Putting the Rumen at the Heart of Dairy Farm Efficiency
Harbro Head of Dairy - Rumen Friendly Concept, Mike Phillips looks at Rumen Rate and how this measurement can be utilised on farm to improve performance and farm efficiency.
The dictionary definition of efficient reads as follows: ‘If something or someone is efficient, they are able to do tasks successfully, without wasting time or energy.’
The word efficient is regularly used when we talk about farming and farmers are often challenged to become more efficient. However, if we look at farming and milk production, we can see that through its use of technology and driven by market conditions it has already become more efficient, which is a testament to the hard work of the farmers and those involved in the industry (see below).
So how does the dairy sector move forward and continue to progress?
Our Rumen Friendly Concept is all about efficiency working in conjunction with the well-being of the dairy cow. The idea is to create a diet that is rumen friendly or low in acid loading which will in turn lead to healthy milk production. Working with you, our dairy specialists utilise data collated from various sources including Harbro Milk Monitor, Keenan In-Touch, milking parlour / robotic software and milk recording information to look at
the current situation on farm and what measures can be implemented to improve performance and ultimately profitability.
By understanding your business and how it ticks, it allows our team to work with you to set critical performance indicators that are relevant to your unit. This might be something as simple as milk yield, but equally this could be pregnancy rate, feed cost per litre, milk yield per cubicle space, or one that we have found very useful is Rumen Rate.
Rumen rate measures cow efficiency and how many litres she can produce per kilo of dry matter intake. The rumen rate however does so much more than look at the ability to produce a kilo of milk for the least dry matter input.
Our understanding takes it further and shows that if rumen rate is too high (above 1.6), whilst milk is produced cheaply, this may be at the detriment of key indicators as cows in early lactation milking off their back will impact on fertility and cow health. If rumen rate is too low (1-1.2) then cows with a high average days in milk will be gaining excess body condition meaning they are less economically viable and potentially more prone to metabolic problems in their lactation.
Of course these figures will depend on each farm’s particular circumstance, for instance, days in milk has an effect on rumen rate, so block calving herds will vary throughout the year, however it is a valuable assessment which will allow feeding regimes to be adapted to ensure consistent herd health and productivity.
So why would you start monitoring rumen rate on your farm?
The simple answer is that every 0.1 improvement in rumen rate is potentially worth 60p per cow per day. That is equivalent to £39,420 for the average UK 180 cow herd.