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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

The Effect of Feeding Roughages of Varying Digestibility Prepartum on Energy Status and Metabolic Profiles in Beef Cows around Parturition

Jardstedt, Mikaela; Nadeau, Elisabet; Nielsen, Mette Olaf; Norgaard, Peder; Hessle, Anna

Abstract

Simple Summary Grass silages based on timothy-meadow fescue are commonly fed to pregnant beef cows during winter. As beef cows usually are given free access to roughage for rational reasons, the use of these silages has been questioned due to their relatively high nutritional value, which may result in nutrient intakes above animal requirements and, hence, a waste of resources. Therefore, other roughage alternatives are requested, but their effects on cow intake and energy status before calving must be evaluated before applied in practice. Four diets based on timothy-meadow fescue silage, festulolium silage plus urea, reed canarygrass silage or barley straw supplemented with urea and rapeseed meal were fed in free access to mature pregnant beef cows. Timothy-meadow fescue and festulolium diets resulted in overfeeding of energy and protein and in body weight and body condition gains, whereas the opposite was observed for cows fed the other two diets. Hence, reed canarygrass or barley straw supplemented with urea and rapeseed meal prepartum may be suitable alternatives to the traditional timothy-meadow fescue diet, if cows are able to regain lost BCS during the grazing period, and may reduce winter feed costs of the cow-calf producer due to the low intakes of these diets.Abstract Resource efficient winter-feeding of mature pregnant beef cows requires knowledge of how different roughage-based feeding strategies affect cow intake and energy status. Four diets based on traditional timothy-meadow fescue silage (TM), festulolium silage plus urea (FE), reed canarygrass silage (RC) or barley straw supplemented with urea and rapeseed meal (BR), were fed ad libitum for 16 weeks prepartum to 36 Hereford cows. Postpartum, cows were fed the same diet before release on pasture. Individual data on cow intake, changes in body weight (BW), body condition score (BCS) and plasma metabolites, calf birth and weaning weights were recorded. The TM and FE diets resulted in increased BW and BCS prepartum (p < 0.001), while the RC and BR diets resulted in a catabolic state, as indicated by a loss of BCS, lower insulin levels and higher non-esterified fatty acid levels in cows fed BR (p < 0.001). There were no dietary effects on calf parameters (p > 0.29). Feeding RC or BR prepartum might be a possible alternative to traditional timothy-meadow fescue silage if cows are allowed to regain lost BCS during the grazing period. The influence on cow reproductive- and calf performance should be considered before making this management change.

Keywords

beef cow; body condition score; energy status; gestation; metabolic profile; roughage

Published in

Animals
2020, Volume: 10, number: 3, article number: 496
Publisher: MDPI