Beef producers can feed a combination of wheat straw and wet co-products like distillers grain and beet pulp to substitute for alfalfa for late-gestation beef cows.
Recent feeding trials at the University of Nebraska were prompted by current drought conditions and beef producers searching for alternatives to alfalfa, a feedstuff that is currently high-priced and in short supply, according to Dr. Terry Klopfenstein, professor of Ruminant Nutrition at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Distillers grains are a great protein source and beet pulp, generally available from beet harvest in October until February or March, is a good energy source that is fibrous and highly digestible. The two combine well with wheat straw, as they both are highly palatable. Even with wheat straw, the diet is limit-fed to cows to avoid overeating.
Karla Jenkins and Matt Luebbe, assistant professors of Animal Science at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center at Scottsbluff, Neb., were the lead researchers on the two experiments done there.
In the first experiment, cows were fed distillers and wheat straw or alfalfa hay. At the end of the trial, the cows fed distillers and wheat straw gained as much weight and had equal body condition to the cows fed just alfalfa hay. In the second experiment, cows were fed either a 30:70 mix of wet distillers and wheat straw, a 20:20:60 mix of wet distillers, beet pulp and wheat straw, or just alfalfa hay.
The cows fed the wet distillers/wheat straw diet and the wet distillers/beet pulp/wheat straw diet gained more weight and had improved body condition compared to the cows fed just alfalfa hay. The increased performance is due to the energy value of the wet co-products.
Crop residues and wet co-products can be a great solution for beef producers, Klopfenstein said.
"If the economics are favorable, you can feed crop residues and wet distillers or beet pulp to cows to meet their nutritional needs," he said. "When hay is high-priced because it is in short supply, this is a great alternative to hay."
To access more information on this feeding trial, can go to (http://bit.ly/…).
Cheryl Anderson can be reached at Cheryl.email@example.com