dairy farmers could benefit from considering processing maize.
“The higher the processing, the better and the limitation is going to be the risk of acidosis. The risk of acidosis can be controlled in one part in the diet…but it is also highly dependent, not only on ration calculations, but also management. How accurate are you in guaranteeing a 28% (starch) ration?” he asked. At high starch levels, variation from day to day by as little as 2% additional starch could put cows at serious risk of rumen acidosis.
In a lecture and small group workshop on acidosis, Professor Lean also highlighted that although high fermentable carbohydrate diets could work, management was a must.
“The more you push to the edge, the more precise you have to be... If you’re not managing with high attention to detail, back off or you’ll end up with a crash,” he stressed.
High risk feeds included high lactic silages, very digestible, rapidly fermentable grains and sugars. To avoid hiccups with rumen health, Professor Lean said the critical components to success were ensuring cows couldn’t sort the ration and providing adequate bunk space and enough effective fibre in the diet.
He also suggested that there was a need to re think how acidosis was identified and reduce the emphasis on rumen pH as an indicator of rumen upset. Instead, pH could be combined with clinical signs, milk fat levels and looking at rumen volatile fatty acid levels, such as valerate to enable diet monitoring and produce rations that were both safe and productive.
Adam Coomber from Zoetis - who was lead sponsor of the event, together with Zinpro - said the event provided a great opportunity for the latest management techniques from around the world to be communicated to farmers and advisors.
“TotalDairy offered us the opportunity to sponsor and support an event that was highly targeted and allowed both academic and practical transfer of knowledge that farmers could take away and work with their vet to implement changes to their business,” he added.