With a long, snow covered winter and a rainy spring, many producers can be optimistic when thinking about forage quality and availability this grazing season. Reviewing the drought monitor, things are improving, but we’re not out of the woods yet. The effects of long-term drought are not limited to forage and water quality.
We all know that forage quality and quantity suffer in drought conditions. If hay is available, it’s going to be drought stressed too (low protein and trace mineral levels). These situations combine to result in a lowered plain of nutrition for your cattle. The outward signs of this will be weight and condition losses. However, this can also mean a loss of cow productivity.
Several university studies have shown that cow productivity drops during and following a drought. A New Mexico study showed that weaning weights and calving percentage were reduced as a result of a drought. A study from Arizona showed that the conception rates in 3 year-old cows was 20% lower in a drought year than a normal year. The same study also showed that supplementing during a drought raised conception rates. A second New Mexico study also showed lower calf weights (branding and weaning) and a longer calving interval in a drought year. These cattle also showed improved cow productivity and a shorter calving interval when supplemented.
Drought stressed forages need supplementing to help keep your cows working for you. CRYSTALYX® has a barrel for that. The Breed-Up® line of supplements provide the protein, minerals (copper, zinc, selenium, phosphorus) and vitamins critical to your herds’ reproductive efficiency. The addition of chelated/organic trace minerals ensures availability of trace minerals in situations where antagonists are high. The supplemental protein aids in dry matter digestion and helps your cattle make the most of a tough situation.
CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements has additional tools to keep your cows on track. The body condition score app (available for iPhone and Android platforms) puts your cow records in your hand, easily accessible at any time. Crystal Clear Economyx® allows you to track your costs and compare supplement forms against each other on one page. The Supplement Scheduler takes the guess work out of keeping barrels in front of your cows. Set up pastures, cow numbers and the exact barrel you use and receive a reminder via e-mail to put out more barrels.
To learn more about the producer tools available visit our website at www.crystalyx.com and select Producer Tools from the How It Works drop down above. To learn more about the Breed-Up® product line, see your local CRYSTALYX® dealer or visit our website at www.crystalyx.com and select Breeding/Calving from the By Condition/Situation drop down above. You will surely find an application to help manage your herd and overall nutrition program.
Several CRYSTALYX® blogs have been topics surrounding “volatility” in our business and how it is more or less the norm these days. I think the weather we’ve had in the past couple of years could be summarized much the same. From floods to drought to extreme heat and cold and late spring blizzards, it reminds me of a common saying I here almost everywhere I travel, “we sure have had a weird ____ “ (fill in the blank and pick your season of year).
I guess its spring by the calendar and yes, we made it through winter – I think. For many cow-calf producers in the Northern U.S. it was a hard winter or it was a dry winter leaving many wondering about spring precipitation, grass for the 2013 growing season, crop markets and planting, etc… Thankfully there have been some moisture improvements which give hope. Just what would have last fall and winter have been like without a good supplement strategy, and of course CRYSTALYX®?
Our customers purchased and fed a lot of barrels this past year, and it made good sense to do so. Record high forage cost and volatile commodity cost illustrated the best economics of an effective supplement program, and CRYSTALYX® penciled very well versus many other supplement types, forms and methods. Some of the so called “bargain” commodities really weren’t this past year or weren’t even available.
Feeding high quality forages to cows this past winter was either a luxury or not a good economic decision. Thus we utilized more poor hay (where it could be found), crop residue like corn stalk grazing, bales or feeding, drought stressed silages, etc… Still, the returns on any supplement program need to be justified. We nutritionist and feed specialist talk about this all the time. One thing maybe we ought to think of more is just what we would give up or put at risk without a good supplement program? With this in mind, what would have the past fall and winter looked like without CRYSTALYX®, or more importantly what would our cows look like now without it?
What’s the monetary value of CRYSTALYX®? What is its benefits worth?
It may be hard to put one hard figure on the value of any supplement program but listed below are some values applied to some of the efficiencies gained:
- A 10% or better hay savings or forage utilization could be realized by feeding CRYSTALYX® versus not. If hay is $200 per ton and you’re feeding 25-30 lbs. per cow per day, a 10% improvement in forage utilization could be worth $35.00 or more per cow in a winter feeding season.
- Better Grazing Distribution can extend the number of days on pasture by as much as 2 weeks. The cost of grazing varies greatly by locale but considering pasture rates from $150-$300 per season, two weeks is worth $14-$28 per cow.
- CRYSTALYX® eliminates a great deal of labor and equipment cost associated with supplementation. Again values may vary but by evaluation using the Crystal Clear Economyx® program, CRYSTALYX® would have a 10 cent advantage per cow per day versus hand fed supplements. This equates to $15.00 per cow over a 150 day season.
By not supplementing at all, we may be saving on inputs but we put to risk many health and performance benefits. These may be considered opportunity cost but the cost of a missed breeding cycle due to poor reproductive performance could be $60.00+ at today’s market and what do sick, and poor doing calves cost??
The cost to feed CRYSTALYX® for 150 days is approximately $56.00 (more or less depending on formulation chosen and typical intakes). It is a cost but it does pay. Nobody likes to write the check but by doing it we can eliminate some of the cost factors above or gain some of the efficiencies above. With today’s costs and the price of calves, it doesn’t take a lot to make a CRYSTALYX® program pay. CRYSTALYX® has weathered the volatility we face very well. Thus perhaps one of the reasons it’s worked so well. I’d argue (as I have in past writings) that it brings more value to our industry now than ever.
Be assured that CRYSTALYX® was a good supplement decision last season and likely will be going forward. Thank you, cattle producers for your business and the opportunity to serve you. Our success depends upon yours as we are all in this together. Here’s to good weather, green grass and success this summer!
In my last blog (about 7 weeks ago), I predicted that it always rains at the end of a drought. For many of us in the northern plains, we received one to two feet of snow in April. Some had more, and some had less, but in many areas it was the first appreciable amount of precipitation in months. Could it be that it may snow at the end of a drought? Perhaps so, but it is way too early to say we are coming out of the great drought of 2012. There will be ample moisture in many places to spur some spring growth of cool season grasses. Jon Albro had an excellent Blog on March 19th about the increased likelihood of grass tetany following a dry winter. As you read this today, many of you may already be experiencing that. Hopefully you have had high magnesium supplements out ahead of the threat.
As we move into May, many of you are close to turning your bulls out, and for those of you that calve in February, they are already out. Whether you have had to deal with grass tetany or not, your next nutritional opportunity is your summer mineral program. While the grass may be lush, and you may be tempted to reduce supplement costs, your summer mineral program is one of the cheapest times of the year to meet your herd’s supplemental nutrient needs. This is primarily because (most of the time) you do not need to supplement protein, and self-fed supplement intake in the summer time is generally low. Spring and summer supplementation programs also ensure that your beef herd is in optimal condition to conceive next year’s calf crop. I would place that fairly high on any Cattleman’s priority list. Should we really be cutting corners here?
But do you need supplements on lush spring forage? For your local area, your County Extension Agents would have the best information. From a broader view, we can look at the NAHMS (National Animal Health Monitoring System) 1997 forage survey, which summarized over 700 forage samples in 23 states. Of 38 native grass samples submitted, only 18% were adequate for copper and only 23 % were adequate for zinc. Similarly, of 70 introduced grass samples submitted, 30% were adequate for copper and 34 % were adequate for zinc. Only about 23% of all 108 grass samples were adequate for selenium. While it stated that these samples were fairly mature at the time of sampling, it still demonstrates that your grass pastures are more often than not, going to be inadequate for copper, zinc and selenium. These are three of the most important trace minerals for reproduction in a beef cow.
But, you say, will they be adequate in the spring? Can I skip spring mineral supplementation? While grasses will likely have their highest concentration of trace minerals in the spring, there is still a chance that they may not be adequate. If we look at the two graphs below form work conducted in Oregon, we can see the average concentration for zinc and copper, in 10 grasses sampled, never do reach an adequate level over a 2 year period (10 ppm for copper and 30 ppm for zinc). Again, your local Extension Agent would have more specific information for your local forages.
Adapted from Ganskopp and Bohnert 2003
Adapted from Ganskopp and Bohnert 2003
May and June are very busy times for all Ranchers and Farmers. But self-fed summer mineral programs will generally only cost from 6 to 12 cents per head per day. While your grasses may be deficient in just a few trace minerals, it is important to supplement with a properly balanced mineral product. CRYSTALYX® Brand Mineral Supplement blocks are available to your herd 24/7, and are formulated to take the guess work out of those ratios. Additionally, CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements can be used to lure your cattle to underutilized rangeland and pastures, so that you get maximum utilization of your grass and efficient herd breed-up, all with a minimum requirement on your time, to just roll out the barrels.
Being ‘green’ is all the rage now. Electric cars, canvas grocery bags and the local food movement all make people feel better about how they live. Amanda Radke, writer for Beef Magazine, points out that beef production has been green for a long while. Her recent editorial has inspired my blog for the week of Earth Day.
As the number of farmers in the US declines, the average consumer is more than 2 generations removed from agriculture. A consequence of this is that their idea of agriculture is formed by stories from grandpa of 4 row planters, 2 dairy cows and 30 beef cows. Thus, the pastoral visions of yesterday are ingrained and accepted as the norm and the reality of modern agriculture is a shock to the system.
The key fact missing from grandpa’s stories of days gone by is the environmental impact. Modern livestock production makes much more efficient use of precious resources than it did just 30 years ago; so much so that beef producers can produce the same pounds of beef with 4 animals when it took 5 in 1977. The graphics below illustrate how the environmental impact of beef (red) and dairy (blue) production has changed in the past 30 plus years.
Graphics from Making safe, affordable and abundant food a global reality, 2011 Jeff Simons, Elanco Animal Health.
By embracing advances in the technology, beef producers have been able to do more with less and improve environmental stewardship. One area that is often taken for granted is how cattle are fed and supplemented. CRYSTAYLX® Brand Supplements have been part of improving supplement technology since 1976.
A part of the reason that beef production is able to use less land today, is that we have been able to get cattle to graze the entire pasture. Research has shown that cattle will follow CRYSTALYX® barrels throughout the pasture, meaning you can lead your cattle to an underutilized part of the pasture and keep them in the area. Additionally, providing the right supplement at the right time can improve forage utilization. Supplementing protein while cattle are grazing low-quality or dormant pastures improves rumen efficiency. When the grass is green, a mineral supplement provides key nutrients to the rumen and the animal.
The next step in the green path is to advocate. We can all be an advocate for the green in beef production by arming ourselves with the facts. The Beef Check-off Program has funded two information-packed websites, www.explorebeef.org and www.factsaboutbeef.com, for producers to pick up talking points and consumers to learn more. The Sustainable Beef Resource Center (www.sustainablebeef.org) has links to research as well as talking points for setting the record straight on beef production. The CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements website (www.crystalyx.com) has links to research on grazing management as well as information on product offerings and container options to best serve your operation.
Being green may be all the rage, but it’s been part of beef cattle production since the start. We are all stewards of the land and it’s time to share our story with our customers.
For me, College NCAA Basketball is one thing that makes it possible to get through March and April. This year has been especially fun. Who knew what would happen. A number 11, three 12s, a 13, a 14 and a 15 all won. The Final Four had only one number 1 seed. How did these lower ranked teams win? They played the whole game. Many games went to the wire with teams fighting to the end.
Much like the basketball players in the final minutes, cattle producers cannot stop investing in proper nutrition for the cow herd during spring calving season. Many cows are in the last trimester of pregnancy. This is a critical time for nutrient transfer to the calf. The cow will transfer trace minerals from her body reserves to the calf. The calf’s mineral status at birth is critical for optimum immune function and growth in the first months of life. This is especially true for copper and zinc. The young calf is on a milk diet and milk is a poor source of the trace minerals copper and zinc. Grass is also low in copper and zinc. The CRYSTALYX® Breed Up™ product line is designed to provide added trace mineral and vitamin E during the pre-calving through breeding season. The Breed Up™ 20 and 28 provide protein and mineral where the Breed Up™ Max is a mineral only supplement. Breed Up™ 17 Mag has been added for the areas that need additional magnesium.
Less than a minute to go! Down by 3! Hay supplies are tight. It costs too much!!
The 2012 hay acreage was down 20% from 2011. It was the smallest harvested area since 1948. The December 1 crop report showed supplies of less than 77 million ton, which was the smallest December 1 amount since 1957. This winter weather from January to April was cold for most of cattle country and cattle went through some feed. There is not a great deal of hay left and what is available is expensive. The severity of the hay situation was demonstrated to me this week. In Western Wisconsin, I followed a load of what had to be 2-3 year old hay that had been in someone’s fence row. It was traveling west on Interstate 94. No strings were left and the load was secured with straps and a cargo net. The tractor and trailer were from Nebraska.
Cows in late pregnancy and early lactation need the best forage and supplements possible. If you are buying hay it may be tempting to “save” some money by skipping the supplement. Actually, CRYSTALYX® can help stretch forage supplies by improving fiber digestibility, while providing the additional mineral and vitamins the cows and calves need. Research has shown a 10% improvement in fiber digestibility which will allow your cows to get more out of the hay. Cheating the cows now can cause too much weight loss and poor breed back later, which can be really costly.
Much like a basketball game, we cannot stop before the buzzer sounds.
Last week I reviewed cost of production information that can help producers with benchmarking within their own operations. A representation of calf prices in relationship to feed costs and total direct expenses are shown below in Graph 1. Don’t forget to go to the following website if you would like to evaluate these benchmarks in more detail when comparing to your operation http://www.finbin.umn.edu/. This week I wanted to look at adding producer returns during the same time frame. In Graph 1, I added this information as returns over direct expense. It is interesting to note that these returns over direct expenses for the years 1993 and 2011 are within $12 of each other and would be well over $200 per head. Even though the price of feed and for that matter all direct costs, have increased dramatically, calf prices have more recently kept pace to provide similar returns over direct expenses.
Some would argue that producers could earn the same money on a per head basis for a calves valued at $500 back in the early 1990’s compared to calves now requiring to be valued at $800 per head. This significant change in the last decade has been felt throughout the beef industry as it requires much more capital to buy cattle and place them on feed or grass in addition to breeding stock purchases.
There is no doubt that input costs for feed and other direct expenses have moved up with calf prices. There was a period from 2006 to 2009 where calf prices came down while costs continued to rise, resulting in a decrease in returns for cow-calf producers. We do, though, appear to be on a path of correcting this reduction in profit as you look at 2010 and 2011 results from both FinBin data – Graph 1, and information gathered by CattleFax – Graph 2. If you look at projections by CattleFax – Graph 3 we might feel optimistic possibly as far out as 2015.
So why have I included 3 graphs in this blog? First, be assured the reason is not to add confusion. On the contrary, I hope that these graphs will help illustrate a few points about the upcoming years in the cow-calf business:
- Even though input costs impact your returns and costs have went up over the last decade, look at the relationship of returns over direct expenses to calf prices. It is no surprise that these lines mirror each other since returns are highly dependent on calf prices received. It also shows that even though direct expenses have been going up, that returns are also on their way up.
- It is interesting to note the similarities in the data that FinBin reports (Graph 1) as well as CattleFax (Graph 2) in terms of cow-calf profit and loss or returns over direct expenses. When you evaluate the years, the shape of the cycle mirrors each data set very closely. This tells me that the relationship is something that can be extrapolated to many areas of the US, not just the Northern Plains.
- The most encouraging aspect of these 3 graphs is when you put the returns together with projected calf prices out to 2015 (Graph 3) and you see that the opportunity for profitability in the cow/calf business appears to only get stronger!
While there is no doubt that cow-calf production costs are increasing, calf prices are estimated to be at levels that should more than offset these increases and result in very profitable returns this year and in the near future. There are always dangers in these types of projections as mother nature can heavily influence localized conditions and cost structures. Persistent drought can be a major impact that may force increased expenses and potentially severe reductions in animal numbers. One should always focus on what they can manage and costs of production, like feed costs, is no exception. I would caution producers not to get caught up and dwell on these increases when you consider what the value of calves are today. Be careful not to trim expenses too closely where it starts limiting production. The price of calves is indicating we are in a period where there will be great returns for the Cow-calf producer. You’ve earned it!
