Profitability for producers is in bred cow nutrition

Dec 9, 2013

The Range Beef Cow Symposium (RBCS) was held last week by South Dakota State University at the Rushmore Convention Center in Rapid City, SD.

RBCS is a biennial educational event designed as an “in-service training for cow-calf ranchers.” The event featured over 35 well-known speakers who provided updates on production topics in the areas of beef industry issues, genetics, reproduction, range and forage management, cattle health, beef nutrition and more.

The Range Beef Cow Symposium began in 1969 as a joint effort of the extension services from South Da kota

State University, Colorado State University, University of Wyoming and University of Nebraska. It includes a two-and-onehalf day educational program, bull pen sessions with the speakers each evening and a trade show with displays from the beef industry.

Pregnant cow nutrition was one of the key topics last Tuesday afternoon, with three speakers sharing university research on the topic.

Karla Jenkins, a cow/calf, Range Management Specialist with the University of Nebraska, shared information in a confinement feeding study she has been working on.

While not advocating for 365 days of confinement, the study is opening options for better management practices.

“Feeding beef cows in confinement is not a new concept. However, limit-feeding them (less than 2 percent of body weight on a DM basis) an energy dense diet, with the intent of keeping the cows in the production cycle, rather than finishing them out, needs to be thoroughly evaluated. Keeping cows in confinement 12 months out of the year may not be the most economical scenario, but partial confinement when pastures need deferment or forage is not available, may keep at least a core group of cows from being marketed. Producers will need to know how and what to feed the cows while in confinement to make it feasible. Crop residues, poor quality hays such as those from the conservation reserve program (CRP), and by-products tend to be the most economical ingredients to include in confinement diets,” Jenkins said.

The study centers on limit-feeding with an energy dense diet. The key, according to Jenkins, is to “know the nutrient content of your feedstuffs.”

The cattle, kept and fed together, including calves and bulls, with the right diet, space and routine, proved successful. “Limit-feeding an energy dense diet to cows or pairs in confinement for a segment of the production cycle can be a viable alternative to herd liquidation,” Jenkins shared.

Amanda Blair, Meat Scientist with South Dakota State University, also disussed nutrition implications, but took it a step further, with the carcass and meat characteristics. Meeting production goals can often become antagonistic when it comes to meat quality, Blair shared. A producer has to consider quality verses cutability, and beta-agonist verses tenderness.

“In the beef fetus, the majority of muscle cells are generated during secondary muscle fiber development, beginning at about the third month of gestation and lasting until about seven or eight months of gestation,” she said. The fat cells are developed in the last five months of gestation, she added.

But the decisions, according to all three speakers on the bred cow nutrition topic, begin during early gestation. Scott Lake, Livestock Specialist with the University of Wyoming, discussed post-AI nutrition management.

“Without question, nutrition mediates reproductive function. It is well established that insufficient nutrition in cattle compromises general reproductive efficiency. Specifically in cattle, undernourishment can alter the secretion and circulating amount of various metabolic hormones including insulin, IGF-1 and IGFBP, GH, and leptin. Alterations in these hormones have direct effects on the ovarian follicles and the oocyte to compromise fertility.

In addition, nutrient restriction following breeding appears to alter oviductal and uterine support for embryo growth and pregnancy maintenance,” Lake shared.

In addition to the educational opportunities, the symposium offered a vendor section, with over 60 booths. The vendor participation keeps the cost minimal for producers and provides producers with an opportunity to discuss products, equipment, nutrition, genetics and services available for their cattle business.—Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor