After several visits to Taiwan, this year was a little bit different in that myself and vet/nutritionist Liz Bramley circumnavigated the island and finally got to see the sights of the East Coast. There is only a small area for living and farming on this side as Taiwan – but it provided lots of lovely views of rice paddies, steep mountains and the sea. There were also lots of fruit crops – pineapples, pomelos, custard apples, mangoes – so in keeping with this food theme I thought I would share a bit about Taiwanese dairy cow nutrition.
How are cows fed in Taiwan?
Cows in Taiwan are housed and the milking herd is fed total mixed rations (TMRs). Dry cows and heifers may be fed TMRs or a combination of hays, green chop and/or pellets.
A TMR is just like baking a cake – just mix together the right amounts from a list of ingredients! Common Taiwanese forages include imported oaten and alfalfa hays and home grown Pangola grass hay. Elephant grass is usually fed as green chop. Like our local farms, there’s a bit of maize silage about: Eastern dairy farms buy the maize in from the west coast and ensile it on farm.
Common concentrates include corn grain, soy bean meal, corn DDGS and corn gluten feed. By-products include brewers grain, soybean pomace (the left overs from making tofu) and sugar cane bagasse (which has fibre – but not much else!). This year we visited a farm feeding cotton seeds – a good source of protein.
What are some dietary issues that Taiwanese farms encounter?
Heat stress: it can get pretty hot and humid in Taiwan. When heat stressed, cows avoid eating forage to reduce the heat produced during fermentation of the fibre. Cows will try to sort their feed and preferentially eat concentrates. This, in turn, puts them at risk of ruminal acidosis. When feeding TMRs its important to minimise the ability to sort feed by reducing the size of long forage, increasing moisture content of the TMR, and managing heat stress through water/fans. Farms may also feed rumen-protected fat as it provides a concentrated form of energy that doesn’t require fermentation.
Maintaining dry matter intake: this is an important focus, especially around calving time, as it helps minimise mobilisation of body fat and resultant fatty liver disease. A common saying is “a lot-fed cow should always have feed in front of them”. Cows should have adequate access to palatable feed that has the energy and protein levels needed for freshly calved cows – this is where good quality protein sources like cotton seed hulls – can be useful.
What about people food?
Two main foods stand out on a visit to Taiwan: hot pots and bento boxes. With a hot pot, you cook a plate of meat and vegetables in a gas-cooked soup on the table in front of you. Bento boxes are lunch fare: a tasting box of rice, meat and various vegies – with an egg sometimes thrown in there too. Taiwan has McDonalds and KFC, but with a few little differences – the McChicken is just a little bit spicy, and you can buy custard tarts for dessert!
Like Australians, the Taiwanese love a cuppa (of oolong tea that is) and their matcha milkshakes (pronounced “more-char”) are perfect in the heat and humidity. Drinking yogurt and coffee stubbies were some new tastes we encountered this trip.