14 November 2022 – One of the great advantages of a dairy cow’s digestive system is its ability to degrade and ferment various carbohydrates and convert them into energy to power performance. Maximizing this system’s ability to do so is key to improving dairy feed efficiency, which, at a time when raw material prices and their origins are being closely monitored, could help farmers navigate rising feed costs and improve their environmental impact.
Central to the dairy cow’s ability to break down carbohydrate fibers are special fiber-degrading bacteria in the rumen. Zinpro Corporation, with its new solution Zinpro® IsoFerm®, provides these organisms a proprietary blend of branched-chain volatile fatty acids (BCVFAs), boosting natural processes in dairy cows to unlock improved fiber digestibility.
“Across the globe, dairy farms face volatile market pressures and rising feed costs. It’s critical that we come together to improve dairy cow performance and enhance the bottom line. Zinpro IsoFerm is a product that can help do so,” explained Christi Brown, director of Zinpro IsoFerm, in a recent Feedinfo chat. “Zinpro IsoFerm optimizes performance of fiber-digesting bacteria to naturally enhance rumen function. We need to focus on what makes the cow unique and that is getting the most out of the rumen. Zinpro IsoFerm is taking a natural process and enhancing it to help the cow do more with less.”
“As we look to drive efficiency, profitability and sustainability on dairy farms, partnership is key. With this new solution, we are empowering dairy nutritionists to elevate how they formulate diets, unlocking new levels of feed efficiency and operational sustainability.”
In this Industry Perspectives, Brown, along with Dr. Dana Tomlinson, Global Technical Services for Zinpro IsoFerm, and Justin Howes, Global Marketing Manager – Ruminant, take us through the science powering Zinpro IsoFerm, key findings from commercial validation trials and what led to its development.
[Feedinfo] So, Ms. Brown, can you explain what Zinpro IsoFerm is in detail?
[Christi Brown] Zinpro IsoFerm is a breakthrough innovation in dairy ration formulation. As a nutritional source for modern dairy cows, it provides a proprietary blend of branched-chain volatile fatty acids (BCVFAs). Leading university researchers have identified BCVFAs as essential nutrients specific to rumen fiber-digesting bacteria. By enhancing fiber digestibility, cows can thrive with fewer inputs, improving milk production and operational efficiency, often with less dry matter intake.
[Christi Brown] For Zinpro, the work started about eight years ago, building on existing research from the 1980s that showed the performance benefits of BCVFAs but with some significant drawbacks in their application. Dr. Mike Socha, our Associate Director of Product Development, uncovered the research but recognized that it was not commercially viable in large part because of the odor. Dr. Peter Stark, our Director of Product Development, and our team of medicinal chemists developed a proprietary process to mask the smell, which really paved the way for us to introduce this game-changing nutritional ingredient to the industry.
From there, Dr. Socha and Dr. Daryl Kleinschmit, a discovery researcher with our dairy team, conducted numerous controlled research studies with university experts to identify the diet characteristics where Zinpro IsoFerm has the most potential to generate performance and financial benefits for dairy producers. They created the framework that positions dairy nutritionists to bring a new level of diet formulation and precision to their clients.
Dr. Kleinschmit followed up the controlled research by proving the efficacy at the farm level by introducing Zinpro IsoFerm to over 35 commercial dairies and more than 65,000 cows. This enabled Zinpro to fine-tune our recommendations and provided the confidence that we were ready to bring this solution to market.
[Feedinfo] Dr. Tomlinson, can you tell us what the mode of action of Zinpro IsoFerm is and how it fuels the rumen?
[Dana Tomlinson] As Christi mentioned, Zinpro IsoFerm is a unique blend of BCVFAs proven to significantly enhance rumen function by directly feeding fiber-digesting microbes.
Zinpro IsoFerm acts as a carbon source to be utilized with highly digestible protein to produce much-needed microbial protein and energy. This is a primary source of key amino acids and BCVFAs needed for production of milk by the mammary gland. When you feed rumen bacteria directly, cows increase their energy and microbial protein production. This reduces the need for greater dry matter intake and helps cows to increase performance with fewer inputs
Dr. Dana Tomlinson
[Feedinfo] How were you able to prove the efficacy of the product? Can you talk us through some of the commercial validation trials that were conducted and some of the key findings from these?
