A demonstration study conducted by leading livestock nutrition company CopRice has shown a holistic approach to nutrition can significantly increase reproductive efficiency.
CopRice operates a ‘model farm’ in northern Victoria to examine the effectiveness of integrated nutritional strategies and new formulations under ‘real world’ conditions.
Each year, the company implements dozens of projects that aim to optimise animal health, fertility, productivity, environmental sustainability and profitability.
Model farm partners — Fred, Sonyia, Daniel and Ben DeCicco — milk a herd of high production registered Holstein cows at Undera.
Fertility has long posed a challenge to the profitability of the herd.
CopRice model farm manager Ellen Fitzgibbon said the CopRice nutrition team focused on five key areas for improvement.
“Firstly, we wanted to ensure all heifers achieved their target mating weight by 15 months of age and their target calving weight by 24 months and with a body condition score of 5.5 to set them up for maximum lifetime production,” she said.
“Our second priority was to maximise dry matter intake during transition and early lactation, with particular attention on delivering adequate dietary protein to the autumn-calving portion of the herd.
“After that, we focused on managing the body condition of dry cows through to peak milk production to limit the amount of time spent in negative energy balance to minimise body condition loss and the incidence of metabolic challenges, and to maximise peak milk production.
“The fourth area of attention was supporting the metabolic and endocrine functions to allow the cows to turn to oestrus and conceive earlier.
“Finally, we wanted to optimise body condition, health and immune function during late gestation.”
The resultant nutrition program utilised the CopRice’s new ‘Lac Cycle’ range of dairy pellets, which are scientifically formulated to meet the unique nutritional needs of dairy cows at different stages of the lactation cycle.
Separate formulations are available for pre-calving, fresh cow, peak milk, mating, mid-lactation, late lactation and dry cow.
These complete dairy pellets and mineral licks deliver a rich source of metabolisable protein, energy and other nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, a rumen buffer and yeast.
Based on the findings of the latest international research, they promote more efficient rumen fermentation, digestibility and feed conversion efficiency to support optimum health, production, fertility and profitability.
Heifers were fed CopRice calf starter, calf grower and heifer pellets, together with home-grown hay, to deliver an adequate intake of metabolisable protein to support bone and muscle development and allow puberty to be reached as early as possible.
After mating, heifers were maintained on a growth rate of 900 g/day.
The results are impressive by any standard.
The heifer program has achieved a 100 per cent success rate, with all heifers calving by 24 months of age at the desired calving weight and body condition score.
Heifer milk production has increased from 77 per cent of mature cow production to 87 per cent.
Body condition loss between calving and peak production has dropped from 1.3 to 0.7 BCS units.
The three-week submission rate has increased from 75 per cent in 2018 to 89 per cent in 2019, while the six-week in-calf rate has increased from 50 per cent to 73 per cent.
“Fertility is a multi-factorial challenge but the success of this program shows that fine-tuning existing management practices and the adoption of cutting-edge nutrition technologies can have a significant impact on farm profitability,” Ms Fitzgibbon said.