We know that protein is critical to keeping dairy cows healthy and producing milk. Everyone knows to check ration protein levels as a possible culprit when milk production goes down. But what if we were checking the wrong type of protein?
We tend to focus more on crude protein in dairy rations. The amount of bulk protein in a ration is a good indicator of the protein the cow is using to produce milk, right? Not exactly. Instead, closer attention should be paid to rumen undegraded protein (RUP) levels, also referred to as bypass protein. This number is a more accurate representation of the protein the cow has available for milk production because it measures the amount of protein that makes it past the rumen.
When you feed protein on an RUP basis, as opposed to focusing on crude protein, the amount of protein you include in the ration is going to change. This is because when you are able to target the amount of protein you need to make it to a certain point in the digestion process, you are able to feed protein more efficiently. Maxin, et al. (2013) found that when compared to soybean meal and DDGS, you could feed less canola meal and still reach similar milk yields to other ingredients, thanks to the RUP level of canola meal. See the research abstract or the bypass protein page to learn a little more.
Feeding the right type and amount of protein benefits the cow because she receives the nutrition she needs to keep healthy and produce milk. It benefits dairymen because they are able to be more efficient with their ration ingredients, which could help the bottom line. So, take a look at your rations and review the bypass protein levels. Are you giving your cows the right type of protein?