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How supplements with intake control properties can help your herd

Ron Scott for Progressive Cattleman Published on 25 April 2016
Supplements with intake control help send metabolic signals to the cow

You’ve likely heard the mantra that six small meals a day are better than three large meals a day. Think about a time when you’ve had multiple snack-sized meals throughout the day – perhaps a Super Bowl party or potluck.

When it came time for supper, were you hungry? Likely not – since you had a steady supply of glucose throughout the day.

The same concept holds true for your cattle. Feeding systems that stimulate cattle to consume multiple small snacks of feed supplement a day can optimize the flow of nutrients to the digestive system.

When there’s optimal nutrient flow, there’s also increased forage intake, overall nutrient utilization and improved cattle performance.

Supplements with intake control properties help send metabolic signals to the cow, telling her it’s time to stop eating supplement and go graze.

After a day of small snack-sized supplement portions, cattle don’t return famished to eat a “super-sized” portion – which can cause a wide shift in rumen pH and ultimately result in health challenges.

In addition to optimizing nutrient flow and health, there are a variety of benefits to cattle consuming snack-sized meals throughout the day.

Build herd uniformity

We’ve all seen cattle behavior extremes, from the most timid cow, who won’t fight its way to the feedbunk, to the most aggressive boss cow, who pushes others out of its way. Supplements with intake control properties can help manage these extremes by keeping the entire herd in a more uniform body condition.

If cattle are delivered a supplement source once a day or every couple of days, it’s likely they’ll try to consume their allotment in one meal. The boss cows will overconsume, and the timid cows will underconsume.

Delivering a supplement with intake control properties encourages smaller meal sizes, less time spent at the feedbunk and more opportunity for those timid cows to eat. It also helps the boss cow stop overconsuming, since it’ll move to grazing once it’s consumed the amount of supplement it needs.

Utilize more pasture

Forage is one of your greatest resources. Why wouldn’t you look for ways to make the most of it? Supplements designed to cause snack-size eating not only tell the cow when it’s consumed enough (thus, telling it to move to pasture), they can also be used to encourage cattle movement to underutilized areas of pasture.

Cattle tend to graze near water and will move some distance away from water throughout the day, but they’ll always go back for water. Supplements are developed to provide a palatable burst of nutrients that create a desire for the cow to come back for more, but if we place a product too far away from water, cows won’t find it.

When we strategically place and then gradually move products further away from water, we can draw those cattle into underutilized areas of a pasture.

With high land prices, you need to make sure your pounds per acre overcome your cost per acre. Supplements with intake control properties can be used to get more from your pastures.

Manage labor resources

There are a variety of factors that may contribute to your ability to get out and hand-feed cattle a supplement every day, every other day or even every week. It might be labor, it might be changing weather conditions, or it may just be your environment.

In any case, oftentimes supplements that encourage snack-size eating come in bulk and self-fed forms.

If you’re looking for the added convenience of not having to hand-feed as frequently, there are options that can help save labor resources. Liquid tanks, blocks and tubs or even the standard self-feeders with a meal feed form can provide cattle access to supplements without the labor requirements of a cube or cake form.

Find a solution that fits

Which supplement option is right for you? There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to feeding cattle; you need to choose a supplement that works with your forage availability, labor resources, feed type preference and feeding facilities. You also need to select something that works for your environment – a cattle producer in the north will likely be picking something different from a producer in the south.

For optimal results, work with your nutritionist to select a supplementation option that best meets the requirements of your herd and the goals of your operation.

No matter which supplement you choose – whether it’s one with intake control properties or without – make sure it’s being offered well in advance of a potential deficiency.

Maintaining a consistent body condition score year-round will help overcome the challenges related to a potential deficiency and, ultimately, the consequences associated with a drop in body condition score.   end mark

For more information on snack eating, visit Purina Mills website.

PHOTO: Supplements with intake control properties help send metabolic signals to the cow, telling it that it is time to stop eating supplement and go graze. Photo courtesy of Purina Animal Health.

Ron Scott
  • Ron Scott

  • Director of Beef Research
  • Purina Animal Nutrition