Feed, fiber, rumination and T4C

Effective fiber in a ration contributes towards a stable rumen fermentation and assists in preventing rumen acidosis. Fiber mainly consists of Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF), but the length and hardness of the material have their influence as well. Fiber can be indicated by the stretch and scratch score.

Management, Feeding, Milking

Fiber function

Fiber encourages the rumen wall to contract. Due to these contractions, gases can escape and the rumen content is mixed so that the rumen microbes can do their job better. In addition to this, it also improves the absorption of nutrients in the blood via the rumen wall and the passage of smaller particles to the intestines.

The amount of effective fiber should be measured at the feed fence for the complete ration that a cow is eating. For example, a ration that contains more corn silage and concentrates might require additional feed stuff consisting of highly effective fiber such as straw, hay or alfalfa. Table 1 provides an indication on the various feed types and fiber.

Table 1

Sensor technology

The best indicator is provided by the cows themselves. Visually we can score a good rumen function by observing that 7 out of 10 cows are ruminating when lying, but these are no more than snapshots. Using the Lely QWes HR we apply complementary sensor technology providing fact-based data. Figure 1 shows the average rumination time in blocks of 2 hours, averaged for one week in February 2014 on two different Dutch dairy farms, both equipped with rumination sensors. The milk production per cow per day is around 35 kg on both farms; the major difference is situated in the way of feeding.

Figure 1

On-farm feeding with the Lely Vector shows less deviation in rumination time as compared to the cows that are fed traditionally. This is completely in line with research conducted by Trevor de Vries; please refer to this article.It is interesting to see that cows ruminate more during the second part of the night. The huge dip in rumination time for the herd of traditionally fed cows is caused by the feeding moment; when cows are eating, they are not ruminating.

T4C and rumination

The sensor also provides information to be able to detect a health issue or heat probability. T4C uses the unique and individual daily pattern of each cow and an attention is generated when this pattern shows a considerable and unexpected deviation. Figure 2 — the activity graph — shows a clear drop in total rumination time, an increase of cow activity and, consequently, a clear increase of heat probability. In combination with parameters such as number of days after calving, days since last insemination/heat and the number of days between heat cycle, this particular cow will show up in report 19.

Figure 2