This item has been supplied by a forage marketer and has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hay & Forage Grower.

This year’s weather continues to put pressure on forage production and quality. Most dairy producers are dealing with limited forage supplies, high prices for purchased hay, ration digestibility concerns, or all of the above. AB Vista offers new insight and nutrition technologies to stretch forage, increase quality and reduce costs during these difficult times.

Michigan Farm Bureau reports up to 80% alfalfa winterkill losses were reported in Wisconsin and Michigan. Adding to that was the wettest 12-month period on record across the country from Spring 2018 through Spring 2019. This includes extreme flood conditions across much of the Midwest this spring.

“Looking ahead, feeding programs will likely be adjusted to utilize less forage, and account for the reduced quality of much of the available hay and silage,” explains Cathy Bandyk, ruminant technical manager. “In many cases, targeted use of feed technologies will play an important role in enhancing forage utilization and maintaining nutrient supply to the animals.”

AB Vista suggests focusing on two approaches for optimizing use of forage heading into winter. First, look for opportunities to increase breakdown and digestion of fibrous feeds to increase nutrient availability. Additionally, conscientiously optimize the rumen environment to support the fiber digesting microbes, promoting further fiber digestion.

“VistaPre-T falls into the first category,” shares Bandyk. “It works by attacking and roughening the outer surface of feedstuffs, which in turn creates adhesion points for the fungi and bacteria in the rumen.”

This improved nutrient status has been reflected in multiple research settings and farm trials. In dairy cows, outcomes have included improvements in milk yield, components, and milk efficiency, as well as improved rebreeding rates. In replacement heifers, gains and/or efficiency have been significantly improved, with specific responses likely tied to the overall diet.

In a recent trial conducted on a large California dairy, heifers fed VistaPre-T from 80 to 384 days of age exhibited similar gains and frame growth while consuming less feed. This was reflected in more efficient feed conversion and lower feed cost per lb of gain. Over the last 205 d of the trial the heifers receiving VistaPre-T ate 248 lb less than controls (despite a 3-week period of accidental omission of the product from the ration), giving a net ROI of $18 per head for that timeframe.

Canadian research (Refat et al., 2018), evaluating different feeding rates for Vista Pre-T in lactation diets, showed increases in fat-corrected milk production of up to 5.5 lb, accompanied by 10% more milk fat and 2.5% more milk protein. At the same time, these cows improved FCM:DMI from 1.35 to 1.44. These responses were supported by significant increases in measured digestibility of NDF and total dry matter. These outcomes are particularly valuable when the goal is to stretch the nutritional capacity of forage.

Live yeast is one of AB Vista’s most reliable and proven tools for improving the environment for the beneficial microorganisms in the rumen, and it’s another strategy for enhancing utilization of roughages. Yeasts feed and stimulate desirable rumen bacteria and fungi, while at the same time they inhibit lactate production and increase lactate utilization, which helps moderate rumen pH.

Another important role of a live yeast product is scavenging oxygen that can harm these microbes. Additionally, yeasts adsorb many toxins and pathogens, preventing them from harming the animal. This may be of special concern if weather continues to challenge our ability to put up good silage.

AB Vista encourages producers to evaluate tools that offer opportunities to stretch supplies and support production as they make needed changes in their feeding programs.