Feeding Cattle During Drought Conditions

Dr. Steve Sachtleben

This year has proven to be one of the driest and hottest growing seasons in recent history in the middle of the United States. As a result, pastures are going bare, hay crops are short and the potential for a “normal” corn harvest is dissipating. With roughage being the staple for cow-calf producers and backgrounders, the search is on to locate “fiber” that can replace the disappearing pastures. The Kent Nutrition Group has recently offered commodity pellets and cubes aimed at reducing the dependence on pastures and harvested roughages. These products will provide limited energy and protein but are basically devoid of macro-minerals, trace minerals and vitamins. These nutrients are the backbone of reproduction and growth and must be provided by alternative routes, i.e. good nutritional products. Without these nutrients cow reproductive performance will decline, calves which are born will be weak and backgrounders will supply calves to feedlots with compromised immune systems and reduced growth potential due to prolonged nutrient deficiencies. Kent Nutrition Group products to use in combination with commodity products:

Framework 365® Minerals
Choose the appropriate Framework® 365 mineral based on the cow’s reproductive phase and the roughages consumed. As an example, roughages low in magnesium would require the use of Framework® 365 Hi Mg Mineral; cows fed fescue hay would need the Framework® 365 Fescue mineral etc. If a co-product based feed program was offered Co- Product Beef Cow Balancers or Minerals should be offered. The consumption of proper minerals will provide better calving and breeding numbers and healthier weaned and backgrounded calves.

EnergiLass® Tubs
Kansas State University data have shown that the consumption of cooked tubs by cattle on pasture will increase the digestibility of the neutral detergent fiber (NDF) within the roughage by as much as 20% thus improving the feed efficiency of the cattle (less pasture needed per unit of gain). This in turn can increase the stocking rate on the grass by that 20%. Just by using EnergiLass, a producer can extend his pasture and roughage stocks. In drought conditions, do not use EnergiLass tubs that contain urea (NPN) unless diets are supplemented with grain as the urea portion will not be utilized efficiency. The NPN is used by the rumen bugs to make microbial protein. In order for this to occur, a carbohydrate source (grain) must be provided as a carbon source.

Rumensin Mineral
Rumensin (an ionophore) is capable of increasing the efficiency of metabolism within the ruminant as its use promotes the formation of more propionate rather than acetate in high roughage diets. Propionate has more energy per unit than acetate. Thus the animal requires less feed to be maintained and grown.

Creep Feed
Creep Feed can increase pasture carrying capacity by as much as 5%. Energy requirements of cows can be reduced by supplying creep feed to calves. This results in heavier cow weights at weaning. PNP® Creep SupremeTM, HP Calf Creep, Calf Creep, and Calf Creep Co-Product Balancer are key products to consider.

It is important to evaluate the feeding program as a whole before making final decisions and cost should be a major deciding factor in determining what is purchased to extend roughages. But do not forget the nutrients beyond the fiber, energy and protein as they are as important in determining the outcome of a calving and subsequent breeding season and the mortality and morbidity of the calves all the way to market.