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As an Agriculture Extension Agent for Texas AgriLife Extension Service I have had an opportunity to be involved in just about every aspect of agriculture. From the 5,000 cow dairy to the types of trees to use in a home landscape I have had a chance to learn how the different parts of an agriculture systems work together. Seedless watermelons, drip irrigation, pecan orchard management, fruit crop development, dairy nutrient management, environmental issues confronting agriculture, producer tours, field days, research projects and more have been a part of my life for over 30 years as I lived and breathed agriculture. Since 2004 I have been actively involved in consulting internationally working in Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, India, and China. I have worked with missionaries and other groups dedicated to alleviating poverty among third world farmers. I lived in the Middle East in 2007-2008 working on a project for the Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. In this project I was the Chief of Party and Team Leader for a $5.7 Million dollar effort to train Iraqi Extension agents and specialists in all aspects of agriculture.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What To Feed When There Is No Grass

In a few conversations lately I have talked to beef producers who are feeding high protein tubs or licks or even cottonseed cake. I understand why since this is the way we have always done it but it not at all the way to do it if grass or hay is short. Traditionally cattlemen are told to feed high protein feeds (35-44% CP) to increase forage intake. One study in Kansas showed that feeding a crude protein supplement that was greater than 30% CP increased forage intake response over 60%. We feed these supplements so that the cow will take in more forage and by doing so increase her energy intake.
This is well and good if you have excess forage but I don’t think we have excess forage, grass or hay, this year and so feeding high protein supplements is not the answer. Since we don’t have forages what most producers should do is provide high rates of energy supplements especially starchy feeds. Now this is not at all easy to do and most producers won’t do it. When you start to feed any high energy supplement you must do it every day. Energy feeds can easily disrupt the rumen microbes if not fed daily. Second you need to provide adequate trough space for each animal, 2 - 3 feet is recommended. Third you should provide .7 to 1% of the animal’s body weight in supplement. If you figure your cows weigh 1200 lbs then they need 12 lbs of supplement a day and I don’t know too many cattlemen that can handle the feed bill for cows eating that much each and every day!

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