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Summertime Nutrition for Cattle

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April 4, 2019

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

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about summertime nutrition management for cattle. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Jane Parish, Mississippi State University Extension Research Professor. Jane, we often think of feeding and nutrition management as a wintertime thing instead of a summertime thing, but can it be profitable?

Jane Parish: That's right, Amy. You get the typical picture of folks going out there and feeding their cattle throughout the winter, and then in the summer they just turn 'em out on grass pasture, and they're good to go in terms of nutrition. We do have a lot of warm season forages, whether it's grasses, or legumes. We do a get a lot of production and a lot of our yield does come in the summer. But the difference between summer pasture and winter pasture a lot of times is the difference in the quality of that pasture. We get, usually, our better quality forages grown in the cool season, and our lower quality forages, even though there's a lot of it out there, in the warm season.

So, again, at the end of the day it's about the nutrients going into the cattle. So we've gotta figure out what level of nutrients do we need to get into the cattle, when we've got heat stress that we're dealing with in the summer, so what do we need to do to get that best performance.

Amy Myers: Is the purpose for supplementation important?

Jane Parish: Absolutely. Just think of the difference between cow calf versus stocker cattle. So for example, if we're just trying to improve reproductive performance, well, we're trying to manage that body condition and that weight on that cow. So we have a goal there in terms of key times during her pregnancy and before her pregnancy that we're trying to make sure that we're getting certain nutrients into her. When we talk about stockers or growing calves, usually what we're thinking about is a beginning weight, and a period of time that will have that animal on pasture, or being fed, and an end weight that we're trying to get to.

So the shorter the period of time we try and achieve a certain weight gain, then the higher rate of gain we've gotta get. Some of it may be that you've actually contracted with someone to buy your calves at a certain weight, so we know we have to achieve that gain. And if the pasture quality isn't good enough, we have to start thinking about other options to get to those weights, so that is important.

Amy Myers: And a different forage species is also something you wanna mention.

Jane Parish: When we think about different forage species, Bermuda grass, bahiagrass, you got summer annual grasses, a lot of different forage choices. There are general differences in the quality of those forages, and how well they maintain a certain nutritional value, but it certainly gets into maturity of those forages as well if we can manage that, and try and use some of the improved varieties. That's one way to do it.

Amy Myers: Early summer versus late summer, what should we remember about this?

Jane Parish: This is a big one here, and it kind of goes back to what we were just talking about, with the forage species. In general, forage nutritive value of bahiagrass, it falls off pretty quickly. When we start moving from June all the way out to August, that nutritional quality in general's gonna be quite a bit better in June than it is in August. Not that other forages aren't declining throughout the summer as well, but that's one example of one that really, really tends to fall off. So knowing that, we can really match up our supplementation programs. Maybe it's not as cost-effective to supplement at high rates in early summer when we've got a little better nutritional value in those grasses, but then we get out to later summer and we've got a bigger nutritional gap of what our pasture can provide, and what we need to get into those cattle.

And so now's the time that we really start adding some nutrients in other forms, and depending on what type of forage you've got out there, and how it's managed and what the quality is, certainly makes a difference. And soil fertility and other things are gonna play into this, but having it tested and knowing what we've got is gonna be important. And think about too that this is also gonna carry over into the winter, because some of this is gonna be harvested to be fed back in the winter. So managing that quality during the summer is certainly important.

Amy Myers: And other techniques that you wanna talk about?

Jane Parish: Supplementation, really there are other management techniques that tie in. One example is growth promoting implants. If you choose to do that, then you're really gonna get more bang for your buck out of the nutrients that you're putting in, because those cattle will gain at a faster rate, and utilize that feed in a little bit better way, just because of an additional management practice. Some of the feed additives that can be added to different supplements, or mineral supplements, can improve the productivity of those cattle, so it's not just about grain based feeds, but you can also think of those things as a whole management system to get the best nutrition.

Amy Myers: And it doesn't have to come from a sack.

Jane Parish: That's right, I'm definitely a proponent of forage-based nutrition, and anytime we can have high quality forages and let those cattle harvest the forages, as opposed to toting a sack of grain out there, that's a good deal. Especially in terms of economics. So think about those high quality forages, whether it's legumes like clovers that you could add into your pastures, to really get some added boost in average daily gains, and add a little more body condition and weight on those cattle. I think that we've got some good options, creep grazing is a good example of that.

Amy Myers: Today we've been speaking with Jane Parish, Extension Research Professor. 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.

Department: North MS Research and Extension Ctr

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