Every successful ruminant nutritionist knows that a healthy rumen is the key to animal well-being and high productivity. The axiom “feed the rumen first, then the cow” is a key tenet of cattle nutrition. There are two critical interacting components to maintain rumen health: rumen contents and motility.
Contents include ingested feed in various degrees of degradation, gases of fermentation, and a liquid medium teeming with microorganisms. Rumen motility are the constant contractions that mix the contents, send rough feed forward to be rechewed (rumination), and allow a soup of broken-down particles, nutrients, and microorganisms to continue back in the digestive tract.
Feeding and rations continue to evolve. With that in mind, let’s compare the composition of hydroponic forage to grass pasture and alfalfa hay (see table). The rapid degradable protein and carbohydrates supplied by hydroponic forages can provide beneficial microbial growth in the rumen. Their availability to the microorganisms is as follows: protein and sugars first, followed by starch, and then degradable structural carbohydrates.
Hydroponic forage looks visually just like a grass pasture sample that is in exceedingly early, vegetative growth. If we compare their chemical composition, however, it would be like comparing corn grain to corn silage! In addition, farmers never allow their cows to graze pastures at this stage of development, because it would damage the stand irreparably.
Continue reading this article published in Hoard’s Dairyman