So whats for Dinner?
Jun 25, 2013
Stop killing your Cattle!
It can be confusing when trying to decide on which grasses and/or legumes are best for your dairy or beef herd? But it doesn’t have to be confusing. Over the years, our experience in grazing both dairy & beef cattle has shown us that a balance (50/50), of grasses like Orchardgrass with fescue mixed with alfalfa and red clover will give you the best daily gain’s, milk production and an over-all healthy/productive herd.
We’ve also found that to keep weight gain occurring over the winter, it’s best to seed down your hay fields with the same mix as you have in your pastures. That way your cattle will be getting the same mix throughout the entire year just in a dry form in the winter. Now that "dry form" of hay can either be in the form of baled/dry hay, or Stockpiled pasture forages that have been "set-aside" during the growing season for grazing in the late fall or winter when your seasonal pastures go dormant.
If your currently feeding your cattle grain, STOP! It’s not natural for cattle to eat processed grains. It will make them sick. Feeding grain to ruminant animals such as cattle will cause liver damage. They will never recover completely from the liver damage that grains like corn cause, so don’t think that moving them to an all pasture diet will "heal them". Once the damage is done, it’s done. The best thing you can do for your herds future is to move expectant heifers & cows to pasture so their calves are born on grass and only live on grass. Unfortunately, once your calves are weaned at around 6 months of age, you should look into getting rid of those momma cow’s.
When "transitioning" from a grain fed operation to a grass-fed operation you need to be ready to $ave money too! That’s right, you will be saving money on feed bills because you won’t have any. You’ll be saving on vet bill’s because you won’t have any need for them either! Your milk production will decrease slightly, but what you lose in your milk check will be miniscule compared to what you won’t be paying out for feed and medications. If your raising beef cattle, your animals will also be healthier. And your cattle will command higher prices at harvest time than what you use to make when feeding them grain. It’s a win-win situation for you and your cattle.
Studies have shown time after time that a high concentration diet of grain fed cattle will make them grow faster than a 100% Grass-fed diet. If that’s the only thing that’s important to you as a beef producer, you shouldn’t be raising cattle. A diet of grain can be very stressful for cattle. These diets allow fermentation acids to accumulate within a digestive compartment called the "rumen" In ruminant animals, fiber digestion depends on fiber-degrading microorganisms which occur naturally in cattle. These microorganisms supply the cattle with useful protein, vitamins and short-chain organic acids. Without fiber such as grass and hay, these acids are not absorbed as efficiently, and the animal's physiological mechanisms will end up severely out of whack.
Acid buildup can cause ulcers in animals consuming grain. Then that infectious bacteria created by the grain, go from the rumen through the ulcers, into their blood, and finally into the liver, where they cause abscesses. Feed additives such as antibiotics can counteract such ailments, but they further alter the ruminal microbial ecosystem. Grains can accumulate in an animal's intestines because they lack starch-digesting enzymes.
A high-grain diet can also promote an overgrowth of Clostridium perfringens, a bacterium associated with sudden death in feedlot cattle. Sounds like fun huh?
I know this might be allot to digest, but think about what your cattle must feel like when you force them to eat grain!? Lastly, grain-based diets promote Escherichia coli (E. coli) within the digestive tract of cattle, and these E. coli are more likely to survive acid shocks that mimic the human gastric stomach. This "discovery", first reported in 1998, has now been confirmed by scientists at the USDA. These scientists have likewise shown that cattle switched from grain-based diets to 100% Grass-fed/hay didn’t shed harmful E. coli 0157:H7 in their feces.
So what’s for dinner?