Submitted to: Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/15/2008
Publication Date: 4/7/2008
Citation: Hall, M. 2008. Reaping the most nutrients: Working with starch and nonfiber carbohydrate digestibility. In: Proceedings of the Mid-South Ruminant Nutrition Conference, April 7, 2008, Arlington, Texas. p. 31-38.
Technical Abstract: Cows survive, grow, produce milk, reproduce, and store energy reserves based on the amount of digestible nutrients they obtain from their diets. There is consensus that cows do not have a starch requirement, but starch has been a staple source of digestible nutrients in dairy cattle diets. With concerns about grain supplies and feed prices, deciding how to meet the nutrient needs of our herds becomes more pressing. Enhancing overall diet digestibility, exploring use of a greater variety of nonfiber carbohydrates (NFC; sugars, starch, soluble fiber), and making better use of home-raised forages may be the answer. In order to efficiently and economically meet the nutrient needs of dairy herds, it is recommended that farmers: 1) Maximize the use of homegrown forages to meet digestible carbohydrate needs (where land and storage resources are suitable to this end) -- these are frequently a farm's lowest cost feed resources of NFC and fiber. 2) Harvest and process feeds and forages to enhance digestibility, maintain needed amounts of physically effective fiber, and minimize spoilage -- these have potential to increase amounts and digestibility of dietary NFC and fiber. 3) Provide rations that are balanced to maintain good rumen function, performance, and health. This allows greatest "harvest" of digestible nutrients from the diet. 4) Supplement with purchased feedstuffs that complement the base diet, recognizing differences in effects that different non-neutral detergent fiber carbohydrates may have in diets relative to performance and ruminal effects. 5) Reduce the demands that the environment and management places on cows so they can utilize nutrients for production rather than maintenance and survival. By accomplishing these, producers have the opportunity to optimize the availability, cost, and utilization of dietary NFC to achieve desired animal performance.