Traditional wisdom holds that an animal’s genetics and the environment it lives in can both affect feed efficiency (and other traits). In contrast, an animal’s genes do not directly influence the environment, and the environment does not directly influence an individual’s genes. Genetic influences are passed on from parents to offspring, while environmental influences are not.
There is growing evidence that the situation is not that straightforward; in some cases the environment may have a direct impact on the expression of an individual’s genes. This environmental impact might also be inherited, and is called epigenetics. Continue reading →
Although we hope that every cows and heifer will come home from pasture bred, we learn to expect a few to be open. But if you notice cows cycling again a few months after the bull is turned out, you find far more open cows than normal when preg-checking, or calves are born months later than expected, there’s clearly a problem. You might be dealing with bovine venereal diseases like trichmoniasis (trich, pronounced “trick”) or vibriosis (vibrio, and also known as Campylobacteriosis). Continue reading →
Feeding beef cattle over the winter can be a challenging balance between ensuring the health and productivity of your animals, and keeping feed and yardage costs at a reasonable level. We recently sat down with Dr. Kim Ominski, a researcher at the University of Manitoba focused on productivity and environmental sustainability of forage-based beef cattle production systems. Continue reading →
Feed testing is a fundamental tool to assist cow-calf producers, backgrounding operations and feedlots develop sound feeding programs. By knowing the nutritional qualities of feeds, producers are better able to achieve desired production targets and save on supplemental feed costs. Feed testing is especially important to accurately determine the feed quality of forages, because visual appraisal of colour, plant species and leaf content, and knowledge of cutting time, can be misleading and should not be relied upon to determine feed quality. Continue reading →
As a nutritionist, feed testing is a fundamental tool that I rely on to assist beef producers with their feeding programs. This is true whether I am dealing with feedlots or cow-calf operations. Accurate knowledge of feed quality, particularly the operation’s forage base allows one to develop feeding strategies for specific production scenarios and minimize the over- or under-feeding of nutrients. By so doing, one is able to achieve desired production targets and save on supplemental feed costs.
While feed testing seems like a “no brainer”, it is surprising how many cattlemen skip this critical management tool. It seems many would rather rely on visual appraisal (i.e. colour, plant species, and leaf content) or knowledge of cutting time to judge quality. While these are all indicators of forage quality, they do not substitute for a feed test particularly when it comes to the energy and protein content of that forage. For example, the protein content of brome hay can range from as low as 5 to 6% up to 18% depending on stage of maturity at cutting. While visual appraisal may help separate the good from the poor quality hay, it is not going to help you decide how much protein supplement, if any, you need to background calves when feeding this hay. Only a feed test can accurately help you make this decision. Continue reading →