To keep milk production steady, dairy farmers need a continual stream of newly calved “fresh” cows to milk. The first 30 days of lactation isn’t easy for cows, however; adapting to new feed and new housing, all while expending calories in milk, can place high demands on their limited energy and lead to costly metabolic problems.
These problems include clinical and subclinical ketosis. Cornell University researchers found these diseases can cost, on average, $289 per cow in lost milk, medical treatments, deaths and lower reproduction—a hefty portion of most dairy farms’ income.
Based in Luxemburg, Wisconsin, Fermented Nutrition has been making a product called Fermented Ammoniated Condensed Whey (FACW) since the 1970s, originally intended as an alternative protein source. Gerald Poppy, who has been the company's president since 2014 and has advanced degrees in epidemiology, veterinary sciences and dairy management, among others, says Fermented Nutrition’s new flagship product, GlucoBoost®, is a concentrated form of that original product.
After years of research, the company has finally confirmed what farmers have known for decades: FACW improves early lactation energy levels and helps fight clinical and subclinical ketosis.
A product that works “too well”
The company, originally called Packerland Whey Products, was formed in 1973 by five cheese plants looking to find an environmentally friendly use for their excess whey.
The company started selling Fermented Ammoniated Condensed Whey in 1978 as a substitute for soybean meal. FACW, now known as LW-40, is made through a proprietary fermentation process in which the unique sugars and proteins of whey products are combined with a special strain of lactobacillus, a bacteria culture often used in yogurt.
This protein alternative helps farmers when soybean prices rise, and while the dairy industry is rife with cheap substitutes made from whey permeate urea and molasses, no other product mimics the reaction of LW-40 with the cow’s metabolism, Poppy says. He’s spent the last 3 years finding out why. Ultimately, he and his team consulted with “the real experts”—the dairymen feeding and milking cows every day.
Farmer after farmer told them that LW-40 prevented ketosis in fresh cows, prompting Poppy and his technical team to investigate. There was no research to support the farmers’ claims and Poppy was skeptical.
“We didn’t believe the farmers at first,” he says.
Poppy and his team ran a series of farm field trials using a concentrated version of LW-40 designed to improve the fresh cow’s energy status.
Thanks to a newly developed meter, they could measure the cow’s energy levels and verify the product’s effects.
The prototype worked so well that farmers didn’t want the trial to end, so they became customers.
Spreading the word
In 2015, the company changed its name to Fermented Nutrition, marketed its prototype as GlucoBoost® and started offering it in liquid and crystalized form. The company still sells its legacy product, LW-40, as a cost-effective alternative to soybean meal.
While GlucoBoost® offers a new way to manage early lactation energy issues, Poppy says it’s meant to assist producers, not be a replacement for good transition cow management. He says herd advisers must still feed their cattle well-formulated diets and make sure their bunks don’t become overcrowded with incoming cows.
Keeping cows healthy while maintaining profitable milk production continues to be one of the greatest challenges faced on dairy farms across the U.S., Poppy says.
“We believe that as more research gets disseminated, GlucoBoost® will become a go-to product for veterinarians and nutritionists who, up to this point, have had no good alternative method for maintaining good health in early lactation cows,” he explains.
New Name, New Company, New Products
Now, Fermented Nutrition uses a similar process to make products outside of the dairy industry. One of its newest is Whey2Grow ®, which accelerates plant growth and is used by several golf courses and NFL teams to manage their turf.
Research companies on the west coast are also using it to support growth in strawberries and tomatoes, with one recent study finding that Whey2Grow® increased the growth of tomatoes by 11.6 percent.
As with GlucoBoost®, Poppy says the company decided to research accelerated plant growth after talking to farmers. He also attributes new product development to a 2012 buyout of Packerland Whey Products by Granite Creek Partners that helped create Fermented Nutrition.
“Granite Creek’s specific purpose was to invest in a company that they felt with new management, new research dollars and investment in manufacturing equipment, could be successful,” Poppy says.
He adds that Fermented Nutrition is more than just a new name; it is “a new company with new values,” and says research will continue to refine existing products and develop new ones.