Matching forage quality to animal needs is part of cattle management as nutrient requirements of cattle change throughout the year based on the stage of the production cycle. When feed grain prices are high, a high-quality forage can provide a lower cost ration than a low quality forage supplemented with a concentrate. Failing to provide all the nutrition a cow needs due to low quality forage can have animal health and performance consequences that directly impact cost of production (COP) (e.g. loss of body condition, dystocia, lower milk production, and delayed returning to estrous). This can be largely avoided by feed testing, particularly when hay is of an unknown quality.
Stage cut, fertilization and grazing intensity determine forage quality, and it refers to the plant’s ability to provide digestible, absorbable, essential nutrients at levels that meet the animal’s physiologic needs. Forage quality is a function of voluntary intake and nutritive value (nutrient content and digestibility).1 It is typically assessed by measuring crude protein (CP), neutral detergent fibre (NDF), and acid detergent fibre (ADF) (Kerley 2004)2
Protein and Energy
Proteins and energy are the most essential nutrients in cattle diets. Crude protein (CP); calculated from total nitrogen content, is an important indicator of the total protein content in a forage crop…
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