Harpagon project on precision feeding of dairy cows

Through the Harpagon project, the Livestock Institute is looking into precision feeding for dairy cows. What if we distributed the concentrate individually but no longer only according to the stage of lactation? A trial is currently underway at the Trinottières farm (49).

What is precision feeding in dairy cows ? Depending on the breeder, it may be a question of finesse in the supply of nutrients (fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, etc.), a diet that adapts to the context (price of milk or food, for example), individualized supplementation (depending on the stage of lactation most often), or even a diet that is weighed and analyzed regularly. Or all four, of course!

As part of the Casdar project Harpagon, Idele works on the individualization of the intake of concentrate (and in particular the adaptation to the context). In other words, how to distribute the concentrate as precisely as possible (so that it is efficient).

Same stage of lactation = same quantity of concentrates?

“Currently in breeding, we generally distribute the same quantities of concentrates to cows that display the same level of production and the same stage of lactation”, explains Amélie Fischer of the sensors and equipment department of Idele. “We therefore consider that these cows, because they are at the same level, react in the same way to the intake. But is it true? Not necessarily !

“Each cow has its own ability to make use of fodder, to vary its body reserves and its milk production. » In this case, two cows at the same stage may react differently to the same concentrate intake.

It remains to be seen which cow reacts how… “By reducing the concentrate, a cow has three possibilities: she compensates by consuming more fodder, she reduces her milk production, or she mobilizes her reserves. »

And it’s at the Trinottières experimental farm in Maine-et-Loire that the first cow profiles are going to be studied: the 60 dairy cows there are subjected to an alternation of two levels of production concentratesand the technicians (thanks to the sensors available to the expé farm) will measure their performance in order to establish the profiles (basically, what are their responses to the reduction in intake: do they make less milk, lose weight or compensate by ingesting more forage).

To each breeder his strategy, to each cow his answer

If each cow reacts in its own way, the breeder will have every interest in adapting his complementation individually, taking into account the profile of each animal. Example :

Behavior of the cow when the concentrate is reduced ↓ Breeder strategy
“The concentrate being too expensive, I want to lower it without losing production” “Concentrate is expensive, but during the breeding season I don’t want the cows to lose weight”
It refers to fodder The breeder can reduce the share of concentrate It can reduce the share of concentrate
She is reducing her milk production It keeps the same level of concentrate It can reduce the share of concentrate
She mobilizes her body reserves It can reduce the share of concentrate It keeps the level of concentrate

“For cows whose profile has been identified as compensating for the drop in concentrate, i.e. they mobilize their reserves or compensate by consuming more fodder at the trough, we can reduce the share of concentrated without dropping production if that is the objective. »

At Trinottières, once the profiles of the cows have been identified, the trials will relate to the modulation of the supply of concentrate to the dac. “We will measure individual performance and we will then see if such advanced precision feeding has an economic, zootechnical and environmental interest or if there is no difference with what we are already doing now, that is- i.e. adjust by stage and production only. »

Goal: Concentrate savings through precision

The idea would ultimately be to enable breeders to:

– know within their herds the profiles of cows (by measuring the live weight following the variation of concentrate, by measuring the score of body condition thanks to 3D imaging, or by analyzing fatty acids milk) ;

– to define the rules for allocating the concentrate in order to best meet the needs of the cows and the defined strategy (in particular to reduce costs).

“It remains to be seen whether a cow has the same behavior all her life or whether her profile changes from one lactation to another. If his profile is repeatable, it’s easy. Otherwise, it will require several tests in his career, ”admits Amélie Fischer.

First results from the Trinottières should come in February 2023, to be continued!

Leave a Comment