Effects of supplementation on intake, digestion, and performance of beef cattle consuming fertilized, stockpiled bermudagrass forage.
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Experiments were conducted to determine the effects of increasing supplement protein concentration on performance and forage intake of beef cows and forage utilization of steers consuming stockpiled bermudagrass forage. Bermudagrass pastures were fertilized with 56 kg of N/ha in late August. Grazing was initiated during early November and continued through the end of January each year. Treatments for the cow performance trials were: no supplement or daily equivalents of 0.2, 0.4, and 0.6 g of supplemental protein per kilogram of BW. Supplements were formulated to be isocaloric, fed at the equivalent of 0.91 kg/d, and prorated for 4 d/wk feeding. Varying the concentration of soybean hulls and soybean meal in the supplements created incremental increases in protein. During yr 1, supplemented cows lost less weight and condition compared to unsupplemented animals (P < 0.05). During yr 2, supplemented cows gained more weight (P = 0.06) and lost less condition (P < 0.05) compared to unsupplemented cows. Increasing supplement protein concentration had no affect on cumulative cow weight change or cumulative body condition score change. Forage intake tended to increase (P = 0.13, yr 1 and P = 0.07, yr 2) in supplemented cows. Supplement protein concentration did not alter forage intake. In a digestion trial, four crossbred steers were used in a Latin square design to determine the effects of supplement protein concentration on intake and digestibility of hay harvested from stockpiled bermudagrass pasture. Treatments were no supplement; or 0.23, 0.46, and 0.69 g of supplemental protein per kilogram of BW. Forage intake increased (P < 0.05) 16% and OM intake increased (P < 0.01) 30% in supplemented compared to unsupplemented steers. Diet OM digestibility increased (P = 0.08) 14.5% and total digestible OM intake increased (P < 0.05) 49% in supplemented compared to unsupplemented steers. Supplement protein concentration did not alter forage intake, total digestible OM intake, or apparent digestibility of OM or NDF. During the initial 30 d after first killing frost, beef cows did not respond to supplementation. However, later in the winter, supplementation improved utilization of stockpiled bermudagrass forage.