Milk yield in dairy cows

Feed efficiency in both large and small ruminant livestock production is a production priority 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 are necessary to reach the goal of more milk and meat from the amount of inputs. 

Did you know?

A cow that produces approximately 8 gallons of milk a day with 3.3% crude protein (CP) allocates 2.19 pounds of protein to production. Since diets are formulated at around 16% CP for dairy, this cow will consume 7.72 pounds of protein per day. This means that less than 30% of the feed protein is used to produce milk protein. The remaining 70% of protein is used for the animal’s maintenance and metabolic 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
[Translate to US:] © DigitalVision /GettyImages

Reduce feed costs by optimizing feed conversion

Enhanced quantity of volatile fatty acids in the rumen and quantity of microbial protein and amino acids flowing to the small intestine can improve growth performance in beef cattle as well as milk yield and quality for dairy animals.  However, if the protein or other nutrients supplied to the small intestine for absorption are not digested adequately, a reduction in milk yield and quality, or reduced growth performance in beef cattle can result, leading to decreased performance and loss of profitability.

It is not only the amount of protein that matters

In dairy rations, a consistent supply of high quality protein to the small intestine is essential for top milk yields. However, rations high in undegradable (bypass) protein are often very expensive and if the amount of degradable protein in the ration is not balanced with 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, 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 and reproductive performance.

How to support protein efficiency and milk yield in dairy cows?

One method to improve protein utilization is by protecting some sources of protein from microbial fermentation in the rumen to increase the amount of bypass protein available to the small intestine for absorption. Another, less expensive method, is to promote the complete and consistent breakdown of less expensive protein sources in the rumen.  When providing a balanced protein and energy supply to the small intestine can improve metabolic efficiency. Thus, advantages in feed costs could be attained by decreasing input costs of by-pass protein sources and using sources rich in ruminal degradable protein. 

Ruminal protein and energy efficiency can be improved naturally by reducing the number of protozoa, methanogens and ammonia producing bacteria.  The shift towards beneficial ruminal microbiota may contribute to increased formation of volatile fatty acids and 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

  • Boosts milk yield and milk protein content while reducing milk urea
  • Promotes feed intake and supports energy supply for milk production
  • Positive influence on the entire ruminant digestive system to support protein utilization and energy uptake

Actifor® Boost supports the performance and efficiency of the rumen. The combination of selected phytogenics like saponins, essential oils and spices in Actifor® Boost are selected to support consistent ruminal microflora and the protein utilization which contribute to increased milk yield and milk protein content while reducing milk urea.

Nature that works

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

Parameter Actifor® Boost Effects
Milk yield +2.43 lb/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

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

More milk, more meat, more profit. Actifor® Pro is the phytogenic support for profitable beef and dairy production through optimized feed conversion. The special combination of condensed tannins, essential oils and spice extracts in Actifor® Pro contribute to naturally improved protein utilization throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract of ruminants.   The benefits are seen in the milk yield and reduced milk urea from dairy animals and improved rates of gain in beef cattle. Boost the profitability of your operation with the power of nature.

Nature that works

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**** -6.3 %

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

Selected Delacon products may be used in organic production in accordance with Regulations (EC) No 2018/848. For more in depth information, please contact our Delacon expert.


* 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

The study results shown are not intended to represent or guarantee the same or similar results.   


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RTM Poultry, Sales Group North America

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