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Optimised Ruminant Rations: a Profit Lever in Ruminant Farming Logo Feedia

Any increase, however slight, of the annual production of milk and meat is likely to substantially improve the profitability of a ruminant farm. The practical application of precision nutrition in this field is key to optimal productivity. How can one optimise feed efficiency of ruminant rations in order to maximise the overall profitability of a farm?

To improve the overall technical and economic performance of ruminant livestock, it is necessary to maximise the nutrient value of their rations. At the farm level, this can be done through the use of various parameters:

  • Dairy cattle: feed efficiency = milk production (liters/cow/day) / dry matter intake (kg/cow/day)
  • Beef cattle: feed efficiency = daily weight gain (kg/animal/day) / dry matter intake (kg/animal/day)

Accumulated field data demonstrates a clear relationship between optimised feed efficiency of a ration and the profit margin in ruminant farming, as follows:
Trend: +0.1 extra point of milk production/kg of DM intake  => 0.50€ profit margin per cow per day

To illustrate this point, the graph opposite shows that the most efficient diets are often the most profitable.

Graphique : link between milk index and margin per cow per day

The risks of an unsuitable ration

An inappropriate ration will result above all in a waste of nutrient intakes: energy, protein, minerals ... Optimising the content of a ration means increasing the share of nutrients that contribute to the production of milk or meat and reducing the proportion of nutrients designed for other purposes (maintenance needs, undigested nutrients). This helps to limit environmental waste.
An unbalanced ration may also result in health issues at the herd level. Nutritional shortages, including inadequate energy, insufficient fibre, excessive fermentable energy, excessive degradable protein in the rumen, a poor balance between energy and protein intake, as well as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, can lead to various metabolic disorders. The severity and duration of these deficiencies may result in serious health issues, including:

  • ketosis;
  • ruminal acidosis;
  • alkalosis;
  • hypocalcemia.

These diseases can have a long-term impact on animals’ health and their breeding performance.

A few tips for properly optimising the ruminant ration

To enhance the use of nutrients contained in the ration, several aspects must be considered.

  • The context of animal husbandry. Before even addressing the issue of nutrition, it is necessary to take into account the overall farming context: genetic potential, merit of animals, housing conditions, reproductive performance, health, and herd management. Unsuitable living conditions can strongly impact the way a ration is used. Depending on the situation, various levels of feeding efficiency can be achieved (see graph opposite).
  • Evaluating the available resources on the farm. It is also necessary that forages undergo a thorough analysis based on specific criteria reflecting the way the animal is actually going to utilise these resources: voluntary intake, nutrient digestibility, ruminal degradability, and acidogenic risk.
Comparaison of feed efficiencies among 47 herds that have been fed the same mixed ration
  • Adjustment of the distributed feed. Having accounted for the above factors, one can adjust the amount of distributed feed to the quantity and quality of forage in the diet while keeping in mind the production targets. A formulation software such as CARTALIM allows for the precise matching of the useful nutrients to the animals' requirements in order to reduce the factors hindering the full realisation of their potential -- whether related to rationing or herd management. On the basis of an analysis of the current diet, this software is designed to identify the strengths and limits of each ration. Nutritional strategies can then be conceived to maximise protein, fibre, and energy content in future rations.
  • Optimising the use of nutrients in the diet. Ultimately, the nutritional value of the ration can be maximised thanks to the inclusion of additives with proven beneficial properties (protein enhancement, energy and fibre). In-depth knowledge of how essential oils and plant extracts work in ruminants allows for their targeted use depending on the zootechnical objectives.

The feed efficiency of a ration is both an economic and health issue. Its optimisation can be achieved through a better command of nutrition and management techniques based on the identified strengths and areas for improvement of each farm. Experts from the Techna Group offer products and services to optimise the evaluation of livestock diets, regardless of their context. For more information, please contact our experts!

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