Keeping Stockers on Grass
Dr. Mario A. Villarino, County Extension Agent- Hopkins
With our great spring season, rain has provided plenty of humidity to pastures and hay meadows. The current high quantities of grass give ranchers the opportunity to keep stockers on grass to take advantage of a cheaper diet. The primary goal of feeding protein and energy supplements to cattle on pasture is to supplement but not replace pasture as a feed, H.B Sewell from the University of Missouri indicates. Feeding supplements to cattle on pasture is likely to be more profitable when grasses are lower in nutrient value and cattle respond more to supplemental feeding. A Missouri study showed no response from feeding 3 pounds of corn or 3 pounds of a mixture of corn and a high-protein feed for steers grazing a fescue-ladino pasture that furnished excess forage in May and June. However, some 800-pound cattle fed 4 pounds of corn or 3 pounds of corn and 1 pound of soybean meal per head daily on these same pastures from mid-June to early September gained 0.54 pounds more per head daily than those without supplements. An extra pound of gain took 7.4 pounds of supplement. No response was noted from adding soybean meal to the corn for these heavyweight cattle. Kansas studies showed an increase in average daily gain per steer of 0.35 pounds from late summer supplements of 1 to 2 pounds of feed per animal for steer grazing range grasses. They noted that when the forage remains green all summer, there may be little response from late summer supplements. Feeding 0.8 pounds to 1 pound of grain per 100 pounds of body weight gave the greatest profit in finishing cattle on grass in a 7-year study at North Carolina. A mixture of 10 percent animal fat and 90 percent ground shelled corn or milo produced this level of grain intake on several pasture combinations. Ten percent salt in the concentrate provided similar results to that obtained with fat. However, the fat addition proved more profitable than salt in their trials. Adding 15 percent salt to the mixture reduced consumption to 0.5 pounds of grain per 100 pounds body weight of the steers. A limited feed of grain with pasture saved about 50 percent of the grain plus the protein supplement and roughage needed for cattle finished in dry lot.
Steps to low-choice slaughter cattle
Start with 550- to 700-pound steers or 500- to 600-pound heifers. Use cattle that have been wintered to gain 1.25 to 2.0 pounds daily. Allow about 0.5 to 1 acre of grass or grass-legume pasture per head. Implant steers and heifers with growth stimulants and use Rumensin, Bovatec and/or MGA in the ration. Follow veterinary recommendations on deworming before cattle go to pasture. Feed grain on pasture at the rate of 1 pound of grain per 100 pounds of body weight. This rate of consumption can be obtained by self-feeding a mixture of 90 percent corn or milo and 10 percent fat or 10 percent salt. Supply a mineral mixture consisting of equal parts dicalcium phosphate and trace-mineralized salt. Provide plenty of shade and control external parasites with back rubbers, dust bags, sprays or ear tags. Market animals with 80 percent in low-choice grade. Steers should reach this grade at about 1,050 to 1,250 pounds and heifers at 1,000 to 1,100 pounds. A full feed of grain in dry lot for 30 to 60 days may be needed to finish the cattle. Change to a full feed of grain when pasture becomes scant or low quality. For more information on this or other agricultural questions, please contact the Hopkins county extension office at 903-885-3443