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UK manufacturing and liquid milk contracts see +40 percent ROI when feeding rumen-protected fats

Feed efficiency, fertility improvements and milk production contribute to a +40 percent return on investment when feeding rumen-protected fats with milk at 40ppl


At a milk spot price of 40ppl, UK dairy farmers can see a return on investment of 40 percent when feeding high-C16:0 feed fat supplements on manufacturing milk contracts and a return on investment of 42 percent when feeding calcium salt feed fat supplements on liquid contracts.


These figures come from a performance-to-financial correlation model developed by Volac Wilmar Feed Ingredients that weighs current feed prices and milk contracts against recent research data on cow performance when feeding rumen-protected fat supplements in either calcium salt or high-C16:0 form.


“The continuous rise in feed commodity prices have many UK dairy farmers evaluating their rations for cost saving cutbacks. When looking down the feed budget sheet, feed fat supplements are going to be one of the big sticker items,” says Paul Fransen, the model developer and Business Development Manager for Volac Wilmar Feed Ingredients. “Research shows that fat and specific fatty acids influence multiple areas of cow production influencing profitability, so any changes to the ration needs to be calculated carefully and cautiously to prevent costly production or fertility consequences.”


The influence of fat and fatty acids on cow performance


The return on investment when feeding rumen-protected fat supplements is multifactorial as a result of the various areas of cow performance the nutrient influences, says Dr Richard Kirkland, ruminant nutritionist and Global Technical Manager for Volac Wilmar Feed Ingredients.


As a macronutrient, fat is energy dense with 500g of a fat supplement like Megalac increasing energy density by 0.5 MJ/kg DM. It is also a ‘safe’ ingredient in the rumen as it isn’t fermented like cereals so supplies energy without increasing risk of acidosis. In rumen-protected form, fat doesn’t interfere with fibre digestion which otherwise reduces feed efficiency and can lead to milk fat depression.


“Energy density benefits are seen particularly in early lactation rations as milk yield increases rapidly post-calving while dry matter and energy intakes rise at a slower rate. This leads to an ‘energy gap’ in early lactation when cows mobilise body fat and lose condition to supply the energy shortfall,” explains Dr Kirkland. “There is a clear correlation between loss of body condition through early lactation and conception rate to first service – with research indicating conception rate decreases by 10 percent for every 0.5-unit loss in body condition when measured on a five-point scale.”


Established UK research reported 9.4 fewer days open when cows were supplemented with Megalac compared to a non-fat supplemented ration, and a numerical 19-day reduction was recorded in a further study from the University of Edinburgh. Costs per additional day open vary but typically range from around £2.50 to upwards of £5 per day depending on a range of cost elements.


Looking at specific fatty acid profiles, research from Dr Adam Lock’s group at Michigan State University, USA (MSU), has found that individual fatty acids partition nutrients to different areas of cow performance throughout the lactation cycle.


Oleic (C18:1) acid helps partition nutrients toward body fat stores, reducing body condition loss in the critical early lactation period while also improving production. C18:1 also improves total fat digestibility and can enhance fertility through improved egg and embryo development. For improving milk fat production and yield, C16:0 has been found very beneficial, however, research shows increased production in early lactation can come at the expense of additional body condition and weight loss so can be risky in early lactation.


Using meta-analyses data for ROI model inputs


Key inputs for the model, including expected milk yield, milk composition and feed efficiency, come from two recent meta-analyses led by Research Associate Dr José dos Santos Neto in Dr Lock’s group looking at the effects that fatty acids supplied in either calcium salt or high-C16:0 form have on nutrient digestibility and production responses of lactating dairy cows.


High-C16:0 supplements deliver high concentrations of the milk fat-boosting palmitic acid (C16:0), says Dr dos Santos Neto. In the meta-analysis, Dr dos Santos Neto analysed 32 different research publications with fat supplements containing a minimum 80 percent of C16:0 fatty acids. These fat supplements were found to increase milk yield by 1.60kg per cow per day, milk fat percentage by 0.18 and protein by 0.02 percent, with no change in dry matter intake. For a typical UK dairy farm this means an increase of 0.10 FPCM/kg DMI (fat and protein corrected milk), resulting in improved feed efficiency.


Calcium salts of fatty acids are commonly used in the dairy industry. These products combine fatty acids with calcium ions producing a rumen-insoluble supplement, with Megalac containing a fatty acid composition of ~48% C16:0 and ~36% cis-9 C18:1. In this meta-analysis, Dr dos Santos Neto analysed 33 studies with a maximum calcium salt inclusion rate of 3 percent of ration dry matter. He found an increase in milk yield of 1.53kg per cow per day and increased feed efficiency. For a typical UK dairy farm the result translates to an increase of 0.9 FPCM/kg DMI.