Graph 1: Feed costs, total direct expenses and return over direct expenses are as reported by FinBin, a Farm Financial Database supported by the University of Minnesota, http://www.finbin.umn.edu/. CattleFax 550 lb choice steer prices are from the March 13’ CF Factors to Watch Report.
Graph 2: Projections for cow-calf Profit and Loss from CattleFax Forecast 2013
Graph 3: CattleFax Annual 550 lb Steer Prices with Projections for years 2012 to 2015
For many of us that have been around cattle the biggest risk is becoming complacent and not putting safety first. Agriculture is a dangerous occupation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and The Center for Disease Control regularly collect injury and death rate information and the numbers are alarming. From 2003 to 2007, there were on average 583 agriculture related deaths per year. In 2011 agriculture had 557 deaths. Transportation and construction had more deaths, but agriculture had the highest death rate at 24.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. As the graphs below indicate, farming is the most dangerous occupation compared to other industries.
Most of the deaths occurring on a farm, involve equipment and tractor accidents, but 25-30% of all deaths are related to livestock production. A study conducted by the Iowa Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation with the Great Plains Center for Agriculture Health examined all the livestock related deaths in 2008 for Iowa and Nebraska. This study pointed out that handling cattle accounted for 85% of deaths.
Table 1. Trends and activities associated with reported deaths
During the calving season we may allow our focus on safety to waive. Feeding hay and the daily chores may have become routine. However, the activities associated with calving season are the ones shown to be associated with increased risk of injury and death. We are MOVING animals into calving pens and we may need to work in an ENCLOSED AREA to assist them during calving. Often we are LOADING animals to take them to different pastures.
Low Stress Animal Handling From a Safety Prospective
The animal is the primary cause of injury in 85% of the Iowa and Nebraska deaths. If we take into account some principals of how animals react to stimulus we can then anticipate their response. We can begin to use low stress handling techniques to get the desired result with less stress on the animal and less risk for injury to ourselves. The items listed below are the basic concepts to keep in mind when working with animals. Calving season is a time when we are in close contact with animals and these low stress handling tips can help decrease the risk of injury.
Field of vision
Cattle have very good periphery vision which covers 340 degrees except for the blind spot directly behind them. Staying out of the blind spot can help avoid kicking risk and rapid movement by the animal. Cattle will want to keep you in their line of site.
Every animal has a flight zone. Once a threat enters this area they react by moving away.
Pressure zone and point of balance
Every animal has a zone where they will react to pressure or stimuli from handlers. Pressure is just the human presence and movement. On the diagram below, the A is outside the pressure zone and movement will stop when at this location. The B is inside the pressure zone and will initiate movement. Point of balance is the spot where our pressure can move an animal forward faster or change direction. Most of low stress handling training is learning how animals react to minor changes in your location relative to the point of balance. We do not need prods, canes, load noise or shouting to get animals to react.
Cattle will want to go back to where they came from. Take this into consideration for layout of head gates and calving pens. A cow will walk past an open gate and continue down a straight lane. If they are allowed to turn around and go back, the will turn into a pen or head gate alley if they think they are going back to where they were.
Calving season is a great time. The calves are the reward for our efforts to provide the proper care and nutrition needed for a profitable herd. It is a time when we are in very close contact with the animals. Take some extra to consider safe handling practices.
Are you and your beef cows ready for calving season? What supplies and equipment do we need to have ready before the first calves arrive? What are the metabolic changes that impact the cow’s energy, protein, mineral and vitamin requirements?
Preparation for calving season needs to include gathering the items listed below. Calving season could start 10-14 days earlier than expected so don’t wait until the last minute to get items together and organize your calving equipment. The items need to be stored in a clean and easily accessible area. Give some thought to how the OB tools and puller will be cleaned after each use. How and where are the OB tools washed and dried? The calf’s immune system is naïve until it consumes colostrum and the cow’s immune system is suppressed around calving. The emphasis on sanitation is to prevent exposing the calf and the cow’s reproductive tract to pathogens during this high risk period. If an animal is needing assistance with calving her stress level is higher than normal. If it is a very difficult pull there will be additional trauma to the reproductive tract. What we do during these few hours will impact the cow’s ability to recover from calving and breed back on schedule.
Supply and Tool Check List
Source of warm water Bucket for OB tools and disinfectant
Disinfectant Empty soap bottle for squirting disinfectant solution
OB gloves OB lubricant
1 Long OB chain 2 Short OB chains
Calf puller (check cables) Head snare
Soft brush for cleaning cow Brush for cleaning equipment
Navel disinfectant Colostrum Replacer
Small pail for mixing Calf bottle – extra nipple
Milk Replacer Paper towels or clean cloth towels
Esophageal feeder Syringes and needles
Biological processes that increase nutrient requirements
Most of the calf’s development occurs during the last trimester of pregnancy which increases the demand for energy, protein, mineral and vitamins. The majority of mammary system development is occurring at this time as well as the production of colostrum. The cow will pull from maternal stores to meet the growing calf’s demand. This is especially true for the trace minerals copper, zinc and selenium. These trace minerals are needed for many functions, but critical for maintaining a strong immune system. Milk is a poor source of copper and zinc, which implies the calf will be using the stored minerals the first several months of life. In short, the pre-calving period is when we need to have the best nutrition program possible. CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplement offers a wide variety of supplements to fit your operation. The Breed Up® formulas are designed with a higher nutrient profile just for the calving and breeding season.
Now is the time to prepare your calving equipment and supplies and check your nutrition program for a successful calving season. A little effort and planning now can make assisting at calving go much smoother.
The holiday season is a good time to reflect upon the past year. We might ask ourselves, what went wrong, right, what we’d do again, and what we learned not to do. 2012 was a challenging year in many respects. No doubt the drought was the most challenging and a news making event. It will be a large factor in shaping our industry for the next several years.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the negatives but there is some good news, or at least things to be thankful for. Winter has not taken a hard grip (at least not at the time of writing this) making it just a little easier to deal with limited feed resources and higher cost. Yes, we in the feed and supplement business have been challenged by more production demand and in making feed programs more efficient but we are grateful to be in this business. In addition, beef cattle prices have remained solid. Sure, there have been some ups and downs and production costs have been rising, but by in large the cow-calf producer will be profitable in 2012 and experts point to an optimistic 2013 given a little help from mother nature. With all the above being said, if you were to ask a cow to reflect on 2012 and the Christmas season, she might write a letter to Santa Claus and I have a feeling it would go something like this:
Its dry and I’ve consumed low quality forage this past summer & fall. I’ve got by okay due to some supplemental help. I’ve not been naughty this year, I’ve been nice. I’ve done my best to breed well, maintain body condition and even gained some because I’ve been fed CRYSTALYX® on the ranch this fall. I’m sure some naughty cows in other places might not get any supplement this winter and will have to “just rough it.” Maybe it’s because they think it costs too much. I’m sure they will be sorry come calving or rebreeding time as they’ll have more problems. The lump of coal in their stocking might be a trip to the sale barn next summer or fall.
Again Santa, I’ve been more nice than naughty so some supplement like CRYSTALYX® would sure help again. It sounds like the calf market will be good next year and I’ll raise a good calf if I’m fed right. I’ll also breed back, and do it early in the breeding season as to have a heavier calf to sell in 2014. This will be even more likely if you allow me to have a good CRYTALYX® mineral program through the summer months, or a good fly control program too? If you do this, I’ll be able to withstand the stresses of summer, especially if it’s dry again, and will be in good shape next fall. In fact, I’ll be easier to feed next fall and winter if I’m taken care of this winter into spring and next summer.
Santa, my job is pretty simple. I graze, get bred, calve, and nurse a calf. If I can do it under budget and perform each year, I’ll stay on the ranch. I do need some tools however and CRYSTALYX® fits well. Thank you Santa and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. P.S. Please send rain.
There are uncertainties in 2013 but the future is never fully clear. We do know that Beef Cattle numbers and beef production will be lower in 2013. This coupled with decent demand (certain or uncertain?) should translate into good beef cow-calf economics. So if you look at supplementation like playing Santa Claus, I hope you think of your cows being more nice than naughty. Take care of the cows that take care of you. Thank you Livestock Producers for allowing us to serve you and for your resilience in 2012. We wish you success in 2013!
It is almost Christmas time. Before you know it, the holidays will be over, and some of you may actually be looking forward to this! You may also be wondering if we will go over the Fiscal Cliff. As I write this, no one seems to have any answers.
Back to cows…. come January 1st, 2013, many of you will be within 60 to 90 days of calving. So, your cows are approaching a “Nutritional Cliff”. For the brood cow, calving through re-breeding is a high stress time, coupled with high nutrient requirements. The final 3 months of gestation see somewhere around 70% of the total growth of the fetus. Several key nutrients are transferred from the cow to the calf during the final 3 months of gestation. If cows are short on protein, weak calves can often result. Good quality colostrum is a must for healthy calves.
For spring calving cows, most forages are deficient in the trace minerals and vitamins necessary for production of good quality colostrum. Supplementation of trace minerals, vitamins and phosphorus is then absolutely essential to building the quality of colostrum that will provide the calf with a robust immune system necessary to avoid scours. This transfer of nutrients to the newborn calf puts a drain on the maternal reserves at a time when she needs them to recover from calving and then breed back.
Another factor to consider this year is how the impact of recent drought conditions and dry summer/fall pastures impacted your cow herd. Limited forage availability as compared to typical grazing conditions may have resulted in less energy converted to cow weight gain. Are your cows coming into the winter with their normal body condition stores or are they a bit thinner than normal? Given the time of the year you still have ample time to influence fiber digestibility and harvest more energy from your current forage supplies.
How can you avoid this nutritional cliff? It is not hard at all. Make sure you ramp up your cow herd supplementation at 3 months prior to calving. If your cows are not going to calve at a Body Condition Score (BCS) of 5 or better, you will need to feed more energy to get them to a BCS of 5 by calving. Failing to have your cows in this good of condition will often result in poorer conception rates this spring and summer.
There may be some of you thinking that you don’t want to make a drastic increase in the plane of nutrition for cows late in gestation as it may result in more dystocia or calving difficulty. There have been a number of studies that refute this observation when elevating the nutritional plane for cows prior to calving. Generally you may see a small increase in Birth Weight of the calves but more importantly, you find that cows are much better prepared physically to handle the birthing process and are able to calve unassisted when compared to under fed cows. I would caution anyone who wants to use this reasoning to not supplement their cows prior to calving if they indeed want to have cows that will provide high quality colostrum milk after an unassisted calving followed by producing strong healthy calves that can face the uncertain spring environmental conditions with minimal health concerns. Simply put, don’t let your cows go into calving underfed!
If you are concerned that you have not prepared your cows for the upcoming nutritional cliff, take steps to provide supplemental nutritional well ahead of the cliff. CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements are an easy way to affordably provide protein, trace minerals, vitamins and phosphorus in a supplement block that’s available 24/7, while minimizing your investment in time, labor and equipment.
Technology is everywhere. Our homes are wireless, tractors all but drive themselves, and you can even get reminders on your phone to put out fresh barrels. As much as technology is readily accepted in other areas of everyday life, there is hesitation when it comes to technology and food production. Public concern over the use of feed additives in food animals is high with those outside the ag community. However, what would happen if the growth enhancing technology (GET) we take for granted in cattle production (ionophores, implants, etc.) where no longer available?
A review in the October 2012 issue of the Journal of Animal Science tackled just that question. The table below illustrates the changes needed to maintain pounds of beef produced in the U.S. at 1 billion pounds. The GET types that were included in this review include in-feed ionophores (monensin, lasalocid), in-feed hormones (melengestrol acetate), beta-andrenergic agonists (ractopamine, zilpaterol) and steroid implants.
Losing GET will result in more cattle, land, feed and water needed to maintain current beef production levels. It will also increase the cost of production. The review suggests that production costs to get a steer to 1,200 lbs. would increase from $1,704 to $1,860. This $156 per head increase translates to reduced profits and eventually reduce production. There would be increased competition with pork and poultry at the meat counter as well. It would not be the end of beef production in the US, but would mean lost jobs and perhaps the next generation not being able to stay on the ranch.
We can’t overlook the natural and organic cattle producers in this discussion. They have paved the way for production without the use of most or all GET and have many successes. There is a thriving market for cattle produced in this manner. However, the beef industry as a whole cannot afford to not utilize GET. It’s just not feasible when you look at the numbers in the table above.
We have to be our own advocates when it comes to GET. We as beef producers, stewards of land and animals, have to be ready and willing to explain our methods. The standard answer of “that’s the way dad/grandpa did it” doesn’t work anymore. We have to be mindful of the products that we’re using with the cattle. We must use them properly, read and follow the directions on the tag. We should be asking ourselves: why are we using it? does this group of cattle really need it? what are the withdrawal times?
We can’t rely on an industry that doesn’t take every advantage of approved technology to feed our country. The void in global beef production left by the lack of GET use in the U.S. would be made up by another nation. Countries like Brazil would be mostly likely to increase production, however, that would mean clearing land to add pastures. Additionally, not all countries hold to the same standards for food for human consumption that are in place in the U.S.
When you consider that with GET, beef producers in the U.S. can feed our nation and part of the world, why would we want to take a step backwards? It would be the loss of a way of life, the loss of the ability to feed ourselves and the beginning of relying on outside sources of beef. When you think of it in those terms, it goes against the American spirit.
Read the abstract or download the entire article here.
We are in the middle of the Holiday Season with many gatherings of family and friends to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. The primary topics of conversation will involve family happenings and recent events. Since most of the population is at least a generation removed from production agriculture, these gatherings gives us an opportunity to educate our friends and extended family about raising cattle with why we manage cattle a particular way and current trends in beef production. Everyone will have some interest since the cost of beef has been noticed by most consumers. The two current topics below are what I consider to be important messages and many of the statistics are taken from Cattle Fax Updates. We have done more with fewer cows for several decades but we may be at the tipping point for the beef cow herd.
Technology is good and it will drive efficiency. Beef today is not “Franken Food”
Look around any room and compare the advancement in electronic and cell phone technology to technological advancement in agriculture and beef cattle production. The first computers were massive central processing units that filled rooms. The technology advanced quickly into desk top units, then laptops, tablets and now smart phones. Most consumers do not fear their phone.
Technology used in animal agriculture is not as threatening to the general population when discussed in this context. Today the beef industry produces more beef with fewer animals. The total cow herd has been on decline since the late 1970s; however, since 1980 more beef has been harvested each year from fewer animals.
The smart phone is the result of many individual advancements and the improvement in beef production is a result of many factors. When consumers realize this additive effect they are less apt to believe scare tactics of some anti-agriculture groups that want to portray modern food as a science project gone bad. Explain the improvements in breeding programs, nutrition, animal health and management programs to produce a safe and wholesome product. Most cow calf producers can show a picture of a cow with a calf on pasture with pride and confidence that this is a true representation of their part of the beef industry. Our next steps are to explain how that cow is the result of three generations of selective breeding for the traits THEY want and then explain how the calf will be feed a diet that is better balanced than their own diet and at times that calf may be fed antibiotics to keep it healthy and other feed additives for improved feed efficiency. However, we need to remember to relate this back to what most consumers consider important: safe, affordable food and humane animal care.
The Beef Cow Herd is at a Tipping Point. Doing Less and Costing More with Fewer Cows.
Beef will cost more due to declining supplies. Beef production has been maintained since 2010 due to higher finish weights and increased cow culling. The average per capita consumption of beef is 56 pounds per person, which requires a cow herd of at least 31 million head. Due to two consecutive years of drought, the cow herd is expected to be near 29 million head in 2013. With the high cost of gain in the feed lot, it is unrealistic to expect a continuation of feeding to larger weights unless beef prices increase. There will be fewer heifers in the feedlot. In recent years, the heifer placement in feedlots has been in the 35-39% range. It will require 5-6 million heifers to grow the cow herd and this will further decrease the beef supply.
