Animal Nutrition/Production 1

Research title:

Precision feeding to improve feed efficiency in dairy cows 

Tutor: Prof. Giovanni Savoini


Contact details

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State of the art 

The animal feed sector has an important position in the agri-food chain and nutritional strategies have high significance for challenges in animal production. Feed represents 50-70 percent of the cost of producing animal products, and some crops are cultivated mainly to produce feed, 76 percent of available maize in EU is used for animal nutrition, while only 38 percent of available wheat is used for animal nutrition. Moreover, the most important challenges for livestock production of the future have a clear feed dimension: improving resource efficiency by increased nutrient efficiency, improving animal welfare by optimizing animal health through nutrition, and minimize the footprint of animal production.

Precision feeding is a crucial tool to achieve the goal of improving resource efficiency by increased nutrient efficiency. Feed efficiency is crucial not only for lactating cows but also for heifers, and to optimize feed efficiency several competencies are needed. Indeed feed efficiency is related to the nutritional quality of the feed, to the individual characteristics to convert the feed, that can be estimated by measuring the residual feed intake, to the technologies that can provide new inputs to ameliorate nutritional systems used to provide feed to dairy cows and heifers.

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Aims of the project 

The project aims to ameliorate feed efficiency focusing on technologies that can improve nutritional systems for dairy cows and heifers.

A mixer wagon equipped with systems to improve the degree of mixing and of delivering total mixed ration (TMR) will be used. The mixer wagon will be equipped with sensors that can : 1.measure on line the dry matter content of feed, 2. optimize the mixing times.

This prototype will be realized in the frame of a larger project aimed to optimize the preparation and distribution of TMR, Project PLUS (Precision Livestock Unifeed System) Regione Lombardia Linea Ricerca e Sviluppo per aggregazioni n. 145923 responsabile UNIMI dr. Francesco Tangorra).

The experiment will be realized at the Centro Zootecnico Didattico Sperimentale of UNIMI in Lodi, where 30 dairy cows and 30 heifers, in different times, will be fed TMR prepared by using the mixer wagon equipped or not with the sensors.

Dry matter and water intakes will be constantly monitored by using the RIC (Roughage Intake Control) system. This allows to know the amount of feed and water consumed, and the pattern of intake. Residual feed intake (RFI), that is defined as the difference between dairy cows and heifers actual feed intake, and their expected feed intake based on size, growth, body condition score (BCS), milk production and milk characteristics will be calculated. Milk production, milk characteristics, live weight, BCS will be recorded weekly. The experiment will cover the entire lactation cycle for dairy cows and the time from breeding to parturition for heifers.


Recent publications of the tutor in the field 

1. Lecchi C., Invernizzi G., Agazzi A., Modina S., Sartorelli P., Savoini G., Ceciliani F. (2013) “Effects of EPA and DHA on lipid droplet accumulation and mRNA abundance of PAT proteins in caprine monocytes” Research in Veterinary Science,94,2,246-251

2. Pinotti L., Feam T., Campagnoli A., Ottoboni M., Baldi A., Cheli F., Savoini g., Dell’Orto V. (2013) “Computer image analysis: an additional tool for the identification of processed poultry and mammal protein containing bones” Food Additives and Contaminants - Part A Chemistry, Analysis, Control, Exposure and Risk Assessment,30,10,1745-1751  

3. Agazzi, A. , Tirloni, E., Stella, S., Maroccolo, S., Ripamonti, B., Bersani, C., Caputo, J.M., Dell'Orto, V., Rota, N., Savoini, G. (2014) “Effects of species-specific probiotic addition to milk replacer on calf health and performance during the first month of life” Annals of Animal Science, 14,1,101-115

4. Pilotto A., Savoini G., Baldi A., Invernizzi G., De Vecchi c.,Theodorou G., Koutsouli P., Politis I. (2016) “Short communication: Associations between blood fatty acids,β-hydroxybutyrate, and α-tocopherol in the periparturient period in dairy cows: An observational study” J. Dairy Sci. 99, 8121–8126

5. Invernizzi G., Modina S., Corbani D., Bronzo V., Pisani L.F., Caputo J.M., Agazzi A. Dell’Orto V., Savoini G. (2016) ”Hepatic and subcutaneous adipose tissue variations in transition dairy goats fed saturated or unsaturated fat supplemented diets” Small Ruminant Research, 144, 211–219