Monitoring the Nutritional Quality of Mature Pasture Grasses
Many pastures in cattle country are nearing maturity and as the summer progresses, most will soon be at the end of their summer growing cycle. As pasture grasses mature, the composition of crude fiber in the plant increases lowering total digestible nutrients of the plant. As cattle graze and deplete the more tender leaves, pasture quality declines quickly and the less digestible, higher fiber portion will not support the nutritional requirements of the cattle.
Pasture monitoring is important at this time since pasture quality and nutrition can vary significantly across the land. Grass type (cool or warm season), weather conditions, especially rainfall and heat, and soil fertility will dictate growth rate and nutritional quality of the pasture.
When pastures mature, digestibility and nutritional quality is reduced, and performance will suffer unless supplemented to meet the nutritional requirements of the grazing cattle.
Lactation, Re-breeding and Growth Requirements
As pastures become depleted, energy and protein are the first to become deficient leading to poor gain and body weight loss in all classes of cattle. Spring bred cows in their second trimester and nursing calves will begin to lose weight if pasture quality becomes deficient in energy. It is less expensive to keep condition on cows than it is to put it back on after it is lost. In addition, the developing fetal calf creates additional demand on the cow for energy and protein for optimum growth and development.
Supplementation of protein, energy and minerals may be needed at this time of year in some regions of the country to meet the total nutrient needs of the mother, suckling calf and developing fetus. Regional areas experiencing drought and environmentally stressed conditions where pasture quality is negatively affected, may need additional supplementation until the grass and pasture quality improve.
Considerable research has shown that adequate nutrition of the fetus at the right time during pregnancy significantly impacts overall health and immunity of the calf. This concept of “fetal programming” is becoming a major management tool in cow herd management.
Growing Cattle Requirements
Young growing cattle have higher nutritional requirements than cows for growth and will exhibit depressed gain and development in deficient pasture conditions. Research has shown .5 lbs. of additional gain can be expected per day when 2-4 lbs. of supplement is fed.
Good Rumen Function is Important
RumaCell™ from Pacer Technology maintains good rumen functon by supporting the microbial populations in the digestive system of the rumen and intestine for optimum nutrient digestion when forage quality is poor. When rumen function is optimized, microbial protein and volatile fatty acid production can better support the major nutritional needs of cattle for maintenance of body condition, lactation and calf growth and development.
Energy is probably the most important nutritional element in beef cattle production since it is the fuel for growth and development, maintenance of body condition and metabolic functions of the animal. Cows need energy for milk production, rebreeding and development of the fetal calf tissues.
When pasture grasses become deficient in energy the animal must utilize body fat for maintenance requirements and body condition is lost. When condition is lost, health and performance is affected leading to additional costs to replace the lost body condition and treat other related issues.
Protein is the second limiting nutrient in most cattle rations and is the principal building block of most tissues. Without adequate amounts of protein in the diet, rumen function can be depressed, feed intake can drop, and overall nutrient digestion declines resulting in a deficiency of protein needed for growth.
Mature pasture grasses can be very low in protein and high in fiber. This combination can create poor rumen function and depressed fermentation and digestibility. Supplementation of a good protein source will improve rumen function significantly when pastures are poor quality.
Many pasture supplements are available for the various pasture types and locations and are balanced for the specific pasture deficiency to meet the nutritional requirements. Supplemental feeding rates depend on the pasture deficiency and can range from one to four pounds per head per day.
Liquid and poured block supplements are effective in supporting good rumen function. Range cubes and mineral can be formulated to provide additional energy and protein ingredients. Regardless of the type of supplement, a small amount of energy and protein will help maintain animal performance at a lower cost compared to putting weight back on after it is lost.
Upgrade Your Nutritional Program with RumaCell™
Research shows RumaCell will help optimize rumen function and efficiency helping cattle get more nutrients out of their feed. This is especially important during summer grazing when pasture grasses have matured, and digestibility has declined.
Summer pasture management tips:
Rotate pastures if possible, to prevent over grazing
Mow or clip the stem and seed head to stimulate vegetative growth and reduce weeds
Interseed mixtures of different grass varieties and legumes to improve following year pastures
Supplement deficient pastures with energy, protein and minerals to maintain animal performance
Feed RumaCell to maintain optimum rumen f