For this Holiday Season, you can proudly discuss the history of the beef industry and take credit for many of the efficiencies and the advancements in food safety. Cost will be brought up and relating it back to the current cow herd situation is another way to help explain how using technology is a good thing. This topic may be less controversial than debating the results of the election.
Fall is quickly coming to an end and the winter months are soon upon us. For most cattle producers actively growing pastures have also begun to go dormant and you either have stock piled forages, crop residues or stored hay supplies to help get you through to next Spring. Drought conditions could also have impacted your typical winter nutrition program with limitations in your normal forage base. It is a good time to put your program together now as you do not want to fall short prior to spring green up, especially if you have a spring calving herd.
The first step is to get a good handle on both the quality and quantity of your forages. Take samples of the different types of forages you have available and send them in for nutrient content analyses. Be sure that you save good quality forages just prior to and through calving if you are not yet to green grass by then. Nutrient requirements of your herd are at their highest once they calve.
One feature of a beef cow herd that provides considerable flexibility in a nutrition program is their ability to store energy as measured by body condition. While many other livestock segments focus on balancing diets with animal nutrient requirements, beef cows have the ability to bank body stores to help them through periods of erratic nutrient intake. Why is it that feeding beef cows can differ so much in this regard, compared to dairy cows, sows or calves in feed lots? One major reason is feed intake and another significant factor is the environment. When you consider hog, dairy and feed yards, they know exactly how much animals are consuming by closely monitoring feed deliveries. Furthermore, many of the environmental impacts on nutrient requirements of the animal are also controlled with enclosed production barns.
Beef cows are raised across North America in a wide variety of production systems under an equally diverse set of environmental conditions. How many producers know the first part of any nutrition equation… how much are your cows eating? The truth to this answer is quite honestly, very few. It becomes difficult to dial in a nutrition program when total intake is not known.
We often use an estimate of forage dry matter intake of between 1.5% and 3% of cow body weight. The lower estimate is used on low quality forages during gestation and the higher amount is used on high quality forages once cows have calved. When planning hay needs make sure that you also account for losses associated with feeding which can range from 5% to as high as 45% depending upon method of feeding. For planning purposes, a value of 3% of cow body weight is often used for planning stored forage needs during the winter period.
It becomes apparent that in order to maintain a cow that rebreeds on time each year, proper cow condition management is key. Even though we may not balance a cow’s diet down to the last ounce of energy she needs every day of the year, we need to make sure we focus on her body condition over the course of the year by paying close attention to how she comes into the winter months through calving, leading up to green grass in the spring.
When selecting a supplement to help maximize the nutrition of your forage make sure you have an adequate supply of forages to get through the winter. If the drought has left you short, an alternative nutrition program may need to be considered unless you are reducing the size of your herd or purchasing additional forage. Supplemental protein will help increase intake and digestibility of lower quality forages. Well-fortified self-fed supplements from CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements can help cows maintain their body condition when fed with low quality forages. In addition, the labor savings delivery requires significantly less labor and equipment when compared with other supplement programs. When evaluating supplements, whether they come in the form of a cube, liquid, tub or blocks, make sure you evaluate the delivery of the nutrition program in its entirety. Some references are commonly made that comparisons should be on cost per unit of protein delivered on a dry matter basis. While this is good advice, it doesn’t go far enough when comparing supplements as delivery can, in some cases, cost as much as the supplement itself. Make sure you evaluate supplements that are delivered all the way to the cow.
As we all know, hay is in short supply this year due to drought. Feed costs represent 40 to 60% of the total budget for a cattle operation. Of this, hay represents a sizable proportion. Your choice of hay feeder design can significantly influence how much hay is wasted and thus your total feed costs.
Researchers at Oklahoma State compared four common types of hay feeders. These were the modified cone (CONE), the open-bottomed steel ring (RING), polyethylene pipe (POLY) and the sheeted-bottom steel ring (SHEET). Table 1 (see below) outlines the results. Modified cone hay feeders (See Figure 1) were by far the most efficient means to feed hay to cattle.
Table 1. Comparative hay wastage in four hay feeder designs. Oklahoma State University
The most popular means to feed hay to cattle are the open-bottomed steel ring feeders (see Figure 2) or even no feeder at all (which has been shown to result in waste in excess of 50%). If you as a producer fall into either of these categories, you can quickly see the money you are leaving on the table. The costs of waste above were calculated assuming a cost of just $70 per 1,200-pound bale. As we all know, with hay in tight supply, prices per bale this fall and winter can easily shoot much higher than this.
Investment in cone feeders or cone-inserts onto existing ring feeders will quickly pay for themselves, especially in a year like this. One thing to remember, however; is that cone feeders require a tractor with a front-end loader to place bales into feeders. Those without access to a tractor should consider one of the other hay feeder types as they can be placed over bales by hand.
Figure 1. Example of a cone feeder. According to the Oklahoma State data, this type of hay feeder is by far the most efficient and results in the least amount of waste.
Figure 2. Example of an open-bottomed steel ring feeder. Note the wasted hay being trampled all around the feeder. According to the Oklahoma State data, 1/5 of the bale will be wasted using this type of hay feeder.
The answer is right now, today, if not sooner! Many of you have spring calving herds, and you have probably already weaned this year’s calves, or, you are about to. There are three main reasons that the time immediately after weaning is a great time to add condition to your cows, for very little investment.
- Those cows are no longer lactating. Lactation takes a large portion of energy each day for a cow. The priorities for partitioning energy from the diet in a beef cow, are first, for maintenance, then lactation, and then gain. By removing the lactation energy requirement, you immediately push all that energy in to gain.
- In number 1 above, we briefly mentioned a cow’s maintenance energy requirement. Maintenance energy requirement increases as temperatures increase or decrease when cows are outside of their thermal neutral zone. The thermal neutral zone is a moving target that is greatly impacted by hair coat, moisture and wind, just to name three variables. For the purpose of this article, I believe most would agree that cows maintenance energy requirements will be lower with the temperatures we see in November, versus January. This lower maintenance energy requirement again frees up more energy for weight gain.
- While the maintenance energy requirements are lower in November versus January due to warmer temperatures, a Spring calving cow will also have lower fetal energy requirements during gestation in the Fall. Again, this means more of her daily energy intake can go to weight gain or body condition stores.
The vast majority (70%) of fetal weight gain occurs in the last 3 months of gestation. This is a very challenging time to try to add condition to your cows. Unfortunately, this is the time when many cattlemen are paying more attention to their cows, as they are likely feeding them stored forages, and we budget more time to pay attention to the herd as we near calving. Trying to add condition at this time of the year is not impossible, it will just cost you more than it would have in the Fall. So, plan ahead, put that extra condition on now, before the opportunity is gone.
While cows will generally gain weight in the Fall after calving, most forages are of poorer quality this time of year. They will respond greatly to even a little protein supplementation. Protein supplementation of low quality forage (whether grazed or fed in bales) will increase the digestibility (energy release) and intake (even more energy available to the cow). Many cattlemen refer to this as s t r e t c h i n g their forage.
This is generally the point where I hear how busy Cattlemen are in the Fall, and supplementing the cow herd may not be at the top of the priority list. This is well understood, but you should also remember that “CYSTALYX® has a barrel for that.” CRYSTALYX® Brand self-fed protein supplements are an excellent way to maximize your returns from a supplement program that’s available 24/7. A properly stocked set of CRYSTALYX® barrels will generally last about 2 weeks. This will minimize your investment in time, labor and equipment, while you take care of other priorities that also need to be done today!
Water is a vital nutrient that we take for granted. We assume that if water is available, we’ve taken care of that requirement. However, there are a number of factors that can negatively affect water quality and livestock performance. So far we’ve talked about cyanobacteria and nitrates. This time, I’ll cover sulfates.
Rumen microbes need sulfur for growth and metabolism. Sulfur is needed to make sulfur-containing amino acids (methionine, cysteine and homocysteine) as well as thiamine and biotin. However when excessive amounts of sulfur are present (greater than the ability of the rumen microbes to utilize it), the excess sulfur is absorbed into the bloodstream as sulfides. As sulfate level in the total diet increases, from water, feed and/or forage, the level of sulfide in the rumen increases. This can cause a number of problems.
Sulfides in the body can lead to necrosis of neural tissues. This is thought to be the primary cause of polioencephalomalacia (PEM). In addition, some sulfur-compounds can destroy thiamine activity. Additionally, sulfides interfere with trace mineral availability. The sulfides bind with copper in the rumen making it insoluble, thus increasing copper requirements for ruminants. Selenium utilization by livestock is antagonized by high sulfates, by increasing the excretion of selenium. Sulfur also negatively interacts with zinc and calcium absorption.
So when do you need to be concerned about sulfates in water? Testing is the only way to determine the safety of your water source. Signs of a sulfate related problem will change with the level of sulfates in water as shown in the table below.
Sulfate level in water
1,500 – 2,000 ppm Reduced water intake, diarrhea, decreased performance
2,000 – 2,500 ppm Maximum tolerated intake (provided feed level is low)
3,000 ppm and over Reduced feed intake, weight gain, possible water rejection, PEM,
Cattle can be acclimated to tolerate higher levels of sulfates in water. Diluting high sulfate water with low sulfate water is a good option for newly received cattle. The upper limit for calves is 500 ppm sulfates and 1000 ppm for adult cattle. Sulfate/sulfur levels of the feed that cattle consume also needs to be taken into consideration as they will compound each other, just like nitrates. Sulfur intakes of 0.3% of diet dry matter or less are considered safe for all classes of cattle. Cattle on forage based diets have been able to safely tolerate as much as 0.5% of dry matter intake.
In summary, excess sulfur in water is a hazard to cattle. Testing is the best way to know where sulfate levels are for water and feeds. Contact your county extension service for advice on proper sampling techniques and testing options.
As we are finishing harvest, it is a good time to consider what needs to be done this Fall to keeping your beef cow herd profitable. The economic impact of using information from this “To Do” list is more critical this year due to the higher forage and feeding cost caused by the drought.
Pregnancy Check Cows
Estimates of $500 to $550 per year to maintain a beef cow are common. If a cow is not producing a calf, she is a liability and non-productive asset. Cull cow prices are best early in the fall and then decline into the winter. This is a year where you will benefit by early culling by getting a better price and limiting the amount of feed invested in cull cows.
Not only take a physical count of hay supplies but take some samples of the different cuttings to group your hay by nutrient content and quality. Work with a nutritionist to get representative samples of the hay and use the results to determent what cattle will be fed the different hays and how to best supplement that group.
Body Condition Score Cows
Due to declining pasture quality with the drought there may be some cows and especially first calf heifers that may be too thin and are at risk for lower pregnancy rates next spring. Cows with a BCS of 4 or less will have pregnancy rates in the 70% range compared to over 90% for cows with BCS of 5 or greater. The Crystalyx® Beef Cow Body Condition Score App is an excellent tool to generate a pictorial history of cow BCS to help you best manage your herd and feed resources.
Group Cows According to BCS
This may be a year where having multiple beef cow feeding groups will result in better allocation of limited forage resource and better animal performance through targeted supplementation strategies. Grazing corn stalks is an excellent way to extend the grazing season for cows in good body condition. Protein content of crop residue is low and feeding a self-fed supplement like Crystalyx® BFG™ 30 is an excellent way to provide additional protein and improve digestibility for a low cost per head per day feeding program.
Cows or heifers that are thinner than desired may require some higher quality forage or supplemental energy and protein from higher intake sources. Often a mineral type supplement such as Mineral-Lyx® or Crystal-Phos® can be used to deliver mineral and vitamins.
Review Production Records
Evaluate cow performance compared to the rest of the herd? Evaluate your records to answer 3 questions;
1 How many pounds of calf did she produce for me this year?
2 What part of the calving season did she calve in?
3 How is this year compared to past years? This last question may reveal that she is falling later and later into the calving season and becoming less productive.
This Fall “To Do” list will provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about your feeding program, supplement needs and culling decisions. The profit potential for the cow calf sector has probably never been better! Keeping profitable cows in your herd will make it easier to reach your financial goals now and into the future.
Last winter we put our toe in the water and developed an App that can be used to monitor Body Condition Scores within your beef cow herd. We have had less than a year to use and collect feedback from cattle producers now and learn how we might be able to improve it. An updated version is now available with additional features and added content that we think will make the App more responsive while retaining its simplicity of use. Some of the updates are related to housekeeping items. You can now delete records that are no longer of use to you to help clean up your herd’s information. In addition you can edit/save a record as a draft which provides the opportunity to collect the photos in the pasture but to actually score the cattle at a later time or edit the records if needed. This will allow producers to quickly collect photos and then score the cows when time permits.
The value of a picture record is that, when taking BCS photos of the same cow 45 to 60 days later, a producer can determine if the management changes are having the desired effect. Producers are encouraged to body condition score cows at least 4 times during the year to determine best management practices: 1) Weaning, 2) Pre-Calving, 3) Breeding and 4)Late Lactation. Now is a good time to be evaluating cow condition with the recent drought stricken pastures and the timing of traditional weaning for spring calving herds. It will be a good visual record of how cows are going into the fall as there is still plenty of time to put some condition back on the cows if needed.
A new feature of the program is the flexibility of using photos of cows within your own herd or cattle type to use in the reference gallery. No matter what color or breed type of cattle you own, you can now build your custom collection of BCS photos to use in your reference gallery. We understand that it may be easier to compare cow body condition within a breed type and added this flexibility so Hereford producers can use Hereford cows, Brangus owners can use Brangus cows and any Composite operations can use their Composite cows.
We also realized that once you have collected BCS measurements from a pasture or group of cows at one point in time and then followed up with BCS measurements at another point in time, you probably would want to know what is the actual difference in Body Condition Score. We have now added a feature that will calculate the mean or average for a date range that you provide. You can then compare that with another point in time and determine if cows are gaining, slipping or maintaining their condition.
We have had very positive feedback with the BCS app and its usefulness as a quick and easy tool for collecting extremely important information when managing beef cows from small to large herds. It is available on iOS (iphone) and Android platforms and you can go directly to the App stores with the QR codes or hot link below.
Scan the appropriate QR Code with your iPhone or Android to download your app today!
Iphone QR Code
Android QR Code
Cows grazing cornstalks, it’s a common practice in the Midwest, albeit some information is being written about it as though it was a new practice. It isn’t. However much has been learned with more recent research data and the ability to efficiently utilize this resource has improved with different strategies. This season, with the drought conditions plaguing a large area of beef cattle production, grazing not only cornstalks but other crop residue will have a new value component.
What’s in the Residue?
Corn Residue or Cornstalks do provide an abundant source of forage. In Nebraska and other states of the Western Corn belt, it’s been called our winter pasture. Corn residue is composed of the husk, leaf, stem, and cob and waste grain left in the field after harvesting. The stem or stalk portion of the residue comprises nearly 40% of the dry matter, while the leaf and husk comprise about 45%, and cob about 10-15%. All of these components will vary in nutritional quality and digestibility and most attention should be given to the husk and leaf portion; which is what will provide the majority of the diet based on grazing management and diet selection of the animal. Thus, husk and leaf is about 60% digestible (based on in-vitro dry matter digestibility data) and will average about 3.5 -7.5% crude protein. Comparatively, cornstalk grazing is similar in quality as moderate to low quality hay.
What’s Grazed and When?
Most cornstalk grazing management recommends a 50% removal of the residue. When cattle are first turned into fields for grazing, they seek out waste corn first, then the husk and leaves. The stalks are normally the last components to be grazed and are lowest in quality. The amount of waste corn is variable due to harvest efficiency, ear drop caused by weather damage or other factors. A general rule is the amount of waste corn will average near 4% of the total dry matter available. If a great deal of waste corn is present (more than 8-10 bushel/acre) the risk of acidosis may be a concern, especially if the stocking rate is low. Having some waste corn in the residue does improve overall diet quality and digestibility, but this quality disappears quickly over time and is hastened by stocking rate. The diagram below illustrates this decrease in in-vitro dry matter digestibility as grazing days prolong.
