Stepping up to Wheat-Based Finishing Diets

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Grain-based diets improve feed efficiency, but increase the risk of rumen acidosis. Rumen acidosis occurs when rumen pH drops below 5.6 for more than 3 consecutive hours. Severe or chronic acidosis is an animal welfare concern due to rumen damage, liver abscesses, lameness, and an economic cost due to compromised feed conversion and growth performance. Consequently, feedlot operators manage their feed bunks and feeding programs very carefully, particularly as cattle transition from forage-based backgrounding to grain-based finishing diets. The risk of acidosis is influenced by grain type (wheat being a higher risk than corn, with barley being intermediate), the extent of grain processing, feeding frequency and bunk management. Group size and pen density are also factors, so research trials using individually fed animals may produce Continue reading

3 considerations to maintain good rumen health

To optimize productivity and prevent sickness, management of rumen health is important on operations from cow-calf through to feedlot. The rumen is full of a diverse group of bacteria that break down fibre and help with digestion. To maintain rumen health, the bacterial population needs to be diverse and able to effectively break down feed.

When pH levels in the rumen drop too far, fibre digestion decreases, nutrient absorption is reduced, and the lining of the rumen is damaged. Acidosis also leaves cattle more susceptible to disease.

The number one key to maintaining a healthy microbial population is to ensure a constant dry matter and nutrient supply to the rumen, but of course this is easier said than done. Cattle inevitably vary their dietary intake when they are calving, being transported, are sick or hunkered down in storms.

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