Common sense beats technology

A cow’s needs can be determined through sound basic observations.

Technology is the doctrine of final causes! And farmers don’t challenge the advice of consultants often enough. The computer must be right and therefore replaces common sense and a basic knowledge of anatomy, physiology and nutrition. An example of this was recently brought home to me. A farmer was spending more than R200 000/year on feed additives in an attempt to solve various problems in his herd.

It was a case of the all-too-familiar ‘throw products at the problem without first establishing the basic cause’ syndrome. Clearly, going back to the future is the answer. Every part of the cow’s anatomy has a definite purpose and physiological function. Hence nutrition and metabolic diseases can be diagnosed from simple basic observations.

To demonstrate the above, I quote from Dr WH Broster’s paper presented at the 75th Annual Conference of the American Dairy Science Association in Blocksbury, Virginia, in 1980. “Applied rigidly, feeding according to yield makes that yield the derivative solely of non-nutritional factors and feed merely a servant to sustain it. In practice, the standard rates of feeding derived from it have tended to achieve an ex cathedra authority, which is a pity, precluding as it does an appraisal of the wider constraints on feed allocation.”

My personal contribution is not limited to dry matter intake alone. Feeding standards include nutrient requirements for cows in different physiological and production states. Maintenance needs are based on these criteria. Do you cater for both the very large, thin cow and the very fat, smaller cow, both with an equal live weight?

Other factors influencing intake include the rate of flow of digesta through the cow. A highly digestible feed will result in higher intakes with the accompanying higher milk yield.

Note: Ex cathedra means ‘from the seat of authority’.

Malcolm Stewart-Burger founded the Society of Master Dairymen and designed the Maxi Milk System. He is currently a part-time consultant to Nutex Feeds and De Heus. Contact Malcolm at [email protected]. Please state ‘Milking for profit’ in the subject line of your email.