Determining Stocking Rate
Appropriate stocking rate is related to the corn grain yield. A general rule is that 175 bushel per acre corn yield would supply about 1.5 AUM/acre of grazing; about 45 days of grazing for a 1200 lb. cow.  Grazing at 1 AUM per acre would be considered a light stocking rate and 2 AUM would be considered heavy. There is a free spreadsheet named “Corn Stalk Calculator” available through the University of Nebraska Extension Service. This spreadsheet can help calculate stocking rate, days of grazing, and total grazing cost. It can be found at www.unl.beef.edu. This is very handy to use and would be a good guide this year as corn yields under 175 bushel per acre are more common with the drought. Past stocking rates will probably not be a good guideline this season.
When evaluating the protein and digestibility values of various corn residue components, a convincing argument can be made for supplementation, especially protein. Quality of cornstalk grazing will be determined by stocking rate. The higher the stocking rate the faster the “goody” found in cornstalk grazing will be used up. Thus, the longer cows are grazed cornstalks in the same field, the lower the quality of their diet. There have been recent and ongoing studies evaluating the need for supplementation with cornstalk grazing. It would appear that with appropriate stocking rates, minimal weather challenges and a not so demanding stage of animal production ( 2nd trimester of gestation), mature beef cows would maintain Body Condition without protein or energy supplementation. I would caution the readers of that research to consider many things as it’s also shown that by supplementing on cornstalks, Body Condition can be gained. Mineral, vitamin and salt supplementation is also still necessary.
The 2012-2013 season is one where we will find many drought stressed cows and gaining a condition score in October, November and December will be a good thing, much better than just maintaining. In addition, with limited forage supplies, the use of cornstalk grazing or feeding cornstalks in many rations will be increased. As a cow-calf producer, one may be tempted to graze stalks a little longer or utilize more than the 50% recommended, simply due to the cost of forage. So with this in mind, supplementation is and will be warranted to best utilize the forage available. Crystalyx® has many good answers in products ranging from 20-40% crude protein. Consider these, and ones with a small portion of the protein from non-protein nitrogen (urea) to best utilize the fiber.
Nitrate, Mycotoxin, and Acidosis Concerns
Nitrates have been a concern in drought stressed corn. The good news is that most nitrate concentration in corn is found in the lower portion of the stem/stalk. Again, this would be the last component of the residue cattle would graze so avoiding nitrates is relatively easy with proper management and not over grazing. Similarly, with mycotoxins, the concern is in the corn grain fraction which, in most cornstalk grazing, is not a significant portion of the diet. Again, if more that 8-10 bushels per acre are determined to be wasted, acidosis may be a concern. In this case, management can help by cleaning up spilled areas of corn grain, strip grazing cornstalks (if practical), or simply increasing the stocking rate which removes the corn grain sooner and by a larger number of animals.
Cost of Cornstalk Grazing?
The numbers are all over the board. Here in Western Nebraska, the rates may have doubled in the last two years. Crop and hay values, coupled with drought and limited forage, have driven this. Cornstalks may not be the bargain they once were but still are a good value; even at $25.00 an acre, which is the asking price in many areas, it’s less than many summer grazing rates. Again, this number will vary from free for “Aunt Betty’s north quarter”, to as high as $50 or more by some exaggeration of coffee shop talk. What it is worth, is what’s paid for it. Thank goodness we have some cornstalk grazing this year
 Calculation based on 175 bushel per acre yield = approx. 16 lbs. of residue material, 50% of which is available for grazing. 50% X (16X175) = 1400 lbs. of DM available. A 1000 lb. cow = 1 AUM and requires 780 lbs. of DM/month. 1200 lb. cow = 1.2 AUM or 936 lbs. of DM/month. (1400)/ (1.2 X 780) = 1.50 AUM.
Traditionally, the use of CRYSTALYX® supplements has been in fall and winter months with running age beef cows. This is still where the vast majority of product volume is used but growth within other segments of beef cow production and during spring and summer months has been growing. Earlier blog articles have described the benefits of using CRYSTALYX® as a vehicle to deliver not only protein and energy but mineral/vitamin programs in the summer, additives for fly control and growth promotants, etc…
The types of CRYSTALYX® products could be categorized into about three to five different groups, with the main three being: Protein, mineral, and specialty supplements. These would all fit into a year round program per se but simply feeding one or more year round would qualify as year round feeding. Forage quality and environmental conditions would dictate just what products fit the best. Below is a chart that illustrates what a year round CRYSTALYX® program would look like. This would be typical for a ranch in the Northern or Central Plains states or Rocky Mountain Region.
Cost figures for the above program would be about $100.00 per cow per year. That may sound like a lot but just think about the cost of all feedstuffs today and what you really return from a supplement program. Supplements that perform do require an investment. Doing little or nothing will normally return anything or will reduce performance. This cost estimate above is also based on typical intakes of CRYSTALYX in traditional programs. In year round programs, it’s been my experience that cattle tend to consume less CRYSTALYX® thus having lower cost per day figures.
The Benefits of Year Round CRYSTALYX®
I’ve had the opportunity to work with and get to know Roger Koberstein, a very good Angus producer near Holyoke, CO the past 18 month. Roger began using CRYSTALYX® Breed Up® 28 with BioMos® just prior to the 2011 spring season with one group of cows. He used only this supplement and salt through calving, breeding, summer grazing and into fall. He had excellent rebreeding and calves weaned from this group of cows were 40-50 lbs. heavier than calves from cows on a traditional mineral program. The weight gain alone from these calves more than paid for the CRYSTALYX® program. CRYSTALYX® Breed Up® 28 is now the year round program on the ranch and fed 365 days per year to all cows. Overall consumption of Breed Up® 28 has been lower than typically expected in various forage conditions as well. This may be due to the fact that cows being offered a year round program are in a more consistent, positive plane of nutrition and will consume supplement more consistently and at lower levels.
I’ve been asked by producers countless times, “which CRYSTALYX® barrel is the cheapest to use?” My answer is usually, “the highest priced one.” What I’m implying here is that some of our best fortified products (like the Breed Up® 28) are the highest cost and usually are consumed at much lower rates, thus the cost per animal per day is the lowest. Having consistency in a nutrition program will translate into consistent performance, good herd health and lower overall total cost of production. Way too often I see programs that are not fed correctly or a started, then stopped and then started again. This “see-saw” effect of supplementation probably winds up wasting more nutrients. A supplement program that is not fed or managed correctly is simply a waste of money.
If you like the way CRYSTALYX® works for your fall/winter program you’ll probably like it in a year round program too. It doesn’t cost, it pays, and is easy to manage. Take a closer look. www.CRYSTALYX.com
Most of the cattlemen reading this blog will likely admit that they are in a drought, to some degree or another. Interestingly, some may have even sold hay from a bumper crop last year, for what seemed like a tidy profit at $125/ton, only to have to buy some back this year at prices $20 to $50 above that. What a difference el niño can make! For whatever reason, many Cattlemen are buying hay this fall, in order to get through the winter. And, for some cattlemen, hay may be scarce in their part of the country. CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) hay may be part of what they can make a deal on.
Earlier this summer, the USDA opened much of the CRP land for emergency haying and grazing. This greatly increased the forage available to cattlemen in drought stricken counties. If you are like most of us, when you hear the term “CRP hay”, you immediately begin to get a visual of some pretty low quality forage. Something a little bit better than straw, but not as good as your neighbor’s 3-year old pile of alfalfa round bales. While this does describe one end of the quality spectrum, some of the CRP hay can be much better. The previous year’s old growth (or perhaps the lack of any growth this year) is what makes the quality decline so badly. If, for some reason, there is not too much old growth in it, or if there is a fair amount of alfalfa in the mix, you could see crude protein values as high as 10%. This is pretty good feed for a gestating beef cow, but CRP hay at the other end of the spectrum may be 6% to 7% CP or less. This poor quality CRP can really use some help in the form of supplemental protein. As with any purchased forage, you need to have a good representative (not just 1or 2 bales) sample tested, at a reputable feed lab. This would be especially worth the investment with CRP hay, as the value/quality can vary greatly, and should impact the asking price.
So, while you are looking up el niño’s phone number in the phone book, to give him a piece of your mind, also jot down the number of your nearest CRYSTALYX® dealer, as you will be needing some supplemental crude protein to help digest that lower quality CRP hay. The added protein in CRYSTALYX® beef supplements allow cattle to unlock more energy from the CRP hay they consume. Vitamin A activity is also likely to be low in that quality of forage, and we know from past experience that most all forages in the US are deficient in copper and zinc. We are developing quite a grocery list of nutrients we need to go with this CRP hay, but, rest assured that CRYSTALYX® protein supplements for beef cattle contain 1 to 2 times the NRC required nutrient levels for trace minerals and vitamins A, D and E. CRYSTALYX® Brand self-fed supplements are an excellent way to maximize your returns from a supplement program that’s available 24/7, while minimizing your investment in time, labor and equipment.
On the CRYSTALYX® website, go to “Condition Type” and choose “Low Quality Forage” for a complete list of the appropriate CRYSTALYX® protein supplements for that bottom end CRP hay.
Water is a vital nutrient that we take for granted. We assume that if there’s water available for the livestock that we’ve taken care of that requirement. However, there are a number of factors that can negatively affect water quality and livestock performance. Earlier I talked about an easily identifiable factor of water quality, cyanobacteria. This time, I’ll cover one you can’t see, nitrates.
Nitrates are utilized by rumen bacteria to produce ammonia. Nitrate/nitrite toxicity happens when higher than normal amounts of nitrates are consumed. This causes a build of nitrites in the rumen, which are absorbed into the bloodstream. Nitrites convert hemoglobin to methemoglobin, rendering it unable to transport oxygen. So the blood is able to transport much less oxygen.
Signs of nitrate toxicity include: chocolate colored blood, bluish or chocolate colored mucus membranes, difficulty breathing, noisy breathing, salivation, tremors and staggering. Unfortunately the first sign of a problem is a dead animal as symptoms can appear 30 minutes to 4 hours after ingestion. If you suspect nitrate poisoning, it’s important to call your veterinarian immediately and tell them what you suspect. Nitrate poisoning is treatable, but only if your veterinarian is prepared. A quick way to check a suspect animal is to give it a small cut and check the blood color.
All water sources have the potential to contain nitrates. Nitrate sources include run off from heavily fertilized (manure, commercial fertilizer, human waste) fields and pastures as well as decomposing organic matter. Surface water sources such as stock damns, ponds, ditches and poorly sealed, shallow wells are more likely to have higher nitrate levels, due to run off. Evaporation of stock dams, ponds, etc. without replenishing the water level will concentrate the level of nitrates.
Nitrate levels in water and forage can have an accumulative effect in the rumen. Testing water sources, and forages, is the only way to know what the total nitrate level is. Nitrate levels can be reported as either nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) or nitrate (NO3). Your county extension service can assist you with proper testing techniques as well as interpreting the results.
NO3-N in water
- 0-100 ppm Safe
- 101-300 ppm Use with caution, consider level in feed
- >301 ppm Potentially toxic
NO3 in water
- 0-440 ppm Safe
- 441-1300 ppm Use with caution, consider level in feed
- >1301 ppm Potentially toxic
Maximizing Rumen Bacterial Growth and Forage Digestion
Several recent Block Blogs have discussed various aspect of feeding cattle to get the most out of the available forage. Mark Robbins discussed the use of Non-Protein Nitrogen and Dan Dhuyvetter reviewed how a natural brown seaweed meal called Tasco® and how they impact forage digestibility through improved rumen function. If we examine rumen function at the microbial level we get a better understanding of how nutrient and additive delivery through a low moisture block (LMB) self-fed supplement like CRYSTALYX® can dramatically improve fiber digestibility.
Rumen Microbial Populations and Rumen pH
The rumen is a large fermentation vat, with a total volume of 40-50 gallons for a 1500 pound beef cow. The rumen provides a site where billions of rumen microorganisms can digest carbohydrate, proteins and fiber. These microbes convert feedstuffs into energy in for the form of volatile fatty acids (VFA) and microbial protein that can be utilized by the animal. Rumen bacteria can be grouped into different categories depending on the material they digest. It is estimated, there are over 100 billion bacteria in the rumen. Protozoa and rumen fungi (yeast) make up the remaining microbial population.
The microbes are very sensitive to rumen pH and nutrient supply. At pH between 6 and 7 the VFAs produced are acetate (50-65%), propionate (18-20%) and a small amount of butyric acid (10-18%). Acetate and butyric acid is utilized for body fat and milk fat synthesis. Propionate is utilized to maintain blood glucose levels. A small amount of butyric acid is used as an energy source for the cells lining the rumen wall. At pH 6 to 7 and the resulting VFAs provides an optimal amount of energy and microbial protein to the cow. The predominate bacteria are the fiber digesters. Rumen pH below 5.8 will shift the microbial population from primary fiber digesters to starch digesters. These microbes will produce lactic acid. The amount of feed and how quickly it is consumed will impact rumen pH. Feeds high in starch will result in rapid fermentation and a subsequent drop in pH. In general, as the forage to concentrate ratio decreases, the acetate to propionate ratio drops. If pH drops below 5.5 there is a risk of acidosis due to the accumulation of lactic acid. The bacteria that digest fiber die and it can be several days before their numbers return to normal levels. The rumen is in a constant flux and maintaining a balance of the microbial population is critical to maximizing forage digestion.
Rumination and the Benefit of Saliva
Cows that are chewing their “cud” for 8-10 hours per day will recirculate about 45 gallons of saliva. Cattle are great at recycling. The saliva is composed on sodium, potassium, chloride and bicarbonate ions. These minerals are recycled back to the rumen and act as a powerful natural buffer helping maintain a consistent rumen pH. Saliva also helps make the cow more efficient in nitrogen metabolism. As proteins are broken down in the rumen ammonia is produced. Fiber digesting bacteria require a certain level of nitrogen available in the rumen as ammonia. When there is excess nitrogen in the rumen it is absorbed and recalculated through the saliva. In general, as the level of grain in the diet is increased, the amount of rumination and saliva produced is decreased which can result in the rumen function being less efficient due to the loss the natural recycling of buffer and ammonia. LMB supplements will stimulate saliva production due to the licking action need to consume them. There is an enhancement in rumen function beyond just the nutrients that the LMB supplies.
Nutrient Deliver Impact on Net Nutrient Availability
Feedstuffs are analyzed for energy and crude protein content. These are lab methods that estimate nutrient content based on chemical analysis. However, the true nutrient value is what the cow is able to digest. We often think of corn as an energy source, but research has shown that 3 pounds of corn fed in a diet of low quality forage resulted in reduced fiber digestion compared to 1 pound of LMB. The sugars in the LMB do not lower pH like the starch in corn and are consumed over a longer time frame. The net result of corn diet was less energy being made available to the animal due to lower forage digestion. On paper, the nutrient analysis of the hay in the diet was the same for the corn and LMB treatment. However, the amount of nutrients metabolized from the forage was much higher for the LMB treatment.
In practical terms, the energy content of forage is more dependent on how it is fed and the other ingredients in the diet than what the lab reported energy content. We have seen instances where one farm will have exceptional animal performance and another farm with very similar forage will have poor animal performance. If we look at digestion at the microbial level we are able to explain some of these differences. Were there different methods of feeding and what were the other ingredients in the diet? Often a nutritionist or cattle producer will doubt the benefit of delivering 0.5 to 1.0 pound of a LMB supplement. CRYSTALYX® offers a wide variety of self-fed supplements for a variety of forage quality and feeding situations. At the rumen microbial level, a consistent supply of rumen friendly carbohydrate and protein and a stable rumen pH can result in optimal performance and maximizing your forage.
