An observational case study comparing the effectiveness of molasses supplementation compared to supplementation with a cornmeal/grain mix were conducted. An existing dairy farm, already successfully utilizing molasses for several years, was used in the study.
In 2008, the farm was supplementing pasture-based dairy cows with three pounds of molasses and one pound of cornmeal and barley grain mix per cow, per day. Based on body score and milk production figures, the diet was adjusted slightly several times in 2009, with the overall result of decreasing the molasses intake, and increasing the grain mix. In 2009, the farm was feeding 2-3 pounds of molasses per cow, per day, along with 2-3 pounds of grain mix on avearge.
This herd was a seasonal herd, calving in the spring. Consisting of approximately 60 crossbred cows, grazing on 80 acres of high-quality orchard grass, white clover and forbs, the study followed the cows during the grazing season, from May to November both years.
After analyzing the data, the study concluded that there was no statistically significant difference between the body weight gain or the milk production of the cows on the cornmeal supplement versus the ones on the molasses supplement. The milk protein was higher in 2009, possible because of the increased starch in the diet.
Researchers concluded that the sugar in molasses may not compensate for a decrease in dietary starch, and that increased energy may be warranted in order to increase milk production in the herd. Increased starch may also decrease nitrogen excretion and urea costs, and improve the utilization of pasture protein, Soder said. Further studies on higher amounts of cornmeal feed would have to be conducted.
The study was also used to test the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System Module, used to analyze diets, to see how well its predicted outcome matched the actual results seen in the herd. The CNCPS data indicated that energy was the most limiting factor in the herd’s milk production. The herd’s starch levels were well below recommended levels, while their sugar levels sometimes exceeded the recommended maximum.
I am only running 20 cow/calf this year on 135 ac
An interesting fact is that molasses from sugarcane grown on organic-matter rich soils has higher crude protein concentrations than molasses from sugarcane grown on soils low in organic matter. Since much of the molasses used in our feed industry is imported from other countries, it's difficult to make this assessment in advance. Higher crude protein values would indicate higher nitrogen levels in the product. However, of all the nitrogen cane molasses, protein and amino acids usually comprise less than 25 percent of the total nitrogen found in the product. Also, the availability of the nitrogen in molasses for microbial utilization may be in question. One study in 1993 indicated that 75-85 percent of nitrogen in molasses was available to microorganisms. This is not hard to understand when we consider that up to 75 percent of protein in sugarcane molasses is in non-protein-nitrogen forms with most as DIP and very little (if any) UIP.
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Early research suggested that the feeding value of sugarcane molasses decreased when added at more than 10 percent of the diet. One study evaluated the net energy of molasses at different levels in beef finishing rations. The workers reported that in formulations containing 25 and 40 percent molasses, the net energy value was reduced by 49 percent when they were compared to feeding at only 10 percent of the diet. Another project suggested that molasses had a feeding value of 75 to 95 percent of the value of grain (i.e. processed corn) when added to the diet in smaller amounts. This value was reduced to 40 to 50 percent of the grain feeding value when added at higher levels. However, other, later studies indicated that the net energy value for finishing a steer did not decrease when molasses was added at levels above 10 percent of the diet. In more recent work it was concluded that most of the feeding data suggests the feeding value of molasses does not decline when added at 10 to 40 percent of the diet. What this appears to tell us is that when cane molasses is used at a maximum of 40% of the overall diet, no real reduction in feeding value is seen.
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