The regular session of the Annual Meeting began at 8:00 AM in the Grand Ballroom with Jim Cropper, Executive Director, welcoming everyone. He expressed his gratitude that so many people braved the weather to attend. The attendees were given the opportunity to introduce themselves around the table.
At 8:30 AM, Session 1 began entitled Molasses Supplements to Grazing Dairy Cows. Karen Hoffman, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service Resource Conservationist (Animal Science), was the moderator and first speaker.
Karen led off the session with her paper, Molasses Supplements to Grazing Dairy Cows - On Farm Case Study. She said molasses supplementation has become an alternative to feeding a grain supplement to pastured lactating cows. This is especially for organic dairies due to high prices for purchased grains and low milk prices due to stagnant consumer demand. Alternatives have been sought that are low cost, yet have a high nutritive value, and that are certified organic. Molasses meets these criteria by having a high energy value, being less expensive than organic grain, 39¢ versus 45¢+ per pound, and a one third substitution rate to corn, thus making it even less expensive on an as fed basis.
Dr. Kathy Soder, animal scientist, USDA-ARS Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research Unit, University Park, PA presented next. Her presentation was the Effect of Molasses Supplementation on Ruminal Fermentation. Organic farmers are seeking lower cost supplements since input costs keep rising while milk prices have tended to decline. Molasses may be a lower-cost alternative. It is currently being used by some organic farmers, but it has gotten mixed reviews. It works for some, but not for others. No data exists evaluating molasses as only supplement to grazing dairy cows.
Dr. Andre Brito, assistant professor of dairy nutrition at UNH, was the last speaker in this session. He gave two presentations. The first was entitled Molasses Supplementation to Organic Dairy Cows. This was the winter feeding experiment where the cows were fed balage. He began by giving background information on molasses’ value as a dairy cow ration supplement. Molasses is a rich source of sugars, particularly sucrose. Compared to starch, sucrose enhanced the net yield of microbial protein synthesis in the rumen. Sugars are more quickly degraded in the rumen than starch. Replacing high moisture shelled corn with incremental levels of dried or liquid molasses reduced rumen ammonia N and urinary N excretion.
Andre’s next presentation was entitled, Effects of Corn Meal or Molasses on Milk Production of Grazing Organic Dairy Cows. This was the growing season experiment with Jersey cows on pasture. This experiment compared the effects of molasses or corn meal on milk production, milk composition, and nitrogen metabolism. Twenty organic lactating Jersey cows were randomly assigned to 2 treatments, either corn meal or molasses. The cows had free access to pasture from June to mid-September in a management intensive grazing (MIG) system. Animals were individually fed twice a day about 2.0 kg (4.4 lbs.) of molasses or corn meal plus 3 kg (6.6 lbs.) of a grass-legume balage with refusals recorded daily before each feeding. Milk production was recorded throughout the study. Body weight and BCS was recorded monthly.