[Dana Tomlinson] Over the last 30 years, multiple studies have shown the positive benefits of supplementing lactating dairy cattle diets with BCVFAs to enhance rumen performance. When the rumen is not performing at its optimal level, untapped potential exists within the herd.
Research conducted at a private research institute showed decreased dry matter intake, increased energy-corrected milk and improved feed efficiency. Field observations were conducted in more than 35 herds representing over 65,000 cows. Cows receiving Zinpro IsoFerm had on average a 2% reduction in DMI (whole-herd basis) with 4.3% greater energy-corrected milk resulting in a 5.5% improvement in feed efficiency. Optimal responses are seen when cows receive Zinpro IsoFerm from the late dry period through the whole lactation. Supplementing with Zinpro IsoFerm gives you the opportunity to improve feed efficiency without asking the cow to consume more.
This controlled study also showed improved energetic status among multiparous cows receiving Zinpro IsoFerm. While eating less and milking more, they were better able to maintain their body weight in early lactation versus the unsupplemented Control cows (1.2% BW loss versus 3.4% BW loss in Control).
[Feedinfo] What exactly does Zinpro IsoFerm mean for the way dairy rations are formulated? And what does it allow nutritionists to do that they couldn’t previously?
[Justin Howes] Zinpro IsoFerm is truly ushering in the next frontier of dairy nutrition. Decades ago, the industry moved from formulating for crude protein to balancing for specific amino acids. Now is the time for the next advancement. Nutrition professionals have previously known that BCVFAs are essential to the diet for the modern dairy cow, yet they haven’t been readily available for nutritionists to add to diets. Now nutritionists are able to elevate their nutritional mastery by adding this required nutrient to more directly feed fiber-digesting bacteria in the rumen.
Since Zinpro IsoFerm, as a blend of BCVFAs, is a required nutrient, nutritionists can fine-tune their formulation and help ensure the cow is able to do more with less.
Because of the reduction in dry matter intake and the improvement in milk production, the return on investment for the dairy producer is very positive.
When looking to add Zinpro IsoFerm into formulations, we encourage nutritionists to consider the diet characteristics the cows are currently consuming and if the diets are insufficient in BCVFAs. Both are critical to drive optimal performance. This solution creates the opportunity for reduced inputs and improves the management of resources on dairy farms. As the market continues to face challenges, these opportunities are beneficial for both the nutritionist and producer.
[Feedinfo] If you can help reduce dairy ration inputs and improve the management of resources, how does that improve dairy operation profitability?
[Justin Howes] Given the cyclical nature of dairy economics, producers are continually looking for ways to be more efficient, make smarter use of their resources and do more with less. That includes strategies to lower the protein content of diets, improve fiber digestibility and make the rumen work more efficiently to provide the nutrients that the cow needs for optimal performance. In addition to production and performance benefits, there are time, labor and financial savings that come with greater levels of feed efficiency, which drive significant on-farm profitability. Our team at Zinpro is well-positioned to help producers improve this metric.
[Feedinfo] Am I right that you will be rolling out Zinpro IsoFerm in the US first? What markets will you targeting outside the US in the future?
[Justin Howes] Currently, Zinpro IsoFerm is only available in the US. In the future, we will expand our presence into other geographies based on the performance, productivity and sustainability benefits Zinpro IsoFerm can deliver, taking into account local feed systems, types of diet and feedstuffs available. We’ll remain focused on our ability to help a cow become a better cow in each market we enter.
[Feedinfo] Earlier, Mr. Howes said Zinpro IsoFerm is “ushering in the next frontier of dairy nutrition.” What has Zinpro put in place to ensure its correct application?
[Dana Tomlinson] Our leading team of dairy experts at Zinpro can work closely with nutritionists to ensure diets are built to meet the needs of the modern dairy cow. Through our research and trials, we’ve identified the appropriate diet characteristics where Zinpro IsoFerm is the best fit. By improving neutral detergent fiber digestibility, Zinpro IsoFerm increases diet flexibility. This means you can include more forage and non-forage fiber feedstuffs while making smarter use of feed inputs and fine-tuning your diet formulation.
[Christi Brown] Adding to what Dana said, we believe that Zinpro IsoFerm is the proven choice for doing the right thing for the cow, the business and the environment. As a trusted nutrition partner, nutritionists can be confident when choosing Zinpro IsoFerm that it’s backed by the same research, expertise and superior quality that they’ve come to trust from Zinpro.
Published in association with Zinpro Corporation