Rumen Efficiency Key Emphasis in Improving Transition Cow Performance – SD Field Study

January 15, 2021

by Jonathan H. Ydstie, QLF Dairy Technical Services Manager

Today we hear frequently the phrase”Feed the rumen to feed the cow.”  Sometimes, something as elusive as a mold or mycotoxin can throw the rumen completely out of sync. Such was the situation that a SD dairy case study demonstrates, and how the problem was addressed.

This well-managed herd was experiencing an increase in digestive upsets in early lactation cows across lactations. The cows affected by the digestive upsets did not return to the milking string even after returning back on-feed. The herd was also experiencing increased incidences of abortions and retained placentas.  The owners had made herd health a major priority, making this health episode critical to get under control to maintain the productivity and profitability of the herd in order to reach their goals.

In the evaluation of the herd (75% Holsteins and 25% Jerseys), the ration, and the forages, a diagnosis of gastroenteritis was made.  The primary concerns were a high level of dietary starch (28%), and elevated levels of fusarium mycotoxins in the corn silage.  A concentration level of 1,000 ppb of T-2 mycotoxin and 500 ppb of Zearalenone were discovered.  After discussion and consultation with the nutritionist and farm owners it was decided to focus on rumen efficiency by feeding a QLF molasses-based liquid supplement containing Safmannan for the following reasons:

One: Molasses-based liquid feeds have demonstrated the ability to improve dry matter intakes of dairy cattle by improving palatability and fiber digestion. Feeding a high-sugar diet using a molasses-based product can help maintain a higher rumen pH and has also shown a milkfat yield response. The De Novo Fatty Acid test will help to measure improvement in milk fat production and rumen efficiency.

Two: Certain premium yeast cell wall products have been shown to mitigate the effects of some strains of Salmonella, E. coli, and Clostridia perfringens, as demonstrated in an in vitro trial conducted by Posadas in 2017.  There have been a number of studies that have demonstrated the ability of Safmannan by Phileo to enhance the immune response. Stimulation of the immune system and the clearing of pathogens from the gut appear to be a combined response of the MOS and the Beta-Glucan.

The QLF product provided 15 g of Safmannan in a 3# feeding rate initially for 3 weeks due to the challenge at hand.  After 3 weeks, the Safmannan was fed at a maintenance level of 10 gms per head per day for the remainder of the study.  Milk samples were taken for De Novo for analysis before and after implementation of the product. Dairy Comp records were used to measure health events before and after. DHIA records were also used to evaluate production, milk component, and SCC levels.

Dairy Comp records were evaluated from July 2019 through December 2019 to serve as the baseline for health events.  January 2020 through April 2020 were used as the treatment period of health events.  The average number of cow health events per month were reduced (10.8 to 4) and the monthly percentage of cows with health events (3.8 to 1.38) were reduced when QLF w/ Safmannan was fed.  The percent of cows that died was reduced from 8.5% vs 4.6%.  Fresh cows going off feed was eliminated when feeding QLF w/ Safmannan. Other health events (DA’s, retained placentas) were also reduced likely due to a more consistent dry matter intake during the pre-fresh period and less systemic inflammation.

Table 1. Impact of a Premium Yeast Cell Wall on Health Events in Fresh Cows

Variable No Safmannan (7/19–12/19) Safmannan (1/20- 4/20) Probability
Average Number of Health Events per Month 10.8 4.0 0.01
Monthly Percent of Lactating Cows with Health Events 3.8 (11/290) 1.38 (4/287) 0.01
Percent of Fresh Cows that Died 8.50 (13/153) 4.6 (4/87) 0.08
Monthly Abortion Rate, Percent of Lactating Cows 2.41 (7/290) 0.70 (2/287) <0.01
Percent of Fresh Cows Off Feed 3.92 (6/153) 0 0.05
Percent of Lactating Cows with Pneumonia 2.07 (6/290) 0 0.09
Percent of Fresh Cows with Retained Placenta 2.61 (4/153) 0 0.05
Percent of Fresh Cows with DA 2.61 (4/153) 1.15 (1/87) 0.20
Percent of Fresh Cows with Milk Fever 1.96 (3/153) 1.15 (1/87) 0.38


The De Novo fatty acid content of the milk was increased when the QLF w/ Safmannan was fed (0.90 vs 0.94 g/100 g of milk).  De Novo fatty acids are short-chain fatty acids (<16 carbons) made by the cow.  These milk fatty acids use the end products from rumen fermentation of fiber and sugars (acetate & butyrate, respectively).  Providing supplemental sugar, from a molasses-based liquid feed, and enhancing fiber digestion helps increase rumen efficiency and the naturally produced, De Novo fatty acids in milk fat.  Higher levels of De Novo fatty acid production are associated with greater milk fat.  Butterfat yield increased from 3.10 lbs when no Safmannan was fed, to 3.14 lbs by the end of the trial.  There was also a decline in SCC by 77,000 during the test period as well.  Improving rumen efficiency and enhancing immune response helps enhance cow productivity!

In conclusion, during the trial period, there was a reduced incidence of lactating and fresh cow health events, abortions, and digestive upsets. The ROI was 4.4:1 for feeding a QLF liquid supplement containing Safmannan.  When the decrease in clinical mastitis (10% versus 8%) is accounted for in the ROI calculations, the ROI was increased to 5:1.  The synergistic combination of QLF with Safmannan appears to have improved rumen efficiency, dry matter intake, and performance of transition cows while strengthening overall herd productivity.

This article summarizes material from a Research Report by Dr. Stephen Emanuele, Head, North American Dairy Programs, Phileo by Lesaffre.  This trial was a cooperative effort between Quality Liquid Feeds, Dodgeville, WI, and Phileo by Lesaffre.  This trial was funded by Phileo by Lesaffre, North America Business Unit.



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