X-Zelit is more effective than Low CAB
Looking solely at product costs, using X-Zelit is more expensive than Low CAB. But a closer look at the bottom line reveals that the financial effects vary, particularly if 1 or 2 calcium boluses are given as part of Low CAB feeding. In this case, X-Zelit can in fact be just as low-cost a strategy as Low CAB, according to Vilofoss’s technical cattle manager.
By Tenna Bang, Effektivt Landbrug
When it comes to dry-cow feed, three strategies are generally practised in Denmark to minimise the risk of milk fever, etc.
Dry cows’ feed can be acidified using the Low CAB system which reduces the CAB value to around minus 100. This acidifies the cow’s blood, which the cow’s body perceives as hypocalcaemia (calcium deficiency), without this actually being the case. This spurs a hormonal process in the cow which releases calcium from the bones and activates intestinal receptors to increase absorption, thereby minimising the risk of milk fever.
Other farmers choose to ‘calcify’ the cows. This involves admixing large amounts of calcium into dry-cow rations. Magnesium is also added, as a deficiency of this can affect how the calcium is metabolised. This is known as the ‘Hedegaard Method’.
And then there is the DLG model involving its product X-Zelit, which is produced by DLG subsidiary Vilofoss.
X-Zelit is a zeolite which binds calcium and phosphorous in the dry-cow ration. After being ingested, the same hormonal process takes place in the cow as occurs in the acidification strategy, and the cow starts to release calcium from its bones and increase absorption in the intestines.
“The difference is that with X-Zelit, the cow experiences a natural and real calcium deficiency, whereas acidification triggers an artificial, unnatural state in the cow, which is not as effective for the cow as when its own system is setting things in motion,” explains Jannie R. Ugelvig, technical manager for cattle, Vilofoss. She explains that the cow will experience a natural calcium deficiency three or four days before calving when it starts to produce colostrum.
“By adding X-Zelit, we merely advance this start-up process in the cow so, instead of having its system up and running four or five days into the lactation process, this takes places as early as the calving,” she says.
Several possible feed components
Jannie R. Ugelvig and Vilofoss are involved in both CAB feeding and X-Zelit and have compared the methods in different situations.
She experiences that herds benefit from CAB in terms of clinical milk fever, but widespread problems with subclinical milk fever can still exist in the same herd, which is why she considers CAB feeding to be less effective than X-Zelit and refers to two experiments from the USA. At the same time, she thinks it is often more difficult to implement than the X-Zelit method.
Because CAB requires the use of feeds with a low CAB value, whereas with X-Zelit, the farmer can mix the feed ration he wants without having to take account of its CAB value, making it possible to mix a less costly ration.
“For instance, a farmer can easily feed a fifth cut of grass silage to dry cows without this causing milk fever problems, or he can choose an alternative feed strategy in terms feed components and their ratios in the ration,” she explains.
Looking at the financial impact of practising the CAB or X-Zelit method, Low CAB costs less than X-Zelit solely in terms of the products’ costs.
“When a farmer invests in X-Zelit, the product’s cost is not the only variable to focus on, but the overall contribution margin relating to the dry cow and the upcoming calving. And this also includes a management set-up and the time spent on managing dry cows and newly calved cows and their feed,” she explains.
In Jannie R. Ugelvig’s view, the fact that the X-Zelit method does not have to consider the CAB value is financially beneficial because it enables the farmer to choose cheaper feed components and lower the cost of the ration. “A large volume of grass also enables the farmer to save on the cost of a mineral compound during the far-off period,” she asserts.
Several positive effects
X-Zelit not only helps prevent clinical and subclinical milk fever, but also its complications, such as retained placenta, metritis and having calves that are weak at birth, which also has financial perspectives.
“It is possible and quite simple to cut other feed costs in the amount of DKK 70–100 per dry cow by switching from the CAB principle to X-Zelit. This accounts for roughly half the cost of X-Zelit, or DKK 175 per dry cow. Also, if the CAB feeding is supplemented with one or two calcium boluses after calving, as is standard practice in many places, the X-Zelit strategy becomes just as cheap a feed solution overall as CAB,” explains Jannie R. Ugelvig, who has several examples of herds that actually ended up paying for the entire cost of X-Zelit simply by reducing other feed-related costs.
“And this does not include all the positive effects of eliminating milk fever, a better start-up of newly calved cows, more milk, no retained placenta or metritis – all due to preventing cases of subclinical milk fever.”