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News Article

Nutritional alternatives for increasing cattle productivity in intensive farming

Improving the productivity of cattle in intensive farming requires not only increasing meat or milk production, but also controlling diseases, such as ruminal acidosis, which causes a high mortality and negatively affects productivity.

In a study carried out at the Sao Paulo State University (UNESP) in Brazil, cattle nutritionists, Danilo Domingues Millen and Cassiele Aparecida de Oliveira, identified acidosis in 37.5% of feedlot cattle which represents the second most important health problem after respiratory disorders.

"We conducted three studies in 2009, 2011 and 2015 based on surveys containing nearly 80 technical questions directed at nutritionists who work with feedlot cattle all over Brazil," Millen was quoted as saying. “The first study involved 31 nutritionists and the other two studies involved 33 nutritionists each who are responsible for approximately 90% of all feedlot cattle in Brazil."

The studies  indicated that the use of feed concentrate has increased continuously since 2009. This means that cattle are fed higher quantities of carbohydrates, which are converted into lactic acid in the rumen  and used as the source of energy for producing milk or weigh gaint. "Acid needs to be formed so it can be absorbed through the wall of the rumen, go to the liver and be used by the animal as energy," according to Millen. "In order to increase productivity, the feed needs to have better quality products, but these products are also carbohydrates that ferment very quickly, so that the animal gains more weight and produces more milk faster, and this cannot be done through grazing."

Carbohydrates rich diets, however, lead to problems such as acidosis, which is caused by the excess of fermentation. "When the acid production rate is much higher than the absorption rate, a disorder known as tympanism occurs as a result of acidosis, and the animal becomes bloated by the abnormal accumulation of gases in the stomach. The rumen increases in size and the animal experiences difficulty breathing and can die."

One alternative to alleviate this problem is to use feed additives, which reduce the amount of acid produced in the rumen.

"Our group has researched additives, which are micro-ingredients administered to the animals in doses of 1 to 2 g per day. These additives play a beneficial role in fermentation in the rumen. The acids produced in the rumen include weak acids and strong acids. Weak acids are more beneficial in helping the animals gain weight and produce milk. These acids have less capacity to reduce pH. However, lactic acid is a strong acid and the animal has less ability to absorb lactic acid,"  according to Millen.

"We use additives such as ionophores, which are soluble in lipids, to kill some of the bacteria that lead to the production of lactic acid. By using these additives, we can control the production of lactic acid and the animal is much less likely to have acidosis and tympanism," according to Milen.

Most feedlot cattle producers in Brazil nowadays use ionophores in the feed.

Millen's group has found the evidence which indicates that Nelore cattle may be more sensitive to acidosis than other breeds, such as those produced in the United States and Europe. Future studies will investigate cattle adaptation mechanisms, such as an ideal transition time with regard to grazing in containment areas.

"Fourteen days is the minimum window we have observed for removing the animal from pasture and ensuring that it eats 80 to 85% concentrate. It is the interval for transitioning the animal - changing its diet gradually in an effort to prevent digestive problems like acidosis," according to Millen.

Further reading: Using wheat as an energy source for beef cattle


Article details

  • Author(s)
  • M Djuric, DVM
  • Date
  • 02 October 2017
  • Source
  • São Paulo Research Foundation, Brazil
  • Subject(s)
  • Animal nutrition