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Matching Cattle Requirements to Available Feeds

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December 12, 2019


Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Taylor: Today we're talking about matching cattle requirements to available feeds. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor and welcome to Farm and Family. Today, we're speaking with Doctor Brandi Karisch, Mississippi State University Extension Service Beef Cattle Specialist.

Brandi tell me, why should beef cattle producers be interested in what cattle require?

Brandi Karisch: Well Amy, typically for most beef producers and for stocker producers or growing cattle producers especially, their goal is to add value to cattle through additional weight gain. For those cattle to gain weight, they have to receive a certain amount of nutrients to add on that extra gain. We're very fortunate in Mississippi because, cattle producers typically have a really abundant forage supply that meets most of their nutrient needs. But particularly, as we go into the winter months or particularly, for those high growing cattle, those forage alone doesn't meet their needs to reach that producer's end goals. So, they can make use of a wide variety of supplement to support that additional gain.

Amy Taylor: And what effects cattle requirements?

Brandi Karisch: Well, there's a wide range of things that reflect the nutrients those cattle need, similar to what you and I need. They're requirements are affected by their size, the nutrient needs are going to vary by their age, their class, what stage of production. How fast they're growing, what's their performance level. And particularly their body weight is going to be an effect in their nutrient requirement. So, as cattle grow, they're going to require more amounts of nutrients just to maintain themselves. So those cattle are going to have certain requirements for water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins, just like you and I.

Amy Taylor: Now, what's the first step in matching needs to available forage?

Brandi Karisch: One of the first steps in figuring out if there's any extra feed that's need to be added is first, figuring out what's out there in terms of, what forage is available. So a forage testing program is crucial for producers to be able to match those cattle needs are to that forage that's out there. And that forage testing program does a lot to eliminate guess work when it comes to supplementation decisions. We've got a wide variety of forages that are used for cattle production and hay production in the state of Mississippi, and with those come a wide variety of nutrient quality. So, there's more information that can be found on forage testing on our beef page. And then on top of that, they've also gotta consider how much that animal is going to consume of that forage. So, bigger cows are going to be able to eat more hay because she's got more capacity in her stomach. Cattle actually require nutrients in a certain amount per day. So think about it in terms of, they require a certain pounds of protein per day. So we can meet those needs by adjusting the percentage of the nutrients that we're feeding them.

So, they can eat less of a feed that has a higher percentage of protein, compared to a feed that has a lower percentage of protein, and still meet those same weight requirements. A general rule of thumb in figuring out how much forage those cattle are going to eat per day is approximately, two and a half to three percent of their body weight on a dry basis, per day.

Amy Taylor: And also, weather can have an impact on cattle needs. So, should producers account for extreme weather conditions?

Brandi Karisch: Most definitely, Amy. Anytime that animal gets out of what we consider its thermo neutral zone, its requirements are going to increase and it's going to effect how much it can eat. So for example, in the winter time, once we get cold stress, those cattle are going to eat more to meet their requirements.

Amy Taylor: Okay, that makes sense. And where can producers find information on what their cattle require?

Brandi Karisch: Well Amy, there's a group that does research every few years and puts out a Complete Nutrient Requirements of Cattle table, and that's found in a publication through your local extension service or on our website, that's just simply called Beef Cattle Nutrient Requirements.

So to kind of summarize, it might seem like a daunting task, but it can be broken down pretty easily and it allows producers to be more efficient in their use of feed and forage and to target their end goals better.

Amy Taylor: Thank you so much. Today we've been speaking with Doctor Brandi Karisch, Mississippi State University Extension Service Beef Cattle Specialist. I'm Amy Taylor and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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