Data Distillations header image Data Distillations

Data Distillations is published quarterly and utilizes Rock River Laboratory’s vast database of feedstuff information from across the United States, along with our expert team, to share important insights.

In an effort to help the agriculture industry stay in front of challenges and opportunities with available feedstuffs, relevant graphs will be shared, along with what our team members are gleaning based on those graphs. Prepare for and remedy the ups and downs of feedstuffs components you utilize in your rations with the help of another set of eyes. Sign up to receive alerts when new Data Distillations are available each quarter by completing the thirty-second form at the bottom of this page or click the link here

We’ve spent over 40 years equipping the agriculture industry with the tools and answers needed to make decisions for successful outcomes. Our team is happy to help provide additional insights to our accurate analysis of your customer’s feedstuffs. Give us a call or send us an e-mail today to learn more.


July 22, 2020 Insights

Author: John Goeser, PhD, PAS

Milk fat depression? Feed trends of interest

With the summer heat comes inevitable nutrition technical support and troubleshooting questions centering on alleviating milk fat depression. This year proves no different, with some herds suffering from unexplainable dips in milk fat production. Professor Kevin Harvatine and colleagues have recently documented seasonal rhythms to milk protein and fat production and shown that milk protein and fat trend down through the summer months. Leaning on previous learning from Professor Adam Lock and my own past experience, I’ve found meaningful trends relating starch fermentability and the fatty acid profile to consider in these milk fat depression troubleshooting cases:

Corn silage, grain starch digestibility, and Total Mixed Ration (TMR) implications

In many cases, Professor Lock stresses focusing on starch digestibility and diet fermentability rather than fine-tuning other diet aspects. Reason being, starch is often balanced to maintain optimal milk production. However, slight increases in starch digestibility with ongoing corn silage or grain ensiling can tip the rumen and slow down fatty acid biohydrogenation. 

Figures 1 and 2 detail corn silage rumen starch digestibility (7-hour in situ rumen starch digestion, isSD7, percent of starch) and corn grain rumen degradable starch load (starch content x 7h isSD). In both figures, recognize that starch availability and impact in the rumen has increased, and will likely continue to do so. While these individual feed analyses can prove valuable, it is often more sensible to start with a TMR sample and assess diet starch digestibility as well as diet fatty acid profile and load. 

Figure 1: Corn silage rumen starch digestibility (7-hour, percent of starch) for samples submitted to Rock River Laboratory in the US since Aug 1, 2019.

Figure 1: Corn silage rumen starch digestibility (7-hour, percent  of starch) for samples submitted to Rock River Laboratory in the US since Aug 1, 2019

Figure 2: Corn grain rumen digestible starch load (RDS = 7-hour starch digestibility x starch content; percent of DM) for samples submitted to Rock River Laboratory in the US since Aug 1, 2019.

Figure 2: Corn grain rumen digestible starch load (RDS = 7-hour starch digestibility x starch content; percent of DM) for samples submitted to Rock River Laboratory in the US since Aug 1, 2019.

Corn silage fatty acid profile

Corn silage doesn’t only contribute fermentable starch, but it can also contribute substantial fatty acid load to the diet at higher feeding rates. C18:2 and C18:3 fatty acids contribute to total poly-unsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) load in diets, which in a TMR is recognized to interact with other nutrition factors, such as diet starch fermentability. In cases where rumen fatty acid biohydrogenation slows down (due to rumen fermentable starch among other potential factors), the PUFA level may overwhelm the rumen microorganisms’ ability to biohydrogenate these fatty acids. In such cases, the detrimental  t10,c12-C18:2 fatty acid, that can decimate milk fat production, may arise.

In troubleshooting diet PUFA load, some are looking closely at corn silage levels. To better understand potential relationships, we consulted with Professor Lock. He pointed out that Linolenic acid (C18:3) may have a great association with fiber than grain, as chlorophyll is richer in this poly-unsaturated fatty acid. 

Interestingly, follow-up plots comparing corn silage fiber content to Linolenic acid showed an apparent relationship between the fiber and C18:3 - in agreement with Professor Lock’s theory on corn silage (Figure 3). If your silage is lower in starch content, it may also be carrying more C18:3 than higher starch silage, and this should be accounted for. The corn silage fatty acid profile can now be assessed as part of routine NIR forage analyses.