“The differences in the fatty acid compositions of these two types of fat supplements result in the high-C16:0 formulations being more beneficial for milk composition, for example,” explains Dr dos Santos Neto.


Calculating ROI and breakeven


Using milk payout data from AHDB, the model assumes manufacturing contracts pay an extra 10.4 percent for every 1 percent increase in butterfat and 13.3 percent for every 1 percent increase in protein. In liquid contracts, an additional 5.1 percent is awarded for every 1 percent of butterfat. This is based off a set milk spot price of 40ppl.


Along with taking into account outlined findings from the MSU meta-analyses, the model conservatively uses 10 days of reduction in calving interval and cost of open days at £3/cow/open day. This is weighed against total costs of the lactation diet, with feed fat supplements at current market prices of £1,400 per tonne of calcium salts and £1,600 per tonne of high-C16:0.


“Mega-Fat 88, which is a high-C16:0 fat supplement, had a 40 percent return on investment when fed on a manufacturing contract and a 20 percent return on investment on a liquid contract. If milk prices are bumped to 50ppl on a manufacturing contract, there would then be a 72 percent return on investment when feeding a high-C16:0 supplement,” explains Mr Fransen.


When on a manufacturing contract, Megalac, a calcium salt supplement, had a 30 percent return on investment, which went up to 50 percent with a milk price increase to 50ppl. However, the increase in milk yield and feed efficiency, if combined with a fertility improvement, resulted in a 42 percent return on investment on the liquid contract at 40ppl.


According to the model, at a base of 40ppl, feeding fat supplements remains cost effective below £1,990 per tonne for calcium salts and below £2,250 per tonne for high-C16:0.


“The model shows the importance of feeding the right kind of fat supplement according to contract specifications to maximise return,” says Mr Fransen. “It also shows the wider context in what areas fat is contributing to overall cow performance.”


To calculate your own return on investment for feeding fat supplements in rations, contact Volac Wilmar Feed Ingredients at

Join us for the 2022 Royal Welsh Show

Monday 18th – Thursday 21st July

We can’t wait to welcome you all back onsite at the showground in Llanelwedd for this years’ Royal Welsh Show!

Along with an exciting four-days of livestock competitions, with entries travelling from far and wide to compete, the show has something to interest everyone through its wide range of activities including forestry, horticulture, crafts, countryside sports, shopping, food and drink and a 12-hour programme each day of exciting entertainment, attractions and displays.

Please note: With the exception of assistance dogs, dogs are not permitted within the showground perimeter fence during the Royal Welsh Show.

Family farming business of the year

At the heart of many farms lie the families behind them who, through generations, have developed the business to help secure its place in years to come.

As a family, you will be able to clearly demonstrate a shared vision of where the business is going and who is responsible for the different areas core to the farm. You will also be able to confidently identify short and long-term business challenges and work collectively to overcome them and develop new ideas and efficiencies. Succession planning will also be part of your future to help safeguard the family farm.

Please click the button below to submit your nomination.

UK’s top scientists join forces to battle bird flu outbreaks

Some of the UK’s top scientists are to set to join forces in a major new research consortium in the UK’s battle against bird flu.

The eight-strong consortium, headed by the world-leading research team at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), has received £1.5 million from the Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and has been tasked with developing new strategies to tackle future bird flu outbreaks.

This year’s bird flu outbreak has been the largest and longest ever experienced in the UK and in many parts of Europe. The outbreak started earlier than previous years after the virus continued to circulate in Europe over summer 2021 and led to more than 100 cases in the UK.

It is hoped the consortium will be able to find new ways to contain future outbreaks. The news will be a significant boost to the UK’s poultry sector and rural economy, which has experienced significant disruption from this year’s outbreak with compulsory indoor housing measures put in place to protect poultry from this horrible disease.

The consortium will focus on building our understanding in a number of key areas, including:

  • what it is about the current virus strains that helps them to form larger and longer outbreaks;

  • understanding transmission and infection in different bird populations, including how the virus transmits from wild birds to farmed poultry, the gaps in biosecurity that allow the virus to penetrate premises, and how this could be addressed;

  • mapping and modelling the spread of infection over time and across species;

  • why some birds, such as ducks, are more resistant to bird flu strains;

  • developing models to predict how the viruses will evolve and spread in the future; and

  • inform risk mitigation measures in birds to reduce disease burden thereby protecting against zoonotic transmission occurring from animals to humans, to prevent future spillovers of influenza with pandemic potential into humans.

Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s chief veterinary officer, said: “This new consortium will allow us to combine our expertise at a national level to increase the speed and quality of our research, ensuring we can develop new strategies to aid our efforts against this insidious disease and hopefully in time reduce the impact on the poultry sector.”

