Agricultural leader Pacific Seeds has revealed that while Australia owes its milk and dairy products to the cows that produce them, it is how these cows are fed that can drastically affect what ends up in supermarkets.
As Australia’s third largest rural industry – worth over $4 billion – the practices that maintain the quality of dairy cows and their milk are carefully considered, down to the seed that feeds the herd.
“A full cow is a happy cow,” Pacific Seeds Territory Manager Richard Madden said.
“Satisfied dairy cows are more likely to produce high quality milk in large, consistent quantities every day. The secret to achieving this starts with seed.”
Mr Madden said a key role of dairy farmers was to source the most appropriate feed products for their cows, which is a foundational element of the process that not only keeps cows fed but ensures the financial success of Australia’s dairy industry.
“Getting the feed right from the start is important step in the milk is ultimately produced,” he said.
“Having the right product provides the cows with a more balanced diet, and without its farmers would be forced to introduce additional varieties of hay or grain to their cow feed, which can affect the cost of production and the way the milk is ultimately produced on the farm.
“This could also potentially affect the way the milk tastes, which would mean there would need to be further changes in the production process to ensure that the consumer gets a consistent product on the shelves,” he said.
Some of the preferred options to keep dairy cows satisfied includes Pacific Seeds’ Sudan grass hybrids and sorghum type hybrids. Suitable for grazing and hay or sileage production, these products are relied upon for their persistence and rapid forage production, allowing cows to feed sooner and longer complementing the milking ration provided.
“The Sudan forage types, for example, have quite a high palatability due to being fine leaf and fine stem products. These provide a high quality, low cost paddock-based feed source that provides essential base nutritional requirements for the cows,” Mr Madden said.
Pacific Seeds also provide products that contain the brown midrib gene, known as BMR products which are designed to support and increase the production of microbes in a cow’s rumen function.
The rumen function is the key to lifting milk production and composition. The microbes break down feed to produce volatile fatty acids, which are used by the cow as energy for maintenance and milk production.
Dairy cows need to have a high level of energy and must be at a generous weight level in order to successful produce the amount of milk needed to satisfy national demand, which Mr Madden said is typically a highly targeted output of 35-40 litres of milk, per cow, per day.
“Due to the effect on the BMR Gene on the rumen, they [BMRs] allow the cow to digest and extract more nutritional value from the feed that they intake,” Mr Madden said.
“This is a result of these forage types having a lower neutral detergent fibre and acid detergent fibre.
“It means the animal can eat more, digest more and extract high value from that feed. Additionally, the BMR forages provide higher crude protein, so they’re often targeted for in weight gain in livestock.
“The overall success of our dairy industry really comes down to output; and to achieve this our production systems need to be targeted to deliver optimum results for the animals” he said.
“If you’ve got full and happy cows, they will consistently produce the required amount of milk every day.
“And to do that, you need to pay attention to the very beginning of the process and make sure that the right seeds are used for the job.”
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