Can an enzyme blend improve feed digestibility in dairy cows?

See the results of a trial evaluating a 5-way enzyme blend in vitro against four different feeds commonly found in dairy diets.

June 1, 2024

3 Min Read
Can an enzyme blend improve feed digestibility?
Submitted by Papillon Agricultural Company

By Devan Paulus Compart, PhD, technical services manager at Papillon Agricultural Company

When it comes to dairy cows, not all enzymes are created alike. Some are more consistent and effective in dairy cow diets than others.

How can these be measured? The value of an enzyme is based on a few primary factors, including: the pH at which it is most active, its ability to attach to and break down feedstuffs of interest, the environment it is most active (wet versus dry, for example) and the feed rate required for optimal activity.

Enzymes are believed to work in two primary ways. First, they can physically break down feed, allowing for improved access by rumen microbes and digestive secretions. Second, they can enhance rumen microbial attachment to the feed and support rumen microbial enzyme secretion, essentially making rumen microbes more effective at breaking down feed. The net effect is improved total tract fiber, starch and protein digestibility.

A boost from a blend

At Papillon Agricultural Company, we believe in the value of blended functional additives that provide comprehensive value to the cow. We often include our custom five-way enzyme blend in our functional additive portfolio to provide cows with feed utilization support. By utilizing a blend of five different enzymes, we can target both fiber and starch in the diet, leading to improved total tract nutrient digestibility in a wide variety of diets.

We know that from year to year the cows in our dairies are changing as genetics and management advance. At Papillon, it is important for us to keep up with those changes by ensuring our ingredients are continually evaluated and updated for today’s cow. That is why in 2023, we underwent an extensive evaluation of enzymes on the market, including those in our portfolio at the time, to ensure we were sourcing the best options available.

Putting our methods to the test

To determine if updating our enzyme blend would add value to dairy farmers, we conducted a trial at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University led by Dr. Uchenna Anele. The trial evaluated an updated five-way enzyme blend in vitro against four different feeds commonly found in dairy diets.

The feeds evaluated included a high-contrate blend, alfalfa hay, corn stover and corn silage (see Table 1). Six replicates of each enzyme and feed combination were evaluated. After 3, 6 and 24 hours, total gas production, methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide concentrations were evaluated. After 24 hours, dry matter disappearance, fiber digestibility, total and molar proportion of volatile fatty acid concentrations, utilizable crude protein at the duodenum and microbial mass were determined.

Total gas production, methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide were increased (P < 0.001) with the use of the 5-enzyme blend suggesting improved microbial activity. Dry matter disappearance was increased (P < 0.001) for the high concentrate mix and utilizable crude protein at the duodenum was increased (P = 0.03) in all feeds with the use of the enzyme blend.

Total VFA production was increased (P < 0.001) with the five-enzyme blend. The enzyme blend decreased (P = 0.003) acetate and increased (P < 0.001) propionate.

The updated enzyme blend was ultimately shown to optimize rumen microbe function and productivity, increase utilizable nitrogen output by rumen microbes and positively shift microbial production of useful VFAs. Conducting research like this is just one example of how Papillon keeps our products up to date and ensures the highest quality for our customers. Want to see the difference a custom five-way enzyme blend can make for your herd? Speak with your nutritionist today.

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