This week I wanted to talk about feeding energy to cattle. I know that a lot of times this time of the year and going into the spring cattle are fed a lot of protein tubs. This is not a bad practice at all, but sometimes cattle are lacking in energy.
Energy is what allows cattle to perform the body functions that are required for survival. The level of energy needed is going to vary based on age, sex, body size, physiological state, and environment.
Now the question asked is how we supplement energy or determine if our animals need energy. Since most if not all of our cow’s daily ration right now is in the form of stored hay a hay test would be a great way to start. This will allow us to see if the nutritional value of our hay is meeting the needs of our animals.
While protein is a good much needed element of feed don’t forget to look at the often overlooked TDN number. TDN (total digestible nutrients) is a good indicator of the amount of energy in the feed. A TDN at least in the mid to upper 50’s should meet the energy needs of most of the animals on our farms.
If it is determined that your animals may need supplemental energy, then you need to make preparations to obtain some energy rich feedstuffs for them. The most common energy feeds for cattle are corn, sorghum, barley, wheat, soybean hulls, wheat middlings, and beet pulp.
Contrary to protein supplements, energy supplements often decrease forage intake because of decreased ruminal fiber digestibility. Fibrous by-products can be supplemented to cattle up to 0.8% of body weight without impairing forage intake and digestibility. Supplementing cattle infrequently is a common successful practice when protein supplements are fed however, decreasing the supplementation frequency of energy supplements to cattle has been shown to be detrimental to animal production.
This infrequency impairs forage digestibility and intake because cattle receive bolus amounts of grains instead of smaller portions when supplemented. Infrequent supplementation with fibrous by-products reduces the efficiency of nutrient utilization and consequently, cattle performance even though forage intake and digestibility may not be hampered. Well planed energy supplementation programs are essential to maintain cattle at adequate levels of nutrition and performance.
For more information on energy supplementation please contact The Newton County Extension Office at 870-446-2240. Remember to check out our Facebook UAEX Newton County Extension Agriculture News. As always, The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.