Agri-Basics Annual Beef Producers Meeting

Agri-Basics held their annual beef producers meeting at the Lancaster County Farm and Home Center on August 3, 2017. The meeting was well attended with 145 producers participating in the meeting. The guest speaker was Dr. Francis Fluharty, Research Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at Ohio State University. Dr. Fluharty began his presentation with some basics in ruminant nutrition and then provided practical tips for feeding and managing feeder cattle. Below is a summary of those tips:

Transit Shrink Considerations: Normally consider 3% shrink for the first 100 miles and an additional 0.5 to 1% shrink for each additional 100 miles. The fatter an animal is, the less it shrinks because very little loss is from fat (tissue loss is potassium, water, and protein). Older animals shrink less than young animals because they are a higher percentage fat. Heifers shrink less than steers, and steers shrink less than bulls, again going from highest fat percentage to least. Reducing Shrink Loss: Avoid loading or moving cattle in bad weather, and load cattle so that most of the time in transit occurs at night. Use non-abusive handling practices. (NO electric prods). Have corral and loading chute in proper repair. Feed dry feeds prior to shipping (they keep water in the rumen longer). Alfalfa hay is recommended because it is high in potassium. Don’t over-crowd on the truck and NEVER give cattle salt prior to shipping. IMPORTANT: Provide electrolytes in the drinking water after arrival to re-supply potassium and sodium salts. Cattle may not want to eat after they arrive at the feedlot, but they are ALWAYS thirsty! This is the time to reestablish a proper sodium-potassium balance, and for cattle hauled more than 24 to 36 hours, including sorting in the pen prior to trucking, B-vitamins help, too.

Dietary Recommendations: Increased feed and nutrient intake leads to increased performance and decreased disease. An example receiving diet for feedlot steers would be to increase protein % (18 to 20% crude protein) until intake reaches 1.8 to 2.0% of body weight on a dry matter basis then 14 to 16% crude protein once intake reaches 2% of body weight on a dry matter basis. Receiving diets should contain at least 50% concentrate. However, with highly-processed grains, feeding more than 60% concentrate in receiving diets may increase morbidity. Protein concentration in the receiving diet must be sufficient to allow for reduced feed intake in the first two weeks following feedlot arrival of newly-weaned calves. Vitamin E added to receiving diets to supply > 400 IU/animal daily has been shown to be beneficial for increasing gain and decreasing BRD morbidity. Supplemental Zn, Cr, Se, and Cu can alter immune function of newly received feedlot calves, however research results have been variable. Corn does not necessarily need to be processed to result in high levels of starch digestibility, but smaller grains such as barley and wheat do need to be processed before feeding. Feeding roughage (forage) in feedlot diets help prevent digestive disorders by altering ruminal pH through increasing the rate of rumen contractions, which increases rumination resulting in increased saliva production and increased buffering capacity. Roughage particles should be relatively small (less than 4 cm) when highly-processed grain diets are fed or undigested grain will pass through the rumen. Maximize net energy for gain (NEg) intake by increasing the neutral detergent fiber (NDF) concentration in finishing diets which stimulates intake to a point where NEg intake is greater than if no additional fiber were fed, resulting in increased gain and efficiency of gain.

Methods to Aid in the Prevention of Acidosis: Increase the frequency of feeding and increase the percentage of roughage in the diet (higher NDF concentrations are better, because they can be fed at lower levels). Feed complementary grain sources to increase the time of ruminal digestion, so that less starch is available at any one time. Implement a gradual diet adaptation period ranging from 10 to 14 days. Utilize products that minimize the effect of lactic acid producing organisms. Feed cattle the same time every day and use a feed bunk management protocol.

Feed Bunk Management: In order to maximize animal performance and minimize digestive disorders it is imperative to keep animals eating a consistent amount of feed. Monitor the amount of feed remaining in the bunk and adjust intake accordingly. If there is no feed remaining in bunk – increase intake 5%. If scattered feed is present and most of bottom of bunk exposed – hold intake. If there is a thin uniform layer of feed across bottom of bunk, typically about 1 kernel deep – hold intake or reduce 5%. If 25-50% of previous feed remains – reduce intake 5 to 10%. Never increase feed for two consecutive days.

Agri-Basics would like to thank the sponsors of the meeting which included: Lallemand, Double S Liquid Feed Services, York Ag, Merck, Elanco and the Central VA Cattlemen’s Association.