Protein efficiency and milk performance in dairy cows

Protein efficiency in ruminants and high milk performance in dairy cows are priorities challenging producers, nutritionists, and scientists all over the world. The rising global population comes with an increasing demand for food, especially protein sources such as meat and milk. In recent years the consumption of dairy products alone has increased by more than 2.5% per year globally. The constantly increasing need for animal protein is driving the livestock feed and production industry to provide increasingly efficient, residue-free, sustainable solutions.

Therefore, higher quality and quantity of milk must be produced from the available resources. Higher ruminant energy- and protein efficiency as well as higher milk performance in dairy cows are necessary to reach the goal of more milk and meat from the same protein intake. 

Did you know?

A cow that produces 30 liters of milk a day with 3.3% crude protein (CP) allocates 990g of protein to production. Since diets are formulated at around 16% CP for dairy, this cow will get 3.5kg of protein per day. This means that less than 30% of the feed protein is used to produce milk protein. The remaining 70% consist of protein used for the animal’s metabolism and losses:

  • Urea content in urine due to excess amount of ammonia in the rumen
  • Indigestible and endogenous excretion in feces and urine
  • Excretion in urine through inefficient utilization of absorbed protein for synthesis of milk and body protein
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Reduce feed costs by optimizing protein efficiency

In order to improve milk yield and quality, it is beneficial to enhance the quantity of volatile fatty acids in the rumen as well as microbial protein and amino acids flowing to the small intestine. However, if protein and other nutrients are not digested adequately, a reduction in milk yield and quality, or reduced growth performance may result in decreased performance and overall profitability.

It is not only the amount of protein that matters

In dairy cows rations high in protein lead to increased milk yield. However, rations high in undegradable protein are often very expensive and if the amount of degradable protein in the ration is not balanced with adequate energy sources, a substantial part of the protein cannot be utilized by the ruminal bacteria leading to an excess of ammonia production. This ammonia, is then converted to urea in the liver, in an energy consuming process. Part of this urea is recycled by the animal, but a larger part is excreted either through the milk or the urine. This situation can lead to high losses of dietary protein, reduced performance, and increased feed costs. When more expensive undegradable protein sources are utilized in ruminant rations, optimizing digestion and absorption is critical for capturing the benefits from the higher input costs

Did you know?

A cow needs about 7.3 kcal of energy to metabolize one gram of ammonia. The metabolic process to reduce the excess urea in the rumen consumes the majority of feed energy. In the long term, this can reduce milk yield and reproductive performance.

How to support protein efficiency and milk production?

One way is to protect some protein structures in the rumen from microbial degradation and therefore, increase the amount of bypass protein flowing to the small intestine. In parallel, increasing the digestibility of the protein and energy supply in the small intestine may lead to stimulate feed and protein efficiency. Thus, the feed costs could be reduced by decreasing the dietary level of expensive by-pass protein sources and  using sources rich in ruminal degradable protein. 

Reducing the number of protozoa, methanogens and ammonia producing bacteria, the protein and energy efficiency in the rumen can be improved naturally. The shift towards beneficial ruminal microbiota may contribute to increased formation of volatile fatty acids and leading to increased microbial protein – even in rations with lower ruminal degradable protein levels. 

Challenges & Solutions Ruminants

Looking for other Challenges & Solutions?

The phytogenic support in dairy cows especially at low RDP level (<10.5% of DM)

Actifor® Boost – boost your milk performance

  • Improves milk yield and milk protein content while reducing milk urea
  • Promotes feed intake and supports energy supply for milk production
  • Helps to positively influence the digestive tract on the level of the rumen as well as in the small intestine, both to support protein utilization and energy uptake

Improve milk yield naturally! Actifor® Boost supports the performance and efficiency of the rumen and thus reducing feed costs. The combination of selected phytogenics like saponins, essential oils and spices in Actifor® Boost may improve the ruminal microflora and the protein utilization and therefore may contribute to increase the milk yield and milk protein content while reducing milk urea. Benefit from the unique, tasty combination of different natural ingredients, tailored to the needs of ruminants, designed to increase your return on investment. 

Nature that works - proven scientifically

Scientific trials with Actifor® Boost show an improvement in diverse milk quality parameters.*

Parameter Actifor® Boost Effects
Milk yield +1.1 kg/day
Milk protein +0.04 %
Somatic cell count (SCC) -17 x 10^3/ml
Milk urea -1.34 mg/dL

Actifor® Boost improves ruminal production of volatile fatty acids, resulting in more energy for milk production.

Actifor® Pro – the Pro in protein efficiency

  • Improves milk production and milk protein content
  • Contributes to enhanced protein efficiency and helps to reduce feed costs
  • Helps to decrease milk urea concentration mitigates methane production

More milk, more meat, more profit. Actifor® Pro is the phytogenic support for profitable ruminant production by increasing feed conversion. The special combination of condensed tannins, essential oils and spice extracts in Actifor® Pro contributes to naturally improved protein efficacy in the gastrointestinal tract of ruminants, which can reflect in the milk yield of dairy cows and the reduction of milk urea. The profitability of ruminants might thus increase in a natural and safe way.

Nature that works - proven scientifically.

Research has shown that Actifor® Pro reduces the amount of milk urea and enhances milk protein content, while simultaneously improving milk yield and lowering methane emissions.*** 


Parameter Actifor® Pro Effects
Milk protein +0.03 %
Milk urea -1.1 mg/dL
Milk yield +1.7 kg/day
Methane reduction**** -6.4 %

Actifor® Pro improves bacterial nitrogen efficiency and enhances amount of bypass protein flow to the duodenum, thus contributing to enhanced protein efficiency.*****

* Average improvements in dairy cows with Actifor® Boost compared to control, average data of 8 trials in dairy cows with Actifor® Boost on milk quality parameters

** In-vitro trial with Actifor® Boost on volatile fatty acid production, INRA, France, 2014

*** Average improvements in dairy cows with Actifor® Pro compared to control, average data of 7 trials in dairy cows with Actifor® Pro on milk quality parameters

**** Trial with Actifor® Pro on methane reduction, INRA, 2011

***** University trial with Actifor® Pro on protein efficiency, Hiroshima University, Japan, 2013


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