NDSU Extension - Griggs County

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January 18

The Extension Connection

By Megan Vig

                There are a couple of events coming up on the calendar geared towards livestock producers.  The first is the final Cooperstown soil health café talk on January 31st at the Coachman from 11:30 to 1:30.  The specialists attending this café talk will be Luke Ressler, Marisol Berti, and Kevin Sedivec.  The café talk is a perfect opportunity to ask questions and discuss forage production and grazing cover crops.  The next event to add to your calendar is the Beef Cattle Update, scheduled for February 15th with a lunch beginning at noon in the Aneta Auditorium Basement.  Dr. Gerald Stokka and area extension agents will discuss beef quality assurance topics.  As we get closer to spring and progress through the last trimester of gestation in our beef cattle herds, I want to remind cow-calf producers about the importance of protein in cow rations; please read on for more on this topic.

Underfeeding protein to stock cows through their winter gestation has serious consequences, a North Dakota State University Extension livestock expert warns.  John Dhuyvetter, Extension livestock systems specialist at North Central Research Extension Center wants producers to know that if insufficient protein and nitrogen are provided and degraded in the rumen, forage digestion will be reduced and the cow may not meet caloric needs and will lose weight.  Furthermore, the developing fetus may be undernourished, impacting development, vigor and survival at birth, and future outcomes of that offspring.  Both colostrum and milk quality and quantity can suffer. 

                Typical mature, late-gestation cows weighing about 1,400 pounds will need approximately 2.5 pounds of protein intake a day.  Some 60 to 70 percent of the protein should break down in the rumen to supply sufficient nitrogen for rumen microbes.  The remaining 30 to 40 percent of the protein that is undegraded in the rumen and bypasses to the lower gut, along with microbial-passed protein, will supply the cow and growing fetus with required amino acids and protein.  At full intake, this equates to 7 to 8 percent crude protein in the diet.  For younger cows still growing and developing muscle and skeletal tissue (and associated with less intake), an 8 to 9 percent crude protein ration is needed.

                Feeds high in bypass protein, such as distillers grains, or low in protein digestibility such as straw require feeding at a higher level of protein formulation to make sure rumen fermentation is maximized.  Producers have many options and feeds for supplementing protein to inadequate rations.  One of the easiest is to include a higher-protein hay such as alfalfa with lower-protein grass and silage.  Byproduct feeds are another option.  They have concentrated protein levels and can be limit-fed to supply added protein.  Often, protein supplied at .3 to .5 pound per day fixes deficiencies.  Dhuyvetter notes that appropriate feeding rates depends on the protein level in the supplemental feed and what is needed to meet the cow’s requirements.  For example, a cow receiving a silage and straw ration having a 6.5 percent crude protein level will need .5 pound of added protein to bring the ration up to 8 percent crude protein.  This can be met with 1.3 pounds of canola meal at 39 percent crude protein or 1.8 pounds of dried distillers grains at 28 percent crude protein.  Source: NDSU Agriculture Communication.

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