The use of data and precision feeding was one of the focus topics at a recently held ruminant seminar, organised by the French CCPA Group.
Different speakers shed their light on new developments and insights for dairy cow nutrition. Mariska van der Voort, researcher at Wageningen University in the Netherlands updated the audience on the use of sensor systems in herd management.
She gave 2 examples of sensor technologies:
1. automated oestrus detection
2. a sensor to predict the moment of calving.
“Automatic oestrus detection is proven successful for several reasons. The sensor can be attached to the leg, collar or to the ear and the technology is associated with clear management action. In addition, the return on investment is good and the farmer can profit by €2,827 per cow per year more income,” explains van der Voort. She further explained that the potential of sensors in general is not always reached.
Van der Voort: “The most important limiting factor for commercialisation is that sensors have an unfavourable/unknown cost-benefit ratio. But there is great untapped potential to use sensors to improve feed efficiency, animal health and welfare and product quality.” Van der Voort sees also opportunities for sensors to predict the moment of calving and increased use of data, coming from automated milking systems to step up breeding, behaviour/health and feed efficiency.
Sensors and new feed formulation
Muriel Johan, ruminant specialist at CCPA Group delved deeper into digital innovation and the initiatives of CCPA Group regarding this topic. “Digital transformation in agriculture is a reality and around 67% of farmers use at least one tool, such as an automatic concentrate distributor or oestrus or calving detection. On top of that, 39% of them plan to invest in these data connecting tools, such as monitoring cameras, heat detectors and automated milking systems,” explains Johan. She further explained that CCPA is actively focusing on sharing data to encourage innovation. “At CCPA we use existing databases (climate and weather data) or use data, coming from the herd in real time (e.g. feed consumption, environment, milk counters, welfare and behaviour of animals, all recorded via sensors). Last but not least, we also test the ‘new’ sensors of the future on our own reference farms.”
Fabrice Robert, R&D department manager at CCPA Group explained the developments in diet formulation and talked about ‘nutrition 2.0’. In other words, new ways to formulate feeds, above and beyond metabolic needs. “Nutrition 2.0 is based on the pharmacological effects of nutrients and their impact on immunity, reproduction. To apply this in practice we need new experimental tools, such as in vitro models (cells, explants) or biomarkers of inflammation or oxidative stress. And this was also the reason to create Feedscreen, a joint laboratory of INRA and Deltavit (the lab belonging to CCPA Group). With this lab we can identify new compounds with beneficial effects on animal health,” explained Robert. Over the last 3 years, the lab has been looking at how the intestinal mucosa responds to different ingredients. Also in vitro tests are being performed to study the anti-inflammatory effects of ingredients on macrophages, the first sentinels of the immune system.
Robert also addresses the effects of inflammation on growing animals, which can lead to a suppression of growth between 10 to 15%. "The digestive tract is the organ most sensitive to inflammation. This is why it is so important to prevent the onset of it,” concluded Robert.
Barry Bradford, Professor from Kansas State University also spoke about this topic and said: “The number of infections increase in the first 2 weeks after calving, with a greater incidence in the third lactation compared to the first lactation. We see that 60% of the diseases are the result of an infection and 40% of diseases is the result of metabolic misbalance,” Bradford explained. The transition period from calving to lactation can be improved by using nutritional tools with anti-inflammatory potential, such as yeast, omega-3 fatty acids or plants containing polyphenol. The CCPA group for example launched a supplement, containing the plant Scutellaria baicalensis. This main ingredient consists of 4 main flavonoids, that support dairy production while contributing to udder health.