Omega Fatty Acids Part of Vander Poel’s “Transition” Success

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As featured in the July issue of Dairy Business West magazine

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Much like Brad Vander Poel, Maiden Rock, Wisconsin’s Son-Bow Farms has found success improving their omega balance.

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California Dairy Producer Brad Vander Poel is well ahead of the curve when it comes to having fine-tuned transition nutrition protocols for his two dairy herds located near Tulare in the San Joaquin Valley.

On the recommendation of his nutritionist, Claudio Ribeiro, Vander Poel has been feeding moderate amounts of supplemental fats containing omega-6 and omega-3 required fatty acids at both his Double Oak Dairy and Sierra Vista Dairy for more than a year.

So it was no surprise to Vander Poel, when he heard that Dr. José Santos, a dairy science professor and researcher at University of Florida, shared the results of his most recent projects at the Florida Ruminant Nutrition Conference last February.

Breeding Trends
Double Oak Dairy Sierra Vista Dairy
Early Conception +2 points on first service
+9 points on second service
+9 points on first service
+7 points on second service
Overall Conception +5 Points (from 33% to 38% conception rate) +9 Points (from 35% to 44% conception rate)
Early Milk Trends
Double Oak Dairy Sierra Vista Dairy
Early Milk Difficult to assess due to other changes to rbST protocol that occurred close to when omega- 3s added to diets +5 pounds higher on week 4 milk than same time previous year

Santos said research from his group and colleagues at the University of Florida showed early lactation “rations balanced for lower ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, by adding calciumsalts of these fatty acids have been shown to influence milk production, embryo quality and pregnancy rates.”

The research data developed by Santos’ group in early 2013 also goes further in validating the 2007 data from Cornell University by showing a linear milk response to the grams of EPA/DHA omega-3s, which is a key ingredient in Vander Poel’s early lactation diets.

In his most recent study, Santos altered the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids with supplemental fats in the diets of early lactation cows on lactation while keeping energy across treatments the same. There were three treatments of different levels of omega-3s fed in the diet, providing different ratios of omega-6s to omega-3s. Cows fed the lowest ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (4:1 ratio) produced more milk than the other two ratios tested.

In order to meet these ratios, different levels of EPA/DHA omega-3s (Strata G113) were fed. Feeding rates were: .11 lbs.; .23 lbs.; and .4 lbs. Milk yields for those feeding rates varied from 95.5 lbs. of fat corrected milk/per cow/per day at the 1/10th lb. feeding rate, to 105.6 lbs. of fat corrected milk/per cow/per day at the 4/10th lb. feeding rate. Difference between those two rates was 7.5 lbs. of milk and 10.1 lbs. fat corrected milk.

“Cows fed the highest amount (4/10th lb.) consumed 3 lbs. more dry matter/day, which accounts for a portion of the increase in fat-corrected milk yield,” explained Santos. Nevertheless, there were 3 lbs. of fat-corrected milk response that could not be accounted for by the increased DM intake. Santos and his colleagues believe this is a direct effect of the specific dietary fatty acids.

“Manipulating the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the diet influence lactation performance and fertility,” Santos stressed. “Replacing omega-6 with the omega-3 from fish oils resulted in greater yields of milk and milk components and improved pregnancy per AI. The benefits to fertility were observed primarily because of reduced pregnancy loss in the first 60 days of gestation.

“Cows fed moderate amounts of omega-6s and omega-3s had improved embryo quality and increased pregnancy, 30% to 37%, and in another experiment, reduced pregnancy loss from 12% to 6%. We think essential fatty acids and some of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids found in marine oils are affecting the cow’s health as a whole,” said Santos.

Vander Poel has seen some of those same positive trends in his herds. “Our animals are transitioning well now and condition scores are good. Rarely do we see metritis and I can’t remember the last time we had a DA here. We used to have a couple a month,” he said. “We walk the fresh pens every day and look at body condition and for anything out of the ordinary.”

“Stop wasting your time and our money, and focus on the dairy”

Vander Poel, who turned 27 in May, attended Cal Poly for two years, but came home to take classes at a local junior college while working on the dairies with his father, Pete. At one point, Brad said he was getting up at 4 a.m. to work on the dairy and then falling asleep in his junior college classes.

“‘Stop wasting your time and our money, and focus on the dairy,’ my father told me.”

It was good advice. Brad received a one-year crash course in dairy management before Pete discovered he had cancer and passed away in 2009. Brad took over running both dairies during some of the worst economic times the dairy industry had ever seen. “I learned so much about how my father managed things on the dairy and how he conducted business,” he said. “I also learned early in the process that most of our profit would come from managing our employees and our feed inputs well.”

Vander Poel currently milks 1,250 Jerseys at Double Oak and 1,100 Holsteins at Sierra Vista. Both herds are milked 2x and the Jerseys are averaging 76 pounds fat corrected milk and the Holsteins are at 80 pounds per cow, per day.

They grow about 65% of their corn silage needs at Double Oak Dairy and 100% of their silage at Sierra Vista. Looking at the “before and after” of being on the omega-6 pre-fresh and omega-3 early lactation protocol, Vander Poel has seen fewer health issues in the closeup and fresh cow pens.

Vander Poel said he believes his focus on the transition period has been one of the most valuable investment of his time, and also has paid off for his cows and calves – putting them on the road to healthier and more productive lives.

So What’s it Worth to You?

Find out how much improving the omega balance of your dairy diets can improve your bottom line with our Omega Value Calculator!