Professor Ian Brown, APHA’s head of virology and project manager, added: “This investment in a new research consortium will bring together the greatest minds from eight world-leading British institutions to address gaps in our understanding of bird flu, helping us to control the spread of the disease, while furthering UK animal health science and ensuring we maintain our world-leading reputation in the field.”

Five-year warranty adds security for Suffolk contractor

With 30 years’ experience producing high-quality forage, Suffolk contractor Brian White knows what he wants from his tractors and machinery.

“Weather extremes in recent years have made it much tougher to make high quality hay and haylage,” explains Brian who runs BW Forage from Pond Farm House, Capel St Mary, near Ipswich. “Timeliness is everything, which means having productive and reliable kit at your disposal.”

Part of that philosophy has seen recent investment in a new Kubota M7-133, with front linkage and pto, and an LK2100H loader, supplied by local dealer HOS Plant.

“My previous tractor and loader, an 8,000-hour JD 6520, was bought with 2,500 hours on the clock,” he says. “It was a good tractor, but when the time came to change, a like-for-like replacement had only a one-year warranty, and a considerable price increase. I was resigned to buying another secondhand tractor, until HOS Plant introduced me to the Kubota M7.”

“The M7-133 came with a five-year warranty, and a very sensible purchase price, and both are very important to me,” he says. “The cost-saving could let me invest in other equipment – and that’s important for my business.”

Brian admits that the Kubota was not his first choice for a 130hp tractor, but now with 500 hours on the clock, he says it has fitted in well.

“It’s actually a wonderful tractor, and it’s enabled me to move up from 40kph to a 50kph transmission,” he says. “Cab comfort is superb, visibility to the pickup hitch is great, and the loader is absolutely brilliant. I’ve always had MX loaders – they are familiar, strong and easy to control. So that was something I was keen to stay with.”

With the focus on producing several thousand round and square bales for livestock and equestrian customers, Brian says the LK loader comfortably handles pairs of 90×120 square bales without the need for any rear wheel weights.

“The tractor is very stable, it’s got good balance,” he adds. “And I’m pleased that I don’t need to add rear wheel weights.”

Having front linkage and PTO in the specification was essential for high output mowing.

“I use a front and rear plain disc combination, so I can drop a lot of grass quickly, and make the most of the weather conditions,” he says.

He adds that backup and support from HOS Plant is good, and views his relationship with the dealer as an essential part of support when it comes to servicing and reliability.

“I’ve had great reliability in the past with Daihatsu and Isuzu 4x4s over the years, so the Japanese engineering had an influence,” he says. “Everybody knows Kubota diggers are very good, so their tractors should be too.”

Fertility focus at Royal Highland Show

Herd monitoring technology improves conception rates through accurate heat detection and optimised insemination timing


STANLEY, U.K., 13th June 2022 – With the use of sexed semen to breed replacement heifers and accelerate the genetic progression of dairy and beef herds becoming increasing commonplace, Allflex Livestock Intelligence’s focus at this year’s Royal Highland Show (Ingliston, Edinburgh, 23rd – 26th June 2022) will be to showcase the role of technology in ensuring conception rates from sexed semen remain on par with those from conventional semen.


“Because the sorting process can make sexed semen slightly less durable than conventional semen, conception rates from the former tend to lag 10-15% behind those typically achieved from conventional inseminations,” explains Paul Mitcham, Allflex’s monitoring sales manager in the UK.


“For this reason, as well as safeguarding its viability by ensuring sexed semen is stored and handled with care and precision, it is also vital that sexed semen is used at the optimum timing. For conventional semen the general rule of thumb is for artificial insemination to take place at around 8 to 14 hours after peak heat, but for sexed semen this should be delayed to between 14 and 20 hours.


“Relying on visual heat detection makes it difficult to determine exactly when each heat starts,” Paul continues, “which is why more and more herd managers are turning to technology to accurately detect the onset of oestrus.”


The advanced electronics housed within the latest generation of Allflex’s SenseHub collars and monitoring ear tags have been proven to accurately and reliably detect more than 95% of heats, including the majority of silent heats in dairy and beef herds. “This information is subsequently relayed to the herd manager or AI technician as easy to interpret graphs and text alerts to ensure each animal, irrespective of whether she is ear-marked to receive sexed or conventional semen, is inseminated at the optimum time. As such, each animal will have a higher chance of conceiving,” Paul Mitcham adds.


“To help dairy and beef farmers understand more about how technology can improve their herds’ fertility scores from sexed semen, Allflex’s team of herd monitoring experts will be at the Royal Highland Show to showcase the SenseHub system and to offer practical heat detection and insemination timing advice.”


The Allflex stand will also showcase the company’s portfolio of livestock tagging, tissue sampling, electronic identification (EID), weighing and handling equipment including the Alligator Pro mobile sheep handling system.


For more information go to or visit the Allflex stand (Stand T 311) at the Royal Highland Show .