Monitoring Feed Intake
Although spring weather may not have extreme hot and cold temperatures,
quick changes and variation of temperatures, plus wind, rain and mud, can
alter cattle feed consumption patterns.
Beef cattle experts recommend close monitoring of feed intake and
maintaining daily feed records. These are crucial to bunk management and
keeping cattle performing efficiently.
Extension feedlot experts at Ohio State University recommend that your
feedlot cattle should always be eating fresh, high-quality feed no matter
what the conditions.1 They suggest the
following to help you monitor feed intake and reach this goal:
Use a feedbunk-scoring system on a scale from zero to five. A score of zero
implies that the feedbunk is empty. A score of zerominus (0-) means the bunk
has been empty for more than an hour. Zero-plus (0+) means the bunk is empty
except for a few fines or clumps of feed. A score of 1 means less than an
inch of feed is left in the bottom of the bunk. A score of 2 means 2 inches
of feed is left. A score of 3 means three inches and so on.
If the score is zero for two consecutive days, increase feed delivered to
cattle by 5 to 10 percent. If the score is 2 or more, reduce feed offered by
5 to 10 percent.
On the bunk sheet record the date, pen of cattle, amount of feed delivered
and a bunk score. A feeder should have at least four days of records
whenever determining how much feed to put in the bunk.
The bunk score, combined with the amount of feed provided, can tell you if
intakes are going up, coming down or holding steady. Scores constantly in
the 2 to 3 range may lead to feed wastage and reduced feed efficiency.
- Observation—Look at the cattle when making a feed decision. If the
bunk is empty, determine if cattle look hungry or content? If they look
content, wait for a second or third day of empty bunks before increasing
the amount of feed.
- Manure—Tall firm stools are a sign cattle are consuming
significant levels of roughage. Flat brown stools indicate cattle are
eating higher amounts of grain but are not having digestive upsets. Flat
gray stools, a sign of acidosis, may be observed before an actual drop in
intake. Pens with a majority of flat brown stools and a few gray stools
are a sign that cattle are optimizing feed intake.
- Seasonal variation—Feeding schedules may need to be changed during
different seasons of the year.
- Weather conditions—Changing weather can cause erratic
intake patterns by cattle. Intake frequently increases prior to a
storm, declines during the storm, and increases after the storm.
- Feed mixing—If every handful of feed coming out of the bunk is not
uniform, cattle are not all on the same diet, creating differences in body
- Feed accumulation—Don’t allow feed to accumulate from feeding to
- Empty bunks—It is all right for cattle to clean bunks once a day as
long as they are not out of feed to the extent they become restless or
over eat when fed again.
- Fines—Make sure finely ground meals and heavy ingredients such as
minerals are not all falling to the bottom of the bunk.
- Water—Feed intake is related to water intake. A slow water fountain
during hot weather will reduce intake. Clean water fountains on a regular
Land O’Lakes Purina Feed LLC has developed a variety of feeds to optimize
feed intake and feed efficiency. Steak Maker® supplements, for example, can
be tailored to fit the specific demands of your feedlot operation.
Land O’Lakes beef consultants also can use their proprietary Ration
Balancing Program to help you design a feed program specific to your
situation. Contact your local cooperative for more information.
Nutrition is Critical for Preconditioning
Thinking about developing and implementing a calf preconditioning program?
Nutrition is a critical component of any successful preconditioning program,
according to Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service livestock specialists.1
Performance during the preconditioning, stocker, and feeding phases begins
with nutritional management of the cow before calving and continues through
the entire production system, they explain. Preweaning and weaning
management, post-weaning nutrition, grazing programs, supplements and
mineral nutrition are all important in producing “bullet proof” calves, they
It is important for you to define and prioritize your objectives for the
nutritional management program. These objectives might include:
- Optimizing condition and health of cattle for the next phase.
- Producing added weight gain at a low cost.
- Marketing home raised feed resources through the preconditioning program.
- Minimizing the risk of digestive disorders and disease during the weaning
and preconditioning phase.
- Achieve a specific target weight for the cattle by sale or shipping date.
- Accomplish the above objectives with minimal labor and equipment
You need to be cautious not to over-condition cattle that might be destined
for a lower level of nutrition, such as dry wintering on native pasture or
hay with minimal supplementation.
In these situations, much of the weight and condition gained during
preconditioning will be lost, resulting in poor overall production
Cattle buyers with orders for cattle going to this type of situation will
not be interested in paying very much for fleshy calves that have been fed
to gain more than two pounds per day.
On the other hand, if the cattle are more likely to go directly to high
quality pasture or a feed yard where a high concentrate ration is fed, a
higher rate of gain and increased condition maybe justified.
Regardless of your situation, the most important thing you can do for your
calves is provide a diet designed to develop frame and muscle. Land O Lakes
products have been researched and formulated to do just that without adding
too much fat or condition.
Preconditioning feeds must be highly palatable. Newly weaned calves will be
more concerned about the absence of their mothers than eating hay or
processed feeds. Feed intake will be low for three to four days, especially
if the calves had not been previously exposed to feed in bunks or creep
Depending upon your situation, the best preconditioning nutrition program
might be to turn calves back out on high quality pasture four to seven days
after they have been weaned.
