Enhancing Ruminant Health
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The function of molasses and sugars in the ruminant diet has been studied for many years. Molasses was first extracted from the sugar refining process in the mid-19th century. Since then, refiners have been looking for markets for molasses, and animal feed has been an important component of that.

Like research in many areas, even after a couple of generations, while there are aspects that have become well known, there are others less well known. We still do not understand what form of “sugar” is most beneficial and in what nutritional circumstances.

Included below are a selection of articles and research studies relating to sugar and molasses, from basic considerations to an atomic level view.

The transition period is a difficult time for many dairy cows. They are uncomfortably pregnant, have to go through the stress of calving, and then need to gear up their entire system for lactation. throw in some diet and pen changes and it's no wonder that cows struggle through this time. Many of the metabolic problems associated with this time have their roots in the dry cow period, and their effects can reach far into lactation.

TYPICAL U.S. lactating dairy rations containing no added sugars run at sugar levels between 1.5% to 3%. However, we are learning that 6% to 8% dietary sugar may actually be optimal. As we feed more silages and processed feeds, many sugars that would otherwise naturally be in the dairy cow diet have been removed by the shift in ration ingredients. 

Carbohydrate fractions and their interactions must be carefully formulated and monitored for diets fed to lactating dairy cows. Feeding additional sugar, regardless of source, between 2% and 5% of the ration DM may result in improved feed efficiency and animal performance.