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New Protein Needs in Feedlot Calves Explored
Ohio Ag Connection - 10/02/2023

The journey into a feedlot isn’t easy for a calf. With the challenges of weaning, transportation, and commingling, calves are subjected to considerable stress.

Consequently, these stressors can hamper their food intake. Fortunately, recent studies have shed light on how to better meet their nutritional needs during these crucial days.

Ohio State University's Fluharty and Loerch's work stands out in this regard. They found that adjusting the crude protein (CP) content in the diet can make a significant difference in the first week of feedlot arrival.

Surprisingly, during this period, feed intake isn’t hampered due to rumen bacteria or food digestibility, but perhaps due to changes in endocrine signaling brought on by feed and water deprivation.

Their findings?

A calf's feed, particularly in the first week in a feedlot, might need to be protein-rich to compensate for its lower intake.

Specifically, calves weighing around 525 pounds seem to benefit from diets with elevated protein concentrations of 16-18%. Further, by the second week, this protein requirement can be slightly lowered, optimizing growth and efficiency.

The protein source can vary without affecting feedlot performance, whether it’s soybean, blood meal, or fish meal. As long as the protein requirements are adequately met, calves thrive.

While getting calves accustomed to feedlot life will always be challenging, this research provides a ray of hope. Proper protein intake can play a crucial role in ensuring they overcome the early days' stressors, setting them on a path of healthy growth and vitality.

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