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How to improve feed rations in Ukraine

At it's simplest, animal nutrition is (1) determining what nutrients the species to be fed requires to support the stage of life or level of production you wish (2) finding sources of the required nutrients and (3) combing the various feedstuffs in a least cost manner that will meet the nutrient requirements of the animal and support optimum performance. These values can be obtained from the National Research Councils Recommended Nutrient Allowances for various species.

Nutrients include water, protein, energy (from carbohydrates including starch and fiber, protein and fat), essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Protein can be broken down to amino acids. When feeding ruminants, amino acid levels are not as important as the total protein level. The micro-organisms in the rumen (ruminant stomach is divided into the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum) can synthesize the needed amino acids if adequate nitrogen, energy (carbohydrates), vitamins and minerals are present. When feeding mono-gastrics (contain one stomach which is similar to the abomasum in ruminants) the correct amino acid balance is more important than the actual protein level.

All animals require energy, obtained from cereals, forages, fat, oil meals etc. With ruminants, particularly high producing dairy cows, there is a need for fiber (about 16 percent crude fiber minimum in the dry matter) in order to maintain good microbial activity and rumination. With mono-gastrics like chickens, pigs and dogs, the fiber level should be fairly low - two to three percent. Herbivorous non-ruminants like horses and rabbits require a dietary fiber level intermediate between ruminants and non-ruminants.

The vitamins can be divided into fat soluble (vitamins A, D, E and K) and water soluble vitamins (vitamin C and the B complex). In ruminants it is necessary to include vitamin A and vitamin E in the diet and if they aren't exposed to the sun, vitamin D. They can synthesize vitamin K and the B-complex vitamins in the rumen. Mono-gastrics are not so fortunate. They must have supplemental B-vitamins and probably vitamin K in the diet and vitamin D if they aren't in the sun. Only primates (such as man and monkeys), guinea pigs and a few lesser-know species require dietary vitamin C (ascorbic acid). This is the result of not having a critical enzyme needed to synthesize vitamin C from glucose.

All animal species require a dietary source of minerals. Minerals can be divided into major minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride, potassium and sulfur) and trace or minor minerals (iron, copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese, iodine, selenium and chromium) These may not be supplied in adequate amounts in normal feedstuffs and thus supplementation may be needed for optimum animal performance.

Let's talk first about ruminant nutrition. Ruminants are fed forages and some concentrates to supplement protein, energy, vitamins and minerals. It is important that the forage be of the highest quality possible. I have discussed this in an accompanying article. Improving the forage quality is the easiest and cheapest way for Ukrainian livestock raisers to improve the production and profitability of feeding ruminants.

Getting more specific, high producing Holstein dairy cows (10 thousand liters per lactation) would require 15 to 17 percent protein in their ration dry matter and would consume at least 25 kg of dry matter. For the normal level of production found in Ukraine (3000 liters per lactation), a ration protein level of 12 percent with an expected 14 kg dry matter intake is adequate. The ration dry matter needs to contain at least 10 percent protein for rumen microbial function to be normal and more for milk production.

For those dairy animals fed rained on weathered hay, you can assume that they are protein deficient, probably receiving about six percent protein from the forage and at the most 10 percent. With Ukrainian canola meal at a little over 30 percent crude protein and assuming a forage supplying six percent protein, there is a need to bring the total mixed ration up to 12 percent protein. That means the cow should be fed 2.75 kg (assumes 90 percent dry matter) of canola meal and 11 kg of forage (also 90% dry matter).

Under most feeding regimes, this could be done easily by feeding free choice forage and 2.75 kg of canola meal top-dressed (applied to the top) on the forage. The energy level would still be low so another two to three kg of forage should be replaced with an equal amount of ground or rolled grain. This could also be top-dressed. We'd like to add some vitamins and minerals. That should be done based on the nutrient levels of these in the supplement package. Vitamin-mineral supplements could also be topped dressed per cow along with the grain and canola meal while the cow in tied up in the stanchion. I'm sure the protein and the energy additions would increase milk production. I would expect the vitamin-mineral supplements to have a long-term benefit. The canola meal is probably available locally and cheaper even than grain. It could be purchased from anyone who is pressing canola to oil and meal. Sunflower meal is not as high in energy or protein as canola because of the sunflower hulls in the meal that dilute all the other nutrients.

Try feeding milking cows one to two kg of canola meal per cow per day (one kg for each milking), note the milk response and adjust the feed accordingly to maximize profits. Fresh cows and high producers would need more canola and grain than lower producers. With forage of higher quality it would take less protein and energy supplementation, so start with a good forage and then balance the ration with protein, energy and vitamin-minerals as needed. I would be glad to calculate this for those who ask. I need to know what you have to feed with an estimate of the protein and energy levels of the forage.

Balancing rations for swine and poultry is a little more difficult. It can be done with the protein and vitamin-mineral supplement sprinkled on top of the ground grain if it is not possible to mix in all together in a commercial mixer. The amino acid levels must be considered for different stages of growth and reproduction. With ruminants you can feed forage and balance the ration with top-dressed supplements. With swine and poultry you can feed a totally mixed ration. This takes some mixing equipment or a lot of shovel work. Canola should not be fed to baby and starter pigs (under 20 kg body weight) but it supports good performance for growing (over 20 kg BW) and finishing pigs.

It should be understood that animals won't perform well if the ration is not balanced.

Roy Chapin, Ph.D., Animal Nutritionist

11145 Chapin Lane, Amity, Oregon 97101
Phone: 503-835-7317
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