The drought will have lingering effects on cow-calf producers well into next year, especially in the areas of forage quality and availability. Any technologies, management practices or additives that can help us better use forages we have on hand should be evaluated to determine if their benefits will outweigh their expense. Probably the most predictable forage utilization responses observed are those directly affected by protein supplementation, particularly on low quality forages that are less than 8% crude protein. If you have lower quality forages, the addition of supplemental soluble protein that is degraded in the rumen provides an improvement in forage digestibility and often times increased forage intake. This provides added energy to your cow-herd from the forages that you have on hand in two ways. Cows will digest more nutrients from the forage and they will consume more of these low quality forages.
You should make sure that you are selecting protein supplements that contain ingredients that are digested in the rumen. Mark Robbins wrote an earlier Blog related to the use of Non Protein Nitrogen (NPN) ingredients like urea as a ruminally degradable protein (RDP) source. Rumen microorganisms that ferment/digest fiber need a certain level of nitrogen available in the rumen that comes from the diet. Urea is one of the lowest cost means of providing this first limiting nutrient in order for fiber digesting microflora to work efficiently. A mix of other natural protein ingredients can then provide more slowly degraded protein to the rumen that will be used as microorganisms grow and ferment forages. If you use supplements that contain high levels of ruminally undegradable protein (RUP) such as feather meal, blood meal or corn gluten meal among others, you should be aware that much of the protein supplied by these ingredients is not digested in the rumen and therefore are not made available for rumen microorganisms. The key is to fix up the rumen first and then if additional protein is required to meet animal requirements, supplements with high levels of RUP can be optimally used.
As one looks at additives that can help improved forage utilization for Beef cows, the list is generally not very long. Particularly when looking for products that are labeled for mature beef cows. We did, however, find a marked improvement in forage digestibility with a natural dehydrated brown seaweed meal called Tasco®. This work was conducted at North Dakota State University and the results published in the peer reviewed Journal of Animal Science 2005 83:2938-2945. A digestibility study was set up to evaluate several feed additives on low quality forages (CP of 6%). The steers were provided either no supplement, a 40% CP supplement (19% as NPN from urea) or the same 40% CP supplement that contained the Tasco seaweed meal feed additive at 10 grams per head per day. Supplements were fed at .77 lb per head per day, typical of CRYSTALYX® low-moisture block supplements.
The results of the study showed that protein supplementation of low quality hay increased dietary intake and digestibility as we would typically expect. We also showed that when Tasco seaweed meal was added to the protein supplements, we saw an additional improvement in organic matter digestibility which came predominantly from NDF or fiber digestibility improvements. The increase in digestibility was approximately a 10% improvement over and above the increases already observed with protein supplementation and resulted in an additive benefit. This means that if a cow is consuming 25 lbs of hay or forage per day she will realize an added 2.5 lbs of forage digested, just with the addition of Tasco® in the protein supplement.
As you are looking for economical ways to stretch your limited forages, first consider protein supplementation and for added returns make sure to ask for CRYSTALYX® Tasco® 35-CP supplement from your local CRYSTALYX® dealer. The additional benefit from Tasco® seaweed meal will pay dividends as the value of forage increases. Let CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements help you get the most out of your forage supplies.
We are still a long way off from knowing the final effects of the most widespread drought in the United States in more than 50 years. Given current market volatility and fears of feed shortages, it only makes sense to do everything in your power to make the most of available feedstuffs. Below are a list of tips that can help you make the most efficient use of available feed.
1. Reduce the amount of wasted forages.
You can do this by utilizing more efficient methods to feed hay (for instance use of a hay ring instead of a free-standing round bale). Another method to reduce waste is use of CRYSTALYX® brand supplements to draw livestock into underutilized areas of pasture to assure maximum grazing coverage. Additionally, studies have shown that use of CRYSTALYX® brand supplements helps rumen microbes more efficiently utilize available forages.
2. Treat all animals for parasites.
Now is the time to get aggressive in ridding your animals of both internal and external parasites. Deworm, treat for coccidia and maintain adequate fly and tick control (see Figure 1). You want to make sure that available forages, feeds and supplements go toward supporting your livestock, not parasites.
3. Have all hay forage tested.
This relatively inexpensive tool will allow you to better allocate available hay to the animals that need it the most. By knowing the nutritional value of available hay, you will be able to make more informed buying decisions when it comes to purchase of supplemental feedstuffs. Contact your local Cooperative Extension agent or feed store employee for more information about forage testing services.
4. Cull unproductive animals.
If she didn’t give you a calf/kid/lamb this year, now is not the time to give her “one more chance”. Don’t carry livestock that don’t fit into your genetic parameters. Better to use available feed resources to support superior genetics than to keep mediocre breeding animals.
5. Use high quality mineral supplements to fill gaps created by commodity feedstuffs.
Tight feed markets are going to increase use of “opportunity feeds”. These are the commodity items that you’ve probably not used in the past but are tempted to use now based on availability, price or both. One of the downsides of utilizing these types of feedstuffs is that while they may contain very high levels of one or more nutrients (i.e. protein), they lack other key nutrients (i.e. trace minerals) and are not balanced. Without the benefit of a high quality supplement, like one of the CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® supplements, to offset potential imbalances, production is likely to suffer in the long run. Fall and winter are critical times in the production cycle, as most livestock are pregnant. Proper mineral and vitamin nutrition directly affects the developing calf/kid/lamb as well as the dam’s ability to rebreed in a timely manner.
Figure 1. Each horn fly feeds on the host 10 to 38 times per day. Excessive horn fly infestations tax cattle already stressed by heat and limited feed resources and result in lowered milk production, reduced growth and lowered reproductive efficiency.
2012 has been a tough year for many in our business so far. The negatives of the drought and its effect on the industry continue to make headlines. In times such as these I find it important to remind customers, prospects and fellow colleagues of the basic fundamentals of CRYSTALYX® supplement programs. During opportune or inopportune times (depending on how you see the glass as ½ full or empty), a lot of producers and sales people study alternatives which means there are new people looking at CRYSTALYX® programs.
I’ve been fortunate over the years to work with a lot of good sales people and producers in the field of Animal Nutrition and have learned a great deal from the many professionals in our industry. Whether you are a rancher, farmer, feed professional or involved at any other level of food production in the U.S., you’ve had to learn basic fundamentals of your business and practice them to be successful. Below I’ve listed what I consider to be three fundamental reasons CRYSTALYX® is successful, and made reference to some past research. Much of these areas have been discussed in more detail in past blogs here on www.crystalyx.com.
CRYSTALYX® Fundamental Number 1: Forage utilization
The word supplement means to improve, help, or make better. This is what CRYSTALYX® does for forage, especially low quality forages. What 0.75 pounds of CRYSTALYX® does to stimulate fiber digestibility, increase rate of passage, and improve rumen microbial activity and turnover is classic in terms of what protein supplementation does for utilization of low quality forages. This is supplement strategy. The benefits are greater intake of the forage fraction of the diet; which means more energy intake all because of a little protein supplement. Nutritionists call this Positive Associative Effects. A Cowman calls it better feed efficiency and the cow herself will call it maintaining Body Condition. One CRYSTALYX® study conducted at Kansas State Univ. in 1997 measured a 19% increase in dry matter intake which translated to a 26% increase in digestible energy intake of steers on low quality forage (< 6% Crude Protein and >70% neutral detergent fiber). Again, in cow language, this is more energy from low quality forages. With the ongoing drought, high forage cost and a limited supply, every stem of fiber is important.
Crystalyx Fundamental Number 2: Predictable Intake for the ideal delivery mechanism of self-fed supplements
Have you ever heard the adage, “A supplement is only as good as it is consumed?” CRYSTALYX® being a molasses based supplement is very palatable and cattle will seek it out and consume it consistently on a daily basis. Research has proven it’s a great tool to use in attracting cattle to underutilized rangeland/pastureland (when placed farther from water or in difficult terrain) and that cattle prefer CRYSTALYX® over salt and dry mineral when given the choice. Consistent intake makes CRYSTALYX® an attractive supplement in managing costs, and in offering supplemental additives such as feed through fly control compounds (Altosid® or Rabon® Oral Larvacide) or the Ionophore Bovatec® for improved feed efficiency. In addition to consistent intake, CRYSTALYX® is fed with virtually no waste and very low time and labor inputs.
Fundamental No. 3 -- Herd health and Productivity
More recent research and production applications with weaning/receiving beef cattle and in dairy production have shown the health benefits of CRYSTALYX®. When animals are stressed they don’t eat as well putting them at risk for immune suppression, disease and poor performance. It has been well noted that when CRYSTALYX® Brigade® for beef cattle or Transition Stress Formula™ for dry and fresh dairy cows has been fed, a positive intake of the basal diet dry matter occurs. CRYSTALYX® does not replace anything in the basal diet but it will provide important nutrients during stress periods and can help stimulate appetite. It only makes sense that when cattle consume feed better there is less sickness, less death loss, and more efficient performance.
These are some of the fundamental features and benefits of CRYSTALYX® programs. With better forage utilization, consistent intake, and positive health benefits, CRYSTALYX® performs. Its reputation and success would not have lasted over 30 years if it didn’t. Mother Nature always has challenges for beef producers and 2012 is obviously no different. Put CRYSTALYX® to work in your herd and help manage the fundamentals of your business.
Most Cattlemen are aware of two types of protein supplements. Those that are called an “all-natural”1, and those that utilize some urea, or other form of non-protein nitrogen (NPN). It is not unusual for Cattlemen to hesitate, or outright refuse to use a supplement containing NPN. Instances of overconsumption with free-choice supplements containing NPN have occasionally caused animal deaths. This is usually due to a combination of environmental factors (e.g., forage or water availability), and often times it is exacerbated by the previous plane of nutrition of the cattle involved. Still, many cattle are safely and effectively supplemented each year with a supplement containing some NPN.
You may have heard that with a ruminant animal, you do not feed the animal, but rather, you feed the microorganisms in the rumen, and they in-turn feed the animal. This is true to a large degree with the protein needs of beef cattle. Aside from a few key amino acids, what beef cattle really need from protein in feeds and supplements under most production conditions, is the nitrogen (N). This N, along with some energy (e.g., molasses in a supplement block), is used by the microorganisms in the rumen to reproduce, while they digest the forages the animal consumes. The microorganisms are eventually flushed out of the rumen, into the small intestine, where they are digested, providing protein and some energy to the animal. The key here, is that, the microorganisms in the rumen can just as easily use N from NPN as they can from true proteins. The value to Cattlemen, is that N from NPN is much cheaper than N from true proteins. Under many grazing systems maximizing rumen function is first and foremost the limiting factor in cows maintaining body condition because it is so critical for extracting energy from the forages as well. If the rumen microbes are starved for Nitrogen, fiber fermentation stalls out and conversion of forage to body condition or growth in beef cattle is limited. This is the proverbial “low-hanging fruit” that Cattlemen must make sure is optimized before going further in evaluating the nutrition program.
Ridley Block Operations recently conducted an experiment to evaluate the differences in ruminal digestion of forages by an all-natural supplement, and 2 supplements containing some NPN. The experiment was conducted in an artificial rumen called a continuous culture fermenter.
The treatments were as follows:
- Low quality Hay as a control
- Treatment 1 plus a 25% all natural protein supplement
- Treatment 1 plus a 25% protein supplement with 14% NPN. The majority of the natural protein in this supplement was from distillers dried grains with solubles.
- Treatment 1 plus a 25% protein supplement with 14% NPN. Some of the natural protein in this supplement was from soybean meal.
Digestion coefficients for the four treatments are shown in the table below.
While the only statistical difference between treatments was for digestion of non-structural carbohydrates (NSC), dry matter, organic matter and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) were numerically higher for the two supplements that utilized some NPN. Does this mean that the supplements with some NPN are superior to an all-natural supplement? Perhaps not, but, I believe it does show that they are, at the very least, equal to an all-natural supplement, in terms of ruminal forage digestion.
As I stated earlier, not all Cattlemen will be comfortable using a relatively lower cost supplement containing some NPN, but those of you that are, rest assured, you are using a supplement that is every bit as good as a supplement that is touted as being an “all-natural”
The protein by-product ingredient market conditions have been increasing due to drought across much of the US. This will make the manufacturing of “all-natural” protein supplements very costly. Selecting free-choice supplements that have controlled intake minimizes the risk of over-consumption when NPN is formulated in to help reduce costs of your nutrition program. These results support the use of NPN as a portion of the protein being supplemented on lower quality forages and the economic advantage for doing so may be even more convincing given the current prices in protein meals. We would encourage you to consider this option when planning your supplement needs.
1 The term “all-natural’, as used here, and in the feed industry for decades, has more recently been confused as a supplement intended for use with cattle in a “Natural Marketing Program”. The two are not interchangeable. It is entirely possible to have an all-natural supplement that contains allowed animal proteins (e.g., feather meal), while most all Natural Marketing Programs will not allow feeding of animal proteins. The subject of this article is not to differentiate between “natural” cattle and “all-natural” supplements, but to look at the efficacy of an all-natural supplement versus a supplement containing some NPN.
When in a drought situation, thoughts turn immediately to pastures. However water quality can drop off just as quickly during extended periods of hot, dry weather. Water is often the forgotten nutrient. We take it for granted that if there’s water available in the pen or pasture, that the livestock are set.
Following hot, dry, still days, you’ll see ponds, stock dams and a few water tanks with a layer of scum or be completely green in color. This scum/green color is blue-green algae, photosynthetic bacteria also known as cyanobacteria. As the water temperature rises, the cyanobacteria will bloom, causing the noticeable changes. Drought conditions increase the likelihood of a bloom. This year couples low water levels with high temperatures making ideal conditions for cyanobacteria.
photo from: http://ks.water.usgu.gov/studies/qw/cyanobacteria.
Cyanobacterial blooms are harmful to livestock. As the cyanobacteria grow, they store toxins, which are released in the water when they die. There are 2 types of toxins that are associated with blooms, neurotoxin and hepatotoxin. Neurotoxin poisoning is fast acting (15-20 min) and ultimately ends in death. Hepatotoxin (liver) poisoning is much slower acting (a few hours to a day) and is survivable, but the animals will be chronic poor doers. Unfortunately dead animals are often the first sign that there is a problem with cyanobacteria.
However, the toxins are only half of the problem. This scummy, green water tastes and smells bad, which could cause livestock to avoid water altogether. If this is the only water source, livestock are then facing dehydration. When water intake drops off, so does dry matter intake and it’s a downhill slide with all production.
photo from: http://wacf.com.
Fortunately there is a silver lining. There are several practices to prevent cyanobacteria; aeration, aquatic dyes, copper sulfate, straw mats and barley straw to name a few. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service office for advice on the best prevention plan for your operation.
It is hard to pick up a livestock magazine today without reading about the impact of drought in much of the US. Grain markets have been responding daily with large increases and cattle markets have soften considerably given the current conditions. As producers evaluate the amount of forage they have in their pastures and that which will help them make it through the winter, the desire to put up hay or ensile any fiber source they can find, can lead to forages with hidden dangers. Nitrate poisoning is one that can affect annual crops that may be cut for hay or put into silage given the harsh growing conditions that many are facing. Below are some general guidelines when dealing with the potential for Nitrate poisoning:
- Common forages susceptible to Nitrate accumulation include but are not limited to: corn, barley, oats, millet, rye, sudan grass, sweet clover, soybean, wheat
- Plant growth closest to the ground have the highest levels of Nitrates
- Raise the cutter bar above 6 inches to avoid highest accumulations of Nitrates
- Younger plants have highest levels of Nitrates compared to more mature plants
- Nitrates accumulate in plants when normal growing conditions are interrupted such as during a drought, frost or periods of cool weather
- Nitrates are converted to Nitrites and finally to Ammonia which is the normal pathway in Nitrogen metabolism in plants. Excessive levels of Nitrates can lead to an accumulation of Nitrites in the rumen which is the most toxic form and can lead to toxicity
- Nitrite is absorbed into red blood cells and interferes with the Oxygen carrying capacity of Hemoglobin which leads to suffocation in livestock
- Dilute forages known to contain high levels of Nitrate with forages that are low in Nitrates
- If high Nitrate forages must be fed, gradually increase the amount fed in the diet so that cattle will adapt to the increased Nitrate levels.
