Why D0 Nutritionists’ Reject Animal Wisdom?

 I have often wondered why more main–stream livestock nuritionists do not embrace the concept of animal nutritional wisdom and shun the use of cafeteria-style mineral feeding. 

      When questioned about this, many will opine, “Well, animals in the wild may have done this, but domestic animals have been bred-up to the point they have lost this ability.”

    Some will  point out our domestic animals often overeat grain or protein supplements. This is true because these feeds are not inherently natural to ruminants.  They rarely, if ever, overeat pasture or minerals. 

      Others nutritionists and dairymen give lip service to the need for a better way to quickly adjust for the ever changing mineral needs of animals but continue to reject self-select, cafeteria-style mineral feeding — possibly because of peer group pressure to conform to conve±ntional industry standards.

    I do not deny nutritionists are able to wring out a lot of milk from  a herd of cows – but at a huge cost when one considers the average dairy cow in our country is ‘burned-out’ at an early age and rarely completes even two lactations. 

      Modern nutritionists rely heavily on computer generated Total Mixed Rations (TMR). Using data from feed testing is entered into the ration balancing program. These figures may indicate chemical composotion bu not necessarily bio-availability.  A ration is then generated that conforms to the nutrient requirement tables published by the NRC (National Research Council). These recommendations may or may not be applicable to the situation at hand.  The computer ‘crunches the numbers’ and  spits out a recommended ration that purports to meet the nutritional needs of all the cows in the group. 

      Upon receipt of the print-out, the dairyman or his workers still must assemble the feed stuffs, properly measure and mix the ingredient, deliver the final ration to a feed bunk adequate to accommodate all the cows.  This series of steps is fraught with opportunities for mistakes.  What the cows actually get into their metabolism may bear little resemblance to the computer print-out,    Check out:  http://www.dochollidaysblog.com/docs-blog/what-are-you-really-feeding.html

     The problem is that a TMR fails to allow for variagion in individual nutritional needs. There is no such thing as an “average” cow.  With a TMR only a few cows may get precisely what they need – but some get too much of one thing or another and others get too little.   When thinking about averages consider this:  “If you have one foot in boiling boiling water and one foot in freeezing water—on the average your feet are comfortable.”

     The bottom line is there is no way to ascertain and correct the nutritional state of the animals unless and until obvious signs of malnutrition occur.  If I were a dairyman or a dairy nutrtionist I would insist on the presence of a full array of separate self-select minerals. 

    A properly installed and managed cafeteria-style mineral feeding system provides many benefits.

  • It is an excellent method to insue precise balanced mineral intake for each individual animals. It immediately adjusts for changes in the daily and seasonal needs of the individuals in the herd.  
  • It is a safety net and diagnostic tool that hi-lights problems associated with mineral imbalances caused by changing feed or environmental conditions.

    I think we should continue to use our accumulated scientific knowledge when compounding rations for animals, and also letting our animals exhibit  their nutritional wisdom to fine-tune the computer generated ration — thus combining the best of the two concepts.