Nutrient requirements are at the low point of the production year, weather is not as stressful and forage value of warm-season grasses is still decent enough to put some condition on a cow. So evaluate body condition and determine whether a little boost might be beneficial.
This boost can come from a low rate (pounds per day) of protein supplementation at a time most are not feeding supplement. If forage availability is adequate and a cow can achieve a full intake daily, a key nutrient lacking in the forage is crude protein (CP).
The cow requires protein, but as important, the ruminal bacteria require nitrogen (a constituent of protein) to ferment the forage and provide energy and protein to the cow.
Low dietary protein can reduce microbial activity, which in turn, reduces forage digestion and intake which results in reduced energy consumption by the cow. Crude protein content declines and the ratio of energy-to-crude protein increases as warm-season forages grow and progress to dormancy.
As a guide, as forage crude protein drops below 7 to 8 percent (moisture-free basis), or when the ratio of TDN-CP rises above 7, then the rumen is nitrogen-deficient.
Providing a small amount of supplemental crude protein can elicit a very efficient response. The total amount needed is about 0.35-0.4 pounds of supplemental CP per day, or about 1 pound per day (7 pounds per week) of a supplement containing 34 to 40 percent CP.
The supplement does not have to be delivered to the cattle daily. With a cube-type dry supplement, the week’s allotment of supplement can be divided into two or three feedings.
The supplement can also be delivered in a self-fed product such as a salt-meal mix, a liquid, or a tub or block. If the supplement contains nonprotein nitrogen (i.e., urea), then feed the dry supplement more frequently and allow cattle to adapt to the self-fed products. Overconsumption of nonprotein nitrogen can be fatal for cattle. The key is a high CP content delivered in a small package.
Choose your method of delivery based on the cost per unit of CP in the supplement and the cost to deliver to the cattle.
If calves are still on the cows, the supplement will act as a creep feed for the calves.
Not all cows will need a push. But some may benefit from a little push in the fall to put on additional condition before the winter sets in.
F.T. McCollum III
- Beef Cattle Production Specialist
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
- Email F.T. McCollum III