Make Sure Alternative Forages Contain Adequate Nutrients

US - For livestock producers facing hay shortages this winter, finding alternative forages is not as much of a challenge as providing feed sources with adequate protein and energy for overall ruminant health.
calendar icon 28 December 2007
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Francis Fluharty, an Ohio State University animal sciences researcher, said that maintaining a high-protein, high-energy combination can be achieved. It just takes a bit of juggling to get the right nutrient balance.

“We have several sources of alternative high-energy feeds such as corn, distillers grains and pelleted soybean hulls. However, the prices of these are going up rapidly. Additionally, many producers do not have the facilities to store distillers grains or soybean hulls,” said Fluharty, with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. “This has led many people to turn to corn stover or even soybean stubble bales as a primary source of feed. However, neither is high in protein, so a readily digestible protein source must be supplemented if these feeds will be used.”

Cattle need adequate protein to grow, mount an immune response, reproduce, maintain a pregnancy, or give birth to and nurse a healthy calf. Adequate protein supplementation also facilitates the digestion of feedstuffs.

Feedstuffs, such as corn stalks and soybean stubble, are also high in lignin, an indigestible complex chemical compound that gives strength to plant cell walls. The higher the lignin content, the harder it is for a ruminant to digest the feed.

“Two things must happen to aid in the digestion of low-protein, high-lignin feeds. Adequate supplemental protein must be provided, and the particle size of the material should be reduced,” said Fluharty, who also holds an Ohio State University Extension appointment. “If low-protein feeds that are high in lignin such as straw, corn stover, and soybean stubble are not chopped and supplemented with appropriate sources of protein, then animal performance is reduced.”

Source: Agriview
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