Experts Respond to Drought Questions

Experiencing drought stress? Watch recording of webinar for beef producers.
On July 29, the Beef Cattle Research Council hosted a webinar that allowed beef producers to ask drought-related questions to a panel of nutrition and animal health experts. Producers asked for everything from recommendations for grazing canola, how to manage for antinutritional factors, tips on ammoniation and to how to manage grass into the fall. While questions were varied and diverse, a few main themes emerged.

Feed testing:

In a drought year, testing your feed sources is more important than ever. Especially when using alternative feed sources, a feed test allows you to understand what you have in terms of energy and protein and therefore what you will need to supplement to maintain the health and body condition of cows and other classes of cattle. A feed test will also identify some of the antinutritional factors and potential toxic levels of substances such as nitrates or sulfates that are more prevalent in drought years or unconventional feeds. Feed tests can be performed on standing or swathed crops, bales or silage. A feed test can be instrumental in determining how a particular feed will fit into your overall feeding strategy. Continue reading

Can Feeding Nitrate Improve Efficiency and Reduce Methane?

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

The rumen allows cattle to make highly nutritious beef out of things that humans can’t even digest. Rumen microbes have digestive enzymes that mammals don’t. This allows rumen microbes to break down complex feeds into very simple molecules, and reassemble those molecules into volatile fatty acids that the animal can absorb and use as an energy source. These microbes can also take some simple nitrogen-based compounds like ammonia and urea, turn them into amino acids, and assemble those amino acids into microbial proteins that the animal can digest and absorb. But the rumen can be wasteful as well. Some rumen microbes assemble carbon (C) and hydrogen (H) molecules together into methane (CH4) instead of volatile fatty acids. The animal can’t absorb or use methane, so methane gets belched out. This can waste significant feed energy – methane is the main ingredient in natural gas, after all. If we can find a way to reduce methane production in the rumen, we may be able to further improve feed efficiency and shrink beef’s environmental footprint at the same time.

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