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What’s the dry matter intake requirement for drylot cattle?

In the scenario of the confinement production cow, how little dry matter can be fed?

By Karla H. Jenkins, University of Nebraska-Lincoln cow-calf specialist

As pasture rental rates continue to be historically high and pasture availability limited, many producers are evaluating confining production cows as an alternative to grazing. In many areas, by-products such as distillers grains, beet pulp, or wet corn gluten feed are the least cost feed available when priced per unit of total digestible nutrients (TDN). Additionally, crop residues such as wheat straw, bean straw, baled cornstalks, or low quality hay are often readily available and can be purchased less expensively than medium or high quality hay.

Feeding high quality by-products with low quality forage often is more economical than feeding medium quality forage ad libitum. One of the key concepts to feeding production cows in confinement economically when using by-product feeds is to limit intake so costs are kept as reasonable as possible.

However, many producers have asked the question, “Do cattle have a dry matter intake requirement?” The answer is no. Cattle have a requirement for a certain amount of energy, protein and minerals depending on environmental conditions, stage of production and desired performance. Based on research, the Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle suggests the dry matter intake that can be expected given the digestibility of the feed required to achieve desired performance. This should not be confused with being a required dry matter intake.

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TAGS: Nutrition
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