- Try to avoid over grazing of forages that are high in Nitrates so livestock will not be forced to graze lower plant parts that contain increased Nitrate levels
- Fill cattle up on low Nitrate forages prior to introduction onto high Nitrate pastures to limit their exposure to large amounts of high Nitrate forages
- Limit the time that cattle are grazing or are exposed to high Nitrate pastures when first introduced to these pastures
- Ensiling forages can help reduce the Nitrate levels of forages through the fermentation process
- Cattle that are in thin condition or that are in poor health are more susceptible to Nitrate toxicity
- Don’t graze cattle after a killing frost for at least one week if possible with forages high in Nitrates
- Observe cattle frequently when introducing them to forages high in Nitrates
There are numerous Extension bulletins available on guidelines for grazing forages with high Nitrates for the various regions of the country. I have listed a few common guidelines that you should consider to help avoid or significantly reduce cattle losses from Nitrate poisoning. Drought conditions followed by some light rains can interrupt the normal Nitrogen metabolism of plants and result in forages that contain high Nitrate levels leading to toxicity.
Ruminant animals can deal with many feedstuffs resulting from the drought such as corn or small grains that fall short in crop production. These do not come without potential health hazards. Make sure you have your forages tested prior to feeding or pasture turn-out if you have any indications that Nitrate toxicity may be an issue. The value of cattle is too great to turn a blind eye.
Nutritionists, along with producers, are always on the lookout for the next big thing to really improve livestock performance. In the case of nutritionists, we’re looking for products that pack a bigger nutritional punch per pound. Organic trace minerals are one of those advances that do bring a little more to the table. But what is an organic trace mineral?
Organic trace mineral refers to a mineral that is bound to a carbon-base molecule; think back to chemistry class, organic versus inorganic. Trace minerals by themselves are inorganic by definition. Binding them to a carbon-based molecule makes them organic. This classification has nothing to do with the USDA definition of organic.
Organic trace minerals have been available since the 1970’s. There are a handful of companies who make and market organic trace minerals. The difference between them is to what the trace mineral is bound. The trace mineral could be bound to an amino acid complex, a protein, a large sugar or a specific amino acid (all carbon-based molecules). There is some debate as to which type of bound trace mineral is the most bioavailable (readily absorbed), but that’s a topic for another time.
Why feed an organic trace mineral? Availability. If we consider traditional trace mineral sources, such as copper sulfate or zinc sulfate, to be 100% available to the animal, then an organic trace mineral is 105%+ available. The fact that the organic trace mineral is bound to a carbon-based molecule makes all the difference. Think of it in terms of tickets to a game. If you buy your ticket ahead of time, you can walk right up to the gate and move through. The gut, like the ticket taker, is picky about what it lets pass through, having a trace mineral bound to something like an amino acid, sugar, etc. allows the trace mineral to move right through.
The flip side of this is having to buy your ticket at the game. You will still get in, but you’ll just have to wait in a few lines first. Sulfate and oxide trace mineral sources cannot move across the gut wall as they are. They have to have a carrier (ticket) to escort them through. There are lots of places for them to bind to a carrier, however, trace minerals often share the same carrier and so there is more waiting.
The advantage of including organic trace minerals is most often seen in stressed calves and breeding cattle (cows and bulls). When cattle are stressed, regardless of the cause or when high production demands are needed, adequate trace mineral nutrition is vital. Copper and zinc are essential for immune response, as illness is often followed by stress. In breeding cattle, copper and zinc are essential for reproductive performance and are also important for hoof health.
CRYSTALYX® offers 18 products with organic trace minerals for dairy cattle, beef cattle, horses, sheep and goats. Whether you choose a mineral or protein block, your livestock will benefit from the proven reliable intake and palatability that CRYSTALYX® is known for with the added nutritional benefit of organic trace minerals. For more information on any CRYSTALYX® product, see the search options above or contact your CRYSTALYX® representative.
USDA’s Weekly Crop Condition Report includes pasture conditions for each state. Pasture conditions are currently as poor for this time of year as seen in the last 16 years. The data for the whole US and selected states in cattle country are listed below. Some of the drier and warmer months of the grazing season are still to come and expectations are that pasture conditions will continue to decline.
USDA Pasture Condition Report, June 17, 2012
US 48 States
Several management factors related to stocking rate need to be considered to address the declining pasture conditions, such as cow body condition, creep feeding and supplementation strategy. With some modifications we can extend days to graze and delay the need to begin hay feeding.
Cow Body Condition
We hope to have cows in a body condition score of 6 or greater going into the late fall and winter feeding season. It is much more economical to add condition now as compared to later in the winter. The CRYSTALYX® Body Condition Score App is a great tool that creates a pictorial record of individual cow’s body condition. The app is available for both the iPhone and Droid operating systems. We would expect cows to be adding condition after peak milk production. Use the Body Condition App to create a record today that can be evaluated again in 30 days. If cows have not added condition or worse yet, lost body condition, we need to make some adjustments.
To find out more information in regards to the CRYSTALYX® Body Condition Score app please click the link below.
Creep feed has increased in cost compared to historical prices, but the economic return in added calf weight has never been greater. Pasture carrying capacity and cow body condition can be improved by utilizing a creep program. These factors in addition to added calf weight make the economics of creep extremely positive. Calves on creep will rely less on pasture and mother’s milk. This takes the nutrient demand off the cow for milk production and can provide more pasture to meet her needs for body condition.
Stocking Rate and Early Weaning
Matching stocking rate of a pasture to the forage production is a key management tool. This year may be a time when we evaluate this relationship more often. Moving some cows to other pasture, crop residue or grazing non-traditional forage will help extend the grazing season. In some areas with the worst pasture condition, we may need to consider early weaning or herd reduction.
Matching Supplement Strategy with Pasture Condition
We have not been able to say the weather has been normal for several years. That was the case last year in western Minnesota. Normally July is a very dry month, but some timely rains helped maintain pasture productivity. However, August turned hot and dry which caused pasture quality to drop rapidly. As forages mature the protein content declines, fiber content increases and energy content decreases. Experience and research have shown a positive response to protein supplementation of low quality forage. Working with a producer in the Holland MN area, we were able to take pasture samples and determine when to change from a mineral type supplement such as Mineral-Lyx ™ to a protein type supplement such as BGF-30™. This change improved the forage digestibility of the maturing grass. Cows continued to improve body condition and the producer was able to continue grazing this pasture through the season.
Pastures that are rated as Good to Excellent are the lowest for this time of year as anytime in recent history. There are several things that can be done to ensure a profitable calf crop this year and getting cows back in proper body condition for a successful calving and breeding season next year. Monitoring pasture condition, creep feeding, adjusting stocking rate and supplement strategy are items that need to be evaluated often as the summer progresses.
If you’re in the cattle business, drought is a bad word but sooner or later the occurrence of drought is likely going to be reality. A good portion of cow-calf producing regions in the U.S. and Canada are in areas that may experience dry conditions more years than not. So, preparations for dry years and their consequences need to be understood. This article is not necessarily about drought, but of early weaning of beef calves; one of many drought management strategies.
It’s about Cow Body condition & Reproductive Efficiency
Normally calves are weaned around 6-7 months of age with 205 days being a common benchmark weaning point. Early weaning would be considered anytime earlier than normal and is usually to help the dam more so than the calf, especially in drought years. Nutrient demands for protein and energy are at their peak in a cow’s production cycle during lactation. Couple this with drought and decreasing forage quality and quantity and cow body condition will suffer. When condition suffers during the breeding season or just prior, reproductive efficiency will suffer as well. So, one main benefit of early weaning s is a reduced nutrient demand on the cow that will help maintain condition and have cows return to estrus in a timely fashion.
When’s the Right Age?
Minimum age to wean a calf is about 40 days of age (roughly 6 weeks). This may sound pretty young but is a common age to wean calves such as those that are fed milk replacers (bucket calves and/or dairy calves). Weaning at an age range of 60-100 days coincides with the time frame when cows should return to estrus and breed back to maintain a one year calving interval. In cows that are too thin to cycle, early weaning removes the udder stimuli of nursing which can cause hormonal changes in the cow that can help induce estrus in thinner cows. Again, it may or may not be necessary to wean this early but Body Condition Score along with gauging the feed resource are the key governances in making a decision to early wean.
Early weaned calves require additional management and feed. This will require increased cash cost as higher quality feeds and supplement will be required and certain management considerations may be needed such as more pen space to sort smaller calves from larger ones. However, in the long term, early weaned calves can be expected to weigh as much or more as calves weaned around 200 days of age. In fact, calves that are not early weaned in situations that would justify the practice are at a disadvantage. They have to compete with the cows for a limited forage base and are nursing cows that may be losing body condition.
Just as in any “normal” weaning program, the first two weeks are critical. Calves need to have a highly palatable ration and begin eating ASAP in order to overcome the stress of weaning. Calves that are vaccinated prior to weaning, and that have been offered creep feed ahead of time will handle weaning stress better. Also, feeding CRYSTALYX® Brigade® supplement in pens at weaning is very advantageous in helping calves to start consuming feed. Numerous demonstrations and producer citations of this practice have proved that weaned calves offered Brigade® at weaning eat more feed, are more feed efficient, have less sickness and health costs, and less death loss than herd mates not offered Brigade® at weaning.
For more information on early weaning, contact your University extension service as many good publications exist on Early Weaning strategies and tips. More information on Brigade® and other CrystAlyx® programs and feeding in drought situations can be found at www.crystalyx.com
Vitamin D is often known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it is synthesized in response to exposure to sunlight. There are two major natural sources of vitamin D, cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). Vitamin D3 is synthesized in the skin of many herbivores and omnivores upon exposure to UV light from sunlight. Vitamin D2 is not found in green forages, but is formed when the dying leaves are exposed to sunlight. Thus, sun cured hay is a good dietary source of vitamin D2. Livestock utilize vitamin D3 much more efficiently than vitamin D2.
What Does Vitamin D Do?
Vitamin D is a precursor to a steroid hormone, calcitrol, which primarily functions to control the calcium and phosphorus balance in the body. Calcitrol helps determine the amount of calcium and/or phosphorus deposited or depleted from the bones as well as the plasma levels of both minerals. Vitamin D has also been reported to be involved in magnesium absorption.
Vitamin D deficiency results in rickets. Less severe symptoms include decreased appetite, reduced growth rate, stiff gait, labored breathing, weakness and tetany. Since vitamin D is so crucial in the utilization of calcium and phosphorus, deficiency often mimics deficiency of these two minerals.
Vitamin D Requirements
Most livestock do not have a nutritional requirement for vitamin D as long as they have access to adequate sunlight. Vitamin D becomes an important issue in the absence of sufficient UV radiation from sunlight. Radiation that reaches the earth contains only a small part of the UV range that promotes formation of vitamin D. This UV radiation is more potent in the tropics than towards the poles; more potent in summer vs. winter; more potent at noon vs. morning or evening and more potent at higher elevations. The best time for vitamin D production is between 10 am and 2 pm.
However, natural vitamin D production can be limited by several factors. These include confinement, seasonal periods of low light (more pronounced in Northern latitudes during winter months), extended cloud cover, and limited exposure of skin to sunlight (for example, sheep with full fleece or horses with blankets) and even coat and skin color (irradiation is less effective on dark-pigmented skin).
Lack of UV exposure can be compensated for with adequate amounts of sun-cured hay. However; like vitamins A and E, unless vitamin D is stabilized it is destroyed by oxidation. This oxidative destruction is accelerated by heat, moisture and trace minerals.
Why Supplement Vitamin D?
Given the critical role of vitamin D in calcium and phosphorus metabolism, it is not worth the risk of relying solely on naturally derived sources of vitamin D. Dietary supplementation of vitamin D acts to prevent devastating production losses. Just like you pay for auto insurance every month even though you will go through the majority of your life not getting into an accident, supplementing vitamin D, even though it may not be needed a majority of the time, will prevent catastrophic losses during the periods when vitamin D is lacking.
Dietary supplementation will be most critical in confined livestock (think dairy cattle or stalled horses and show animals) or those covered with barriers to skin exposure to UV light (think full fleece on sheep or horses covered in blankets). Special consideration should be given to added vitamin D levels in feeds and supplements for these groups. The second group most susceptible to deficiency would be grazing livestock in Northern latitudes during winter months. Livestock have limited capacity to store vitamin D and the short daylight hours will limit exposure to sufficient UV light.
Up until recently, the cost of adding vitamin D was minimal. Vitamin D was often used as a means to enhance the look of a product tag due to its relative low cost. However, given that the vitamin markets have taken a sharp upturn, you may notice that the vitamin D levels of some of your favorite supplements may have fallen. In most cases this should not be a concern (unless you have livestock in the susceptible situations listed above). As stated earlier, many had been “over formulating” for vitamin D for years due to its low cost.
If you have any questions regarding vitamin D levels in your current supplement program, contact the Ridley Block Operations nutritional staff at 1-800-869-7219. You can also learn more about the wide variety of supplement options available at www.crystalyx.com .
Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Worried about a drought this year, or perhaps, “again” this year? If you are not experiencing a drought this year, you have likely experienced one in the past, and you will likely see one in the future. If you agree with that statement, this information will someday be of use to you. Perhaps sooner, than later.
We have known for years that cattle will seek out palatable supplements, and even salt, in pastures. Research by Dr. Derek Bailey at Havre, MT, has actually quantified this effect. In doing so, we have seen that low-moisture block (LMB) supplements, like Crystalyx, are much more effective than salt alone, at luring cattle to underutilized areas of pastures.
During periods of drought (or when grasses naturally mature) CRYSTALYX® supplements can offer you two distinct advantages:
1. They can increase the digestibility (energy release) of a low quality (drought stricken) forage
2. They will lure your cattle to the underutilized (forage) areas of a pasture, where they may not normally travel to (lack of water).
During periods of drought, naturally occurring sources of water may dry up. This can leave many pastures with areas that cattle avoid, due to lack of water. Research has shown cattle will travel over a mile from a water source, to consume CRYSTALYX®. While the cattle are there, they will also graze the adjacent forage.
The added protein in the CRYSTALYX® supplements then allow the cattle to unlock even more energy from the forage they consume. This one-two punch helps your cattle maximize the forage that is out there in a drought. It may not keep you from having to purchase hay, but it may decrease that purchase.
If you do have to purchase hay, do not forget to also use CRYSTALYX® supplements to stretch that forage resource as well. If you can increase forage digestibility by 10%, remember that 10% of $200 hay is always more than 10% of $100 hay. Don’t let yourself fall in to the idea that “my hay cost too much to also purchase a supplement.” If your hay costs more, the return from better utilization also increases.
CRYSTALYX® Brand self-fed supplements are an excellent way to maximize your returns from a supplement program that’s available 24/7, while minimizing your investment in time, labor and equipment.
The majority of the research that Ridley Block Operations has conducted on modifying grazing distribution with CRYSTALYX® has occurred in the Fall. However, there are good examples of customers using CRYSTALYX® in the Summer, to modify grazing distribution.
A western South Dakota CRYSTALYX® dealer had a group of ranchers as customers that were part of a grazing association. They were running their co-mingled cattle on national grasslands. A dry mineral supplier approached the ranchers with a proposal. They were told they could supplement with dry mineral at a cost of no more than 8 cents per-head, per-day (in today’s dollars). The supplier would put out two weeks of mineral and only re-supply every two weeks. The ranchers quickly realized that a limit on how much mineral was delivered could be a problem. If the supply is consumed in a week, the cattle would be without mineral for another week until it was restocked.
