Mourão Reducing supplementation frequency for Nellore beef steers grazing tropical
Three experiments evaluated whether effects of altered frequency of supplementation on forage use and cow performance depended on supplement CP concentration and (or) grain type when fed to cattle eating low-quality forages. All experiments included supplementation frequency (daily = 7x; three times weekly = 3x) as one factor in a factorialized arrangement of treatments. In Exp. 1 and 2, the second factor was supplement CP concentration (10, 20, 30, and 40% CP), altered by changing the ratio of soybean meal to sorghum grain in supplements. Supplements were fed at 13.9 and 14.1 kg of DM/wk for Exp. 1 and 2, respectively. In Exp. 3, the second factor was supplement grain type (sorghum grain or corn) and supplements containing 21% CP were fed at 14.8 kg of DM/wk. In Exp. 1, eight ruminally fistulated steers (456 kg) consumed wheat straw ad libitum. Pregnant beef cows grazing dormant tallgrass prairie were used in Exp. 2 (475 kg; n = 128) and 3 (504 kg; n = 120). In Exp. 1, reducing supplementation frequency decreased (P < .01) straw intake but increased (P < or = .03) DM and NDF digestion. As CP concentration in supplements increased, straw DMI (P = .06) increased quadratically, whereas DM and NDF digestion increased linearly (P < .01). In Exp. 2, increasing CP concentration in supplements enhanced cows' ability to maintain BW and condition up to calving, with decreasing magnitude of difference between treatments at higher CP concentrations (P < .01). Increasing CP in supplements fed to the dams linearly (P = .05) increased calf weaning weight in Exp. 2. In Exp. 2 and 3, reducing supplementation frequency increased (P < or = .02) winter weight loss through calving. Grain type did not significantly affect most performance variables. In summary, response to supplementation frequency was not dependent on supplement CP concentration or grain type. Daily supplementation maximized forage intake and cow performance, although the magnitude of performance differences was not large.