Cattlemen know about general cattle nutrition, but beyond the basics, there are a lot of details that can trip you up. Dusty Abney, cow-calf nutritionist with Cargill Animal Nutrition, says dry matter is one those foundational pieces. If it’s not calculated correctly, it will affect your whole ration.
“If we understand how much moisture is in something, then we understand how much of it we should feed, how much should we include in a ration, how much should it cost, how to compare cost between things? Dry matter is basic in everything we do in nutrition.”
Apart from being able to compare apples to apples on things like dry matter, it’s also imperative to consider the amount of ingredients you’re feeding.
“It’s really about how much does that cow eat? It’s a very famous thing that’s said in feeds and feeding classes across the United States and the world is that cattle don’t eat concentrations, they eat amounts. Basically, let’s say a 1,200-pound cow eats two pounds of that ten percent fat ration. So ten percent of two pounds, she ate two tenths of a pound of fat. That would be a fair amount of fat for you and I, not a huge amount. But a fair amount for a 1,200-pound cow, it’s just a rounding error. So it felt like we did something really good there. We picked something that had really high number in that spot on the feed tag. But the amount we put into the animal was negligible as far as how that animal went through its day and whether it gained or lost weight.”
It’s so important to keep good records to know how much nutrition affects your herd’s performance.
“Now if you don’t keep good records, you might not ever know it happened. And so again, you’ll just assume that everything’s hunky-dory and going about your life and think, man, I saved that $25 bag on that mineral and everything’s still going great. But you dropped five percent on your conception rate or you lost ten pounds on your weaning weight and never found it. You never know what happened. And that’s still dollars out of your pocket even if you didn’t know they snuck out, they’re still gone.”
All in all, nutrition affects every aspect of your herd, so don’t be afraid to ask those questions. Listen to the whole episode or other practical episodes for the profit-minded cattleman by finding the Angus at Work podcast anywhere you like to listen to podcasts.