2001 Annual Report

Grassland Section

Dickinson Research Extension Center
1089 State Avenue
Dickinson, ND 58601


Influence of Grazing Management Treatments on Seasonal Forage Intake, Forage Quality, and Protein Supply in Cattle Grazing Native Rangeland in Western North Dakota

Llewellyn L. Manske PhD1, Joel S. Caton PhD2, and Holly Pitcher2

North Dakota State University
1Dickinson Research Extension Center
2Animal and Range Sciences Department

The beef production industry in western North Dakota has low profit margins, primarily because production costs are relatively high in relation to the prices received for live animals. Some production costs are unnecessarily high because the beef industry relies on traditional pasture management practices that have low harvest efficiency in capturing the nutrients produced on a land base and therefore result in higher costs for the nutrients ingested by the animals and in increased annual production costs per animal. Development of efficient pasture management strategies requires an understanding of herbage nutritional quality curves, the seasonal quality of animal-selected diets, and the seasonal digestibility of and protein supply from forage managed with different grazing treatments.

A two-year collaborative graduate-student project will evaluate the influence grazing management treatments applied during the growing season have on livestock forage intake, diet quality, digestion site, and protein flow for forage selected by grazing animals with ruminal and duodenal cannulas. Simultaneously, a second portion of the project will evaluate seasonal changes in nutritional quality of the herbage as influenced by grazing management treatments. Funding for portions of this project is provided from a Range Research Initiative.


Experiment A:

Crossbred beef steers will be fitted with indwelling ruminal and duodenal cannulas according to approved institutional animal care and use protocols. Steers will be randomly assigned to the twice-over rotation grazing treatment and the 4.5-month seasonlong grazing treatment. Steers will be subjected to collection periods in June, July, August, September, and, if weather permits, October during the 2000 and 2001 grazing seasons.

Each collection period will consist of 12 days. On days 1 and 2, steers will be ruminally evacuated at dawn and allowed to graze for 30 to 60 minutes. During this grazing time, total evacuated ruminal contents will be weighed and subsampled for determination of total, dry matter, and fluid fill. After the allotted grazing time, steers will be gathered, and diet masticate samples will be removed from the rumen. Samples will be separated from rumen contents and stored on ice until they are transported to freezer compartments for storage. On day 1, an additional sample from whole ruminal contents will be collected and stored frozen. Later, bacterial cells will be isolated from these samples and used to determine bacterial nitrogen to purine ratios. These ratios will be evaluated to determine the levels of microbial protein synthesis. This information will allow distinction between microbial and dietary origins of the duodenal protein flow. The evacuated ruminal contents remaining after all samples have been collected will be returned to the rumen of each respective steer.

Masticate samples will be transported frozen to the NDSU nutrition laboratory. All samples will be lyophilized before being analyzed for nutrient composition. A subsample from each masticate sample will be oven dried at 45C and used for the estimation of in vitro digestibility (Tilley and Terry 1963).

Twice-daily ruminal dosing of chromic oxide will begin after evacuation procedures are completed on the morning of day 2 of each collection period. Chromic oxide will be used as an indigestible flow marker in the masticated ruminal contents. It will be dosed via the rumen cannula at 0700 and 1900 hours daily for the duration of each collection period. Chromic oxide will be preweighed into #8 gelatin capsules (8+/-0.005g) and stored in a cool dry place until dosed. In the morning of day 7, steers will be fitted with fecal collection bags for measuring total fecal output. Bags will be changed each morning and evening. The 24-hour fecal output will be determined for a 5-day period. Proportional subsamples from the 24-hour fecal output will be collected for each steer. These daily samples will be composited for the 5-day sampling period for each steer during each collection period.

On day 7, duodenal sampling will also begin; it will continue through day 11. Duodenal samples will be collected at 0700, 1100, 1500, and 1900 hours daily. Approximately 250 ml of duodenal contents will be collected from each steer at each sampling time. Duodenal samples will be composited for all sampling times for each steer and collection period. Duodenal samples will be stored frozen until analyzes are conducted.

On day 8, ruminal fluid will be collected from each steer at 0700 hours via suction strainer. The ruminal fluid from each steer will be placed in 11 in vitro tubes and used as innoculum for in vitro digestibility estimates. In vitro digestibility estimates will be conducted for 3 dried and ground masticate samples, 3 alpha cellulose samples, 2 blank samples, and 2 standard samples. After 48 hours of incubation, the contents of the in vitro tubes will be frozen to stop microbial fermentation and transported to NDSU nutrition laboratory for the second stage of the in vitro digestion procedure. In vitro indigestibility and fecal output estimates will be used to estimate forage intake. Chromium will be used as the flow marker and will be used to estimate duodenal organic matter flow. Summarized data will provide intake, chemical composition, site of digestion, degraded and undegraded intake protein supply, and microbial efficiency of grazed forage diets as influenced by season and grazing treatment.

Experiment B:

Seasonal herbage nutritional quality will be evaluated for 4 replicated native rangeland management treatments: twice-over rotation, 4.5-month seasonlong, 6.0-month seasonlong, and long-term nongrazed treatments. Aboveground herbage samples will be collected by clipping method from 2 range sites of each pasture and separated into 4 categories: cool-season grass, warm-season grass, sedge, and forbs. Sampling periods will be early June, late June to early July, late July to early August, late August to early September, and mid October to mid November. Five years of previously collected samples and samples collected during 2000 and 2001 grazing seasons will be analyzed for nutritional quality. Samples will be analyzed for dry matter ash, crude protein, and acid detergent fiber (ADF) by standard procedures (AOAC 1990). Soluble and insoluble N will be determined using the 0.15 M NaCl procedure of Waldo and Goering (1970). Acid detergent insoluble N will be determined as the N remaining in the ADF residue. Mineral analyses (Ca, P, Mg, Zn, Cu, Fe, Mn, K, Na, S, Co, Mo) will be conducted by standard techniques including UV-Vis and atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Summarized data will determine the seasonal changes in nutritional quality of herbage as influenced by different grazing management treatments.


Data collected for Experiment A and Experiment B during the 2000 grazing season are being analyzed.

Literature Cited

AOAC. 1990. Official Methods of Analysis (15th Ed.). Association of Official Analytical Chemists. Arlington, VA.

Tilley, J.M.A., and R.A. Terry. 1963. A two-stage technique for the in vitro digestibility of forage crops. J. Br. Grassl. Soc. 18:104-111.

Waldo, D.R., and H.R. Goering. 1979. Insolubility of proteins in ruminant feeds by four methods. J. Anim. Sci. 49:1560-1568.

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