Beef Tips

May 2009 Feedlot Facts

“Feedlot Nutrition Made Easy – Roughage levels”

by Chris Reinhardt, feedlot specialist

Don’t get me wrong, nutrition is extremely complex, especially when we consider the ruminant animal. That said, we ‘experts’ sometimes like to make things seem every bit as complicated as possible to ensure job security. But the reality is that there is always a hierarchy of topics to be addressed based on importance. For example: feed the cattle every day vs. formulate the correct Manganese concentration. There’s a lot of ground in between those 2 concepts, but that’s exactly the point.

When teaching the fundamentals of feedlot nutrition, regardless of the audience, we need to start with the basics. For me, that means things like bunk management, transition ration step-up programs, and final ration roughage content. Without having a firm grip on these ideas, any deeper investigation into ration formulation is wasted, because acidosis will suck out any performance advantage provided by a formulation change.

This month, we’ll discuss final roughage content and move on from there next month. Final diet roughage content will be driven by 1) diet composition, 2) available roughage sources, and 3) producer management ability. Final roughage concentration could range from 0-5% in some situations to 12-15% in others. (1) Diets containing a moderate to high concentration (≥ 25% on a dry matter basis) of wet corn milling by-products would (in my opinion) require less roughage, particularly in the warm, stable, weather months, than a diet of straight corn. (2) If all ingredients in the diet are dry, there is a greater likelihood of ingredient separation in the bunk. So you may consider using a little more dry roughage than if all or a portion of the roughage were silage, which helps maintain ration mix. (3) Producers with extensive cattle feeding experience and excellent mixing and feeding equipment can probably be successful feeding a lower roughage diet than the novice cattle feeder, or one with inadequate facilities.

In summary, we can help any producer finish cattle. It’s up to us to help maximize their respective opportunities.

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