Starting cattle – a critical step
By: James I. Sprague
Feedlot operators work hard at giving new cattle a chance to get rested and acclimated to the mysterious surroundings of the new pen and pens mates. Part of this process includes offering a starting ration that must not only be nutritious, but safe from digestive upsets such as acidosis. This “first ration” must also be very palatable for a fast start.
Fresh “green chop” as a starter feed
One successful method of fast starting is the use of “green chop” forages in the summer and fall feeding periods. Green chop ingredients are very palatable to include in the starter ration. Some examples are small grain forages such as oats, wheat, green chop alfalfa, daily chopped sorghum and corn.
RAMP™ starter ration
One of the latest commercial products developed for cattle feeders is the RAMP starter feed from Cargill Corn Milling. This starter formula is based around the palatable and safe Sweet Bran®-branded corn gluten feed from Cargill’s production of high fructose corn sweetener. It is unique in that it is offered in a semi moist (63 percent dry matter) bulk form only. This retains the texture of the corn bran and the fibrous nature of the small amount of added alfalfa hay and cotton seed hulls. Plus it is fortified with trace minerals, vitamins A, D, and E, and calcium carbonate. One of the interesting points is the added calcium carbonate balances the high phosphorus content of the gluten feed.
Chad Conard of Cargill Milling said, “The preferred handling of RAMP at the feedlots is storage on a concrete slab or in a bunker because of the coarseness of roughages and the sticky nature of the Sweet Bran.” He added the “sticky” nature of the Sweet Bran allows the mixture to not segregate in the feed bunk. He reports that the product has achieved good acceptance since it was offered in June 2010. Regarding the cost, he said Ramp compares favorably with feedyards’ traditional starting rations and recent research trials have demonstrated a 26-pound weight advantage at close out of cattle started on Ramp, compared with traditional starting rations. Feeding trial research is available for review by feedyards and nutritionists.
Home-mixed starter rations
Recent development of co-products from fuel ethanol and the corn sweetening industry have added a new dimension for developing home-mixed starting rations. Where available, these co-products such as “Sweet Bran” gluten feed from Cargill and wet distiller’s grain from alcohol plants are not only low in starch but also nutritious and cost effective. The distiller’s grains with solubles is usually sold very wet, however dried distiller’s grains is also palatable and contains a medium protein content for starting, as well as growing and finishing rations. The high sulfur content of some distiller’s products is a concern in ration formulation.
Feed company starter rations
Many feed manufacturers offer starter rations and supplements to assist cattle feeders and get cattle off to a fast start. The formulation of these products has been one of the functions of livestock nutritionists at feed mills and consultants working with the feed manufacturers. These products are usually in pelleted form. Wheat mill run (“wheat-mids”) and dried distiller’s grain are outstanding products for starter formulations and supplements.