Guide to Cattle Grazing with Supplements

Nutrition : Supplements

Nutrition : Forage

Kent Tjardes, Ph.D.

Field Cattle Consultant

Whether you’re the cow/calf producer planning to sell weaned calves or the stocker operator trying to put weight on cattle, you need to use your pasture grass resources as efficiently as possible.
Especially when you’re facing high land prices, strategies that optimize the use of existing pastureland are essential. Pasture management is necessary to ensure that pounds produced per acre can overcome the cost per acre.
One way to help boost grazing efficiency within pastures is to achieve better grazing distribution.
It’s common to see pastures with overgrazed areas near water troughs or where forage is fed, while that same pasture may have an underutilized area with forage that should be grazed. Cows in pastures typically only go so far from feed and water sources, but they can be baited into other underused areas.
While fencing and water sources can be used to control where cattle grazing occurs, they require considerable investment. A viable alternative is baiting with cattle supplements. Cattle seek out protein and mineral products because they crave them. Therefore, protein and mineral supplements can help distribute grazing if used effectively.
Even in pastures where hay, cubes and other protein sources are regularly being fed, cattle tubs can help enhance grazing distribution. We want cattle to go out into the pasture and not just hang around the feed area waiting for the delivery vehicle. Offering mineral supplements and protein sources in the pasture, away from the delivery area, can help draw cattle into other parts of the pasture.
If cattle have never had liquid supplements or block-type tubs, start by placing them in an area where the group can get adjusted to using them. We suggest initially placing cattle supplements close to the water and loafing areas, then gradually moving them farther away from those areas so cattle will seek out the supplement source and move to underutilized pasture areas.image of guide to improve cattle grazing distribution
After shifting cattle supplements away from water and loafing areas, visually monitor intake and cattle patterns over the next few weeks. If you know the weight of the cattle mineral tubs you put out, the number of cattle and the number of days they had access to the tubs, you can easily calculate how much they are eating per day.
If cattle intake is at a higher level than desired, we recommend moving the supplements farther out. If consumption is too low, move supplements closer to the water and loafing area until cattle intake is at the correct level. Then, gradually move the cattle supplements to underutilized areas of grazing land.
You can also visually monitor distribution by examining the grass around the area of the supplements. If the pasture grass looks like it has frequently been walked on and there is manure in the area, then the cows are moving into the desired areas. Once cattle are grazing underutilized areas, you can slowly draw them into other areas, as needed, by using cattle supplements as bait to get the most out of your pasture.
No producer in today’s environment wants to see big areas of grazing land go unused. That represents dollars per acre that aren’t translating to profit. Monitoring pasture resources and adding protein and mineral supplements to bait cattle into underutilized pasture areas can be a powerful tool to boost pounds and profits.
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