Cool-Season Annuals Drive Profits

Average weaning weights for cattle in the Southeast have lagged behind those in the Midwest for many years. But that trend has reversed in recent years. The reason, according to University of Arkansas researcher Paul Beck, is because cattle in the Southeast can graze nearly year-round, but to do so, cool-season annuals such as cereal grains and ryegrass have to be a part of the system.

Cereal grains, before jointing, contain 25 to 30 percent crude protein. Sixty percent of the total nitrogen is soluble nitrogen, which means it’s available in the rumen almost as soon as the animal consumes it.

The total digestible nutrients (TDN) in young, vegetative cereal forages during late fall and early spring can range from 75 to 80 percent. “These forages are providing nutrition that is equal to or greater than a feedlot finisher ration in terms of net energy of maintenance and gain,” Beck said. “So, when we put cattle on these wheat pastures at this time of year, it’s a high-energy diet.”

Quality is highest in the fall and spring, but at no time up to the reproductive phase are the energy and protein concentrations going to limit performance for grazing cattle. Cereal forage users should expect cattle to gain 2.5 to 2.75 pounds per day if the pasture is fully utilized.

For determining an initial fall stocking rate that will maximize average daily gain, Beck’s rule of thumb is 5 pounds of forage dry matter per pound of animal body weight. This will change through winter and spring. For the entire fall-winter grazing season, he said it’s actually about 3.5 pounds of forage dry matter per pound of animal body weight. ~ Mike Rankin, excerpt from Hay and Forage Grower, Dec. 2019. Read the full article here.