Q1. Which is the best type of cereal for achieving high performance in cows/cattle?
Cereals are fed to bovines primarily as a source of metaboliseable energy via their starch content. Maize contributes the highest values, followed by wheat, barley then oats. However, ruminants (animals that ruminate, ie chew the cud) did not evolve to eat high starch feeds, as forage is their food of choice. To maximise production levels required in modern farming systems, necessitates the introduction of high starch feeds to boost performance. So it is recommended to mix forage, cereals and fibre sources to provide the optimum diet to cows/cattle.
Q2. Is cooking of cereals economical for bovines?
It has been acknowledged in recent years that concentrates offer better value feed than preserved forages for finishing cattle or lactating cows so we must maximise the returns from feeding a key component of the concentrates (grain) to our livestock. Steam-cooking is the most effective cooking method being used when processing this grain. Our experience when feeding cooked cereals in ad-lib beef finishing systems and for young calves in particular is very positive. It is very difficult to prove if a component of the feeding program is economical or not but our customers continued satisfaction with the performance of their cattle would indicate that steam-cooking of cereals is enhancing performance. The majority of farmers feed standard rolled (uncooked) grains with vastly different results.
Q3. Which of the Connolly's Red Mills feeds can be fed ad-lib to cattle?
From a personal viewpoint I would prefer that none of our feeds were fed in such a manner as I always recommend that feeding 3 times a day, at the same total intake, is better for a number of reasons (more consistent intakes across a group of cattle, all cattle eat together so assists herding, cattle can be “rested” for 1 day each week by reducing the quantity fed in the 3 feeds without crowding, etc. However, if a customer wished to feed ad-lib for a 100 day period, for example, then any of our feeds will suit the system, provided that the introduction and subsequent build-up is gradual, that straw is offered and that cattle are regularly observed.
Q4. How important is protein for cows and cattle?
As for the same question in our sheep Q & A section, protein supply directly influences production levels as nitrogen does for grass production levels. It is important to remember that you cannot discuss protein percentage in isolation without also considering the quantity being fed, eg a cow receives the same protein intake from 10lbs of a 20% protein concentrate as it would from 20lbs of a 10% protein concentrate! Adequate protein intake stimulates growth, milk production, cell rejuvenation - essentially every process in the body. Ruminants rely heavily on microbial protein which is produces by microbes in their digestive system, fuelled by energy and protein intake from the total diet.
Q5. Is calmag included in Connolly's Red Mills Dairy feeds?
Calmag or calcined magnesite (magnesium oxide) is a standard inclusion in our dairy feeds throughout the year, with the inclusion tailored to the feeding rates in use during the different seasons or in varied locations and productions systems. The recommended intake of calmag is 2ozs/cow/day while lactating, with the greatest requirement during the first 3-4 months of lactation, particularly if at grass in the autumn/spring, as a prevention against grass tetany or grass staggers. Higher yielding or thinner cows (applies also to sucklers) are most at risk and feeding an additional 1oz (3ozs total) calmag will be of benefit in some situations. It is worth noting that feeding 1oz calmag/cow/day for 1-2 months prior to calving can assist greatly in reducing the risk of milk fever (hypo calcaemia). As for any preventative measure, there is no guarantee re effectiveness – these are management aids.