Dairy Cow

The amino acids contained in dietary proteins are essential nutrients.  Without them, humans and animals don’t last long.  While required for life, it’s also important to have balanced diets that supply all of the necessary nutrients, including essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and others, in the right proportions.  Indeed, overfeeding of nutrients is also a serious problem.

I’ve written before on the dangers of overfeeding protein in animal diets.  The main problems can be summarized as follows:

  • Excess amino acids cannot be stored and must be excreted by the animal. This comes with a cost, mainly lost energy.  This lost energy cannot be used for growth.
  • Excess protein is fermented in the hindgut, and this favors the growth of pathogenic bacteria that can cause disease outbreaks.
  • Excess protein often results in increased water consumption.

I also added in my previous post that protein is expensive.  On a per unit basis, protein is the most expensive component of nearly any diet formulation.  Below, I will discuss why there are many reasons to get the amount of protein (and really, individual amino acids) in the diet right.

This article from Feed Strategy discusses the negative effects of providing too much protein in dairy cows.  According to data from the USDA, dairy cows fed protein beyond the requirement exhibited the following:

  • Increased heat production (heat production is lost energy)
  • Also, fewer nutrients ended up in the milk

Furthermore, research from University of Wisconsin found that there were essentially no milk performance differences in late-lactation diets when either 17% or 12% protein diets were fed.  Cows fed at either protein level did not display differences in milk production, milk fat concentration, and milk protein concentration and yield.  It should be noted that this was a relatively short study time (2 weeks).  However, doing everything you can to minimize protein inclusion rates, especially when performance did not suffer over a defined period of time, should be explored.

Using better quality ingredients can help you achieve the best of both worlds – reducing protein intake while supplying the necessary amino acids.  It all comes down to digestibility – the amount of protein available for productive purposes.  Higher digestibility ingredients, like high-shear dry extruded ExPress® soy meal, have been shown to enhance efficiency when used in dairy formulations.  In addition, this ingredient contains highly-digestible rumen by-pass protein, which supports milk production.

We can help you estimate if you’re overfeeding protein and discuss what can be done about it.  Please contact our nutrition team with any questions.

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