By Cheryl Anderson
DTN Staff Reporter
By feeding grazing cattle with a distillers grains/salt supplement, cattle producers can stretch their pasture and limit intake without sacrificing performance, according to a recent feeding trial conducted at Kansas State University.
Dale Blasi, professor and extension beef specialist at Kansas State University in Manhattan worked on the project that was headed by graduate student Nick Melton.
Blasi told DTN one of the motivations to complete the study was that around the middle part of the grazing season, somewhere around the third week of June, protein levels in grass begin to decline. Over the rest of the growing season, the quality of grass and protein content continues to decrease. So producers must augment diets with some type of supplement. In this study, distillers grains were used.
Another motivator for the project was that producers must make the most of the pastures they have, especially during years with drought conditions. This is especially important since cows are selective and will sort through and eat the best parts of the plant, leaving lower quality grass remaining.
"The previous year had been a drought year and we wanted to stretch our grass," he said. "So we provided the supplement and stocked conservatively so we could keep the cattle out on pasture until the end of July without running out of grass."
By limiting the consumption of DDGS with salt, cattle can still get their nutritional needs, but will still graze pastures.
"With no salt, cows will eat all the distillers grains and only minimal amounts of grass," Blasi said. "We used salt to hold back the intake of the supplement, so the animals are still encouraged to go out and graze."
Blasi said cattle will reach satiety sooner with salt.
"Similar to humans, cattle will only eat so much salty food," he said.
But salt is not without some problems, he added.
Producers need to ensure cattle always have a good supply of fresh water. Also, some producers don't like to feed salt in their feeders, as it tends to corrode steel.
Third, producers need a way of providing the supplement without the added expense needed for daily delivery of the supplement, such as fuel, labor and wear and tear on equipment. Distillers grains are very palatable and cattle will consume more of it than may be cost effective to provide. Since salt limits the intake of the DDGS, producers can take out a larger amount of supplement, knowing that it will not all be eaten up in a short amount of time.
The researchers used beef heifers and supplemented their grazing for 78 days. Three dietary treatments were used: a control group fed DDGS with no salt, a DDGS supplement that was 10% salt, and a DDGS supplement that was 16% salt.
Coarse rock salt was used in the trial, he said.
The animals in the control group were stocked at a rate of 200 pounds of beef per acre. For example, an animal weighing approximately 400 pounds would be stocked at about 2 acres per animal, while an animal weighing about 500 pounds would be stocked at about 2 1/4 acres per animal.
The animals on the salt supplement diets were stocked at a heavier rate, Blasi said. Those on the 10% salt diet were stocked at 250 pounds of beef per acre while those on the 16% salt supplement were stocked at 250 pounds of beef per acre.
The researchers fed the animal on the 10% DDGS/salt supplement at a rate of about 0.1% of the animal's body weight. For example, if a heifer weighed 580 pounds, if would receive 5.8 pounds of DDGS per day. Animals on the 16% DDGS/salt supplement were fed at a rate of about 0.6% of the animal's body weight. For example if a heifer was about 580 pounds, it would receive 3.5 pounds of distillers per day.
The control group had an average daily gain (ADG) of 1.91 pounds. The heifers fed the 10% salt supplement had an ADG of 2.62 pounds and those fed the 16% salt supplement had an ADG of 2.41 pounds. However, cattle in the 10% group consumed about 3 pounds per day more DDGS than those in the 16% group.
The trial showed that providing DDGS to cattle on native grass at about 0.3% of body weight will significantly improve performance. Also, the outcomes showed that providing DDGS with salt in a self-fed fashion can improve ADG and expenses involved in daily delivery.
At the end of the trial, Blasi said, "We determined that providing distillers with salt is an option producers can use to meet the nutritional needs of their animal and still get a nice improvement in performance."
More information on the trial -- "Consumption and Performance by Beef Heifers Provided Dried Distillers Grains in a Self-Fed Supplement Containing Either 10 or 16% Salt While Grazing Flint Hills Native Grass" -- can be found in the 2014 Beef Cattlemen's Day progress report at http://bit.ly/….
Cheryl Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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