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Why Lysine?

How to Improve Dairy Cow Performance

Lysine is an essential amino acid and must be supplied by the cow's diet as it cannot be produced naturally within the body. A key benefit of balancing amino acids to meet lysine requirements is achieving maximum milk production, while not overfeeding with other expensive nutrients. In addition, when using a rumen protected lysine to meet the optimum level of lysine, dairy producers may:

  • Feed diets lower in crude protein
  • Reduce the overall nitrogen excretion from cows into the environment
  • Potentially see improved health benefits

Lysine Deficient Diets

Producers often wonder how to improve dairy cow feed efficiency. Many dairy cattle are fed diets that do not provide sufficient amounts of lysine. The graphic below looks at amino acids as a percent of composition. It is not possible to provide enough lysine with corn and soybean meal alone without overfeeding other nutrients, feeding overly expensive diets or causing health problems. A nutritionist's goal is to match up protein sources with the cow's lysine requirement and do so in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. 

Figure 1. A comparison of the AA composition of lean tissue and milk vs. common feedstuffs

How Much is Really Needed?

In 2001, the National Research Council (NRC) conducted a meta-analysis and determined the breaking point for MP Lysine is 7.2 percent. MP Lysine is the amount of lysine passing through the rumen and into the small intestine in a form that is available for absorption. This level of metabolizable protein:

  • Supports maximum milk production
  • Optimizes milk component levels
  • Creates potential for palatability issues when animal-based protein sources are fed to meet this level

MP Lysine requirements are influenced by production level, lactation number, body weight and breed. The following data provides a guideline for the amount of MP Lysine required by cows in various situations. These estimates were generated by AMTS* v.4.6.2 (Groton, NY) using CNCPS** v.6.5.5 (Ithaca, NY) and are to be used to provide general guidance. 

Metabolizable Energy and Metabolizable ...

Download our FAQ for additional information on metabolizable energy and metabolizable protein requirements.

Increase Lysine, Increase Profits

It costs the same to keep a cow in your herd whether she's producing 60 or 90 lbs/h/d. Both situations require the same amount of dry matter to meet the cow's maintenance requirements.1 The operating and fixed overhead costs are the same as well. The real difference is how much you're spending on feed to support higher milk production. 

By adding a rumen protected lysine product like USA Lysine® to your dairy cattle's total mixed ration (TMR), you can improve profitability by increasing milk production in a cost-effective manner. Not only does this increase in milk production result in added income, it lowers your break-even point by spreading out fixed costs over more pounds of milk sold. 

Figure 2. Feed costs and milk income based on production levels

Increasing Lysine Supply for Dairy Cows with USA Lysine

Knowing that lysine is essential to improving milk production and increasing profits is just the first step, but it's not always easy when there are so many products on the market. USA Lysine is an encapsulated, rumen protected lysine source and a cost-effective solution that makes a significant difference. 

USA Lysine provides high levels of MP Lysine without overfeeding other nutrients, resulting in a more efficient use of amino acids. Lysine has little impact on a dairy cow's milk production if it is not actually absorbed from the small intestine. USA Lysine combines a high level of ruminal escape and intestinal availability. By providing additional MP Lysine, you can ensure lysine requirements are met and maximum production is achieved. Figure 2 highlights several trials in which a rumen protected lysine product was used to increase MP Lysine levels. The result is improved milk production and increased profit. 

Figure 3. The effect of increasing the supply of MP Lysine on production



1National Research Council. 2001. Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle. 7th rev. ed. Natl. Acad. Sci. Washington, DC.

*Agricultural Modeling and Training Systems

**Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System

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