A DAIRY farmer in Herefordshire is driving milk yields by feeding fats to his herd.

David Manning is feeding a combination of palmitic acid (C16), and protected fat to his 440 cow herd at New Cross Farm, Bromyard.

Feeding fats like palmitic acid, which is found naturally in palm oil and palm kernel oil, as well as in butter, cheese, milk and meat and is one of the most common saturated fatty acids found in animals and plants, helps boost milk fat and improve fibre digestion.

Different fatty acids have different effects on milk production and body weight.

It’s a science that will form a focus at this year’s TotalDairy Seminar in June and something David and herd manager Doug Hume have embraced to make sure the herd reaches its potential.

By combining fat supplementation with regimental attention to feed management and transition cow care, the herd is yielding 39 litres per cow per day at 3.7 per cent butterfat, with a calving interval of 390 days.

With cows working to the best of their genetic potential, David and Doug are keen that every element of the system works at its optimum.

Ration balance and presentation is part of that mix, with the use of supplementary fats viewed as an important means of meeting cow requirements by maximising the ration’s “power per mouthful.”

“If you’ve got high yielding cows, feeding fats is really the only way you can get a high inclusion of energy into the diet. We have a trench of cows doing 60 litres plus. They require a hell of a lot of energy to maintain themselves and get back in calf. You have to make what they eat is as energy dense as possible as a cow can only eat so much. Fats allow you to do that,” explained Doug.

The fact the diet delivers enough energy to meet the cow’s requirements means performance does not come at the detriment of body condition or fertility.

Transition cow management is viewed as one of the most important factors in achieving good performance.

Fresh cows are managed in a dedicated straw yard for the first week to allow close monitoring. Feed refusals are also tracked on a printed spreadsheet so the team is able to track intakes and double check transition cows are eating what they are rationed for.

Doug added: “You want her to maintain body condition and get back in calf, preferably within 100 days, and you need a high density ration to do that. And you need a good transition ration. If you don’t get that right, it will all fall to pieces.”

It will be preventing unwelcome dips in milk fats and understanding the effects of feeding different milk fat supplements on yield and constituents that will be up for discussion at the TotalDairy Seminar, which take place at Keele University in Staffordshire.

North Devon-born farmer’s son, Professor Adam Lock from Michigan State University will be drawing on the latest global research surrounding milk fat management as part of a series of workshops and lectures at the event on June 14 and 15.

As usual, delegates will be able to choose which seminars or workshops they would like to attend, depending on their area of interest, with dedicated sessions for farmers and advisors.

A number of expert speakers from around the world will be speaking at the seminar, which will focus on three key themes; nutrition, fertility and youngstock.

Prof Lock will be joined by some other leading ruminant nutrition experts including Michael Ballou of Texas Tech University and independent consultant, Ric Grummer, from the US, who will cover various nutritional topics, including transition cow management.

With more and more milk contracts rewarding for milk fat, Prof Lock’s presentations will provide practical tips for farmers to maximise returns through rationing and herd management. New research surrounding the impact of feeding different types of fatty acids to achieve varying results will also be discussed.

Prof Lock explained: “We’re starting to understand that different fatty acids have a different biological effect on the cow. So we need to think about the different fatty acids that fat supplements are providing and the different effects these may have on milk production and body weight.”

For example, feeding palmitic acid helps drive milk fat and improves fibre digestion. Some other protected fat products also include oleic acid which helps milk yield and body condition.

Find out more, see the full speaker line-up and book tickets at www.totaldairy.com and follow @TotalDairy on Twitter.