How to recognise and prevent problems with the acidity of the rumen
The conditions in a cow’s rumen must be optimal for the proper conversion of feed into milk. A good protein-energy ratio is important here, as is the acidity level (pH). The optimum pH for the rumen of a cow lies between 6 and 7. If this is not achieved and the pH is disturbed for a long time, the costs for you as a dairy farmer can mount up considerably.
What is the risk of a disturbed rumen pH?
With a disturbed pH, the pH is below 5.8. There is then a risk that the necessary rumen flora will partially die off. This is a problem because a healthy rumen flora is essential for the conversion of feed into usable nutrients. The degree of acidity in the rumen determines the activity of all the micro-organisms which break down the feed into nutrients. With a low pH in the rumen, starch and sugars can be digested better, but fibre less well. This is not a desirable situation because these fibres are so important for your dairy cattle. This therefore has a negative influence on feed efficiency and with it a negative impact on the productivity of your cow.
How do you recognise rumen acidity?
Disturbed rumen acidity often occurs in the first three months of lactation. Twenty per cent of dairy cows experience this. You can recognise this problem by thin manure, undigested manure and acidic smelling manure. Also, most cows do not want to lie down anymore and remain standing. In addition, when they do lie down, the cows often lie with their heads on their stomach. This is because they experience discomfort due to the problems in the rumen. They also have a dull coat
In addition to these physical symptoms, there are also indications on the milk recording results which can indicate a rumen pH level that is too low. This can be seen when the milk fat percentage is lower than 3.8% or when the fat percentage is lower than the protein percentage. An AHV Specialist will be pleased to help you go through and assess your milk recording results. Together with you they will look for deviating results and give attention to the cows that need it. The aim of this is to identify any problems for you and your cow at an early stage.
Ruminating and maintaining saliva production
Carbohydrates in the feed are converted in the rumen into volatile fatty acids. If the production of these fatty acids is greater than the absorption, the pH level drops. This is compensated by the substance bicarbonate, which occurs naturally in the saliva. To stimulate rumination and saliva production, the feed must have sufficient structure. If a cow does not get enough structure, she will ruminate less (<60 strokes per ruminant chunk) and saliva production will decrease. Something that is not desirable, because this will result in less saliva being produced. So, make sure that the rumination activity remains at a good level!
Long-term damage from a disturbed pH value
When the rumen is unstable for a long time, the resistance and condition deteriorate and so does fertility. You often see that hoof and leg problems also develop. The influence of hormones also leads to more horn growth. It is important to trim these cows in time to prevent claw health problems. So, keep a close eye on the claws and aim for early care.
Once your cow has had a disturbed pH value, the rumen wall and rumen papillae remain extra sensitive to a low pH. As a result, the disturbed pH value will also occur earlier the next time. It is therefore extra important to prevent the problem by using the Booster solutions of AHV. The AHV Booster Tablet will compensate for the energy deficit by activating the cow’s metabolism (liver and rumen). It will help the liver to prevent fat breakdown.
Dairy Farm Bos (Netherlands): In 2016, we started using the AHV Booster Tablet to give the cows that needed it more energy. These were cows that were experiencing problems due to the negative energy balance and the impact of this on, for example, the rumen. Our goal is to prevent these problems in the future.
Improve resilience with AHV Booster solutions
Graph 1 shows the average rumination activity (rumination time, in minutes) of cows with and without a negative energy balance, by days after calving. These values have been validated based on research by Kaufman et al (2016).
A test population of 25 cows, with signs of a negative energy balance, were selected for the AHV Energy & Metabolism Program and received an The AHV Booster Tablet. This solution was administered between day 7 and 8 after calving.
The support of the AHV solution at the start of the rumination activity is shown in the graph; the average rumination activity quickly rose to the average value for normal cows.
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