The Impact of Feed Diversity on Dairy Health and Productivity
By DF Seeds | July 25, 2023
Diversity in dairy ration is essential for optimizing the nutrition, health, and productivity of dairy herds. Different feed components provide varying nutrient profiles that can be tailored to meet the unique needs of the herd. The inclusion of different forage types, such as corn silage and alfalfa, helps to balance the diet, providing a comprehensive range of nutrients that enhances animal health and milk production.
Alfalfa, in particular, is an excellent source of fiber, protein, and calcium, and is highly digestible. It plays a crucial role in dairy rations, especially when it is a significant proportion of the diet. Alfalfa’s high protein content can help meet the protein needs of high-producing dairy cows, while its fiber content supports rumen health and function.
Furthermore, alfalfa’s digestibility declines slower than warm-season perennial grasses as these forage-types mature, making it a reliable source of nutrients throughout different growth stages. It’s important to note that the quality of alfalfa can significantly impact dairy rations. Early-bloom and immature alfalfa forages are classified as high quality and can contain 18% protein. On the other hand, mature alfalfa is considered below average in quality, containing more fiber as it matures. Therefore, according to the University of Wisconsin, the timing of alfalfa harvest and its stage of growth can greatly influence its nutritional value and the overall effectiveness of the dairy ration.
Corn silage, on the other hand, is a high-energy forage that provides both fiber and starch. It is highly palatable and can contribute to higher dry matter intake, a key factor for maintaining high milk production in dairy cows. Hybrid corn varieties, like the ones offered through DF Seeds with the Legacy Seeds Ration Choice ® corn silage system, can offer additional benefits such as improved digestibility and yield, providing more nutritional bang for the buck.
The significance of feed diversity in ruminant livestock production systems is increasingly being acknowledged. A diverse diet has been demonstrated to positively impact animal productivity and health, as well as reduce the ecological footprint of livestock production, contributing to broader global food security concerns. This is especially relevant when considering the diet of dairy cows, where a mix of alfalfa, corn, and other forage crops could potentially offer a range of benefits. Intriguingly, plant secondary metabolites – bioactive substances produced by plants – may play a crucial role in this context, influencing not just animal health and welfare, but also product quality. You can learn about more of the research being done here.
DF Seeds is a distributor of Legacy Seeds. Legacy Seeds’ customized forage solution line-up, including alfalfa and Ration Choice® corn system, supports the concept of dietary diversity in dairy rations. Our alfalfa program breeds for high yields, improved stand persistence, increased digestibility and high protein production. The two types of Ration Choice corn silage hybrids we offer allow farmers to tailor their feed plans to their herds’ specific needs. Whether it’s the Flexible Acre hybrids, which offer flexibility at harvest time and work well in alfalfa-heavy diets, or the Leafy silage hybrids, which offer high yields and superior digestibility, Legacy Seeds provides options for diverse and balanced dairy rations.
DF Seeds can help build the legacy of your farm by offering custom, high-performing food and feed solutions with the optimal combination of yield and quality.