Viable alternatives to PKE

Balancing rations for your dairy cows under a PKE cap can be easy – it’s a matter of deciding how you will replace those kilograms of intake.

Fonterra’s announcement it would like to see their suppliers self-regulate the amount of palm kernel extract (PKE) consumed per cow daily to 3kgs (as fed) has raised concerns recently.

Over the past two decades, PKE has moved from humble beginnings as a simple pasture feed gap filler to the most prolifically utilised supplementary feed in the country. It manages to find a place in rations at every stage of lactation, due largely to low purchase cost and the fact it is a very safe feed to use in situations where intake cannot be regulated.

On any given day, you can find PKE being offered at rates anywhere from 1 -10kg per cow daily.

Ingham‘s dairy nutrition consultant, Pip Gale, says the proposed new guidelines with a 3kg cap will not make rations difficult to balance – it’s simply a question of deciding how you will replace those kilograms of intake.

Typical analysis, all nutrients reported on a per kg dry matter basis:

 

PKE

Maize silage

Soybean hulls

Crude protein

161g

88g

139g

Methionine

3g

1.3g

1.6g

Lysine

4.8g

2.5g

8.7g

NDF

671g

450g

603g

ADF

431g

321g

446g

Lignin

131g

26g

25g

Organic matter 

digestibility (OMD)

≈69%

≈70%

≈67%

ME (estimated)

9.5 MJ*

10.5 MJ*

9.6 MJ*

Starch

0g

285g

0g

Sugars

24g

11g

3g

Fat

78g

22g

17g

Calcium

2.8g

2.8g

6.3g

Phosphorus

6.1g

2.6g

1.7g

Copper

28mg

4mg

10mg

*Based on recent independent laboratory analysis.

There are combinations of other feed options that can be used to replace PKE without negative effects on animal health or milk production, like maize silage or soybean hulls.

“In fact, there are times when other feeds will be of greater benefit to health and production than PKE. This is especially true of cows during the first half of lactation,” Pip says. 

Balancing rations for optimal production of blood glucose precursors supports peak milk production and reduces body condition loss, which are key to returning cows to oestrus.

Reduced dietary fat content can take pressure off fatty acid oxidation at the liver, supporting increased voluntary feed intake and reducing oxidative stress associated with fatty liver.

“When feeding PKE during periods when rate of passage through the rumen is rapid (due to highly digestible pasture intake), we often observe increased faecal PKE content. This indicates not all the nutrients from the PKE have been utilised.  While PKE can be a useful ration input, it is not the most digestible product in the world.”

Ideally, we shouldn’t need to be addressing forage shortages in spring. Feeding alternative products such as maize silage or soybean hulls when grazing intake limits total DMI can prove more beneficial than the use of PKE.

“Our experience has shown stronger responses to PKE feeding as pasture quality and intake declines, due to reduced rate of passage giving longer rumen retention time and improved total tract digestibility.”

Evaluate your options when it comes to replacing or reducing PKE intake in your system. These could include:

  • Increasing your capacity to grow high quality forages on-farm, reducing pressure on business cashflow
  • Utilising other feed options that help balance nutrient intake to support cows at their current stage of lactation and level of production
  • Providing the right balance of nutrients at the lowest cost, as opposed to choosing the lowest cost inputs with no regard for ration balance.

For more information on balancing your cows’ intake, talk to your local Ingham Dairy Nutrition Specialist 0800 650 505.


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