In most situations, forages are the mainstay of the cattle diet. Higher energy forages are available and pasture improvement can increase cattle performance and or reduce feed costs. For more information please see Forage Production Feeds can be used to make up the difference between the nutrients available from forages and what is required by the animal. Animal requirements are driven by age, stage of production, and their environment. Generally the highest requirement for brood cows is at peak lactation or 2 months after calving. Cows that milk at higher rates will have even higher requirements. Steer and heifer calves between 450lb and 650lb have similar requirements to a medium milk production cow at peak lactation. A dry cow just before calving (12 months after the previous calving) has lower requirements and the lowest requirements occur as a dry cow 8 months after calving. Energy is normally the limiting factor, listed in the chart below as TDN% (total digestible nutrients).
|Beef Cow Nutrient Requirements|
|Adapted from NRC 1996; from North Dakota State University|
|1200lb. Cow, Peak Lactation, 20lb. Peak Milk||27.8||61.1||10.6|
|1200lb. Cow, Peak Lactation, 25lb. Peak Milk||29.2||63.1||11.3|
|1200lb. Cow, Dry 12 months from Calf||24.6||57.1||8.9|
|1200lb. Cow, Dry 8 months from Calf||22.7||48.2||6.8|
|1200lb. (Mature) Replacement Heifer|
|450lb. - 650lb. @2lb. ADG||13.8-18.2||60.7||11.0-9.5|
|1200lb. (Mature) Steer Calf|
|450lb. - 650lb. @2lb. ADG||13.8-18.2||60.7||11.0-9.5|
|Intake 2% of body weight for mature|
|Almost 3% for higher ADG steer/heifer|
The average hay quality in Virginia is 52% TDN and cattle are often eating hay when the temperatures are lower, the wind and the weather are bad creating additional maintenance energy requirement. If cattle are not supplemented, they will lose weight. The cost of keeping weight on a cow is much cheaper than the cost of gain from trying to put the weight back on an animal after its been lost. Going into the winter in excellent condition allows them to loose some weight, but that can be difficult with fall lactating animals. Feed costs including hay and pasture are the largest cost to cattle producers and taking a look at how to improve that situation can make a big difference in terms not only of overall cost but also calf crop income from the growth performance and from reproductive efficiency. Going beyond the TDN requirement will make the animals fat and that typically occurs with the grass growth in the spring and fall. The grass growth creates a natural flux that allows the animal to loose a little weight in the summer and winter after coming in a little heavy. At times and especially when feeding a hay diet, the animals require more than they get from their diet. Very poor quality hay is not digestible, is slow to move through the animals system, and intake is reduced. In severe cases the animal can starve to death eating all the very poor quality hay they possibly can.
Nutritional gaps occur when the diets of cattle do not meet the requirements of the animals. When nutritional gaps occur, cattle will loose weight, and their immune and reproductive capabilities are reduced. The nutrients from the diet of the beef cow go first to maintenance, then growth, followed by lactation, and finally reproduction. The stage of production of the cow and the available forage will determine if a nutrient gap exists. When gaps do occur, supplementing the animal can bridge the requirement.
In the scenario where brood cows are in the middle of winter eating only hay that has a TDN of 52%, if the cows are not lactating, using the 24% Beef Tubs at 2lb to 3lb per head per day could meet the animals requirement. For lactating animals 5lb - 6lb of Powerstorke or 10lb - 12lb of 13% Beef Commodity by hand daily would likely satisfy the higher requirement. Feeding at a larger rate once or twice a week can disrupt the bugs in the cow's rumen and actually work against the animal. Low feeding rates once or twice a week should be relatively safe using a feed like 13% Beef Commodity Pellets but will have little impact when the animal has a significant nutritional need. Stockpiling fescue is an excellent practice that limits how much exposure a herd has to a circumstance like this one where an animal is in a negative energy situation.
The most important stage of production is peak lactation, which occurs 2 months post-calving, this is also the time when cattle that are not in synch can rebreed. Year round producers can sometimes benefit from possibly having a cow calve sooner than 12 months, while synch cattle prefer to re-breed within 90 days post-calving to keep a one year window which is usually in synch with forage growth. To achieve good reproductive timing, feed supplementation can be well worth the money. Supplementing animals can be done most efficiently when the animals are in the same stage of production. To minimize the cost of feeding producers can try to position most of their animals to calve when the grass is near peak quality but with significant enough volume to keep the cow in condition through peak lactation with the following months hopefully having adequate forage to get the animals rebred. Pasture rotation and mowing to keep the grass in the vegetative state can be used in this situation very effectively.
Several of the basic feeds can be found in the list below this article. For calves under 300lb, Intensity and Calf Developer are used for fast growth and structure. From 300lb to weaning Powerstroke is a great choice. Powerstroke makes an excellent creep feed for calves 3 months to 7 months old. During that 4 month period, calves should have an average intake of 3lb per head per day but it will vary with forage availability which will also impact milk production. Calves that are not getting proper nutrition like in the case of a drought will eat more. Calves will also progressively eat more as they get older. After weaning Jump Start is better designed for sale calves because of a higher feeding rate. Using Jump Start, calves can be feed up to 2% of their body weight with at least 1% coming from forages.
Powerstroke is a very versatile feed. It is a perfect choice to condition 1st calf heifers and cows for re-breeding. For that purpose Powerstroke should be fed at a rate of 3lb - 5lb per head daily or .5% to 1% of body weight. Developing heifers are also primary candidates for a Powerstroke program. Developing heifers should gain at a rate of 1.5lb per day which will allow them to meet a targeted 90% mature body weight as a 2 years old when they are expected to calve. For producers that don't have time to feed daily, feeds that contain a limiter can be fed in a free-choice feeder another option is to use the 24% Beef Tubs will allow the animal to get an even amount of protein and additional energy.
Current research says that developing heifers should not average much more than 1.5lb of gain per day because hormone interaction can limit the milk potential of the animal. Fed stocker steers are fed at higher rates and will gain about twice as much as developing heifers.
Beyond the standard formula feeds, Southern States will also make custom feeds for producers that want 3 tons or more. Most of the standard feeds also come in versions that have additional additives or combinations of additives.
One additive is chlortetracycline (CTC), also called aureomycin, and can be used as a basic antibiotic when moving cattle to other locations, during weaning, during fly season to help with pink eye, and in the winter to help with respiratory issues. Another type of additive are ionophores like Rumensin® and Bovatec®. These products are used mostly by producers to prevent coccidiosis and to add gain on stocker calves. They work very very well at weaning to ward off coccidiosis. These two additives given at a higher recommended dosage will increase feed efficiency. Rumensin® and Bovatec® are both deadly to horses and donkeys with Rumensin® being fatal at a tenth of the dose of Bovatec®. Ionophores affect the microflora in the gut of beef cattle by targeting less beneficial bacteria and allowing the better bacteria to thrive. Ionophore molecules makes their way through the GI tract and never enter the tissue of the animal. There is no slaughter withdrawal for ruminating cattle. Deccox is another additive that is sometimes used for the prevention of coccidiosis. Feeds can have a limiter to reduce intake of cattle that have access to free choice feeders.
Please see the available discounts for bulk feed delivery: Bulk Feed
For information about the nutrient requirements for beef cattle based on life cycle and the stages of production please see this from the National Research Council:www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=9791&page=R1