The CRYSTALYX® dealer had a better idea. Because of his own experience with CRYSTAL-PHOS,® he recommended it to the grazing association. Past experience in his area projected CRYSTAL-PHOS® intake to be around two ounces per-head, per-day on green Summer grass.
CRYSTAL-PHOS® is formulated for an intake of a quarter pound in fall and winter when forage is dry and brown and the cattle need more nutrients. In the summertime, when forage is lush, you’ll likely see about an eighth of a pound, or a two ounce intake. In the summer, when the grass gets green and things get warmer, it’s difficult to keep the animals on any mineral supplement. You will generally see a lower intake of CRYSTAL-PHOS® in the summer, but cattle still consume it at acceptable levels.
The dealer told the grazing association they could have a summer supplementation program using CRYSTAL-PHOS® at a cost of approximately 8 cents per-head, per-day. Better still, the supplement would be continuously available, and placement of the barrels could be used to better manage grazing patterns. CRYSTALYX® supplements have been shown to attract cattle to underutilized areas within a pasture.
The demonstration tracked 1,308 head of cattle in three different pastures during a period from June through August. Using a CRYSTAL-PHOS® cost of $1,350 per ton, the average cost across all pastures and all cattle was 7.6 cents per-head, per-day, and the average consumption was 1.8 ounces per-head, per-day.
The US Forest Service that ovesees the National Grasslands evidently also agreed that the CRYSTAL-PHOS® impacted grazing distribution. When Ranchers asked (at the end of the grazing season), if they could go back to one pasture that was only lightly grazed earlier in the summer, the reply from the Forest Service was, “If you put out CRYSTAL-PHOS® barrels, you can.”
CRYSTALYX® supplements provide needed nutrition with minimal equipment and labor costs, while also helping to harvest underutilized grass in your pastures. That is a win, win, win situation!
We would like to continue with our theme of maximizing profitability from forages as we head into the summer and fall. The importance of making the most from your forage base is a key factor in reducing additional expenses as well as optimizing calf performance and cow reproduction. Summer and Fall grazing conditions bring upon new opportunities for capturing added value from your forages. I have outlined a few of those opportunities below that can pay dividends for most beef producers. We will also expand on these areas over the next 5 weeks to help provide you more information to determine if they have the potential to help you with your bottom line.
- Fly control has demonstrated improved calf gains. Flies, particularly the horn fly variety, can limit cattle performance on summer pastures when present in large populations. Feed-through larvacides can be an important part of an integrated fly control program to help prevent reductions in calf body weight gain from fly pressure. CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements have products that contain Rabon® Oral Larvacides (ROL) in addition to Altosid® Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) that can be used to help control flies on pasture.
- Limit the negative impact on animal performance from endophyte infected fescue pastures. Endophyte infected fescue pastures can severely limit animal performance, especially during the heat of the summer. Make sure you provide a supplement that is specifically formulated for fescue pastures to help cattle deal with the heat when endophyte consumption can impair the animal’s circulation to their extremities. CRYSTALYX® products like Fescue-Phos® or Hi-Mag Tasco-lyx® are specifically formulated with Tasco® seaweed meal to help cattle grazing endophyte infected fescue pastures. Current cattle economics indicate any loss in reproduction or calf weight gain will result in significant reductions in cow-calf returns. Make sure you have a supplement program in place that allows your cattle to deal with fescue pastures as profitably as possible.
- Grazing management with CRYSTALYX® low-moisture blocks maximizes pasture forage utilization. Extensive research has been conducted on the use of CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements to improve forage utilization through the use of barrel placement. It has been clearly demonstrated that cattle will spend more time in areas within 200 to 600 yards of where CRYSTALYX® barrels are placed in the pasture. Management strategies have been developed where barrels are placed away from water, which is normally not recommended with free-choice supplements. Cattle will then graze to the supplement and then graze back to the water. This can help producers encourage cattle to consume forages in pasture locations where they may typically avoid. Unused forage at the end of the season does not do much for helping promote animal performance.
- Creep feeding can keep calves growing when pasture quality declines in the fall. High calf prices have reiterated the importance of growing calves to their genetic potential while on grass. As pastures mature in the fall, forage quality dips below cow maintenance requirements and as a result, milk production is significantly reduced. When forage quality and milk quantities deteriorate, calf growth is negatively impacted and the opportunity for additional gain is limited without supplemental nutrition. Economic returns for creep feeding become much more viable when forage availability and quality are dramatically reduced, in addition to when calf prices are extremely high. Calf prices look to be very favorable this fall and should warrant serious consideration for creep feeding programs to ensure maximum calf growth and optimal returns to cow-calf producers.
- Protein supplementation can increase forage intake and digestibility of low quality forages. This extensively researched practice is well established as a method of increasing the utilization of low quality forages. Protein that is available to ruminal microbes will increase their growth and therefore the amount of forage digested. This often times results in increased forage intake which in many cases helps cows meet their energy requirement, particularly in mid gestation and the first month or two of late gestation. During dry periods or later in the growing season as forages mature or are stockpiled for later use, the need for protein to maintain both calf gains and cow body weight maintenance often pays, and this year the returns should be even more evident given present calf values. Calves are heavier at weaning and cows go into the winter with more body condition stores so they are better fit to calve and rebreed on time.
Rotational grazing is one of the best ways to maximize forage utilization by managing stocking rate and pasture size. The reality is pasture ground is hard to find and quite valuable. In some area, I see planters working fields that had been pasture for the last 50 years. With rotational grazing the concept is to divide the grazing area into paddocks that a group of animals can consume within 7 to 10 days.
Rotational grazing allows you to run more cows per acre while matching grass growth rates to stocking rate. Table 1. Shows how improving percent pasture utilization from 60% to 90% will increase the capacity from 0.67 to 1.0 cows/year. In rotation grazing systems, we often see pasture yield increase. This can be explained by the benefits of better weed control, more even manure distribution and maintaining the grass in a vegetative state longer during the growing season. In the example below increasing pasture yield from 5000 to 7000 DM pounds allowed the stocking rate to increase by nearly 0.3 to 0.4 cows per year.
Table 1. Carrying Capacity and Forage Available at Various Utilization Rates
Orchard Grass Pasture
Pasture Utilization, %
The best advice for using rotational grazing is to learn the basics and then apply those principals to your specific operation. Major considerations are water access, animal numbers, how many paddocks to utilize, time constraints and fencing options. Mother Nature is in control and seasonal grass growth rates and moisture availability will impact the length and frequency of grazing each paddock.
Considerations for a rotational grazing system are water, animal units, matching stocking rate to grass growth and how each of those factors impact paddock size and layout.
Where is it and how will water location impact paddock size and shape? Often a drover lane can be utilized for access to multiple paddocks. Visit with local extension agents or NRCS offices about possible cost share funding for fencing and water systems.
Most of the reference material for grazing will use the terminology of animal unit. They will have information about stocking rates expressed in acres per animal unit for various grass types that are modified for growing season. Generally an animal unit is defined as equivalent to 1000 pounds of animal. There are some adjustments made for stage of production. A 1300 pound dry cow would be 1.3 animal units but a lactation cow in the first 4 months would be 1.6 animal units.
Considerations For Yield Variation
Fast spring growth of grass will often allow for some paddocks to be skipped in the grazing rotation and saved for hay production. Typically acres needed per animal unit will be 0.3 to 0.5 units lower in the spring due to increased productivity compared to the drier summer months. For example, an orchard grass pasture can be grazed at 0.7 acres/animal unit in the spring, but in August 1.25 acres/animal unit is needed. This variation can be managed by changing animal numbers or changing paddock size. In a system where there are 4 similar sized paddocks, one paddock is saved for hay and the other 3 grazed. In the drier months when grass growth declines, two lots at once would be grazed at the same time.
Timing and Fencing
Pasture in the Midwest with cool season grasses will have about 300 pounds of forage per inch of growth and length of the grazing period will vary by animal number and growth rate. Common rest periods or time between grazing is 14-21 days during the spring and 40-60 days in warmer months. Internal temporary fencing is a great tool for managing animal access to the different paddocks. A practice in some areas is to have a front and back fence that are each moved on a 10-14 day schedule.
The economic value of getting maximum utilization of the pasture has significant impact on profitability. The forage that the cow herd harvests by grazing is the most economical feed you have. With pasture value increasing and pasture availability being a concern, you may want to consider rotation grazing. Grass type and carrying capacity will vary around the country. Suppliers of fencing equipment pasture walks and grazing days are great sources of information. Visit with your local extension specialist and NRCS representative to see what is available and working in your part of the country.
The composition of grass is reflected not only by stage of growth but by species, climate and geography. Green grass differs in quality due to differences in soil fertility, rainfall and heat. Cool season grasses grow as soon as it is warm enough to pull them out of their winter dormancy. They mature at different rates and basically quit growing when it gets too hot. Wheat and rye pastures along with brome and fescue pastures are good examples of cool season grasses. Yearlings are generally removed from wheat and rye pastures before a protein supplement is needed. It is rather obvious when wheat and rye start to mature that their forage component is now straw. Brome and fescue grasses do not mature as quickly or as dramatically as wheat and rye. These pastures do however decrease in protein enough to justify a protein supplement. As grasses mature, their protein content and the fiber becomes lower in digestibility. Providing supplemental protein will increase fiber digestibility in addition to providing protein to the animal.
As the weather heats up, cool season grasses slow their growth and warm season grasses start to grow. Almost every pasture will have a mixture of cool and warm season grasses. The percentage of each will depend on several factors such as the timing and intensity of grazing pressure.
Stockers and replacement heifers will selectively graze the immature grasses. This is the higher quality grass, higher in protein and energy. If you leave cattle on a predominately cool season grass too long, the cool season grass matures. The cattle will then graze the warm season grass when it first starts to grow. Over time, the cattle will put so much pressure on the early warm season grass that it will gradually die. The cool season grasses will fill in and the pasture will now be almost all cool season grass.
To increase animal performance while grazing, feed additives such as ionophores can easily provide an extra 10 percent boost in ADG. There were 84 studies conducted with Bovatec® between 1980 and 2001. These studies showed Bovatec® increased gains during all seasons of the year on all types of forages. CRYSTALYX® Ionolyx-B 300 contains Bovatec® and provides 28 percent Crude Protein. It is formulated to supplement stocker cattle and/or replacement heifers while also providing balanced mineral and vitamin supplementation.
Over the summer grazing season a 10 percent increase in gain could amount to an added 25 to 45 lbs. on stocker cattle or replacement heifers. This added weight gain does not sound significant in the productive life of a heifer, but it is. The following table shows 9-45 lbs. of body weight can affect the lifetime profitability of the first calf heifer.
Calf Weaning Weight
Funston etal. 2012 Nebraska Beef Cattle Report
Not only do a greater percentage of the heavier heifers breed, they wean heavier calves. Proper pasture supplementation, whether a mineral or a protein supplement, should include a feed additive such as Bovatec®.
Bovatec® improves growth rate of cattle by increasing rumen fermentation efficiencies. This increase in growth increases the productivity of pastures. The added gain on a heifer will influence the percent conceiving in a timely manner. The high cost of feedlot gains has challenged all of us to get more gain from pastures.
Free-choice delivery of government regulated feed additives such as ionophores must be approved by the FDA. There are only a few of these products available on the market today. Make sure you read and follow label directions on their use.
Utilizing Annual crops as feedstuffs for livestock is a common practice, and in today’s environment of higher forage and pasture costs, it really makes sense. Many and maybe most livestock production systems today involve some sort of farming aspect to the operation. Yes, producing hay is considered farming in some circles but that’s not the point of this blog. In sustainable ranching practices, having the forage resource available and not having to purchase significant amounts of additional forages or supplements is a key indicator of profitability.
"Annual forages are an economical source of protein and energy for producers whether they plan to graze, hay or ensile it. In the future, the rancher who can capture the cheapest source of protein will be successful." This quote was from Lee Manske, (North Dakota State Univ. Extension Service) in an article written for Beef Magazine in 1998. What he said then is definitely true today. The main point is that many annual forage crops can produce a large amount of forage (2-5+ tons per acre), making up a deficit in the hay pile. However, they need to consider timing of use, adaptability of annual crops for intended harvest method such as haying, grazing or silage or suitability for dry land vs. irrigated production etc...
These forages may be grazed, harvested as hay, ensiled, or stockpiled for fall and winter grazing. Common crops used in this practice are small grains (oats, rye, barely, triticale, and wheat); many which can be planted in the fall of the year, then grazed through the winter or early the following spring. In Canada and some of the Northern plains states, a very popular practice is swath grazing where cereal grain forages are harvested and allowed to be grazed in swaths or windrows in late fall and winter.. Other crops that would be considered more “summer” annuals would include forage sorghums, sudan grasses and millet varieties. Before planting these types of crops, have a goal in place of just how the crop will be utilized. Many management implications take place that can better improve the value and yield of these forages or prevent potential drawbacks that may be associated with annual forages (potential toxicity issues often associated with weather events).
Today, some newer crops have been successfully used. One such crop is Teff grass, an annual grass from North Africa that’s related to Sand Lovegrass, a common grass in the Nebraska Sandhills. Teff has a nutrient profile similar to Timothy. A study from Northwest Nebraska reported that Teff grown in a dryland situation yielded more than 2 tons per acre of forage and had better than a 2:1 return per acre in cost of establishment and tonnage yield.
Forage Turnips have become somewhat popular or familiar too. Aerial seeding into standing cornfields in mid to late summer can result in a fall crop that’s grazed to improve the overall quality of diet when cattle graze cornstalks. Establishment of turnips in corn is tricky but has been successful. Dry conditions and the corn canopy can result in poor seed germination. More success may be seen in corn fields under center pivot irrigation or in seed corn fields where the male inbred rows have been chopped or removed. . Last summer, I had a conversation with a loyal user of CRYSTALYX® that told me he had sown several cornfields with turnips; so he wanted to use a CRYSTALYX® mineral product such as Crystal-Phos® as his mineral delivery once grazing cornstalks and turnips. Good choice!
Many annual forages are excellent sources of protein, energy and dry matter overall. They are however not complete nutrition and a good mineral vitamin program still needs to be in place... As mentioned above, some drawbacks can occur with annual forage crops. Small grain crops can come with the risk of grass tetany or magnesium deficiency with lactating cows, bloat with stocker animals, or the potential to accumulate high level of nitrates when drought stressed. Extra management and use of supplements can ward off many of these drawbacks.
In Addition to the Annual’s, Manage the Forage You Have
Last week we discussed not grazing cool season or native pastures too early. In many cases, once the cool season grasses are growing rapidly they can easily get ahead of the cattle and decrease in quality. If practical, this rapidly growing grass could be harvested early for high quality hay and help keep cool season pastures in a more vegetative state.
In some areas, CRP acres that are expiring or being opened for grazing in drought areas can be utilized for a short period in spring. These grasses have a tremendous amount of leaf litter and coarse stem. A type of Mob grazing or “flog grazing” can be used that incorporates high stock density to trample the litter and open the soil or to provide “hoof action” for new seedlings and tillers. This practice would apply for about 7-10 days, which is that many fewer days off of other pastures or hay feeding, and it improves the health and production of the grass for a later date in the grazing season.
Many options are available to use annual forages in livestock production systems. For more information, contact your local extension service. Other good resources for information include crop production services and local feed seed and chemical dealerships. Don’t forget to reconsider your supplement programs either. Supplemental minerals, or their profile, may become more important consideration depending upon the annual forages used and when they are harvested. Contact your CRYSTALYX® dealer or www.crystalyx.com for more information.
In many areas of the central and northern plains states, spring has sprung early this year. I’ve heard locals in these areas comment that grasses, trees and shrubs are anywhere from 2-4 weeks ahead of normal; certainly the temperatures would agree with that. I was in the Canadian province of Ontario the last week of March and I heard that some folks had already planted small grains and even corn, just to say they did it in March. Grass (native or tame pasture) is truly a crop and livestock are the harvesting equipment. With the early spring and green up occurring, it is tempting to let the grazing begin now. High forage costs also make it tempting, but let’s take a closer look.
