Beef Market Advisor

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Some Grain-Feeding Tips For Cows In A Drought

If drought is playing out your pasture, Rick Rasby, University of Nebraska beef specialist,
offers the following feeding and supplementation advice for those looking to feed corn:
In limit-feeding corn to cattle in drylot, be sure to allow plenty of bunk space to ensure all
cattle have the opportunity to feed (24-36 in./head, perhaps more with bigger cows).

The following ration recommendations are based on feeding situations where no pasture is
available. The concentrate part of the ration supplies the energy and protein needs, while a
low-quality forage ensures that rumen health isn't compromised.

If using a low-quality hay for the forage source, Rasby recommends including a supplement
with an ionophore calibrated to deliver 200-250 mg/head! day to each cow. The ionophore
will help reduce digestive problems and increase feed efficiency.

Because these rations are supplying all of cattle's daily nutrient requirements, Rasby
recommends feeding twice/day - mornings and evenings - for the first week, feed half of the
ration at each feeding to allow cows' rumens to adapt. After a week, it's likely more
economical to feed the ration once/day, he says.

If corn gluten feed or soy hulls are substituted for grain, an ionophore isn't necessary. The
corn gluten feed may be dry or wet, but account for the moisture if feeding wet product.
Corn gluten can replace corn or milo on a pound-for-pound basis, but be sure to account for
the product's moisture. Half the grain part of these rations could be replaced with soy hulls.

If using distillers grains, feed a maximum of 7 lbs./head/day on a dry matter basis. When
using gluten or distillers, phosphorus supplementation isn't needed; if fed instead of corn, a
protein supplement isn't necessary.

If feeding gluten or distillers, Rasby says a high-quality forage such as alfalfa isn't necessary.
When feeding whole corn, include 10-12 lbs.,/head/day on an as-fed basis, along with 2-2.5
lbs. of a 38% supplement (with ionophore), 6 lbs. of low-quality hay, and salt and mineral
free-choice, for a 18-20 lbs./head/day total ration.

For cows whose calves have been weaned, Rasby recommends 10-12 lbs. of whole
corn/head/day on as as-fed basis, with 2 lbs. of a 38% supplement, 6 lbs. of low-quality hay,
and salt and mineral free-choice, for a total ration of 16-18 lbs./head/day.

The low-quality hay can be any of last year's carry-over hay, but if the hay is very low
quality, protein will be needed. If 6-8 lbs./head/day of alfalfa is included in the whole-corn
diets, a protein supplement isn't needed.

Because the diets are limit-fed, it may take time for cows to adapt to the feeding program,
Rasby says, so add 3-4 lbs/head/day of a low-quality forage as a filler.

-- Rick Rasby, University of Nebraska-Lincoln animal science professor

posted by Dr. Harlan Hughes 7:37 PM [edit]

Early weaning a viable option during drought conditions

by Dr. Kris Ringwall

NDSU Extension Service

DICKINSON, N.D. - On Aug. 9, the North Dakota State University Dickinson Research Extension Center shipped its first load of early weaned calves to Scottsbluff, Neb. The day was hot, but not unbearable. The cows were put back to pasture after ultrasounding for pregnancy.

The cows were bred well. Only five cows of the 48 in the group were not detected as pregnant. That doesn't mean they were not pregnant; it simply means they could have been late and are under the detection age for ultrasounding. The other 43 cows were at least a month along in their pregnancy.

The bulls will be heading to town. All should break the ton mark for weight and hopefully will bring in the low- to mid-$60 range. Given the current competition for a bite of grass, the check should be good. The corrals will breathe a sigh of relief because they do not have to hold another set of bull re-acquaintance sessions.

Two-year study

The early weaning project is a two-year study involving 505 cow-calf pairs from the NDSU-DREC, South Dakota State University Antelope Research Station and the University of Wyoming Beef Unit. By now, the calves should be getting acclimated in their new home.

Doug Landblom, DREC animal scientist, is the lead author of the study, which reported first-year results in the 2006 NDSU-DREC annual report. Landblom and colleagues investigated many variables in the study.

The objective of the study was to evaluate the effects of mid-August weaning vs. more traditional early November weaning on cow and calf production traits, forage utilization and economic returns. The study revealed weaning calves early from spring-calving cows can have multiple impacts on beef systems.
The calves were penned relative to their individual weight and body condition score. In the study, calves were weaned either at an average of 140 days of age in August or at an average of 215 days of age in November. The mother cows grazed native range between the two weaning dates.

Calves from the North Dakota and South Dakota cow herds were finished in Nebraska, while the Wyoming calves were finished in Wyoming. Not all locations responded the same. For purposes of practical discussion, overall, the cows that had calves weaned in August lost less weight than the November-weaned cows. The Dakota cows' body condition score was improved for August-weaned cows vs. the November-weaned cows, but not for the Wyoming cows.

This study was especially appropriate this year because of the drought conditions that exist. Data collected in the first year of the study showed the quantity of forage that disappeared was reduced by more than 27 percent when calves were weaned in August.


During the backgrounding feedlot phase, the performance of August-weaned steers from North Dakota had greater average daily gain than the November-weaned calves. Both North Dakota and South Dakota steers were more feed efficient during backgrounding.
In the finishing phase, August-weaned steers grew slower, but were more efficient. On average, at all locations, November-weaned steers entered the feedlot heavier and required fewer days on feed to harvest, but August-weaned steers were 46 days younger at harvest.

Early weaning a viable option during drought conditions

Landblom and his associates concluded weaning spring-born calves early reduced forage utilization, improved cow body weight and body condition score, improved backgrounding performance and finishing feed efficiency, reduced the number of days from birth to harvest and yielded similar finishing performance.

The bottom line is don't be afraid to early wean calves. Make sure you get with a feedlot and nutritionist and do it right.

posted by Dr. Harlan Hughes 5:20 PM [edit]

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