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NDSU shares beef cattle research results

Feeding sugar beets to livestock, reproductive performance monitoring and the effects of storing large round hay bales outside were among the beef cattle topics North Dakota State University researchers studied in the past year.

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Mikkel Pates, Agweek

Feeding sugar beets to livestock, reproductive performance monitoring and the effects of storing large round hay bales outside were among the beef cattle topics North Dakota State University researchers studied in the past year.

In a study at the Carrington Research Extension Center, researchers found that producers can feed a type of sugar beet called a "feed beet" to cattle without affecting the animals' growth performance or the quality of the meat from those animals. Feed beets are a variation of sugar beets grown specifically as feed for beef and dairy cattle.

"Sugar beets have been fed to cattle throughout the world for the past 100-plus years, but only recently have we realized that this crop has the unique potential of producing excellent yields on saline soils where few other crops will grow," says Chanda Engel, a research specialist at the center. "The sugar content and digestible fiber make beets particularly attractive for lactating dairy cows and all classes of beef cattle."

But fresh and frozen beets need to be processed to reduce the size of the beet particles before they're fed to cattle so the beets mix better with other feed rations and to reduce the risk of the cattle choking on whole beets, the researchers discovered.

Animal Sciences Department researchers developed a system to help producers monitor their cows' reproductive performance. The PregCard is a 4- by 5 1/2-inch preprinted postage-paid postcard that veterinarians can fill out after they conduct pregnancy evaluations.

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The cards ask for information such as the total number of females evaluated, total number of open females, date of the first artificial insemination or bull turnout, and total number of yearling and mature bulls stocked with each group of females.

"Simple data collected at the time of pregnancy examination allow us to evaluate the impact of routine management strategies on reproductive performance, evaluate changes in management trends through time and establish benchmarks of reproductive performance," says assistant professor and Extension Service beef cattle specialist Carl Dahlen, who helped develop the card.

Researchers from the Central Grasslands and Carrington Research Extension Centers found that large round bales of hay stored outside can lose dry matter and nutrients. Those losses reduce the hay's usefulness as feed for cattle.

"These losses also suggest the need for testing hay just before feeding because values can change in a six-month window," says Fara Brummer, area Extension livestock systems specialist at the Central Grasslands center.

For more information about these studies, as well as other NDSU beef cattle research, see the "2015 North Dakota Beef Report" at www.ag.ndsu.edu/cattledocs/research-reports .

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