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N&H TOP LINE: Proper nutrition optimizes reproduction in beef cowsN&H TOP LINE: Proper nutrition optimizes reproduction in beef cows

Failure to manage nutrition of cow herd during key times can hurt productivity. ALSO: Non-medicated calf diarrhea treatment study begins.

Tim Lundeen 1

January 19, 2016

5 Min Read
N&H TOP LINE: Proper nutrition optimizes reproduction in beef cows

For cow/calf producers, there are certain times that significantly affect the operation’s profitability, and failure to manage the nutrition of the cow herd during these times can hurt productivity in ways that producers often do not think about, according to information from BioZyme Inc.

Supplementing the herd with important vitamins, minerals and proteins before calving and through breeding has been shown through research to improve a cow's body condition and conception rates and, in turn, overall calf health and survival rates, making this a critical time for supplementation.


In a beef herd, profitability is determined by several factors, including the total weight of calves sold, cost of maintaining the cow herd, percentage of cows bred that wean a calf and the price received for calves. The most critical times to influence these factors are the two months prior to calving and through breeding. A cow's nutrition during this critical stage of production also has a direct impact on the ability of the cow to rebreed in a timely manner.

"Research by the University of Nebraska with heifer offspring from cows grazing a dormant range showed that in areas where protein was deficient in the forage, protein supplementation to the pregnant cow in late gestation resulted in heifer offspring that were heavier at weaning, pre-breeding, first pregnancy diagnosis and before their second breeding season, as well as had greater pregnancy rates and calving 21 days earlier than heifers from non-protein-supplemented cows," BioZyme director of nutrition and technical sales Kevin Glaubius said. "These recent studies clearly show that there are areas where many beef producers lose productivity in the normal production settings that are never measured."

It is important to make sure feed rations are formulated to meet or exceed the nutritional requirements of the cow during early gestation (roughly the first 60 days). While the particular vitamin/mineral blend fed during this time is very important, BioZyme emphasizes that it is also imperative to ensure that the proper amounts of energy and protein are supplied. These are needed to meet the increased demands during lactation and subsequent breeding.

Energy is probably the most important nutritional consideration in beef cattle production. Cows need energy to maintain milk production as well as to initiate and maintain pregnancy. Energy requirements increase significantly during the last third of pregnancy and while the cow is producing milk.

Protein is the second limiting nutrient in most rations. Without adequate amounts of protein in the diet, daily feed consumption drops off, feed passage rates decrease and overall digestive efficiency declines.

BioZyme also noted that mineral nutrition, including copper, zinc and manganese, is important for the cow herd during this time.

"BioZyme has experienced tremendous growth in its ... mineral line as more producers are implementing estrus synchronization, (artificial insemination) and even embryo transfer technologies," Glaubius said. "When producers make the decision to add as much value as possible to their herd, they also understand the nutritional investment required to achieve the level of success they desire."

Phosphorus is commonly referred to as the "fertility" mineral, BioZyme said, and a deficiency can severely affect reproductive performance. Insufficient amounts of phosphorus in the ration results in reduced milk production and, consequently, lower calf weaning weights. Phosphorus requirements increase by 12% from mid-pregnancy to the last month of gestation. After calving, phosphorus requirements increase by 50%.

Following phosphorus in order of importance are the organic trace minerals. Organic trace minerals are unique in that they have increased bioavailability to the animal.

According to BioZyme, the best recommendation for improved reproductive success is to: feed cows a mineral that improves the digestibility of the forage they consume throughout the year, take advantage of improvements in body condition throughout the summer and fall and improve the cow's nutritional status through improved mineral nutrition. Mineral supplementation may not replace all of a cow's winter supplement needs, but it will reduce energy and protein supplementation costs and the average number of days from calving to rebreeding while increasing the total pounds of calves weaned and whole-herd profitability potential, leaving producers more time to focus on other breeding strategies.


Prophylactic, prebiotic benefits of crofelemer in calves

Jaguar Animal Health Inc., an animal health company focused on developing and commercializing first-in-class gastrointestinal products for companion and production animals, recently announced that it has initiated a study in conjunction with researchers from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine to evaluate the efficacy of the prophylactic use of a second-generation formulation of crofelemer, an active pharmaceutical ingredient isolated and purified from the Croton lechleri tree (Neonorm Calf), administered in liquid, on naturally occurring diarrhea in preweaned dairy calves and to investigate the possible prebiotic benefit of the product.

Crofelemer is the company's lead non-prescription product, which has been formulated and clinically tested to specifically address the normalization of fecal formation and ion and water flow in the intestinal lumen of newborn dairy calves. The powder form of the product allows for ease of administration for entire herd management.

This double-blinded, randomized study will involve 40 Holstein bull calves affected with naturally occurring diarrhea. The study will compare prophylactic use against a placebo, administered twice daily. Data regarding fecal dry matter will be used to measure water loss due to secretory diarrhea. Bodyweight measurements will be performed daily to determine average daily weight gain during the 25-day study. Blood and fecal samples will also be collected, along with data related to bacterial genus prevalence in the intestinal microbiome.

"This study will generate data to elucidate the mechanism by which the prophylactic use of the second-generation formulation of (crofelemer) may support the gut health of preweaned calves herd-wide during the onset of naturally occurring diarrhea," Lisa Conte, Jaguar president and chief executive officer, said. "Additionally, characterization of the fecal microbiome throughout the preweaning period will allow us to determine if, under natural conditions, the product may positively alter the intestinal microbiome to the benefit of the host. We expect results from this study to be available in 2016."

Last October, Jaguar announced that a study by Cornell researchers supports a benefit crofelemer has on optimization of the intestinal microbiome profile in preweaned dairy calves.

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