Be sweet to your cows

In recent years, evidence has been accumulating on the benefits of improving sugar levels in rations for animal health and performance. Some key points on feeding sugar are:

  • Sugars have less of a negative impact on rumen pH and stability than starches. Large amounts of sugar go into the production within the microbial biomass, reducing fermentation rates and acid levels.
  • Sugars can enhance the digestibility of ration fibre (NDF) as they tend to attract fungi to the fibre. Conversely, starch tends to reduce NDF digestibility, especially if fed in excessive amounts.
  • Sugar stimulates dry matter intakes as levels increase towards 7%.
  • Sugar supports milk fat % because the way it is fermented in the rumen produces fat precursors for the cow. The limited impact on rumen pH mentioned above can also benefit milk fat production.
  • Increasing ration sugars towards 7% have been shown to improve milk yields in cows >33kg milk.

There are numerous sugar rich ingredients available for inclusion, from root crops (ie. fodder beet), liquid feeds (ie. molasses/molasses co-products), confectionery by-products (ie. biscuit meal), or even products from milk processing like liquid whey. Obviously each will have their own specific requirements for handling and application, but one key thing to think about in your choice of sugar is the actual cost of providing the sugar, see the table.

Obviously the choice of product might not be based on sugar alone and may relate to other factors such as forage availability, but the table allows you to see the implications from a sugar supply perspective.

If you’d like to know more about sugar in dairy rations or sugar sources suitable for your farm, please call 01395 239995 and speak to one of our team of nutritionists.