Fibre in Diary Cows – benefits and disadvantages


 diary hero 3


Wednesday July 21 2013


Ruminant animals like dairy cows have been designed to effectively digest fibre. In lay man’s terms, fibre is that part of plant materials that relates to structure – cell walls and anything that attaches to it. In ruminant nutrition, fibre is often described as the neutral detergent fibre (NDF). 

Neutral detergent fibre promotes healthy rumen function as it provides what is referred to as the rumen raft, which allows the rumen to churn, ensures cows ruminate (chew their cud) and produce buffers to help maintain rumen pH within acceptable limit. The fermentation of fibre also promotes the production of precursor acetic acid for milk fat synthesis. Inadequate fibre in the diet can cause ruminal acidosis and can depress milk fat. One of the visible indications of a lack of enough fibre is the dung consistency (too loose).

Fibre is important in the diet of cows but feeding an excessive amount can impact on the quality of diets, can limit feed intake, reduce digestibility and limit performance of dairy cows. This effect is particular with NDF originating from forage or fodder and less impact (or no impact) from NDF originating from cereal or oil seed by-products such as canola meal.

Under a grazing system, aim for an NDF level between 30 and 35%. Too low will risk ruminal acidosis while too high can impact on production and overall animal performance.

To help you balance the diet of your stock, talk to your nutritionist or contact CopRice team on 1800 COPRICE.