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September 2010 Archive for Beef Today: Cattle Nutrition

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Ruminant nutritionists provide information on beef cattle nutrition-related topics.

Readers Ask about Feed Ingredient Options

Sep 20, 2010
Ki Fanning,
Ruminant Nutritionist

Reader asks:

I have been approached about feeding apple cider vinegar to cattle on late summer pasture in west central SD. We had a decent year with good growth, but it got hot and dry lately. Do you have any experience feeding this product?

Ki's response:

Apple cider vinegar would mainly be comprised of acetic acid which is one of the main volatile fatty acids (VFAs) produced by rumen bacteria.  VFA’s are the energy source that ruminants live on compared with monogastrics using glucose.  Therefore, the two major concerns should be palatability and then over consumption causing acidosis (founder).  There has been very little research done feeding this product so my suggestion is to start with small amounts and increase slowly, just like you would introduce corn to a ruminant. 

Reader asks:

Do you have a ration for free choice and TMR's, incorporating the liquid corn syrup? We have been getting this for several years now and putting it in our corn silage ration and tub grinding it in with the feeder wagon. We also free-choice in tubs this all seems to work well. Another friend mixes Whey 50/50 corn syrup and free-choice.  Do you have any recommendations to this style feeding?

Ki's response:

We use corn syrup (distillers soluble) in many different feedlots, cow/calf, and backgrounding operations.  Usually it is a very good buy (delivered for less than $30/ton) so we use it as often as possible.  The advantages of it are palatability on calves and cow, it is a great source of protein, fat and energy, and for cow herds it is high in phosphorus so you can save money on a range mineral.  The disadvantages are:  it is high in fat and palatable so if it is free choice the cattle may over eat causing the rumen bugs to be killed off from too much fat resulting in reductions of fiber digestion, and it is high in sulfur which could cause polio (brainers) problems.  Whey is also a good product if it is bought right.  It does not contain the amount of fat, protein or energy that the syrup does but can be a good feed source. 

Any time that you control what the cattle eat your performance is better, same as your kids, do not expect them to balance their own diet.  If you have to free-choice it, you should monitor intakes closely and only put out a limited supply.  We can add a limiter to it but it obviously adds cost.

-Dr. Ki Fanning is a ruminant nutritionist at Great Plains Livestock Consulting, Inc. The consulting service was founded in 1998 by Dr. Ki Fanning with the goal of becoming the premier animal agricultural consulting company for feed manufacturers, producers, and entities engaged in the areas of livestock production, with the reputation of the highest integrity and quality of service.

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Starting Cattle is Serious Business

Sep 03, 2010


Zeb Prawl
M.S. Nutritionist, Great Plains Livestock Consulting

As fall approaches, another seasonal event is right around the corner for those that graze cattle through the winter.  This is the time of year cattlemen are preparing to buy the cattle they need to stock their winter pastures, and usually this means that they are preparing to get those cattle weaned, eating feed, and straightened out. 

The pre-weaned and vaccinated calf supply slowly grows each year, due to the numerous programs available across the country that are designed to benefit those producers that practice it.  However, the majority of calves sold every year still has no idea what a processing facility looks like, or even a feedbunk.  If those that are buying and receiving calves take the time to prepare for the arrival of these cattle, it can make the transition a lot easier for all involved.

Here are some points to consider before and during the arrival of newly received calves to your facility this fall:

  1. Clean your pens.  Summer is an excellent time to get your pens in condition for cattle.  This means not only scraping excess manure off the top and hauling away, but also hauling good dirt back in and filling the holes around the water tanks, bunklines, and fencelines where low spots have developed.  This prevents future mud holes that only get wider and deeper if left uncared for.
  2. Fix the fences.  Rehanging gates and patching holes in the fence can save you the time and labor that won’t be as readily available when all your pens are full of cattle.
  3. Get your bunklines in order.  Whether you just need to realign your bunks, or perform some repair/replacement, this is an important aspect of the process.  If feed is falling out and onto the ground, consider it wasted feed, and money out of your pocket.
  4. Get your diets ready.  If you are mixing a TMR, then have your diets evaluated and in place before you get cattle.  Doing so will help you make sure you actually have the right ingredients on hand and ready to go too.  And while not as predictable as in the past, this time of year typically is a better time to contract and buy ingredients if needed.
  5. Get your water sources ready.  Making sure that water tanks are working and clean helps to encourage water consumption of newly arrived cattle.  This is probably one of the most important steps to getting cattle on feed and healthy early – providing lots of good water.
  6. Get your bunk hay ready.  New cattle should never have to come into a confined pen without some type of loose prairie/grass hay sitting in the bunk.  This does several things for the cattle, and it doesn’t take a lot of hay (3-5 pounds/head):
    1. Encourages them to stop walking the fences when first put in the pen.
    2. Gets something into their bellies to satisfy and calm them down after the stress of handling.
    3. Encourages them to go drink water if they haven’t already.
      Hay in the bunk is always better than a round bale in the pen.  By having it in the bunk, you not only know how much the cattle eat every day, but you can limit the hay and make sure they are eating high quality, nutrient dense ration that is being provided to them.
  7. Provide balanced rations at the right amounts.  One of the most common mistakes practiced when starting calves is to provide them too much feed.  With the widespread use of corn by-products such as Distiller’s Grains, it is very easy to put together diets that are higher in protein (16-18% Crude Protein, DM basis) moderate in energy (46-48 Mcal/cwt NEg, DM basis) and still be very cost effective.  University research has shown that these rations can be fed at moderate amounts (up to 2% of body weight, DM basis) and perform exceptionally well.  Keeping calves just a little hungry will ensure that they keep coming to the bunk and will be easier to manage in all aspects of the starting program, including monitoring for health.


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