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Maximise Digestibility in the Rumen to Manage High Feed Prices – INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVES

Source: Phileo by Lesaffre via Feedinfo

30 September 2022 - At a time of scarce and expensive agricultural commodities, cattle farmers might not have the option of formulating diets with the highest quality of feed ingredients. Instead, some might be required to adapt their formulations to what they can obtain, possibly using products with greater levels of indigestible fibre or other constraints that could inhibit feed efficiency.

According to Phileo by Lesaffre’s Ruminants team, however, help is at hand for farmers looking to navigate today’s difficult circumstances.

First, producers can rely on proven solutions to optimise the environment of the rumen and ensure maximum digestibility is achieved, even with the most highly fibrous feed.
Second, they can turn to new tools to assess the feed efficiency of their individual operations and learn how specific dietary changes —including the addition of yeast probiotics—will affect their bottom line.

Today, we hear from Dr. Valentin Nenov, Phileo by Lesaffre’s Global Ruminant Manager, and Erika Paiva, Global Program Manager for Ruminants, on how the latest understanding in ruminant digestion can help create real and practical on-farm savings.

[Feedinfo] What are some of the differences between the composition of rumen microbiota in high feed efficiency cattle and low feed efficiency cattle?

[Valentin Nenov] There are definite differences between the microbiomes of high feed efficiency and low feed efficiency cattle, as shown by several published studies. Dr. Alex Bach (ICREA) found clear differences between the rumen microbiome of high and low efficiency dairy cows, identifying certain bacterial phyla showing significant differences. In his studies he highlighted significant differences in Firmicutes and Bacteroides between high and low efficiency animals. Dr. Todd Callaway (University of Georgia) recorded similar findings in beef cattle, and was even able to identify more efficient animals through both their rumen and caecal microbiome.

Dr. Valentin Nenov
Global Ruminant Manager
Phileo by Lesaffre

An important discovery regarding the rumen microbiome is that more efficient animals have lower alpha diversity than low efficiency ones, which is the opposite of what we know about intestinal microbiome, where higher diversity is better. Both Dr. Bach and Dr. Callaway presented innovative and valuable data during Phileo’s Microbiota Days in May 2022.

So, the answer to your question is that there are definitely some defined and confirmed differences in rumen microbiome composition that allow us to say if an animal is low or high efficiency. However, we cannot currently use this data to categorically sort cows according to their efficiency. This is because the rumen microbiome changes all the time, depending on the cow’s diet and lactation stage. Some animals, previously identified as efficient according to their microbiome composition, may become less efficient during their lactation (or vice versa). Science is advancing quickly, however, and we believe that in the next 5-10 years we will find more markers of the rumen microbiome and will be able to define animal efficiency with much greater confidence, giving us the know-how to establish and maintain highly efficient herds.

[Feedinfo] How does Actisaf® Sc 47 stabilise the rumen microbiota?

[Valentin Nenov] The rumen is an anaerobic fermenter in which feed is fermented by the rumen microbiota to produce VFA and other end products. VFAs contribute more than 80% of the energy requirements of a dairy cow. The most efficient rumen microorganisms are strict anaerobes that are, of course, most efficient in anaerobic environments with low redox potential (Eh) below -150 mV.

The probiotic yeast Actisaf® SC47 optimises the rumen environment by reducing redox potential, thus creating more favourable conditions for the rumen’s anaerobic microorganisms. This helps improve the metabolic activity and growth rate of beneficial bacteria, resulting in an increased production of VFA and microbial protein. When we supplement dairy cows with Actisaf® SC47, we see a multi-fold increase in some of the most efficient rumen bacteria, including fibre-degrading and lactic acid-utilising bacteria.

As a result, as seen in numerous studies, supplementing Actisaf® contributes to significant reductions of lactic acid leading to higher ruminal pH, alongside significant increases in ruminal fibre degradation and VFA production.

The effect of the yeast probiotic is strongly dose dependent. In fact, for optimal fibre degradation, a minimum dose of 50 billion CFU per cow per day is required to secure good performance under challenging conditions.

[Feedinfo] What is the connection between this stabilisation and improvements in the digestibility coefficients for dry matter, neutral-detergent fibre, and nitrogen?

