Supplementing protein to cows on winter range has long been an accepted practice. But the real value might surprise you!
WHY IS PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTATION SO IMPORTANT?
Numerous University research studies have shown that supplementing beef cows with protein results in improved body condition scores, improved reproductive performance and heavier weaning weights. Research at the University of Nebraska West Central Research and Extension Center also demonstrated that protein supplementation of spring calving cows grazing winter range resulted in greater pre-calving cow body weight, higher calf birth weight and a higher percentage of cows calving during the first 21 days of the calving season. The biggest effect of protein supplementation however, was seen in the performance of the calves. Dr. Rick Funston of the University of Nebraska uses the term “Fetal Programming” to describe the concept that the nutrient status of gestating cows may have various far reaching implications on their offspring, even before they are born.
Data collected from three years of research showed that steers from protein supplemented cows were heavier at weaning and after 222 days in the feedlot. Compared with steers from non-supplemented cows, steers from protein supplemented cows had greater marbling scores and a higher percentage grading USDA Choice or better.
The effect in heifers was even more dramatic. Heifers whose dams received protein supplementation were born earlier in the calving season, and had higher weaning weights than heifers whose dams received no supplementation. Heifers from protein supplemented cows were also heavier at breeding time and when they were pregnancy checked. Heifers from protein supplemented dams tended to be younger at puberty. There was also a trend for pregnancy rate to be greater for heifers born to protein supplemented cows.
KEY TAKE HOME POINTS:
- Winter protein supplementation benefits both cows & calves.
- Steers from protein supplemented cows are heavier at weaning and slaughter.
- Steers from protein supplemented cows have higher carcass value.
- Heifers from protein supplemented cows are heavier and younger at puberty.
- Heifers from protein supplemented cows have higher pregnancy rates.