Using alfalfa leaf meal as a supplement in late-gestation beef heifer and nursing beef calf diets. Academic Article uri icon


  • Two experiments were conducted to investigate using alfalfa leaf meal (ALM; 22% CP, DM basis) in beef cattle diets. In Exp. 1, a total of 24 late-gestation Angus heifers (initial BW 470 +/- 9 kg) were blocked by BW, calving date, and BCS to 1 of 4 dietary treatments in a randomized complete block design. All heifers were offered a basal hay diet (7.4% CP and 67.6% NDF, DM basis). Treatments were arranged as a 2 x 2 factorial consisting of CP supplied at 100 or 112.5% of the recommended daily intake using either soybean meal (SBM) or ALM as the supplemental protein source. Treatments were fed for an average of 100 d before calving. Total DMI was unaffected by supplemental protein source, although heifers consumed more (P < 0.001) ALM supplement than SBM supplement at the expense of hay and corn. Feeding 112.5% of recommended CP to heifers increased precalving rate of BW gain (P = 0.004) and DM digestibility (P = 0.003). Protein source did not affect DM digestibility (P = 0.17). Neither supplemental protein source nor protein amount affected changes in BCS or calving traits. In Exp. 2, replicates of treatments were conducted over 2 consecutive years at 2 locations in northern Minnesota to determine the effects of including ALM in creep-fed supplements on nursing calf performance, supplement BW gain efficiency (GF; BW gain over control/supplement intake), and cow performance. Treatments were control (no supplement), ALM supplement (58% ALM, as-fed basis), or a wheat middling- and soybean hull-based supplement (MIDD). Milk intake (estimated by the weigh-suckle-weigh technique) was similar among treatments. Creep-fed calves had greater (P < 0.001) ADG than control calves, whereas calves offered MIDD tended to have greater ADG (P = 0.05) than those offered ALM (1.38 vs. 1.30 kg/d, respectively). Calves offered MIDD had greater (P < 0.001) creep feed DMI than those offered ALM (2.6 vs. 1.3 kg/d, respectively). A year x treatment interaction was noted for GF (P = 0.02). In yr 1, GF for calves offered ALM was greater (P = 0.006) than GF for calves offered MIDD, but in yr 2, there were no differences. Alfalfa leaf meal may substitute for SBM in beef heifer wintering diets and conventional creep feed ingredients. When included in creep feed diets, ALM can result in slightly less ADG and less DMI, but supplement conversion efficiency may be increased.

published proceedings

  • J Anim Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • Zehnder, C. M., Maddock, T. D., DiCostanzo, A., Miller, L. R., Hall, J. M., & Lamb, G. C.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Zehnder, CM||Maddock, TD||DiCostanzo, A||Miller, LR||Hall, JM||Lamb, GC

publication date

  • June 2010