Tag Archives: Nutrition

Alltech Symposium Breakout Sessions Highlight Advances in Livestock Nutrition Programs

Alltech Nutrition Fetal Programming DevelopmentThis year’s Alltech Symposium offered many great programs during the breakout sessions. Of greatest interest to me were several sessions focusing on the future of animal nutrition. I had the opportunity to attend two of these sessions.

The Programs Not Products Ruminant section highlighted the need for livestock nutrition to focus on lifetime performance and match nutrition with genetic potential in our animals. As Dr. Pearse Lyons pointed out, focusing on the nutrition programs instead of specific products will move us forward to ensure sustainability and overall performance.

As an industry, we are resistant to change, and adapting programs that require better management of inputs at specific stages may difficult to justify in segmented parts of the industry. Dave Kuehnel, Milk Products, walked session attendees through the importance of feeding dairy heifers with their lifetime production in mind. Information shared in Kuehnel’s presentation highlighted the impact better nutrition had in pre-weaning heifers on the improved performance through lactation. Continue reading

“Think Tank” on Cattle Reproductive Technology

Want to make a first-year graduate student feel really dumb? Put him in a room with several leading researchers in his field of study and ask what he learned. Talk about a challenge. Luckily I didn’t have to actually get up and speak, but it was encouraging enough to sit in on the “Think Tank” known as the Roy A Wallace Bovine Reproduction Symposium held recently in Columbus, Ohio.

Researchers from universities across the country gathered here to present their research in cattle reproduction to their peers. There were definitely some great questions raised and some challenging discussion took place, but that’s what is supposed to happen when you gather in a “Think Tank.” The Universities of Idaho, Missouri, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and more were represented in this group.

Research of Cattle Reproduction

We have come a long ways in the past few decades when it comes to managing cattle reproduction. We are now able to synchronize estrus in cattle and consistently make 50%+ conception rates from artificial insemination (AI) in herds across the country. Now researchers are to the point of learning how to critique these methods and adapt them to environmental effects.

Most of these researchers presented their findings on critiques to estrus synchronization in cows, influencing the timing of ovulation with fewer injections and getting more cows bred on time. I was really impressed at how consistently breeding rates remain around 50% across the country with the use of AI.

Nutrition is obviously a huge part of successful pregnancies in cattle. We have to “Feed ‘em to breed ‘em!” There are more folks looking at nutrition management of heifers and bulls in early life and how feeding strategies affect long-term reproductive performance. This definitely ties in with my research of how nutrition while the calf is still in utero affects its performance throughout life.

Application of Reproduction Research

Our biggest challenge is making these tools most applicable to everyday cattle producers. The synchronization protocols are more affordable than ever before and only require running cattle through the chute 3 times in most instances. This can be a huge pay-off for a cattle producer looking to add higher-quality genetics in his herd without purchasing a bull. It’s also a great tool for producing a more uniform set of calves in a tighter window of time.

The most entertaining story I heard centered around the influence on temperament (attitude) of cattle on breeding rates. Apparently hot-headed, excited Brahman cattle in Florida don’t have great conception rates to AI. Part of this might have something to do with handling methods that get cattle excited on large ranches where cattle are only handed a few times each year. Heat, stress, handling, disease, and diet are just a few of the environmental factors affecting reproductive success.

One concern that has been brought to my attention is the effects of this year’s extreme heat and drought. There’s a good possibility that cattle pregnancy rates will significantly drop in areas hit hardest by the extreme temperatures. We’ll have to wait and see as more producers pregnancy check cows this Fall and as we move into next Spring’s calving season.

Study of reproduction in cattle is a long process, requires large numbers of cattle, and is heavily influenced by environmental conditions, so most studies require a few years to complete. Most folks would be surprised how much study of reproduction and embryo development in cattle contributes to reproductive technologies in humans.

Photo Friday: Experience and Knowledge

Photo credit: Unknown

“The stockman whose training has been solely in the school of experience often holds in light regard that which is written concerning his vocation. Let him remember the facts and truths are the same whether the repository is a book or the human mind. Held by the latter, all perish with the possessor; in keeping of the former, the whole world may be benefited.”

“On the other hand, novices usually underestimate the importance of experience, often thinking that by reading they can acquire the knowledge necessary in the prosecution of their business. That stock feeding is an an art and not a science, and that experience and judgement must rule in its successful conduct, is recognized in our books.”

“The eye of the master fattens his cattle.”

–W.A. Henry, 1898

Found this in one of my cattle nutrition books. Thought it was well worth the share. Hopefully it’ll give you something to ruminate on.

If you have to ask why I’m reading books from the early 1900s on livestock nutrition… Well, it’s an #AgNerd thing. You wouldn’t understand! Haha… Have a great weekend!

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Late Winter Cow Management

Much of the country has been blessed with a mild, dry winter, avoiding many of the problems severe winter storms can bring to the cow herd. With this good weather, we can become side tracked and forget about some very important nutritional needs from Spring calving cows.

North Dakota Beef Specialist, Carl Dahlen, recently shared some important cattle management tips for late winter.

1. Cattle requirements are increasing and herds have calves being born; be sure to match diets with requirements.

2. Review feed inventories and re-evaluate your plan for allocating feed to cattle in light of current winter conditions.

3. If cows are in great condition, save better-quality hay for feeding after calving; consider which hay to carry over for next year.

4. Increase feed deliveries in cold weather (yes, we actually may have cold weather this year!) and consider feeding in the afternoon; this keeps cattle warmer at night and can shift calving to daylight hours.

5. Prepare for calving (everything from pre-calving vaccinations to getting all supplies ready) if your cows are getting close.

6. Review health, feeding and implant strategies for newly purchased backgrounded calves to optimize performance unless Natural premium outweighs opportunity cost.

7. Secure seed and fertilizer purchases for planting in spring of 2012.

8. Familiarize yourself with expected progeny differences (EPDs) and current breed-average EPDs and how you can use these numbers in your breeding program.

9. Review existing bull inventory, reflect on the 2011 calf crop, determine needs for the 2012 breeding season, and purchase accordingly.

10. Take time to set goals for your operation in 2012; this gives everyone on your operation something to strive for.

Read more on Beef Cattle Nutrition this winter and the rest of the story from Beef Magazine.

What advantages/disadvantages have you experienced with mild winter weather? Do you think we’ll pay for this weather down the road?