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AlB4.ancaster Farming, Saturday, September 12, 1998
QUESTION: We feed a single
ration TMR and want to know
what fiber levels to maintain?
ANSWER: Fiber levels in the
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cow’s diet is probably the first
parameter that we should establish
when putting together a feeding
program of any type.
I think that a TMR system
requires some special considera
tion about fiber that should be
talked about as effective fiber.
Effective fiber needs to be thought
of as both (he tested chemical
properties and the physical form of
Typically, ration parameters on
fiber include Acid Detergent Fiber
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(ADF) and Nuetral Detergent Fib
ADF is an indicator of digesti
bility of a feed and NDF is asso
ciated with intake potential of that
same feed. It is well documented
what acceptable levels of ADF and
NDF should be.
I would like to concentrate the
discussion on items that require
judgement calls and management
Fiber in our cows’ diet must
address questions about maintain
ing rumen health. Fiber not only
provides scratch that is needed to
stimulate rumen contractions but
also can form a matting effect in
the cow’s rumen that slows down
particle separation, and this will
maintain a more consistent rumen
How much feed fiber sources
we need to feed the cow is mostly
dependent on what that source is.
Generally, dry alfalfa or alfalfa
haylagc that is made for high nutri
ent density is not the best source of
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That is because of the relative
high digestibility of the fiber. We
also observe that alfalfa tends to
physically break up when included
in most TMRs. Grass type forages
can give us a very nice matting
effect that can maintain integrity
throughout the TMR, but often is
very soft and doesn’t lend well to
scratch stimulus to the rumen wall.
Feed byproducts have high fiver
chemical properties, but does little
for scratch or matting in the rumen.
Cottonseed, soyhulls or beet
pulp can easily fool us into believ
ing we have adequate fiber in our
diets. Products like straw can give
us a nice blend of both scratch and
matting, but we need to be careful
not to decrease nutrient density
with such a product.
Ranking fiber sources on their
ability to produce satisfactory
results can be done on your farms
if you think about the different
properties of that fiber source more
than the chemical comparison of
ADF and NDF.
As a guideline, I always do a
ranking of feeds that provide fiber
David S. King
SCOTCHMAN BEWO I
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by how much I need to use as com
pared to the next fiber source;
1. Straw or late-made grass hay
at low inclusion rates ranging from
.5 to 2 pounds per cow.
2. fcrass hay of average to good
'quality at 1.5 to 3 pounds per cow.
3. Late made alfalfa, 2 to 4
pounds per cow.
4. Quality alfalfa, 3 to 6 pounds.
5. Cottonseed or other bypro
ducts can’t be fed at a high enough
rate, so put your vet on retainer for
the displaced abomasum you’re
about to have.
In conclusion, let me say that the
only one capable of saying what
fiber level is right on your farm is
that four-legged chemist that will
give us outputs that are matched to
Look at your DHIA records,
especially those that indicate
rumen health, and make judge
ment as to how much fiber is
needed. Percent butterfat, percent
protein, milk pounds, and MUN
tell us what we need to know about
rumen health and output.
Coupling testing with research
and education is still the best man
agement practice we can follow.
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