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“What can manure tell you about the ration?”

“What goes in must come out.” To determine the nutritional value of a ration, feed analysis is important before and after digestion. In a recent issue of Progressive Dairyman, Karen Lee recaps a presentation on this subject given by Mike Hutjens, dairy specialist, at the Four-State Dairy Nutrition Conference in Dubuque, Iowa. Hutjens discussed three methods for manure analysis used to evaluate the nutritional status of a herd, one being manure consistency scoring.
 
Consistency scoring can be used to help analyze the ration and the digestive health of each cow. This method entails visually scoring manure consistency for approximately 10-15 cows per pen. Hutjens emphasizes that each cow’s number be recorded with her score in case it varies from the rest of the herd. In that case, additional analyses can be performed to identify any potential health problems.

This five-point scale was developed in Michigan and should be the basis for scoring:

 
  1. Manure has consistency of pea soup (includes cows with diarrhea). Excess protein, starch, mineral or lack of fiber could be factors. Excess urea in the hindgut could also be drawing water into the manure.
  2. Manure is runny, measures less than 1” in height, and splatters on ground/concrete. Cows on lush pasture or those with low fiber diets may have this score.
  3.  Optimal score. Manure is porridge-like, creates 1.5-2” stack, has several concentric rings with small depression in middle, and plops when hits ground/concrete.
  4. Thicker manure, stacking up over 2”. Dry cows and older heifers could have this score, possibly resulting from low-quality forages and/or protein shortage. 
  5.  Manure appears as “firm fecal balls.” Straw-based diet, digestive blockage, or dehydration could lead to this type of manure.
Scores of 1 or 5 may indicate a need to rebalance the ration and/or consider additional health problems. Note that scores can shift with lactation stage (see “Table 1” based on limited work by 

University of Illinois).

What causes manure scores to decline?

Increasing the amount of protein and/or starch, decreasing fiber and/or grain particle size, and consuming excess minerals can lead to a decline in manure scores.

In addition to careful feed analysis, taking a look at your herd’s manure may prove a valuable tool when analyzing your ration and herd health.

To read the complete article, click on the source link below:
Source: “What can manure tell you about the ration?” article by
Karen Lee. Progressive Dairyman, July 1, 2010 issue.

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