Ever wonder how some graziers continue to keep their herd looking healthy or even put on weight during dry periods? The answer lies in a supplement feeding program. A supplementary feeding program allows key nutrients to be supplied to the rumen to boost the population of favourable rumen microbes which in turn, improves digestibility and fermentation of dry grass. In this post, we’ll explore 3 reasons why graziers should consider supplementing.
- Maintenance – if the objective of your grazing business is to maintain your herd or breeders, supplementary feeding can prevent weight loss, maintain body score, and promote general well-being through dry periods. If feeding hay and other roughage with energy sources in it, it’s recommended talking to a Nutritionist to understand how supplementary feeding can benefit your results in this circumstance.
- Production – if the objective of your grazing business is to put on the kilograms and maximise weight gain, supplementary feeding can provide outstanding results. Liebig’s Law of Minimums states that livestock weight gain is determined by the limiting nutrient (i.e. if your herd isn’t getting enough energy, there’s minimal value in feeding nitrogen supplements as they will struggle to utilise it).
- Wean more animals – if the objective of your grazing business is to wean more animals and get maximum calving output, supplementary feeding is vital to minimising diseases related to nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy and lactation. The Northern Territory Government conducted a 5-year trial at Kidman Springs looking at the benefits of phosphorous supplementation on profitability. Considering the cumulative mortality rate of P-deficient cows and the average weight of P-sufficient cows, the return on investment of feeding phosphorus after year 5 was 880%.
Cattle production is more than cow eats pasture – its cow eats pasture and feeds it to the rumen for processing into usable substrates. Supplementation is prevalent to all cattle producers whether on large stations in the North, or smaller intensive operations in the South. Shining the light on the North for a moment, supplementation is critical during dry periods as the grass has lost a high amount of its feed value and nitrogen content making it more fibrous and difficult to digest. As the season progresses, the grass quality continues to decline and so to does the population and vitality of rumen microbes. This equates to poor conversion of available grass. Supplementation can provide an external source of energy, protein, and other major nutrients to revitalise and maintain key rumen microflora.”