Creating Diets for Milk Yield and Sustainability
Amid unprecedented change in the dairy sector, Advanced Nutrition organised the first in a series of workshops on 'the future of high yielding dairy herds' - focusing on optimum nutrition for sustainability. British Dairying reports.
Providing practical solutions through information gained from case studies and bringing together industry experience is the goal of a series of workshops addressing key areas affecting dairy farmers.
"The dairy industry has experienced a huge change over the past five to 10 years;' said Eoghan Mullery at Advanced Nutrition. "Customer and public expectations are shifting. Farming is under the spotlight.
"There is more awareness about where milk comes from. A lot of this is positive, including messages on healthy milk and British farming, but there is also negative coverage over fully housed systems which is often quite biased.”
There is also pressure from the government and supply chain for the industry to tackle environmental challenges. Paul Savage, UK Head of Agriculture at Arla, said that driving efficiencies on farm can improve profitability as well as sustainability.
However, with a lack of environmental measurements to guide them, there is currently no incentive for dairy farmers to farm more sustainably, added Eoghan. “If this is the way the government wants the industry to go there must be a decision made to give dairy farms a 'number' or process they need to achieve.”
Sustainability can be costly and with milk prices coming under pressure, fewer farmers may invest in environmentally related products, said dairy commentator Chris Walkland. "But usually things that are good from an efficiency point of view are good for the environment.” he added. "And there is a moral obligation for farmers to be more climate friendly.”
Making nutrition more sustainable is an area where Advanced Nutrition has had some recent success and improved farmers' margins. All farms have different key performance indicators to work to and individual milk contracts requiring differing outputs, said the firm's Rosie Miller-Hawkes. "So it's essential that we look at the diet within that individual context. It's also important to look at the diet as a whole.”
Total Diet Management (TDM) is a strategy used by the company which takes a full view of the diet, from presentation through to analysing forage, protein balance, environmental and economic factors. Regular monitoring enables adjustments to be made where necessary.
"We are currently monitoring 15 farms as part of a research and development project.” said Eoghan. "It's not just about the milk production but looking at the diet from an environmental point of view, too.”
Farm case studies
The company is also working with three case study farms to demonstrate how producers are being challenged to improve nitrogen use efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions and improve sustainability.
Reducing soya by 50%, removing Cl6 fats and reducing crude protein could be achieved while maintaining animal health and improving farmers' margins, said Eoghan.
One of the case studies is a robotic milking herd in Southern Scotland. The farm objective was to reduce soya while increasing forage in soya while increasing forage intakes and maintaining or improving milk yield and fertility. Advanced Nutrition worked with Adisseo on amino acid balancing and included essential oils and trace elements in the diet to improve animal health, milk yield and fertility (see table). Results for the other two case studies are pending.
Confidence in solutions
"The case study highlights the possibilities for improvement even when there are market challenges.” said Eoghan.
''Any decisions concerning the diet and sustainability should be taken in the context of the whole farm business and be bespoke to the farm. That way customers can be confident in solutions to deliver short, medium and longer term goals.”