Protein supplementation on stockpiled forage

correct grazing nutrition Oct 25, 2020

We have been a bit busy finalizing the Total Grazing course... but we are back on track on the blog posts!

Wanted to share with you the importance of protein supplementation on stockpiled forage.

Bacteria in the rumen have a minimum protein requirement to be able to digest fiber efficiently.


The normal minimum is around 8 % for these bacteria to be able to be efficient.  The consequences of not meeting this minimum will vary depending on the environment and the amount of fiber in the forage.


Under low content of lignin in the forage the cow will be able to overeat up to 40 % above her dry matter requirements to be able to make up for the deficiency thus decreasing the amount of cattle carried on a given area of ground.


This is very important under conditions of forage shortages or when land is expensive and we want to optimize number of cows per ranch


Number of cows per ranch is the most important factor determining profits per ranch, it is far more important than % fertility or weaning weights.  Normally cattlemen don’t realize this and is why some of them are recommending never to supplement to keep expenses down but in reality they are shorting their income due to inefficiency of their cows under forage shortages due to a protein shortage.


Under high lignin in the forage the cow is not able to overeat as the high lignin, not being digested by the microorganisms due to a lack of protein, plugs the digestive system ( so to speak ) and decreases the forage intake leading to lower performance.  This is the reason that cows on low octane tropical grasses lose weight ( Bermuda, bahia grass are low octane tropical grasses )


In this case if we supplement enough protein to get  around 8 % protein in the total daily intake the cow will be able to increase her forage intake to around 2.5 % of her body weight and be able to nurse her calf through the Winter or drought without loosing weight.


This is much easier and cheaper than feeding hay with savings around $100 per cow per year


With stockpile forage the mineral program becomes very important as any deficiency ( mineral, protein ) will increase the amount of dry matter required and under high lignin forages ( low octane ) the animal will not be able to overeat enough to make up for the deficiency.


There is a definite big difference in the grazing management and supplementation under high quality forages in good environments compared to low quality forages in difficult environments.


The same happens in the genetic side as what makes a breed excel under a particular environment is what will make it not adapted to a opposite environment.


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