Meeting the nutritional needs of a close-up cow is a constant challenge. During the last trimester, a remarkable 70% of total calf birth weight is gained, causing protein and energy requirements to peak. While nutrition needs peak, feeding behavior of transition cows can drop by up to 30%, putting close-up cows at risk of disease, metabolic disorders, and hypocalcemia after calving.
Hypocalcemia is a common and dangerous nutrient deficiency for transition cows and can result in risky conditions including dystocia, uterine prolapses, retained membranes, mastitis, displaced abomasum, and overall weak immune status.
Herd health is impacted, but there can be financial impacts too. Researchers at University of Wisconsin found that “clinical and subclinical cases of hypocalcemia, in a 2,000-cow herd can cost a producer more than $60,000 a year.”
In 2021, Dellait® Animal Nutrition & Health researchers conducted a study to determine if adding HydroGreen to close-up cow rations can improve cow health, nutrition, and performance outcomes during the transition period. HydroGreen fresh forage was administered in the weeks immediately prior to giving birth, and researchers monitored performance, health, and fertility metrics of both heifers and cows postpartum.
HydroGreen is a division of CubicFarm Systems Corp., a farmer-founded leading local chain ag-tech company that specializes in the low-maintenance automated fresh feed systems known as Automated Vertical Pastures™ (AVPs), which produce nutrient-dense, high-energy forage grown indoors under controlled conditions and can produce daily harvests 365 days a year.
Using a crossover experimental design that spanned six months in 2021, the Dellait Trial supplemented the diet of 742 cows with HydroGreen at Crosswind Jerseys Inc. in Elkton, South Dakota. The trial took place in a dynamic close-up pen and compared results with a control group of 783 cows that did not receive HydroGreen.
Crosswind Jerseys is a top-ranked dairy producer in South Dakota. In 2020, Crosswind cows were ranked first in fat production, third in milk protein, and fourth in milk production by the American Jersey Cattle Association.
Experimental diets were formulated with and without HydroGreen and contained wheat straw, low potassium alfalfa hay, corn grain, anionic salts, bypass protein, canola meal, soybean meal, corn silage, and minerals.
Researchers found that adding HydroGreen’s nutrient-dense fresh forage in the weeks prior to calving boosted feeding behavior, increased milk production post-calving, and enhanced cow health performance fertility metrics.
The trial collected thousands of data points and specifically measured:
– Daily milk production using GEA milk metering, with results reported to DC305
– Rumination using CowManager sensors
– Weekly samples to test TMR composition and digestibility
Observations showed that including HydroGreen in the ration significantly increased dry matter intake (DMI), rumination activity, and nutrient digestibility. More specifically, the Dellait Trial noted positive trends in fiber digestibility and initial estimates show that adding HydroGreen to a close-up diet may result in:
– 5% increase in feed efficiency
– 10% increase in fiber digestibility
– 12% increase in DMI
– 5% increase in milk production
– 8% increase in conception rate
Adding a nutritious ingredient like HydroGreen to the ration allows complex carbohydrates to be more easily converted into digestible sugars and fibers, enabling better ration digestibility in the rumen and improved rumen health.
Dr. Fernando Diaz, Nutritionist and CEO of Dellait, notes that “HydroGreen is a very unique product, it’s like a high-energy forage. It has very good content on fiber, along with very high energy coming from sugar, making it one of the most energetic ingredients in the market.”
Hydrolytic enzymes naturally occurring in the fresh plant enhance the digestibility and absorption of nutrients like vitamins and minerals from the ration as well as the overall diet, which can help prevent serious and costly metabolic disorders.
To achieve such densely nutritious fresh forage, HydroGreen’s AVPs use a unique process to sprout grains, including barley and wheat, in a controlled environment. This controlled environment supports the production of highly nutritious fresh livestock feed without the typical investment in fertilizer, chemicals, fuel, field equipment, and transportation.
“As a technology company founded by farmers, we’re thrilled with the results of these trials,” said Dan Schmidt, President of HydroGreen. “This research shows the significant impacts HydroGreen fresh forage can have on animal performance, health, fertility, and in particular, the benefits to transition cows.”
Technologies like HydroGreen offer reliable, scalable, sustainable, on-farm agriculture solutions. It’s an opportunity to reduce reliance on unpredictable supply chains, while at the same time providing superior nutrition throughout the lifecycle of the herd before, during, and after transition.
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