How NIS Superfibre Balances A Cow’s Diet
In cattle, starches and sugars can ferment quickly in the rumen, causing acidic conditions which damage the papilla lining the rumen wall and kill the bacteria that break down the fibre. This condition is referred to as acidosis. Adding NIS to the diet slows fermentation, prevents acid peaks and enables the rumen to extract more nutrients.
Acidosis is an uncomfortable or even painful condition, which manifests in a number of symptoms and has a long term detrimental effect on health. In addition, the ability of the animal to convert feed into production is severely restricted. This means acidosis also has severe economic consequences.
To reduce the risk of acidosis, the ruminant must obtain as much nutrition as possible from slowly fermenting forage.
However, the modern dairy cow, for example, often requires more energy than she can obtain from fibre alone. Therefore energy is increasingly delivered by feeding starch (such as milled cereals, wholecrop cereal or maize silage) and/or sugar (as in spring grass, high D-value silage, molasses or sugar beet pulp). These ferment quickly and contain low levels of effective fibre, potentially leading to acidosis.
The usual route to correct this is to either maximise energy intake while maintaining sufficient fibre levels to avoid acidosis – or maximise forage intake whilst maintaining sufficient energy intake to achieve potential production. Traditional methods of correcting acidosis can be summarised as feeding chopped straw or high-fibre cake, or adding a rumen buffer or bypass fats to the feed.
But it’s a fine balance, and can mean animals are very susceptible to any changes in the environment or forage. Estimates vary as to the percentage of the national dairy herd suffering from sub-acute ruminal acidosis in the UK, but studies from abroad suggest as many as 25% of cows could be experiencing the condition at any one time.
Current trials indicate that removing some or all chopped straw, rumen buffers, yeast and bypass fats from the ration, and replacing them with 1.5 times more NIS than the quantity of straw removed, will increase DMI, milk yield, butterfat yield while reducing feed costs. It also reduces the risk of cows sorting the diet.
Adding NIS can also dilute any changes to other forage components of the diet, for example when moving from second to first cut silage in housed cows or when turning cows out on high sugar spring grass.