As the season progresses and the pasture starts to hay off, the quality of the pasture, in terms of energy and protein, declines, often falling below the nutritional requirements of the cattle. In such circumstances, cattle will either stop growing, lose weight, and sometimes in the case of breeders, cease cycling. Providing a dietary supplement that addresses the deficiency during these periods will help to reduce the rate of weight loss or promote weight gain and encourage cows to cycle regularly.
Analysing dung samples using FNIRS will tell you when the nutrients provided by the pasture are not meeting your herd’s nutritional requirements, indicating when the animals will respond to supplementation.
The team at Brian Pastures Research Facility (near Gayndah) use FNIRS testing to ensure cattle have optimal nutrition to meet production goals of gaining weight, conceiving, and raising a calf.
“We use FNIRS multiple times a year to make timely decisions, including when to start, and when to change, the type of supplement used,” said Melissah Dayman, DAF Technical Officer at Brian Pastures Research Facility. “At the end of the growing season (usually in May), dung samples are taken to determine whether urea is required to counteract the decline in crude protein in pastures. As the season progresses, samples are taken monthly to determine if the current supplement is meeting the animals’ requirements, and to decide whether to switch over to an energy-based supplement, such as M8U (molasses with 8% urea),” Melissah said.
“Changing supplement shouldn’t be based off visual assessments. By the time you notice a decline in cattle body condition, and/or a decline in pasture quality, the nutritional gap is already having an impact,” Melissah continued. “This happened to us in 2019, when supplementation of the breeder herd did not begin until June. Although faecal samples were collected monthly, they were only sent for analysis every three months. So, when we got the results back, we could see that the dietary crude protein had been below maintenance levels since January. As a result, the cows lost weight. Obviously, we’ve learnt from that experience, and we now sample, and send our tests off for analysis, regularly.”
Read more of Melissah’s FNIRS and supplementation story →