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Amino Acids – The Building Blocks of Protein in Rations

“Amino acid balancing” has been used by poultry and swine nutritionists for years, and now dairy nutritionists have begun to apply it as well. But what does it really mean to balance for amino acids?

What balancing for amino acids means

If the amount of amino acids supplied in the diet meets the requirements of the cow, the diet is considered “balanced” for amino acids.

Why balance?

Historically, we’ve thought of cows as having a protein requirement and balanced diets to reach a specific crude protein level. However, we now know that rather than a specific protein requirement, cows actually require amino acids — the building blocks of protein.

Balancing for amino acids can allow for less protein to be used in the ration. This means less waste and less nitrogen in manure, while allowing for more room in the ration formulation for other nutrients. It adds another level of consistency to the diet, and can potentially improve milk component production and protein utilization, as well as potentially create cost savings.

How to balance

Even though cows have amino acid requirements and not protein requirements, the focus is typically on the crude protein level of ingredients. Getting comfortable with amino acid balancing allows the minimums on protein to be relaxed, and software platforms allow users to balance with ease.

To learn about the amino acid profile of canola meal, visit the amino acid section of the Dairy page.