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QLF Addition Leads to Positive Effects on Productive Measures

April 29, 2022

By Maeghan Steelreath, QLF Dairy Field Technical Support

The addition of molasses-based liquid supplements to lactation rations has shown positive effects in on-farm feeding as well as published research studies. These improvements in productive measures have been seen by a number of QLF clients, including Rudi DeWinkle of Solid Rock Dairy in Idaho. When asked why he feeds QLF, Rudi said “I like sugars, and I like molasses.” He only has good things to say about utilizing the farm’s custom QLF product. Rudi feeds 410 milking Jerseys, and there are 540 replacement heifers on site.

Lactation diet forages include corn silage, haylage, Sudan silage, and dry alfalfa hay. Concentrates include high fat canola meal, steam flaked corn, whole cottonseed, blood meal, and QLF. The final product is shown below. The QLF product included in this diet was 65% DM, 38% sugar, and 5% protein (as-fed basis).

Rudi knows that there have been increases in milk yield and milk components since starting to feed QLF. Rudi indicates that the Jerseys’ milk yield increased by 5.0 lb/d with the addition of QLF (52 lb/d vs. 57 lb/d). Butterfat averages 4.88%, and protein averages 3.7%. Through diet formulation, Solid Rock has reached an optimal balance of carbohydrates (sugar, starch, and fiber) and protein in the TMR to help maximize rumen microbial protein production. Also, the farm has achieved recommended TMR particle distribution and minimized sorting, to optimize rumen efficiency and DMI. Together, these items all help to improve milk, and enhance component production.

Let’s take a closer look at the TMR particle distribution data collected in 2021 at Solid Rock Dairy.

As shown in the table above, particle distribution and proportion of physically effective material in the Solid Rock TMR is very similar to recommendations. QLF molasses-based liquid supplements have a positive impact on particle distribution. The fluid, sticky nature of the molasses-based liquid supplement holds the fine particles to the larger ones, reducing the amount of the particles in the bottom pan. This presents a TMR to the cow that is less sortable for fine material, which reduces the opportunity for “slug-feeding” and sub-optimal rumen pH. Maintaining a normal rumen pH helps maximize fiber digestion, and microbial protein production, which enhances milk and component production.

In addition, there is minimal sorting in the lactation pens with the inclusion of QLF in the TMR. This is illustrated in the figure below from data collected in 2021. The “start” bar is the baseline as samples of freshly delivered TMR were collected and shaken out before the cows were able to feed. The “time 2” bar represents the samples collected 4.0 hours after feed was initially dropped. There is a small amount of sorting over time. The lactating cows are sorting for the contents of the 8mm filter. This is shown by its proportion decreasing over time, from 50.3% at feed delivery, to 47.4%, four hours later.  As a result, the percentage of particles from the 19mm filter, 4mm filter, and the pan increased over time, albeit only slightly. Of particular note is the similarity of proportion of fine particles in the pan at feeding (29.4%) and four hours later (30.3%). This indicates that cows are consuming an even amount of fine particles during the feeding period. This helps maintain a more consistent rumen environment, and microbial protein production, which helps maximize milk protein.

When considering the small amount of sorting activity for the contents of the 8 mm filter, please note that the 8 mm material is usually forage particles that will be part of the rumen mat, and are efficiently digested with microbial activity and some cud chewing.    So, for this TMR, cows show a small amount of sorting activity for the 8 mm fiber-containing particles that are very beneficial for achieving maximum rumen efficiency, fiber digestibility, and butterfat production!

Supporting Article

The benefits of feeding a molasses-based liquid supplement to provide supplemental sugar, and enhance rumen efficiency to improve milk and component production, observed at Solid Rock Dairy have some parallels to a recently published research study. There was a study (Havekes et al. 2020) conducted by Dr. Trevor DeVries group at the University of Guelph that focused on the supplementation of molasses-based liquid feed in a dry cow ration. The study utilized 40 Holstein cows with at least one complete lactation cycle. Treatments (1. No liquid feed; 2. Molasses-based liquid feed supplementation at 2.2 lb/cow/d DM) began at 45 days pre-calving. After calving, all cows received the same ration without liquid feed supplementation.

Sorting

Cows fed the liquid feed-supplemented ration pre-calving demonstrated less sorting against longer particles than the cows fed the control ration. It is relatively normal for dry cow rations to contain large amounts of forage which leads to quite a bit of sorting. That being said, it is important for dry cows to consume longer particles in order to maintain proper health of the rumen, and of the cow. In addition, post-calving, cows fed the liquid feed-supplemented ration pre-calving demonstrated less sorting against longer particles when compared to control cows.

 

Cows fed the liquid feed-supplemented ration in the dry period had a greater milk yield numerically when compared to the control cows. We can speculate that cows supplemented with molasses-based liquid feed through the fresh period would have a higher milk yield in comparison to the control cows. In addition, the cows supplemented with molasses-based liquid feed in the dry period tended to produce more milk protein in early lactation, as shown in the table below.

All of the aforementioned ideas, i.e., supplementation of sugar and increased intake of long particles lead to enhanced forage digestion and increased microbial protein production.  This increases the quantity of metabolizable protein available to the cow, which aids in the synthesis of milk protein.

Summary

This study illustrates the benefits of supplementing a dry cow diet with molasses-based liquid feed. Providing supplemental sugar, reducing ration sorting, and promoting intake of long particles makes the rumen more efficient and optimizes milk and component production.

In conclusion, there is definitely something positive to be said about supplementing molasses-based liquid feed, as shown by the information from Solid Rock Dairy and the research study above.

References

Havekes, C. D., Duffield, T. F., Carpenter, A. J., & DeVries, T. J. (2020). Effects of molasses-based liquid feed supplementation to a high-straw dry cow diet on feed intake, health, and performance of dairy cows across the transition period. Journal of Dairy Science, 103(6), 5070–5089. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2019-18085

https://extension.psu.edu/penn-state-particle-separator#section-0

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