Proper Rumen Development Makes Better Cattle
Mark Werner, Livestock Production Specialist
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More often than not, we as producers don’t have a lot of control over how livestock are developed prior to taking possession of them or controlling what they consume before return from summer pastures. When the time of year rolls around where you purchase cattle or when it is deemed time to wean, that is when we can make a difference on your cattle whether they are going into your feedlot or being added back to your herd as replacements..
When starting a group of cattle on feed after weaning or receiving them, we need to focus on feeding them to develop and transition their digestive tract for their next step in life. The main focus at this point is now on the rumen. If developed correctly we can have a positive effect on those cattle for the rest of their lives. Here is a great overview of what function the rumen serves to better understand the importance of its performance. According to Janna Kincheleo, SDSU Extension Research Associate, the rumen is the largest compartment and is where the majority of fermentation takes place with the assistance of billions of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. The rumen microbial population digests fiber components (i.e. cellulose and hemicellulose) to yield by-products such as microbial protein and volatile fatty acids (VFA’s). Protein that is digested in the rumen is used to support microbial function and growth, while VFA’s are primarily absorbed and utilized as energy by the animal.
Delivering a balanced weaning/starter ration is critical to transitioning and developing the rumen. Kincheleo states: There are a variety of options available for weaning rations depending on the marketing plan and production goals. For normally weaned calves, receiving programs may be based on either forage or concentrate depending on available resources. Some programs may utilize a forage-based diet with supplement. Concentrates that are high in digestible fiber and moderate to low in starch such as distiller’s grains, wheat middlings, and soybean hulls have been shown to provide adequate gain without the potential management issues associated with starch-based concentrates. A 50-60% concentrate ration is typically recommended for normally weaned calves. Good quality grass hay or medium quality alfalfa hay should be fed for the first several days at around 2% of body weight, followed by the introduction of concentrate. Utilizing a mix of forage and concentrate will stimulate rumen capacity and development, resulting in a healthy microbial population and optimizing health and performance of weaned calves.
As part of a balanced ration, All American Co-op offer’s multiple supplement options depending on the age of the animals that are being fed and the feedstuffs you have to work with. Products differ in protein levels, the type of protein source; such as Urea vs Natural, different inclusion rates, TMR and self-feeder situations, as well as Intake Modification (IM) Technology by Purina. Urea is beneficial to feed the microbial populations in the rumen as long as it is fed to the correct class of livestock at the correct rate. IM Technology allows us to utilize self-feeders by controlling their daily feed intake according to how much we want them to consume at that life stage.
Beyond a balanced ration, there are multiple classes of additives to consider that can assist in developing a better rumen, maintaining health and utilize feed more efficiently. These additives include but are not limited to ionophores, yeast cultures, probiotics and natural supplements. These additives aid in controlling coccidiosis, detrimental bacterial and protozoa, which then allow the beneficial rumen populations to thrive.
If we can keep an animal on feed and eating, you will keep their immune system functioning more effectively and aid in keeping them healthy and utilizing feedstuffs more efficiently, saving you time, feed, labor and resources.
Here is the source of the article in its entirety if you would like to read it: http://igrow.org/livestock/beef/considerations-for-rumen-development-in-weaned-calves/