TECHNICAL ARTICLES Beef

Lick Supplementation for the Dry Season

The purpose of lick supplementation during the dry season is to:

  • supply those nutrients to animals that are deficient in natural grazing
  • enhance rumen fermentation and thus improve utilisation of available low quality natural grazing / roughage.

Supplementation on low quality roughage:

During the dry season protein is the main nutritional deficiency in natural grazing. The protein content can decline from 14 – 17% in the growing season, to as low as 3-4% in the dry season. In addition, the forage digestibility reduces drastically during the dry season to levels below 50 %. This implies that for every 1 kg of grazing ingested, less than 500 g actually provides nutrients to the animal.

Remember, the micro organisms in the rumen are responsible for the utilisation of low quality roughages as an energy source. However, in conditions of a protein deficiency this cannot happen, which is why protein supplementation during the dry season is so important as indicated in Table 1.

TABLE 1

When an adequate amount, as well as the required quality of protein [non protein nitrogen like urea vs. natural protein like oilcakes] are supplemented in the dry season, it stimulates growth of the micro organism population in the rumen. A bigger and more efficient rumen microbe population increases roughage digestibility and results in a higher feed intake. Thus, the animals eat more of the available grazing, which improves their body condition and performance (Table 2).

TABLE 2

From Table 2 it is clear that protein supplementation to animals on low quality roughage can increase calving percentage from between 12% to 27%. At a price of R 2 300 per calf this could amount to a substantial increase in farm income. To achieve optimum reproduction levels, protein supplementation alone will most probably not be enough, but you have to ensure that essential trace minerals and vitamins are also supplemented. Trace minerals is a standard inclusion in Prolick supplements and in relevant products certain vitamins as well.

When, what and how much to supplement? Protein supplementation needs to commence as soon as the quality and nutritive value of the natural grazing starts to decline. For most of the summer rainfall area that could be as early as February / March (when the grass goes into seed). Tradition, however, dictates that supplementation only start after the first frost appears, which could be as late as May.

Delaying protein supplementation too late could cause the animals to loose all the condition gained through the summer, and will impact negatively on reproduction performance. One way to prevent this from happening is to use a transition lick such as Summerphos P9, which supplies much needed phosphorous, as well as, additional protein. Intakes on Summerphos P9 should be in the region of 100 gram per dry cow per day or 240 gram per breeding cow per day. Sheep should ingest 20 – 40 gram per animal per day.

Ensure that the animals do not have a salt hunger before offering them a protein lick such as Winterbreker Readymix. If they do have a salt hunger, they may over consume the lick, resulting in excessive intakes and possible urea poisoning. If the animals had free access to a phosphate lick during the growing season, they should not have a salt hunger. If any doubt exist about the salt status of the animals, feed plain coarse salt or a 50:50 mixture of salt and Winterbreker Readymix for 14 days before offering only Winterbreker Readymix.

The amount of protein to supplement is a function between the body condition score of the animals, and the availability of grazing. Supplementation should never replace natural grazing, but always stimulate intake of grazing by improving roughage digestibility. As a guideline beef cattle require between 170 – 220g supplementary protein/animal/day. If we standardise on 200g of protein, that implies an average daily intake of 475g of a 42% protein lick such as Winterbreker Readymix. The Winterbreker Readymix is also available in a concentrate (80% protein) that needs to be mixed with grain and salt prior to feeding – please ensure that you buy and feed the correct product.

In practice, daily supplementation rates do not stay constant throughout the dry season, since the quality and quantity of available grazing declines steadily towards the end of the dry season. Consequently, the supplementation requirements of the animals increase as the dry season progresses. In addition, the physiological status of the animals also impact on their nutritional requirements, the latter peaking in late gestation and early lactation. Since calving usually takes place towards the end of the dry season the need for protein, and in certain conditions even energy, supplementation during the dry season is critical to achieve optimum performance. Staggering lick intake is always a good practice and the guideline in Table 3 can be followed for cattle in the summer rainfall region.

TABLE 3

The last two months of the dry period are very critical, as the animals should be close to calving, and needs more nutrients. If the condition of the animals is not to satisfaction Winterbreker Readymix can be mixed with grain in equal portions (50:50) and offered at 1kg/animal/day to serve as a production lick.

Finally, ensure that sufficient and sustainable green grass is available at the start of the growing season, before protein supplementation is suspended and Summerphos P9 supplementation starts.

How to evaluate your winter supplement?

When evaluating different products ask your Prolick/KKAN Technical Advisor to discuss the following important aspects with you as price per bag are not only the deciding factor:

  • Cost per animal per day ( R /animal/day)
  • Cost per nutrient unit per animal (R/unit protein/day)
  • Quality of protein supplied (Urea vs. natural protein)
  • Vitamin and mineral content of the product (Ensure that you don’t buy old product as the product might become rancid and vitamin deficient over time).

Availability and Technical Support:

Meadow’s Prolick range is available from our dealers, distributors or your local agricultural cooperative (a complete list of outlets are available on www.meadowfeeds.co.za). You can also contact your local Meadow Feeds or KKAN representative for technical support and nutritional recommendations. (See contact details on your beef management calendar)

Date published: 2007-12-10

Author:
Jurie Naude &
Joubert Nolt

Publication: N/A