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Published December 23, 2013, 09:19 AM

NDSU shares beef cattle research results

Beef cattle diets, breeding systems, drylot versus pasture cow-calf production, forage digestibility enhancements, grazing and effects of pen bedding were among the topics North Dakota State University researchers studied in the past year.

By: NDSU Extension Service,

Beef cattle diets, breeding systems, drylot versus pasture cow-calf production, forage digestibility enhancements, grazing and effects of pen bedding were among the topics North Dakota State University researchers studied in the past year.

In a project comparing lactating beef cows fed a diet of corn stover and distillers grain, an ethanol production byproduct, with cows fed corn silage, wheat middlings, barley hulls and straw, researchers at the Carrington Research Extension Center found that:

• Calves of cows on the stover-distillers grain diet gained 2.73 pounds per day during the 92-day study, while calves of cows fed the other diet gained 2.57 pounds per day.

• The decrease in cows’ condition score during the summer feeding period was nearly identical (1.1 for cattle on the stover-distillers grain diet versus 1 for cows on the other diet).

• The daily ration cost for the stover-distillers grain diet was $1.71, compared with $2.22 for the other diet.

“Cow numbers continue to decrease in North Dakota and nationally as a result of drought, grazing land being converted to cropland and the high cost of conventional feed ingredients, yet underutilized and undervalued feed resources such as corn stover and distillers grains are available to producers in North Dakota,” says animal scientist Vern Anderson, who led this study. “Our past research indicates beef cows are capable of using a wide variety of feeds, including crop residues (corn, wheat, pea, barley, straw, regrowth or cover crops) when properly supplemented. This study indicates diets formulated with corn stover and nutrient-dense supplements such as distillers grain can be very successful in supporting excellent growth and performance in the cow and her calf.”

Researchers from the Animal Sciences Department and Hettinger and Central Grasslands Research Extension Centers conducting a breeding study found that:

• About the same number of cows exposed to estrous synchronization (ES) and artificial insemination (AI) became pregnant during the breeding season as cows mated with bulls.

• Cows in the breeding system with ES and AI gave birth earlier in the caving season than cows mated with bulls.

• Calves born through AI during the first 21 days of the calving season were 19.4 pounds heavier at weaning than the calves of cows mated with bulls.

In a study on whether the degree of processing for dry-rolled corn had an effect on steers fed finishing diets, Animal Sciences Department researchers discovered that processing didn’t affect the steers’ initial or final body weight, average daily gain, dry-matter intake or carcass quality characteristics such as 12th-rib fat thickness, rib-eye area and marbling score.

The study also looked at the impact on those steers of including dried distillers grains plus solubles (DDGS) in their diets. The researchers learned that the steers’ dry-matter intake and feed-to-gain ratio decreased as the amount of DDGS in their diet increased, but including DDGS didn’t affect the carcass quality characteristics.

In addition, the researchers found that processing the corn and adding DDGS had some impact on the steers’ feeding and ruminating behavior. For example, steers fed finely rolled corn ate more meals per day, and spent more time eating and less time drinking. The size of the meals the steers ate decreased, but their eating rate per meal and per minute increased as the amount of DDGS included in their diet increased.

“This information shows that changing the feeding management program can impact animal growth and efficiency,” says Kendall Swanson, an Animal Sciences Department associate professor who led this research. “More work is necessary to fine-tune the time-of-day feeding work to optimize feed intake and growth.”

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