Success in dairy production starts with good rearing
Asia’s dairy industry is on an uptrend, delegates at Asian Agribiz’s 2019 Dairy Feed Quality Conference were told. As population growth and increasing income fuel demand for milk and dairy products, more players are encouraged to join the growing industry. However, profitability is only achieved with proper planning and implementation of sound principles
The two‐day technical conference examining dairy nutrition, and the interaction between nutrition and management of the modern cow – was held on September 16-17, 2019 at the Hilton Sukhumvit Hotel, in Bangkok, Thailand.
It covered calf and heifer management, diet formulation strategies, and satisfying the modern consumer and creating value that translates to farm profitability.
“Nothing of this quality of information and diversity of speaker inputs has been made available in Southeast Asia and South Asia, with a regional focus on feed nutrition and management, and consistently viewing economic implications,” said Chris King, Conference Chairman and Program Director.
The event also gave the 90 participants from various countries an opportunity to interact and network with each other and the speakers.
Calf and heifer management
The key to a successful and profitable dairy operation is calf and heifer management. The lifetime productivity and profitability of the herd is set from the earliest stages of development.
Jeanette Fisher of Heifermax Consultancy in Australia emphasized how critical correct management of calves is, particularly in the first three months. One of the most efficient but often overlooked ways to increase the profitability of a dairy business is to optimize calf management results and she discussed ways on how to achieve this.
With calf rearing accounting for 10-15% of milk production, calf rearing is serious business, said Elle van der Gaast, Project Manager at Trouw Nutrition. He explained how heifers fed high levels of milk as a calf produced more milk and for a longer period. Also, intensive milk feeding changes the metabolic profiles of calves. Likewise, feeding more milk to calves led to reduced culling rate in the first lactation.
In the last 40 years, the emphasis on higher milk production has changed the way cow is fed. Shane Whittaker, a dairy farmer and consultant from New Zealand, said that producers should instead focus on ensuring the cows get pregnant rather than feeding for increased milk production. Pregnant cows mean more cows in milk and high overall milk yields will follow.
Diet formulation strategies
Since feed is a major cost element in production, both feed formulation and presentation must meet the complex nature of ruminant nutritional requirements while utilizing raw materials and supplements that optimize the economic return.
Roughage accounts for over half of a cow’s ration and is a cheap source of protein and energy. However, quality varies widely, and without good quality roughage, milk production will never reach the expected amount. Jan Cortenbach, Chief Technical Officer of De Heus Animal Nutrition China, offered ways on how to produce good quality roughage like grass, hay, and corn silage. Producers must know the nutrient levels in the roughage is so that they can balance the total ration with compound feed and concentrate.
Byproducts have a major potential role to play in dairy nutrition, said Kai Blair, Director Blair Agri Advisors and ruminant nutritionist. But byproducts also have other advantages including decreasing processing expense and time, improving palatability and performance, and providing a specific nutrient or solution. However, he said that nutrients must be balanced to correct antagonistic and deleterious analogs.
Hanan Saggi, Feed and Nutrition Director of Vietnam’s TH True Milk pointed out that Asia is replete with raw material options for dairy producers. These include forage and by-products. To be profitable, the use of local forage should be maximized vs imported forage. He emphasized the need to check raw material quality and provided parameters than producers can check. He mentioned particularly the need to address aflatoxin in feed ingredients.
To conclude the conference, two discussion groups were held. One focused on setting up a greenfield dairy farm and the other in developing dairy feed production. The two sessions recommended approaches and strategies on how participants can achieve profitability and sustainability in these enterprises.