Calves should have access to the highest quality pasture available. Remember
that forage quality and quantity can vary dramatically, depending on forage
species, growing conditions, previous grazing management and season.
If quality pasture is not available, hay coupled with supplementation or
concentrate feed programs may be an alternative.
Cattle nutrition experts with your Land O’Lakes Feed cooperative can help
you develop the right nutrition program for all production phases of a
So if your feeding and management program requires a supplement such as
Steakmaker® Stresscare, or a complete feed program, Land O’Lakes Feed offers
you a wide range of products to match your operation’s specific
requirements. Cattle nutrition specialists also provide supporting services
to help you stay competitive. Contact your local Land O’Lakes Feed
cooperative today for more complete information.
Tips for Controlling Flies in Feedlots and Pastures
Warmer weather almost always guarantees an increase in the
number of flies that can adversely affect cattle performance and health.
Here are some quick tips to help you control flies in feedlots and pastures:
In Feed Lots
Sanitation—Flies need manure and other materials for
laying their eggs. Trampling and scraping manure, removing standing water
and cleaning up spilled feed and silage go a long way toward lessening fly
Chemical sprays—Several products are available to
supplement sanitation practices. Residual wall sprays last three to four
weeks and can be applied to areas where flies rest. Knock-down sprays are
a quick but temporary method of fly control.
Feed additives—Remember that the active ingredients are
deposited in manure, and that’s where they work. They won’t control flies
developing in other fly breeding materials.
Chemical—Approved chemicals applied by sprays, pour-ons,
spot-ons and squirt-ons are effective. Because the active ingredients in
these products usually wear off in about 30 days, treatments need to be
repeated once a month.
Forced-Use—These methods include back rubbers and dust
bags. Cattle need to use these daily for them to work, so place them
directly in front of food or water.
Feed Additives—Approved feed additives can control fly
larvae developing in cattle manure. • Ear tags—Resistance has become a
concern, but ear tags remain a viable option for fly control. Alternate
the use of pyrethroid tags with organophosphate tags every other year.
Mechanical controls—Harrowing pastures regularly breaks up
manure and kills fly eggs and larvae.
Feedlot Management Tips for Challenging Times
During times of high input costs and uncertain markets, it
is particularly important to frequently monitor production as you feed your
cattle and to keep good records.
This will enable you to make fast decisions and mid-course
corrections as feed costs or cattle prices change, say University of
Nebraska-Lincoln Extension cattle experts.1
They offer these tips for what you should be monitoring:
Cost of gain and breakeven should be continually
Inventory analysis should be conducted daily or weekly.
Feed mixing and weighing of ingredients should be
Evaluate cattle feed intake daily.
Frequently analyze ration bunk samples.
Measure feed waste and make adjustments when needed.
Use a computer software program to estimate cattle gain
and performance. Previous closeouts and records on cattle from a specific
source could be used to estimate future performance.
Monitor feed purchases monthly for billing or cost of feed
Annually evaluate health management program effectiveness.
Non-feed costs should be monitored and adjusted annually
using feedlot figures.
Maintain and review your feedlot databases regularly.
Continually evaluate all aspects of your feedlot
Always keep good records as they are essential to
Be sure to ask your Land O'Lakes feed representative about
the new Visions™ Feedlot Performance and Cost Monitoring program.
Cattle Need More Than Green Grass
Even though pastures look green and lush in spring and early
summer, grass production alone might not be able to meet all your cattle’s
Most grasses are just beginning to grow after being dormant
during winter and do not produce enough volume to meet the animals’
Spring forage growth can be quite rapid and the plants are
utilizing carbohydrates for growth rather than storage.
Beef forage experts suggest that you keep in mind these
three things to help keep your pastures productive:
• Match animal requirements with your forage supply.
• Rotate animals to different pastures frequently.
• Try to delay grazing of perennial pastures in the spring
Even with good management, forage quality naturally declines
as the growing season progresses.
Feeding supplements is a proven method to improve production
efficiency even when forage
quality is declining. Among other things, supplementing can
provide the needed nutrients—
lacking in lower quality forage—that will enable cattle to
perform more efficiently in digesting lower quality forage.
This, in turn, helps to increase forage intake and the
nutrients available to the animals, resulting in more efficient use of
available forage sources and enhanced forage digestibility.
The balanced mineral, protein and energy contained in a
quality Land O'Lakes® Feed branded supplement, for example, can improve
forage utilization, helping you to receive more value and profit potential
from your beef-cattle enterprise.
Land O'Lakes offers a line of supplements, complete feeds
and medicated products designed to optimize forage utilization and maximize
your return per acre. These products can help you get the most from the
forage you provide to your cattle.
Land O'Lakes also offers a range of powerful consulting
programs that can help you remain competitive in the face of today’s
economic challenges. These flexible programs offer services tailored to your
specific needs whether you are a cow-calf producer, a calf backgrounder or
The cattle nutrition consulting program, for example,
includes beef ration balancer software, feedstuff analysis and a complete
review of your nutrition and ration program.
Contact your local cooperative handling Land O'Lakes Feed
products for complete information on any of these consulting services and
Land O'Lakes beef cattle nutrition products.