A Rumen Efficiency Investigation (REI) is being offered to help dairy farmers understand rumen health and forage digestibility within their herd by Lallemand.

A REI should be undertaken when there is a significant change in the diet, such as the winter housing transition, or when new components are being introduced into a ration, as these changes may cause disruption to rumen function.

“Proactively looking for the warning signs of impaired rumen function allows producers to make informed decisions on whether interventions are required to improve rumen health and feed efficiency,” said Lientjie Colahan, technical sales support at Lallemand Animal Nutrition.

“A rumen efficiency investigation focuses on nine key areas, all of which impact the rumen in different ways, and uses non-invasive techniques to assess the cow’s rumen function. The parameters reviewed include ruminating activity, body condition, rumen fill, locomotion and cleanliness, as well as manure consistency and screening, milk performance and the environment,” explains Mrs Colahan.

Following the on-farm investigation, farmers are given bespoke advice on where improvements and changes can be made to maximise rumen function, improve fibre digestion and ultimately production from forage.

“For example, ensuring cows have sufficient access to clean, fresh water, a consistent, well-balanced ration to maximise dry matter intakes, as well as plenty of feed barrier space, are just some of the improvements farmers can make to increase their rumen efficiency,” she explained.

Top three parameters focused on when carrying out an REI:

Manure screening

Examining the manure indicates how well the rumen is working. A lot of undigested forage or processed grains in loose manure can be a sign of acidosis which occurs if rumen pH is too low for too long.

Rumen fill

Observing the left side of the cow can signal how well she is eating. A moderate rumen fill score is ideal for a lactating dairy cow as a very full rumen suggests the ration may not be high enough in digestibility for optimal milk production. To optimise rumen efficiency, cows should eat little and often. Very often feed space is limited on farms, leading to cows binging at the first opportunity or excessively sorting through a TMR, increasing the risk of acidosis.

Ruminating activity

This tells you whether or not the rumen contents are structured in the correct way. Good ruminating activity is the sign of a healthy rumen, but if the cow is being fed an imbalanced diet with incorrect particle sizes or a high acid load, this can affect rumen efficiency.