June 29, 2011


New US product may improve feed efficiency for cattle



A new product could allow the cattle feeding industry to make feed mills more efficient, and put more weight on cattle, potentially reducing the cost of beef to the consumer.


Dr Jim MacDonald, a Texas AgriLife Research beef cattle nutritionist, finished his second trial of cattle early this year studying starter diets in feedlots during the transition phase from pasture to feed yard.


Typically, a steer or heifer will come off a forage diet when it goes into the feedlot, he explained. For the first 21 to 28 days in the feedlot, the cattle are fed a diet that allows their rumen microflora to adapt to grain instead of forage.


"This is usually done with roughage, and as they go through the period of adjustment, the amount of roughage goes down and the amount of grain goes up," MacDonald said.


If the animal is not allowed to go through this process, it can suffer rumen acidosis, which is typically characterised by decreasing rumen pH and digestive disorders that cause the cattle to go off feed, he said.


The problem for feed yards, MacDonald said, is that handling the roughage needed for this transitional diet can be inefficient. Roughage is typically expensive per unit of energy, and is bulky and difficult to handle in the feed mills.


Through a grant funded by Cargill Corn Milling, MacDonald conducted two trials with 315 cattle in each to help develop a product that acts like a forage in the rumen but has the energy value of corn.


Cargill already produces Sweet Bran, a branded corn gluten feed that is high in digestible fiber with an energy value similar to corn, but without the potential to cause rumen acidosis, he said.


Cargill is expanding on the Sweet Bran product with a new one called RAMP, a complete starter feed to adapt cattle to finishing diets of Sweet Bran pre-mixed with cottonseed hulls, alfalfa hay, vitamins and minerals.


MacDonald found that by using RAMP, the energy intake during the adaptation period increased, and an additional 17 pounds (7.7 kilogrammes) of hot carcass weight was captured on average.


In addition to increasing weight gain, RAMP helps improve feed mill efficiencies because of the reduced forage that needs to be handled - about one-third less - and the reduction in the number of diets they were having to mix, MacDonald said.

Video >

Follow Us