FiveF believes alkaline feeding solutions are revolutionising the way dairy farmers feed high yielding dairy cows, enabling milk producers to maximise their use of home-grown feed crops.
Put simply, it is about saving money through harnessing ammonia release technology to boost ration protein while allowing the rumen to work at its optimum pH.
Alkalising homegrown cereals this harvest offers UK dairy farmers a proven route to lower winter ration costs, as well as the DIY means to produce a quality high yielding cow diet with excellent intake characteristics. And you can minimise the risk of acidosis and cut your bought-in feed protein bill.
Rob Smith, UK general manager with ration alkalisation specialist FiveF Alka, says: “You don’t have to feed your cows an acidic diet. “Having the ability to include alkalised feeds in the form of forages, compound nuts and blends, and in the TMR, can often be the final piece of the nutritional jigsaw for many ruminant diets.
The key is to utilise ammonia release technology to lift the pH of the ration before it gets into the cow, rather than afterwards by having to try and treat acidotic cows when it’s too late,” he says. Mr Smith says pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. "The pH scale gives scientists a way of measuring the strength of an acid or alkali. It ranges from 1.0 (most acidic; for example, battery acid) to 14.0 (most alkaline; for example, bleach).
The cow’s rumen microbial population works best when the rumen pH is between 5.8 and 6.6 – any instability and periods outside this range leads to sub-optimal rumen function, which essentially means poor diet utilisation and compromised animal performance. " The problem for UK dairy farmers is that most grass and maize silages tend to analyse at a pH between 3.5 and 4.5.
What’s more, pH variations are much bigger than you think. For example, pH 4.0 is 100 times more acidic than pH 6.0, which means most silages will have a signifcant depressing effect on optimal rumen function unless they can be balanced correctly before consumption.
This is where ration alkalisation comes in,” Mr Smith explains. He points out that properly alkalised diets can help increase ruminant feed intake by 5-10% when fed at effective levels. " The increase allows the diet to either be more powerful – to create higher performance – or contain a higher proportion of forage to reduce bought-in feed costs.
Even in a low milk price environment, this increase in dry matter intake can deliver about 2-2.5 extra litres from home grown feed, worth £150-£180 per cow per year.” As a result, many mixed dairy farms are now planning to crimp a dry, mature cereal crop later this summer to produce Alkagrain, which is a stable, high energy/high protein feed which can replace bought-in concentrates.
Alkagrain can be made from all types of cereal grains at harvest and produces a feed with better intake characteristics that is drier and much less acidic than grass and maize silages.
Mr Smith says many producers of Alkagrain have found that as well as the obvious benefits of alkalinity and stability in storage, the addition of FiveF’s high protein pellets used in its production boosts the conserved feed’s protein level – and, together with the alkaline effect, allows a greater proportion of cereal to be used in the ration.
“Essentially, this is a dual cash benefit and some farmers we work with are even able to double or triple the standard cereal inclusion rate and still deliver the final feed protein level they require – and all without causing any problems for the cow.
Indeed, we are finding that many of our customers are now able to push the home-grown cereal content of their winter dairy cow rations up to 65-80% of the diet. this compares to 40-50% on conventional systems.”
Addition of the FiveF pellets to the harvested crop aggressively releases ammonia into the material, giving long-term stability and raising the pH to the alkaline range (pH 8.0 to 9.0). What is more, the protein level rises, fibre digestibility is improved and there is a further benefit in that vermin attention is also discouraged.
“In essence, we are effectively utilising the protein which would have had to be bought in the winter to conserve and enhance the grain during storage. And you can do all this without the need for bespoke equipment, specialist storage or drying, all-in-all giving you up to a 25% saving compared with alternative cereal processing methods,” Mr Smith says.
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