Explore options on evaluating diet adequacy in beef cattle grazing on forages.
Beef cattle grazing adequacy is an important topic in the Florida beef industry, because beef cattle operators in the Sunshine State rely heavily on forages to grow their herd. Consequently, it would make sense for there to be extensive studies looking to evaluate the nutritional status of beef cattle grazing on forages, based on the forages themselves. However, one article by the folks at the South Florida Beef-Cattle Forages Program examines why the issue of evaluating diet adequacy of cattle grazing on forages is a tough row to hoe. See the details below.
Problems with Evaluating Beef Cattle Grazing Adequacy
According to the article, there are two main issues with trying to evaluate diet adequacy of beef cattle based on cattle grazing:
- We don’t know how much they are eating. We can predict intake to some extent but they are still guesses.
- We don’t know the nutrient content of the diet because cows selectively graze the forage available.
Basically, you can only assess what wasn’t eaten by grazing cattle, and there’s always the possibility that the cattle chose to eat forages that were nutritionally different from those collected and studied. The article’s author maintains, “We can only make educated estimates about the amount and composition of the diet, provide supplemental nutrients when they appear needed, and use body condition changes over time to monitor the adequacy of the diet.”
According to the article, those conditions that can be used to evaluate and monitor the adequacy of beef cattle grazing includes:
- Adequate forage available.
- Positive allowances should be made for selective grazing.
- Nutrient content of dormant forages declines over time.
- Nutrient composition of forages varies from year to year.
- Monitoring cow condition is essential as an indicator of the adequacy of the diet.
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