Want a Happy Spring? Starts with a Healthy Cow
The first step to developing a feeding system is a forage sample to accurately identify the energy, protein, digestibility, vitamins and minerals in each feed product you are using in your ration. Feed rations will change according to the nutritional requirements of the animal at any given time.
Jeremy Martin PhD, ruminant specialist nutritionist and reproduction manager, Great Plains Livestock Consulting says “We always recommend testing, even on lower-quality cheaper ingredients of diet. Cost of tests, relative to potential savings, is so small there’s no way to justify not doing it. You need to know the nutritional value of your feed otherwise you may be over or under supplement the feed ration you are using.” Importance of Forage Analysis: Making Sure Nutrient Requirements ...
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● Cattle require a minimum protein level of 7 percent (%) in their diet, if it falls below this the microbial efficiency of the rumen will decline as there is not enough protein to feed the microbes that ferment and digest forage. The result is the cow’s body condition will decline as she is unable to obtain adequate nutrients from the feed she is consuming, and digestion slows. As a rule of thumb, cattle should be fed at least 8 percent (%) crude protein, otherwise you should supplement with protein to ensure improved digestibility and feed intake.
● Moisture content will indicate if there is the possibility of molds and mycotoxins developing which can result in reproduction issues such as abortion of calves, reduced dry matter intake, lower weight gain and reduced milk production just to name a few issues.
● Timing of forage harvest will affect the nutritional quality of the finished product. Rained-on forages lose quality due to loss of digestibility, and some carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals will be leached out. Maturity of the forage when harvested will affect the quality as pre-bud grasses will be higher in protein and sugars than a forage that has headed out. Over mature grasses will have expended considerable energy in seed production lowering crude protein and available sugars.
● Energy is the greatest nutrient required in a ration, and is required for maintenance, growth and milk production. The primary source of carbohydrates so you want to review the sugar, starch which are found in the cell contents of the plant, while the cell walls and lignin content are the indigestible components.
● Neutral detergent fiber (NDF) is the moderately digestible fiber in the plant walls. The high the NDF, the less forage that can be eaten thereby affecting growth or milk production of the animal.
● Acid detergent fiber (ADF) is a measure of the lignin or poorly digestible fiber in the plant’s walls. As ADF goes up, the digestibility of the feed declines thereby reducing the amount of energy available to the animal. Less energy means less growth and/or milk production.
Color isn’t everything….Just because a bale appears green in color does not mean it contains the necessary nutrients to deem it usable in all situations; so, a good starting point is looking at a feed analysis of the forage to determine when and how it can be utilized in your ration for maximum results.
If you enjoyed this information stay tuned for our follow up blogs on where to get you feed analysed, how to read a feed analysis and what makes up a good sample. Feel free to provide us your feedback or topics of interest that you would like to read about.