Grazing management systems, philosophy and strategies are numerous. Combining these with Mother Nature’s unpredictability to match grazing management with livestock requirements and production is a complicated task. My grandfather used to say that in life or in agriculture, “It’s hard to get everything just right.” No matter the grazing system, it is important to understand some basics of plant morphology to minimize any negatives of improper grazing and to help better improve productivity from forages. Good grazing management in the spring actually begins the previous fall. Much like a cow that begins the winter in adequate condition does better at calving and subsequent breeding in the spring, grass that went dormant in the fall with adequate leaf area to produce and store energy in root reserves will survive the winter successfully and begin productive growth in the spring. Grasses produce energy via photosynthesis and need leaf surface area to do so. Growth of grass in the spring has a priority over storage for energy, and this is one reason overgrazing will deplete a plant’s energy reserves.
Forage production can be dramatically reduced (35 percent or greater) for the grazing period if native pastures are grazed too early in the spring. Too early is prior to when there are four fully developed leaves (shoots or tillers) that provide surface area for achieving positive energy balance within the grass plant. Grazing too early in the season is basically a form of overgrazing. Too much leaf material grazed (especially at the crown of the plant or below the growing point) will slow plant growth, require the plant to draw on more stored energy in the roots, impair root growth and development and make the plant much more susceptible to drought or competition from non-desirable species, i.e. weeds. Again, the end result is less production and less forage not only for the current grazing season but for subsequent seasons as well.
Growth and carbohydrate (energy) reserve level of a grass as affected by defoliation. Source: Colorado State University Extension 2006, Fact sheet No. 6.108.
So, it’s just now early April. Don’t get in a hurry just because the weather has felt like early May. Typical April weather may likely return with cool night time temperatures that will slow down this early grass development. Plus, many areas in the northern and central plains are dry and this certainly doesn’t help the grass situation. If it stays dry, grazing too early now will only make a bad situation worse.
Most beef producers in the central and northern plains are used to still feeding this time of year. We all can remember some major April snow and cold events. Even though forage costs are high, we still need to be making best use of our stored forages or crop residues, at least for a few more weeks or until we have adequate grass growth.
Hay quality will vary due to forage type, stage of maturity at harvest and harvest conditions. In addition to hay, feeding harvested crop residue such as corn stalk bales is common. Often a combination of different quality hays are fed at the same time using past experience and some nutritional “cow sense” helping to determine the correct blend. Cow body condition and cow contentment are used as rough indicators of meeting the dry matter intake and energy needs of the cows. Evaluating the manure is a tool that can help indicate when changes in the forage mix or supplement strategy is needed. We need to be aware that the nutritional needs of the cow will change depending on production cycle.
Hay supplies are tight due to fewer hay acres and increased demand for hay in the southwest due to drought. Supply and demand dynamics have driven hay prices higher across the country. Hay quality varied greatly due to weather challenges during growing and harvest. Forage analysis is the best way to know the quality of your hay. Using average values from forage testing labs can be misleading. Dairy nutritionists will sample forages on a weekly or monthly basis. The number of dairy quality hay samples will skew the average to the high side. A recent survey of hay destined for beef cattle was conducted in northern Missouri, southeastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois. This was not a large survey but does give an indication of the wide variation in hay protein content and relative feed value (RFV).
For 17 samples the average crude protein content was 10.32% and the available crude protein was 9.41%. The available crude protein takes into account heat damaged and bound protein that is not available for digestion.
The relative feed value ranged from 61 to 106 points for an average of 81. This is an indication that many of the samples were from quite mature forage with increased fiber content. RFV will decline as fiber content increases and the more readily digestible sugars decrease.
Manure evaluation can be used to evaluate the extent of digestion. This gives an indication of forage quality and can help determine if a change in supplement strategy is needed. The ideal cow pie would have an even consistency and be uniform in size and color. The height of the cow pie should be 2-3 inches. Manure from diet containing only low protein and low RFV forage will have larger fiber particles. This is due to poor digestion in the rumen due to a lack of readily available protein and carbohydrates. Manure can be washed through a screen to show the extent of fiber digestion. However, it is more common to flatten the cow pie under your boot for further observation. For example, hay number 8 is around 6% CP and RFV of 60 points. The cow pies from cows consuming hay number 8 would be large, very firm and stack higher than desired. Nutritionally this indicates that the low protein and high fiber content is limiting digestion. A supplement strategy that brings addition protein and carbohydrate sources is needed.
Stage of production must be considered. Relying on manure scoring alone is not advisable. Hay number 1 is around 11% CP and has a RFV of 84 points. The manure may look acceptable most of the time, but during times of higher nutrient demand, such as late pregnancy and early in lactation, the change in body condition would be greater than desired. If body condition declines excessively then breed back will be delayed.
Forage sampling, manure scoring, body condition scoring, supplement strategy and “cow sense” are tools for determining the best combination of feedstuff to meet the nutrient needs of the cow herd. Optimizing the forage blend is the most economical approach and Crystalyx® Brand Supplements offers a variety of formula options to deliver additional nutrition when needed.
One of the more recent technological advancements with widespread acceptance is the smart phone. At one time, the use of these devices as a mobile phone was all that was really asked for. As time marches on their functionality has increased dramatically. Texting, alarms, calculators, unique ring tones, camera, email, GPS capabilities, web access, only to name a few. And if you have not been over-run by the App world, let’s just say you must not be very hip…
I actually fall into this latter category, not being very hip that is, with my reluctance to give up the phone that I have used for years since I still don’t know half of what it can do. My evaluation of the Apps or “Application Software” that first came on the scene for smart phones, was that they were basically games that provided activities to kill time. I know there were some that actually provided some useful information or performed some meaningful tasks, but I would have to say that when I saw most people using them they were trying to get a personal best at rolling toilet paper or to see how far they could fling an angry bird. Or something like that.
But when you look at the portability, connectivity, versatility and the adoption of the smart phones you just have to start thinking, “how can we use this technology to help our customers?” There has to be something that we can put together that uses such an intelligent device that can help us with improving our efficiencies, data collection, developing more visual tools for product training, managing our production and/or expenses, etc. I think you get the picture.
That is where our journey begins as we put our toe in the water for designing Apps that are applicable to the beef cattle industry. Our first efforts will be demonstrated next week at the NCBA Convention in Nashville, TN and the Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City, SD and is available at your iPhone or Android App stores now. We have designed an App that we feel can be very useful in helping Beef Cow-Calf producers to better manage the nutrition program for their cow herd. So how can that happen with the use of a Smart Phone?
The CRYSTALYX® Beef Cow BCS App is available on iOS (Iphone) and Android platforms (See Home Menu Screen shot).
You simply download the App and then head to the pasture and take profile pictures of your cows. You can compare them to reference photos (see App photo comparison screen) of cows that represent Body Condition Scores from 1 to 9.
Determine the BCS that best describes each cow and save it within the App for future reference. If you would like to arrange your cows by pasture, that functionality is also available. You can then use these stored images as references at any point in the future to determine how best to manage your nutrition program to make sure your cows breed and calve in a timely manner.
Visit your phone's App store or scan the QR codes below to go directly to the App market.
Apple (IOS) Market:
In one of his recent blogs, Dan Colling explained the “large” benefit that you can get from a “small” amount of protein supplement on dry or mature pastures.
This week I’d like to talk about another benefit of self-fed protein supplements. While this benefit of CRYSTALYX® does impact the nutritional status of your herd, it is primarily a behavioral modification of your cattle.
We have known for years that cattle will seek out palatable supplements, and even salt, in pastures. Research by Dr. Derek Bailey at Havre, MT, has actually quantified this effect. It shows low-moisture block (LMB) supplements, like CRYSTALYX®, to be much more effective than salt alone at luring cattle to underutilized areas of pastures.
From the table below, we can see that grazing cattle spent a larger percentage of their total time within 100, 400 and 600 yards of LMB (CRYSTALYX®) and salt than just salt alone. This difference was found to be statistically significant.
During periods of drought, or when grasses naturally mature (as with stockpiled forage) CRYSTALYX® can offer you two distinct advantages:
1.) It can increase the digestibility of a low quality forage
2.) It will lure your cattle to the underutilized areas of a pasture where they may not normally travel to.
During periods of drought, naturally occurring sources of water may dry up. This can leave many pastures with areas that cattle avoid due to lack of water. Research has shown cattle will travel over a mile from a water source, to consume CRYSTALYX®. While the cattle are there, they will also graze the adjacent forage.
Does your current supplement multi-task? CRYSTALYX® does. Put the CRYSTALYX® benefits from nutrition and behavior to work for you.
CRYSTALYX® Brand self-fed supplements are an excellent way to maximize your returns from a supplement program that’s available 24/7, while minimizing your investment in time, labor and equipment.
You don’t have to be a weather expert to know that this spring/summer has been plain nuts. From tragic storms and severe flooding to drought, no one is really having an easy time of it. Here in the upper Midwest, we’ve had the range of odd weather for what should be summer, but sometimes feels like early spring. The upside of this crazy weather is that cows have grass up to their bellies or even over their backs. However, tall grass doesn’t have what your cows need.
Cool season grasses, which dominate pastures in the upper Midwest, grew rapidly last month with all the rain and cooler temperatures. This led to pastures and hay getting away from some. Some might not see an issue with grass that is up to the cow’s belly or even over the back. It means there’s plenty to eat, right?
The answer may surprise you. Watch your cattle in that tall grass; where are their heads? Are they eating the tops and seed heads on mature grass? Probably not, it’s more likely that they have their heads down, doing their best to pick out any new growth. As the plant grows taller, it has to re-enforce the stalk to keep it up right. You could compare it to building a sky scraper. You have to have a stronger frame the taller you go. The same holds true for a plant. Structural fibers in the plant ‘harden’ as it grows and matures. These structural fibers are harder for the rumen bugs to digest. Additionally, the increase in the amount of structural fiber in the plant means fewer nutrients on a pound for pound basis compared to younger grass. This means that there are fewer nutrients available to the cow when eating mature, tall grass.
The solutions to tall grass issue are plenty. Haying is a viable option to remove excess growth before it becomes over-mature. Harvested hay can be stored for the winter or sold. Some producers will bush hog pastures to keep the plants in a growth stage. Keeping the grass between 4 and 6 to 8 inches will hold it in the growth stage. Rotational grazing, while management and input intensive, is an excellent tool to utilize all of your grass. Producers have the option of haying paddocks when the grass is growing fast. Supplementing cattle with a protein and mineral supplement is another viable option if mowing or haying isn’t. Research has shown up to a 10% increase in forage utilization when supplementing protein. Providing a supplement which includes minerals, macro and micro, will ensure that your animals aren’t missing anything nutritionally.
CRYSTALYX® offers a number of protein supplements with complete mineral and vitamin profiles to fit any grazing situation. Proven consistent intakes ensure that your cows will get the nutrients they need every time. Click on the ‘How It Works’ tab above and select Grazing Management to learn more about how CRYSTALYX® can work for you on your pastures.
Everyone I know hates weeds. I’ve spend countless hours with my grandmother pulling dandelions and crab grass, her most hated enemies. Pastures are no different. Cattle producers want to look over their pasture and see a sea of lush, green grasses and legumes. So what happens when the scene is darkened with brush and broadleaf weeds? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to utilize the weeds to maximize the available forage?
Now that I have your attention, I’ll get to the point. I’m talking about multi-species grazing and not just cattle and horses. Cattle and horses both prefer grass and tend to not eat other forages such as broad leaf weeds or shrubs; however, sheep and goats will. Has anyone tried mixed grazing? What are/were your successes and challenges?
There are two ways to graze sheep and goats with cattle, together or in succession. A study conducted by Virginia Tech found that in pastures where cattle and sheep were grazed together, there was a better balance between forage growth and quality. The same study concluded that calves’ performance was not impacted negatively by co-grazing. However, lamb weaning weights, daily gains and total gains improved, and target weights were reached earlier in the season. Similar results were found in a study of grazing cattle and goats conducted by Southern University. Body weights of goats (does and kids) grazed with cattle were heavier compared to those grazed alone. Forage quality (plant height and crude protein) was higher for pastures with mixed grazing compared to those with single species grazing.
Grazing in succession means one group follows another. This will be more labor intensive, but can more effectively target your weed problems. If you start grazing problem areas early in the growing season, when the plant is still young, sheep and goats will readily eat the leaves of the weeds first. Stocking rate will be important as if you overstock, they will eat the grass, too. Another advantage to grazing in succession is that a number of gastro-intestinal parasites are species specific. This means that eggs that sheep or goats shed will die in the system of cattle and vice versa. It’s not a cure-all to an existing problem, but it can help with parasite loads. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian to properly determine parasite loads and treatment options.
All in all, grazing more than one species can be advantageous. Lamb prices are higher than most producers have seen in a long time. Goats have a strong emerging market, particularly in the Southeast. Research shows that pastures can be improved by grazing sheep or goats with cattle, increasing forage mass and pounds produced per acre. What have you got to lose?
Abaye, A.O., V.G. Allen and J.P. Fonenot. 1994. Influence of grazing cattle and sheep together and separately on animal performance and forage quality. J. Anim. Sci. 72:1013-1022
Gebrelul, S, T. Walsh, Y. Ghebreiyessus, V. Bachireddy, R. Payne. 2007. The performance of Spanish kids born under mixed-species grazing system. J. Amin. Sci. 85 Suppl. 1:434
Gebrelul, S, T. Walsh, Y. Ghebreiyessus, V. Bachireddy, R. Payne. 2007. The performance of Spanish does under mixed-species grazing system. J. Amin. Sci. 85 Suppl. 1:434-435
Ghebreiyessus,Y., V. Bachireddy, S. Gebrelul, R. Payne, M. Berhane. 2007. The effect of mixed species grazing management on forage yield and quality. J. Amin. Sci. 85 Suppl. 1:294
1. Forages may be deficient in nutrients that can limit animal performance whether it be cow reproductive efficiencies, calf health, and growth or stocker gains.
2. Stocker cattle and replacement heifers can easily gain up to 10% more on grass if provided a feed additive such as Rumensin®, Bovatec® or GainPro®. There are a number of free-choice delivery methods available that have FDA approval for use in stocker cattle and replacement heifers.
3. A variety of free-choice supplements provide EPA approved delivery of feed-through fly control larvacides or insect growth regulators that can help reduce losses in particular with the presence of horn flies. Some compounds have additional fly specie approval including, stable flies, house flies and face flies.
4. Recent cattle market prices in combination with high grain prices have increased the urgency to get as much gain on forage-based programs as possible prior to cattle arriving in the feed yard. Supplements can greatly assist stocker operators in achieving aggressive weight gain to optimize pasture resources.
5. Free-choice supplement may be strategically located in pastures to help improve forage utilization by getting the most out of your land and forage resources.
6. Early in the growing season, Grass Tetany conditions can result in sudden death losses in mature lactating beef cows. Providing consistent delivery of a readily available Magnesium supplement can help prevent losses from Grass Tetany.
7. Drought conditions, late in the growing season and especially with stockpiled winter pasture, protein content of the forages will most often drop below animal requirements and performance will be reduced. Small additions of protein supplement will improve forage digestibility and prevent animal performance losses.
8. Mineral and vitamin supplementation on pasture is critical for maximizing animal performance and providing nutrients required for maintaining animal health.
9. Organic or chelated forms of trace minerals can be beneficial where there are extreme deficiencies or levels of antagonizing minerals that interfere with the use of trace minerals required for optimum animal performance. Organic forms of Copper and Zinc in a mineral supplement will help overcome mineral antagonists that can be present in certain regions of the country or water sources.
10. High-producing purebred herds will require additional supplemental inputs to ensure that they perform to their genetic potential and maximize reproductive efficiencies. Herds with greater than commercial market value are much more of an investment to protect and ensure that they have every opportunity to pass on their traits whenever possible.