VIDEO: How the updated NRC will affect dairy cow rations

Learn how the updated Nutrition Requirements for Dairy Cattle (NRC) will change dairy feed formulations and rations.

Here’s how changes to the yet-to-be-released updated Nutrient Requirements for Dairy Cattle (NRC) will likely alter dairy feed formulations

After 20 years, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) will soon release the revised 8th edition of the Nutrient Requirements for Dairy Cattle, also known as the Dairy NRC.

The much-anticipated resource will provide updates based on decades of research and the latest recommendations for optimizing dairy rations for production and health. While the volume hasn’t been officially released yet, nutritionists and other stakeholders received a preview at the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) Discover event, held August 30 through September 2.

Dr. Adam Geiger, Zinpro dairy research nutritionist, joined the Chat to share some of the highlights and what they mean for dairy rations and feed formulations.

In the meantime, pre-order your copy of Nutrient Requirements for Dairy Cattle today.

Transcription of Feed Strategy Chat with Dr. Adam Geiger, dairy research nutritionist, Zinpro

Jackie Roembke, editor in chief, WATT Feed Brands/Feed Strategy: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Feed Strategy Chat. I’m your host, Jackie Roembke, editor in chief of WATT Feed Brands and Feed Strategy magazine.

This edition of Feed Strategy Chat is brought to you by WATT Global Media and is your source for the latest news and leading-edge analysis of the global animal feed industry.

Today we’re joined on zoom by Dr. Adam Geiger, a dairy research nutritionist with Zinpro. He’s here to discuss the updated Nutrient Requirements for Dairy Cattle, also known as the Dairy NRC, and what it means to dairy nutritionists and rations.

Hi Dr. Geiger, how are you today?

Geiger: Hey, I’m doing good. How are you doing?

Roembke: I’m doing well. Thank you so much.

So after 20 years, the updated dairy NRC should be released sometime in the coming months. Why was it revised? And from your understanding, what can nutritionists expect and what will the most substantial change be?

Geiger: Yeah, well, first off, thanks for having me today. I really appreciate it. And I think the one thing we can all agree on with the Dairy NRC is we’re excited for it to arrive. It’s long overdue. It’s exciting to see the changes that are coming. And, you know, when we think about what’s coming, there’s going to be some substantial changes and that is partly going to be due to the fact that the way in which reviewing and looking at the animal with this new release of the NRC is going to change some.

They’ve made updates to a lot of the equations that we use to predict dry matter intake. They’ve made predictions as to how we account for disease and different things. And they’ve also made some changes as to how we look at and feed whole segments of the animal in her lifetime, such as the heifer, you know, the heifer version, or life stage has gotten a lot of revision as well.

So what does that mean? Well, the fact that dry matter intakes and things like that, those equations are getting updated. That means we’re going to see changes to what the animal needs to produce milk at optimum efficiency, and what she needs to consume to be healthy and do her best day in and day out.

So when we look at what rations look like in the future — what things look like on paper — there’s going to be some changes coming and so we all need to be aware of that.

Roembke: To dig a little deeper, do you have any examples of what kind of changes might be coming down the pipeline?

Geiger: Yeah, that’s a great question. We don’t know the exact specifics of what’s all coming because they are still working on finalizing a lot of these equations. But I work a lot with trace minerals, for example, and we know there are some changes coming to how we formulate rations and the levels of trace minerals that we feed animals. A lot of this also comes from the research that’s been published in the last 20 years and where things are headed.

So for those listeners that have been kind of keeping up with the research or reading, you know, up on these things, they’re going to maybe know that some of these changes are coming as well.

But from a trace mineral perspective, we know that the requirement that the animal has for zinc and manganese, for example, that’s going to go up. And anybody that is involved in the trace mineral space at all is very familiar with the term copper and how much attention copper has gotten lately. The requirement for copper is going to most likely decrease.

So when you see your rations, you know, in the future, or when you see some of the things that your nutritionists are doing, don’t be surprised when you see that we’re feeding higher levels of zinc and manganese, for example, and maybe we pull back the copper a little bit.

Pre-order the 8th edition of the Nutrient Requirements for Dairy Cattle

Roembke: How would changes like that potentially impact feed costs? Or what kinds of strategies could nutritionists take to keep them down?

Geiger: Yeah, you know, whenever we’re making any change, right, there’s always a risk to changes in feed costs. Luckily, when we’re talking about trace minerals, they’re a relatively small aspect of the diet so feed costs may increase slightly. I wouldn’t expect it to be anything massive, but at the same time, you’re also potentially reducing some things as well.

I always like to look at it in terms of, “What is it doing for your animal?” Right? And is that potentially small change in feed costs, is that justified? And absolutely, when we look at the role that some of these different things play in the body, keeping animals healthy, helping her to maintain efficiency, and produce more milk, I think that those small increases in production costs, if they do occur, are absolutely going to be justified. And the return you get is more than going to make up for those potential increases in costs.

Roembke: You mentioned the importance of the role of trace minerals and rations. Can you just briefly recap some of those areas and why it’s important to pay closer attention to these things and dairy production?

Geiger: Certainly, you know, the reason that we’re so focused on supplementing trace minerals, for example, there are minerals that are an element of the diet that are needed in relatively small quantities, but the animal’s not getting enough from the background diet. So we have to supplement those things on a daily basis to ensure that the animal gets enough of what she needs.

If we look at some of these minerals in specific, say, for example, zinc, zinc is intimately involved in immune function. We know that it’s involved in over 300 different enzyme pathways within the body, most of which relate directly to immune function. So making sure to provide enough zinc is going to be critical to make sure that we maintain the health of the animals.

These cows are like world class athletes, right? We’re asking them to do a lot. They’re eating more feed than they used to — and they’re producing a lot more milk than they used to — and they’re incredibly efficient. So it’s important that we are supplying these animals with critical nutrients that they need to perform at their maximum and maintain proper health and performance.

Roembke: Thank you very much for those insights. While the dairy NRC isn’t quite available yet, you can pre-order it and it’ll come your way as soon as it is. So thank you again for your time, Dr. Geiger, and thanks to you for tuning in.

Geiger: Yes, thanks, Jackie. I appreciate your time.