Archive for April 7th, 2014

Getting the Most Benefit from Your Spring Forage

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Cattle8We all look forward to spring, when the trees bud, the birds sing and the grasses are that beautiful, rich green. It’s a time when nature can help undo some of the damage that bad weather, low-quality forage—and yes, even less than perfect management techniques—may have inflicted on your herd.

Spring pastures deliver the maximum levels of protein and energy, according to Ted Perry, Purina Animal NutritionBeef Nutritionist. While spring grasses are loaded with nutrients, a balanced mineral supplement should always be offered, he explained.

“In the spring, you want to make sure the cows are getting enough magnesium,” Perry said. “Spring forages are high in protein, energy, phosphorus and potassium, but they can be lower in magnesium. This mineral imbalance can cause grass tetany.”

When preparing cows for calving and rebreeding, there are clear benefits from utilizing as many of those spring grass nutrients as possible to increase body condition, especially in cows that have become thin over the winter. Rotational grazing is one method that helps us take advantage of the nutrients in spring grasses. If a farm is set up to accommodate this practice, moving cows through different pastures, he recommends allowing them to graze down to 3-4 inches before moving them to other pastures where grasses are 8-9 inches high.

Forage analysis can also be helpful in determining mineral needs, Perry explained, but they only paint a “wide brush stroke”. You can’t rely on such analyses alone to prescribe exactly what’s needed.

Many variables affect the results of forage testing,including different species in the pasture and different times of the year. And, even when a broad cross-section of samples is diligently collected, you still may not get an accurate picture of consumption.“

In a study we conducted in the 80s, we used a lawnmower to collect samples which represented all the forages in a given area,” Perry offered. “Then, we compared those with what the cows were eating. We found the two samples to be very different. Cows are selective about what they eat, so forage analysis tells you what’s out there in total, but not necessarily what the cows are eating.”

Approximately 40 percent of cows in the United States never get any supplemental minerals, according to Perry. And, minerals are key to a cow’s production efficiency, both in terms of feed efficiency and milk production.

“Minerals help make all of a cow’s biological systems work better and more efficiently,” he stated. “We know that when cows receive adequate minerals, their rumen function,feed efficiency, and reproduction all improve. You can’t really measure milk production in beef cattle operations, but we know milk production drops in dairy cows when they do not receive adequate minerals. So, we can presume a similar correlation in beef cattle.”

“The cost of a mineral program is minimal—only $35-40 of the $400-500 it will cost you to keep the cow,” he added. “Without it, you take the chance that the cow will not produce a $1,000 calf. The minerals assure she will be as efficient as possible. And, in the drought conditions we’ve had the last couple of years, we need to do everything we can to enhance cow production. Mineral supplements with the appropriate additives also give us an easy, economical way to deliver fly control and antibiotics to prevent anaplasmosis.”

Purina Animal Nutrition offers more than 100 different formulations of minerals that target different seasons, different forage and pasture types and different weather patterns. The Wind & Rain® Storm® minerals have been specially formulated for consistent, predictable intake and also resist losses due to wind, rain and even storms.

Talk to us all the mineral supplement options available to you and how we can help you choose the mineral program that’s right for your operation at any given time of year.

Purina SuperSport

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Purina SuperSportPurina® SuperSport™ amino acid supplement is scientifically formulated and demonstrated in published research to support:

  • RECOVERY: More rapid recovery of muscle cell integrity after exercise to help horses bounce back faster.
  • PERFORMANCE: Increased exercise capacity for higher performance over a longer period of time.
  • MUSCLE MASS: Supports muscle development for a more athletic body type.

Feed Form: Pellets

Recommended For: Top Equine Athletes of all ages in all disciplines

Learn more about the science behind Purina SuperSport and receive a coupon for $5 off at If you have any questions please give us a call or stop by the store.

Feeding Lactating Mares

Monday, April 7th, 2014

LactatingMareAndFoalAt foaling, a mare’s daily nutrient requirements increase significantly. The protein and energy requirements almost double from early gestation to lactation, as do requirements for calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin A. These nutrient needs must be met in order for the mare to recover from foaling stress, produce milk and to rebreed, all without losing body condition. This is a critical, nutritional period for the mare. Underfeeding of mares during early lactation will surely lower milk production and cause weight loss. This may not pose a problem if the mare is in fleshy to fat condition. However, early lactation weight loss in mares that foal in thin condition will often affect the mare’s ability to raise her new foal and become pregnant again.

Mares produce an average of 24 pounds (3 gallons) of milk daily during a 5-month lactation. This represents 450 gallons or 1 3/4 tons of milk over 150 days. High producing mares produce as much as 32 pounds (4 gallons) of milk daily. The average production in the first 22 days of lactation is 26.5 pounds per day. Production appears to reach a peak at 30 days and slowly decline from there. Nutrient content of mares’ milk follows a more drastic downward curve. In the fourth month of lactation, a mare’s milk provides less than 30 percent of the total energy needed by her foal. Providing lactating mares with a concentrate that includes added fats or oils and high quality protein can help slow the downward curve of production and improve nutrient content of the milk. This will translate into an early growth advantage for the nursing foal.

A lactating mare will usually consume between 2 and 3 percent of her body weight in total feed (hay + concentrate) daily. Because of the significant difference in nutrient requirements from gestation to lactating, it would be safer for a gradual increase in feed intake to begin prior to foaling. This would prevent a drastic change at foaling time, which could increase the risk of digestive disorders. Also, providing the total daily feed in two equal feedings allows mares to more safely consume the amounts needed during lactation. Heavy milkers may require as much as 1.75 percent of body weight in concentrate feed each day, depending on the quality and nutrient density of that concentrate.
When possible, mares fed in groups should be sorted according to feed intake or body condition to insure each mare receives the appropriate amount of concentrate to meet her needs. Providing individual feed troughs for each mare plus one extra trough for mares that get run off from their feed, or providing plenty of space at group troughs will help insure that mares consume the feed they need.
Free choice spring grazing will meet some of the mare’s nutrient requirements, but considerable amounts of supplemental concentrate will be needed. Less supplemental feed will be needed for mares grazing on small grain pastures. In most cases, body condition of mares on high quality pasture or hay can be maintained with concentrate provided at .75 to 1.25 percent of body weight daily. This will vary significantly depending on the quality and quantity of forage available and the nutrient content of the concentrate.
In the fourth, fifth and sixth months of lactation, daily requirements begin to decline. However, by this time many horsemen will have had foals on a good creep feed to prepare them for weaning and will be weaning by the fourth or fifth month of age. There is no advantage for the foal to remain on the mare past this time. It is more nutritionally accurate for the foal and more economical for the horseman to feed the foal a quality diet to meet his needs directly than it is to feed the mare to produce milk. Once the foal is weaned, the dry, pregnant mare can be managed as an early gestating mare once again. Through proper health care, feeding management and breeding techniques, the mare can produce a strong, healthy foal each year.

By Karen E. Davison, Ph.D., Managing Equine Nutritionist, Purina Mills, LLC



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