Goodbye protein… Hello amino acids

Posted on December 15, 2011 in Dairy Performance
By Spence Driver Over the last five years, nearly 55 percent of the average milk income over feed costs has been derived from milk protein yield and 40 percent has come from milk fat yield.  That means that only about 5 percent of that income is derived from milk volume. Clearly, that means that increasing milk component yield is one of the most effective ways to boost your net margins. A 2010 Dairy Herd Management survey showed us that 40 percent of producers and 80 percent of ration formulators recognize that amino acid balancing can reduce dietary crude protein levels.  This is due to enhanced protein utilization by driving rations toward an ideal amino acid profile to more efficiently meet a cow’s requirements. Long story short, the goal should be to meet the amino acid requirements for maintenance, growth, reproduction and production with a minimum amount of dietary crude protein. In a perfect world, we want all 10 of the essential amino acids balanced to equal 100 percent of the cow’s requirements.  But that’s in a perfect world.  In a typical Midwest diet, the amino acids lysine and methionine are considered the first limiting amino acids. Remember, amino acids are the building blocks of protein.  If you run out of one or two of the amino acids, you can’t build anymore protein, even if you do have sufficient levels of the other eight amino acids. Historically, we accounted for these deficiencies by increasing the level of dietary crude protein.  This meant that we would hit the 100-percent target for lysine and methionine, but we would go way over the target for the other eight amino acids.  We had a lot of wasted protein in the diet…and a lot of wasted money. This is where amino acid balancing comes in to play.  We bring excessive and deficient amino acids closer to the 100-percent mark.  Put simply, we’re adding what we need and subtracting what we don’t. Doing this reduces dietary crude protein content without compromising performance.  In fact, we often see improvements in performance, leading to increased profits.  Return on investment is typically 2:1 or better. The increase in milk protein percentage has been the most visible response to better amino acid nutrition.  However, it’s the tip of the iceberg as milk yield responses have been shown in early lactation studies.  In addition, anecdotal evidence is building that fewer metabolic disorders, less body condition loss and improvements in reproductive performance are all happening as well.  And don’t forget about the environmental impact.  Improving protein efficiency means more nitrogen goes into milk protein and less is lost to the environment. So what’s your next step?  Contact your consultant and explore options for amino acid balancing on your operation.

Category: Dairy Performance
Feed additives
Feed quality and nutrition
Milk production and components