More than 40 percent of feed samples are suboptimal in terms of digestibility, microbial protein production and fiber digestion rates, according to a one-year analysis at Alltech’s In Vitro Fermentation Model (IFM) laboratory.

IFM is a practical diagnostic tool to evaluate and troubleshoot total mixed rations (TMR) to achieve optimal rumen fermentation and utilization of the feed. In 2014, the IFM Laboratory, located in Brookings, South Dakota, processed more than 400 dairy lactation TMR samples, originating from North America (85 percent) and other dairies from around the world (15 percent).

The evaluation of these samples indicated wide differences among feeds reflecting variability in feeding systems, types of ingredients, and quality of feeds.

“More than 40 percent of the samples had suboptimal fermentation parameters including digestibility, microbial protein production and fiber digestion rates. These are critical factors required to optimize dairy productivity,” said Dr. Kamal Mjoun, research scientist at the Alltech IFM Lab in Brookings. “The interpretation of the IFM profiles allows us to identify the nutritional limitations of a given TMR, such as nutrient/ingredient imbalances, lack of soluble nutrients (carbohydrates and proteins), and forage quality. We can use the data obtained from IFM to suggest practical measures to correct these deficiencies and ultimately improve feed efficiency.”

Using IFM technology, feed samples are incubated within a standardized rumen fluid and buffer system to mimic natural rumen fermentation in an oxygen-free environment. IFM then measures gas production, identifies TMR inefficiencies and provides additional information on the nutritive value of the feed.

As digestion progresses, volumes of fermentation gases such as methane and carbon dioxide are also continuously monitored using an automated system. The Carbon Trust, an organization that measures and certifies the environmental footprint of organizations, supply chains and products, recently verified that IFM is an effective tool for estimating farm-specific enteric methane emission from specific feeds.

In February, Alltech acquired The E-CO2 Project Limited (E-CO2)—a leading provider of on-farm environmental assessments and programs—to strengthen its service offering to livestock producers. Recent environmental assessment work conducted by Alltech on 58 dairy units across Europe has shown just how much farm efficiency improvements can boost profitability, while also reducing the carbon footprint of the enterprise. In the study, carried out utilizing E-CO2 environmental tools, various herd efficiency improvements delivered an extra €238 (270 USD) per cow per year, while also achieving a significant drop in the level of CO2 emitted.

IFM and Alltech E-CO2 will be further discussed during Dairy: Today’s Greatest Business Opportunity, part of Alltech REBELation, an event exploring innovation, inspiration and world-changing ideas in Lexington, Ky., USA, from May 16-20.