NUTRITIONAL STRATEGIES FOR RECEIVING AND FEEDING EARLY-WEANED
Francis L. Fluharty
- Provide clean water and grass-legume hay directly off the truck and allow
cattle a rest period before processing them. Adding an electrolyte solution to
the water calves drink immediately off the truck is a good way to restore
needed sodium and potassium salts.
- Receiving diets should have .3 ppm Selenium and 1.0% Potassium on a dry
matter basis, because of low feed intake.
- Provide 1.0 to 1.5 ft of bunk space per calf if possible.
- Urea can be added up to .5% of diet dry matter, but higher levels may
depress feed intake.
- Ionophores should not be used (at the upper levels they are approved for)
during the first 14 days due to reductions in feed intake, however, lower
levels may be beneficial in high-grain diets.
- Research at OARDC has shown that feed intake on stressed calves is
severely reduced during the first week. Therefore, receiving diets for calves
should be approximately 16-18% crude protein, on a dry matter basis, for the
first seven days. The protein concentration used should be increased to the
upper levels of this range with highly stressed calves that have very low feed
intakes. After the second week, feed intake increases and the crude protein
can be dropped to 16% of diet dry matter. After the calves reach their normal
weaning age, the crude protein level can be reduced to 14%, since the cattle
should be on full feed by then.
- After cattle have reached approximately 1.5% of body weight in feed intake
(dry matter basis), increase the amount of feed offered every other day.
Increases should be no more than 10% of intake. High-concentrate diets require
that calves are brought on feed more slowly than high-forage diets. Bringing
calves onto feed more slowly will help prevent acidosis and reduce nutritional
- Soybean meal is normally the protein source of choice due to cost and
availability, but using a source of rumen bypass protein such as blood meal,
corn gluten meal or fish meal in combination with soybean meal is acceptable.
- Feeding hay during the receiving period reduces the energy density of the
diet. Intake is the main problem during this feeding phase. Therefore, a 70 to
85% concentrate diet should be fed to ensure the calves have adequate energy
intakes (Remember that corn silage is approximately 50% concentrate and 50%
roughage on a dry matter basis).
- Microbial data from OARDC indicates that cattle do not have a need for hay
in order to increase their bacterial numbers after feed and water deprivation
and transportation. In fact, a higher energy, protein dense diet provides the
bacteria with more substrate to grow on.
- Receiving diets should be formulated to provide the animal with the actual
amount of protein required (in grams) rather than a percentage of protein in
the diet during the first two weeks. Therefore, the level of feed intake
should determine the % protein fed.
- Corn silage is fine, but it MUST be kept fresh. Clean out feed bunks daily
and remember not to push feed to the back of the bunks where calves can't
reach it. Keep feed about in the middle of the feed bunk.
Feed Bunk Management and Feed Intake Control
important operation in the feedlot"
Defined as the supervision and execution of determining and delivering, in an
acceptable and consistent manner, the amount of feed that an animal can consume
in a given period of time.
1. Maximize animal performance.
2. Minimize digestive disorders.
Keep animals consuming a consistent amount of feed.
Good bunk management increases feed efficiency and lowers cost of gain.
Feed Bunk Scoring System
||Bunk empty for more than 1
||Bunk empty for less than 1
||A few fines or clumps of feed in the
||Less than 1 inch of feed in the
||Less than 2 inches of feed in the
||Less than 3 inches of feed in the
Normally, feed is given on a weight per head basis and multiplied by the
number of head in the pen.
Prior to cold fronts, animals feed intake increases
dramatically, and decreases after the front passes.
Feed should be fresh!
If animals rush the bunk when fed, they are probably
If animals have no interest in coming to the bunk when
they are fed, they are probably being overfed, or there is spoiled feed in
Bunks containing spoiled feed or "fines" should be
If fines are constantly a problem, consider adding
molasses, silage or other wet feeds to the diet to decrease the sorting of
mineral and vitamin supplements.
Clean waterers are necessary to maximize feed intake.
Many of these rules also apply to self feeders.
- Follow the 10% rule. Never increase or decrease the
amount of feed offered by more than 5-10%.
- Always allow 1 day between increases or decreases in
feed offered to allow animals an adjustment period.
- If the score is 0-, for two consecutive days,
increase the amount of feed by 5-10%.
- Dry feeds may be fed once daily.
- High moisture feeds may need to be fed twice daily to
avoid spoiling in hot weather, and freezing in cold weather.
- Animals not being fed enough will engorge when fed, and
this leads to acidosis and the "yo-yo" effect of over-eating and under-eating.
decreases animal performance and
For Farm Fresh Calves That Are Not Trucked:
Start the calves on 4 pounds/head of a corn/supplement mix formulated to be
16-18% crude protein.
Start calves on 2.0 to 3.0 pounds/head/day of hay, and then top dress the
concentrate mix. As calves consume more concentrate, back off the amount of hay
fed to 1.5 to 2.0 pounds per day.
If they do not eat the mix, weigh back the uneaten concentrate into a large
bucket (we use 30 gallon rubbermaid trash cans). If the uneaten feed looks
pretty similar to the original mix (no sorting), it can be re-mixed with new
concentrate mix so that there is little feed wasted, but be sure that you take
into account the pounds of uneaten feed that you are re-feeding, and don't give
them that plus the normal amount of new feed, or they will be fed too much.
Don't increase intake by more than 1 pound of concentrate/head/day, even if
the feed is cleaned up in a couple of hours. Also, don't feed more than 2-3
pounds of hay/head/day. This concentrate feed is what allows rapid gains (not
hay), but the cattle must be adjusted to the diet slowly.
Keep a feed record book with the daily amounts of concentrate offered, hay
offered, concentrate refused, and hay refused. This is the only way to actually
know intake. If the amount of refused feed is guessed and not weighed, the data
is useless. Once the calves are on feed, I would expect little or no refused
feed. In a properly managed feed bunk, the calves should clean up the feed in
approximately 18-24 hours.
For More Information:
Francis L. Fluharty
Department of Animal
OARDC/OSU Wooster, OH 44691
Phone: (330) 263-3904
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