For many of us West of the Mississippi River, we are still extremely dry. Sure, there have been some recent storms that may have dampened the topsoil, but there are still plenty of areas in the west without much snow cover, and a much larger area where topsoil and subsoil moisture is almost nonexistent. We are a ways from the end of the drought, and even farther form replenishing subsoil moisture. Green forage, fresh or harvested, could be a long ways off as well. Any forage we have left, or can purchase to feed, is likely to be of declining quality.
Fortunately, we can easily and cost effectively increase the utilization of low quality forages with the addition of a little protein. We may also want to look at taking that a step farther with a feed additive. The addition of a feed additive is generally pennies a day, but the returns are generally several times that cost. Ionophores are great additives for grazing yearling cattle, and, if we follow certain hand-fed regulations, Rumensin® can be used for mature cows to increase feed efficiency. Another self-fed option that we have researched in CRYSTALYX®, is Tasco®. Tasco® is a seaweed (kelp) meal harvested from the North Atlantic. It has been used to help moderate body temperature increases in cattle grazing endophyte infected fescue. Our research conducted at North Dakota State University looked at the ability of Tasco® to increase utilization of low quality forages.
Low-moisture blocks with 40% crude protein (19% NPN) were used in a 5 x 5 Latin square design with ruminally cannulated steers. The five treatments used were 1. A negative control (no block), 2. A control block, 3. The control block with Aspergillus oryzae fermentation extract in the block formula, 4. The control block with Aspergillus oryzae fermentation extract fed in a bolus, 5. The control block with Tasco® (Ascophyllum nodosum) in the formula . All steers were offered a basal grass hay (brome hay averaged 6.0% CP, 74.7% NDF, and 43% ADF) diet ad libitum. The Aspergillus oryzae was fed at 2 grams per head per day, and the Tasco® was fed at 10 grams per head per day per the manufacturers recommendations. While we measured the effect of the treatments on intake, digestion, ruminal fermentation, and microbial efficiency, I will limit my comments here to intake and organic matter digestion.
Dry Matter Intake
All four block treatments significantly (P=0.01) increased forage dry matter intake versus the negative control (no block) treatment. This is not surprising, as we know the addition of protein to low quality forages will increase intake. Increasing daily intake of a low quality forage will increase the total amount of energy a cows can derive form that forage on a daily basis. More (intake) is better.
Organic Matter Digestibility
Organic matter and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) digestibilities followed a similar trend, however, I have only shown the graph for organic matter digestibility. All four block treatments significantly (P=0.07) increased forage organic matter digestibility versus the negative control (no block) treatment. While “numerically” higher in digestibility, the two treatments utilizing the Aspergillus oryzae fermentation extract were not “statistically” different from the control block. We did find a significant difference (P=0.02) in digestibility between the Tasco® block and the control block. The addition of Tasco® to the control block essentially increased organic matter digestibility by 10%. If you can stretch another 10% of utilization from your forages this year, that could mean a savings of $25-$30 per ton of forage purchased. That equates to about $9.50 per month per cow. Feeding CRYSTALYX® Tasco® 35-CP™ versus, say, CRYSTALYX® HP-40™ will cost you an additional $1.14 per cow per month. That is an 8:1 return on your dollar.
Barring weather similar to the 40 days prior to Noah’s Ark lifting off, many of us may be forced to utilize some pretty poor quality forage again this year. CRYSTALYX® blocks containing Tasco® are an economical way to increase the digestibility or overall utilization of your lowest quality forage. There are three CRYSTALYX® products containing Tasco®, they are: Tasco® 35-CP™, High-Mag Tasco®-Lyx™ and Fescue Phos®. All 3 products will deliver 10 grams of Tasco® per head per day, at typical intakes. CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements are available to your herd 24/7, and are an excellent way to increase the utilization from your forage with minimal input for time, labor, equipment and delivery cost.