Digestibility of corn in corn silage is at its lowest at harvest. It finally reaches its peak sometime around the first of March. Between now and early March, dairymen looking to increase early lactation and overall milk production in their herds must get the right balance of digestible starch into the rumen of their cows.
There are three ways to do that:1) overfeed corn, 2) add sources of sugars to the cows’ diets, and 3) use steam flaked corn in the rations of lactating dairy cows.
Overfeeding corn, either dry or high moisture, is unpredictable and can be very unhealthy. It has lower starch digestibility, so a higher percent of the corn will pass through undigested. Overfeeding corn can lead to milk component suppression and other negative consequences like acidosis.
Adding sources of sugars such as whey permeate, molasses products, or commodity sugar does work. Sugar rapidly digests in the rumen and enhances fiber digestion. It also has a positive effect on milk production and milk components. However, these sources are unpredictable. They are all commodities, and you don’t know from load to load if the nutritional specs are the same.
Steam flaked corn is available from the Countryside Cooperative feed mill at Menomonie. Farmers can bring in their own dry corn and have it processed, or purchase steam flaked corn. It’s a predictable product and a very good source of digestible starch that enhances milk production and milk components and is palatable to cows.
Steam flaked corn is easy to handle and can be incorporated into pretty much any protein mix. The drawback to using steam flaked corn is finding the right balance to feed. I find that 5-10 lbs. per cow per day works well. It increases early lactation milk and really helps those fresh cows come out to a fast start. But each dairy diet is different.
At Countryside Cooperative, we take samples of your forage for analysis and tailor-make rations for your individual farm and goals.