Sustained nutrition for lifetime performance

By: Lee Dickerson

The list includes: diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, renal failure, cardiovascular disease and hyperlipidemia.

The word “Epigenetics” has emerged as “the idea that environmental factors (to include nutrition, weather, or any outside stressors on the genetic pool), which cause the gene pool to behave differently even though the genes do not change.” These changes are permanent, last through life, and can be passed on to future generations.

What about cattle? Our paradigm has been that we have primarily been concerned about the calf and cow after birth. However, the norm has been maternal hunger during conception, where we actually plan for cows to loose weight at and following conception. This is generally due to energy/protein shortages at first forage green-up when forages are limiting in volume, or during drought, or during winter periods of shortage. Maternal malnutrition may be the norm.

More and more research is validating that not only is the last third of pregnancy important when over two-thirds of calf growth occurs in utero, but the first and second trimester are equally important as numerous growth functions are occurring. These include: placenta development, organ development and growth, as well as muscle cell initiation, development and proliferation. These needs must be added to our historical concerns for the cow to rebreed and the calf to grow post calving.

Looking at the reproductive and economic value of the entire life stage process must include not only the post calving but the pre calving need as well. The Research data “hands down” suggests the value of having cows in a body condition score of 6 at calving. Condition score 6 cows will come back in heat quicker and breed quicker and milk heavier resulting in increased weaning weight. Cows in a higher plane of nutrition will also sustain peak milk production longer and produce more milk per day. Cows in a 6 score at calving stand sooner, allowing the calf to suck quicker receiving “first milk” colostrum, with enhanced immunoglobulins available for enhanced disease resistance. Bottomline, cows fed to meet their nutrient requirements versus those restricted had 12 percent more calves weaned per cows exposed.

Maternal nutrition in utero also programs the developing fetus. Maternal undernutrition has an effect on:

•    The developing vascular system

•    Reduces nutrition and oxygen to the fetus

•    Fetal organogenesis

•    Progeny structure, physiology, and structure

•    Lung growth and function

•    Response to respiratory challenge

•    Skeletal cell muscle development

Effect of cow supplementation vs. no supplementation during the last trimester on heifer reproduction and calving indicate a substantial improvement not only in final pregnancy rate but the number of subsequent calves that are then born to these first calf heifers in the first 21 days and reduced levels of assistance at birth. In addition, the effect of cows on a winter program with and without supplementation in the last trimester indicates less steer calves treated if the cows were supplemented and increased hot carcass weights, in the winter range supplemented group, and improved marbling in all supplemented groups as well as increased net return per steer calf.

Land O’ Lakes Purina Feed has been working on means of providing “Sustained Nutrition” for the cowherd for over 12 years, using Intake Modifying Technology. This technology allows the cow to be supplemented 24 hours a day, seven days per week, 365 days per year through our Sup-R-Lix® and Accuration® range liquid feeds. Intake of the supplement is directly correlated to forage quality, forage quantity, and cow need.

Research shows cows typically increase their supplement intake from June to January and decrease intake as they move into the spring and summer due to changing forage quality. Cow performance improved in both conception rate and weaning weights when the IM Technology product was provided 24/7/365.

In fact, a study indicated when an IM Technology product was left out on a year round basis, providing sustained nutrition to the cow herd, versus placed out for 150 days of supplementation, that actual supplement intake was reduced, pregnancy rate increased, and weaning weights improved.

Providing a level plane of nutrition also increases performance during a drought. In a two-year study, average intake per cow ranged from 1.81 lbs/hd/day during a drought year, and reduced to 1.36 lbs/hd/day the year following the drought. Despite the dry conditions, cow body condition scores were at least 5.5 at bull turn-in averaging 86  to 91 percent with respective breed backs of 95.8 and 94.5 percent.

We sure don’t have all the answers but supplying “Sustained Nutrition” for the cow herd while controlling intake based on forage quality sure seems to make sense.

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