Figure 3: Corn silage linolenic acid (percent total fatty acid) concentration versus fiber (aNDF, percent DM) for samples analyzed by Rock River Laboratory since January 1, 2020.

Figure 3: Corn silage linolenic acid (percent total fatty acid) concentration versus fiber (aNDF, percent DM) for samples analyzed by Rock River Laboratory since January 1, 2020.


May 12th, 2020 Insights

Author: John Goeser, PhD, PAS

Find hidden commodity value when challenged with limited forage inventories

Dairy cow diet changes arise with the seasons in cases where Mother Nature has not been kind, and forage inventories are in low supply. There are two nutrition approaches to filling the gaps in diets when forage supply is limited: 1) change the corn silage to hay or haylage ratio, or 2) cut forage back and feed a highly digestible, fibrous byproduct feed. 

Increasing the corn silage in the diet to maintain the forage feeding rate can work. However, this approach inevitably leads to cutting back on corn silage in the future, and thus another diet change. It also needs to be taken into account that corn silage brings highly digestible starch into the diet, and more corn silage will increase rumen fermentable starch load. 

The second path - cutting back on forage and maintaining normal corn silage inventory - can contribute to more stability and consistency over the long haul. In this situation, forage and starch levels can be cut back, and highly digestible commodity feeds can be brought in to extend forage inventories. Soy hulls, corn gluten feed, wheat midds, corn distillers grains, and almond hulls (in the western US) are all viable alternative options, among several others, to balance diets and provide consistency. Just be sure to have an idea of the feed’s nutritional value and don’t assume a feed library ingredient measure is robust enough.

Professor Norm St-Pierre and Professor Bill Weiss have shown that aNDF in commodity feeds can vary as much as forages. This unrecognized variation could introduce inconsistency into the diet, however, if recognized and captured, then hidden nutritional value beyond what the broker may have listed on a spec sheet can be found. 

Currently, feed analysis (by NIR) is applicable to commodity feeds in similar ways to forages and grains. Start with the table below to get an idea of what several commodities can provide in nutritional value when replacing forages. Then, dial in the diet by checking commodities for protein, fiber, and starch content, and find hidden value by recognizing the fiber digestibility potential. Update rations accordingly when exceptional fiber digestibility is uncovered and cut back on energy in the diet elsewhere.

Table 1: Rock River Laboratory, Inc. database statistics for commodity feed nutritional value

Feed

 Parameter 

15th Percentile

Median

85th Percentile

Almond Hulls

aNDF

23.6

30.3

52.1

Almond Hulls

CP

4.7

6.2

8.5

Almond Hulls

NDFD30

N/A

N/A

N/A

Corn Gluten Feed

aNDF

28.5

32.3

35.2

Corn Gluten Feed

CP

19.6

22.4

25.5

Corn Gluten Feed

NDFD30

20.8

46.6

59.0

Corn Gluten Feed

Starch

10.6

14.8

19.0

Dry Distillers Grains

aNDF

30.0

34.5

38.6

Dry Distillers Grains

CP

23.8

30.1

37.0

Dry Distillers Grains

NDFD30

5.5

33.3

50.9

Dry Distillers Grains

Starch

0.5

3.7

11.5

Soy Hulls

aNDF

56.0

59.1

63.3

Soy Hulls

CP

10.7

11.8

13.5

Soy Hulls

NDFD30

61.8

70.1

73.1

Soy Hulls

Starch

0.3

1.3

3.3

Wet Distillers Grains

aNDF

29.4

34.3

38.1

Wet Distillers Grains

CP

21.9

23.9

33.0

Wet Distillers Grains

NDFD30

5.5

24.4

36.3

Wet Distillers Grains

Starch

1.0

7.5

11.7

Wheat Midds

aNDF

26.7

30.8

36.3

Wheat Midds

CP

17.3

18.6

19.7

Wheat Midds

NDFD30

11.5

20.4

31.6

Wheat Midds

Starch

21.0

26.9

33.0


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Rock River Laboratory

Founded in 1976, Rock River Laboratory is a family-owned laboratory network that provides production assistance to the agricultural industry through the use of advanced diagnostic systems, progressive techniques, and research-supported analyses.  Employing a team of top specialists in their respective fields, Rock River Laboratory provides accurate, cost-effective, and timely analytical results to customers worldwide, while featuring unsurpassed customer service.

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