Recent research has shown that beef producers can reduce feed costs and maintain body condition of pregnant beef cows by feeding a diet alternating dried distillers grains with solubles and forage.
The feeding model was developed by researchers at North Dakota State University, according to Trent Gilbery, facility manager and animal care specialist at the NDSU Beef Cattle Research Center.
The recent feeding trial involved non-lactating, pregnant beef cows in their last trimester of pregnancy. They received one of four dietary treatments:
1. Hay only Monday through Sunday.
2. Hay and 0.4% of body weight DDGS Monday through Sunday.
3. Hay daily and .93% of body weight DDGS on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
4. Hay only on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and .93% of body weight DDGS only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Gilbery told DTN there were several benefits with the alternate day DDGS/forage feeding program. First, the method used less inputs and required less labor to deliver feed to the cattle. Also, the alternating diet decreased forage intake by about 20% compared to other treatments, giving producers a lower cost ration.
The DDGS works well with low-quality hay, which is in greater numbers because of this year's drought. The DDGS provides protein and energy, makes the hay more efficient, and helps microbes break down and utilize the fiber from hay to provide more nutrition.
"The DDGS has been shown to be beneficial, even if only fed on alternate days," Gilbery said. "It makes the rumen more efficient in using forage."
Most importantly, the diet of DDGS on alternate days decreased forage eaten by the cows but did not negatively affect the cow or her calf's body condition, Gilbery said.
Cheryl Anderson can be reached at Cheryl.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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