[Valentin Nenov] We recently initiated an R&D project to assess the rumen degradability of various forages from around the world, as well as to examine the ability of yeast probiotics to improve this degradability. Phileo’s ruminant R&D team is using an innovative ex vivo technique that allows the ruminal degradability of different forages to be tested at the same time, under different conditions. The results correspond well with what we have seen in vivo. In the near future, this technique will allow us to create forage digestibility data banks for the most common forages, including the effect of the yeast probiotic Actisaf® SC47. It also allows us to develop non-invasive techniques to study rumen fermentation while respecting animal welfare.

As this study is still at an early stage, it is currently difficult to confirm a clear connection between rumen stabilisation, Actisaf® and a specific coefficient of degradability of organic matter and NDF. However, our studies are showing a positive correlation between the NDF content of the forages and Actisaf® efficiency, with improvements of up to a 7% increase in organic matter degradability, according to NDF content. Actisaf® is also showing promising results in increasing the rumen degradability of forages with higher NDF content and generally lower digestibility. This means that cows receiving highly fibrous diets can benefit even more from Actisaf® supplementation.

[Feedinfo] What are the effects of this on dairy cow performance? What does this mean for the farmer’s bottom line?

[Valentin Nenov] The power of Actisaf® to increase the rumen degradability of forages and improve overall feed efficiency in dairy and beef cattle can help farmers use different forages with higher NDF content in their dietary choices, without sacrificing performance. This can help reduce feed costs, which is obviously very important in times of constantly rising prices.

In some recent studies we have seen increased milk production from cows given Actisaf® compared to control cows given the same forage and same dry matter intake, or, alternately, we have seen them maintain the same milk output with significantly lower DMI due to better feed efficiency. This saves on costs and helps improve farm profits.

[Feedinfo] Phileo has developed DigescanTM, which is described as a diagnostic tool to evaluate feed efficiency on a farm. Can you give a brief overview of this tool?

[Erika Paiva] DigescanTM is composed of two sieves with different sizes, one of 2 mm and the other of 5 mm. These are used to evaluate the efficiency of fibre degradability in cattle manure through a specific sampling procedure. The use of the DigescanTM tool makes it possible to verify and demonstrate the positive effects of a strategy to improve feed efficiency, comparing data before and during the implementation of the strategy. Data is recorded and delivered to the user via an app, with graphs to demonstrate the efficiency of diet digestibility.

Erika Paiva, Phileo

Erika Paiva
Global Program Manager for Ruminants
Phileo by Lesaffre

[Feedinfo] What are the goals of the tool? Is it purely about evaluating how Actisaf® Sc 47 can provide improvements in digestibility or does it provide information on other changes that can be made to improve feed efficiency?

[Erika Paiva] At the beginning of the project, the main aim was to demonstrate the efficiency of Actisaf® in the field. Now, however, given the current high volatility of raw material prices, it is becoming a tool that can be used to measure dietary changes while also analysing how animals respond to them. Beyond this, it can be used to find solutions regarding the application of different raw materials: for example, verifying whether dietary changes have a negative or positive impact on farm results.

[Feedinfo] What was the initial feedback from farms where DigescanTM was deployed? What was the impact on these farms?

[Erika Paiva] Although this project has only just been launched, it is already showing how the probiotic is improving diet digestibility on the few farms where it has been applied to date. Moreover, the tech and sales teams of feed millers or premixers involved in this project are partnering with Phileo in developing and analysing how it works and how the application might be improved further. As a result, new ideas are emerging, and new versions are being developed in response to on-farm discoveries, with the tool being designed to align with user needs at all stages.

[Feedinfo] What are Phileo's goals for DigescanTM ? In which regions is it being rolled out and what is the timeframe for its release?

[Erika Paiva] Phileo's goal for DigescanTM is to cover all regions of the globe. Although we started the process in Europe, it will be rolled out globally to all customers. The application is available in different languages (English, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Polish, Portuguese, German, and Dutch). We are also taking into account regional variations in terms of raw materials and feed ingredients. This will help customers to interpret the efficiency of different diets around the world, which is very important to us as this is Phileo's way of helping customers face the rising cost of raw materials.
Our team is committed to getting this useful tool around the world as rapidly as possible. In Europe, the launch took place at SPACE in mid-September.

Published in association with Phileo by Lesaffre