From the PBR to Your Pasture
Billings, Montana – April 7, 2016
As livestock owners have become more sophisticated in their understanding of livestock nutrition and nutrient requirements, supplements have become an increasingly popular management tool to help cattle better utilise their feed particularly in the winter when the available forages are lacking needed nutrients. Supplements provide an easy method for delivering protein, energy, minerals and vitamins to their cattle. Higher molasses prices and the option of non-molasses supplement blocks are giving stock contractors and cattle ranchers a reason to reevaluate the type of supplement they use.
One non-molasses option is SweetPro, made from condensed distillers solubles which are higher in protein and fat than molasses, but lack the sugars that can drive down rumen pH. A university study compared various factors for cow-calf herds feeding on forage and hay, versus herds on forage and hay plus supplements. The molasses-based supplement cost about the same per kilo, and in this study, the supplement from SweetPro outscored the molasses blocks with significantly lower consumption and better herd performance.
But what do the livestock owners say?
5 Time PBR Stock Contractor of the Year, Chad Berger from Mandan, North Dakota switched over to SweetPro for his bulls last summer and he likes what he sees. “I can really tell the difference on the performance and condition of my bulls since I’ve been using it,” Berger said. “What I really like about it is that it really keeps my bulls healthy. They really muscle up on it. Keeps them fresh and their stomachs working well.”
Berger also mentioned that he felt the bulls traveled better since they had been on the supplement. And he would know. Just since the first of the year, his bulls have traveled to Chicago, Oklahoma City, Anaheim, Sacramento, St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and Sioux Falls. Berger is next headed to Little Rock before he heads to Billings for the PBR rodeo on April 15-17.
Another multi-year PBR Stock Contractor Year, H.D. Page, felt it was the dramatic turn around in conception rates for his cows that sold him on SweetPro. “We went from the worst year ever, to the best year we’d ever had,” Page said. “With the heat and dryness, we just couldn’t get the cows to cycle. We went from conception rates of 65-70% to 97% bred in a single year. The only thing we changed in our program was adding SweetPro blocks.”
Page owns the bucking bull brothers SweetPro’s Long John (2015 World Champion Bull) and Bruiser (2015 ABBI Classic Champion) who are sons of former World Finals qualifier Show Time and two daughters of 2006 World Champion Bull Mossy Oak Mudslinger. He started adding the supplement to the bulls feed a few years ago.
“It really helps them utilize their feed. Instead of 25 pounds (11.3 kg) of grain, we are seeing the same results with only 10 pounds (4.5 kg) per bull,” said Page. “We don’t want them big, but want to see them fit and well muscled.” He noted that by looking at bull’s manure, he can tell if they are eating SweetPro or not by how well the grain is broken down. “Particularly with corn, they just seem to be able to utilize it better.”
But supplements aren’t just for high powered performance animals. They can even help ranchers looking to manage the bottom line.
Don Herzog, who ranches near Rapelje Montana, along with his sons Courtney and Ryan, had tried several different supplements before switching to SweetPro a few years back. On his operation, cows are typically wintered in open pasture with little hay, and using a supplement to allow the cattle to make the most of the winter grass.
“We expect a cow to go out there and make a living. We don’t feed a whole lot of hay unless we get deep snow where they can’t get to the grass,” Don said. “I’m calving a bunch of three year olds at my place right now and they haven’t had any hay all winter. We had a lot of snow in December but it blew off some on the ridges and those three year olds are in excellent condition.”
“In the winter time we are supplementing the cow. She’s going to get enough energy out of the grass but she can’t get enough protein. The SweetPro is different than the other supplements we’ve tried over the years in that you are feeding the microbes in the rumen. If you are feeding the microbes correctly, she will digest the roughage and utilize it,” stated Don.
His son Courtney Herzog who ranches nearby expanded on their feeding program. “My brother Ryan and I had attended a Ranching for Profit school and we adapted pieces of their philosophy of minimal winter feeding for what we needed on our ranch. We had increased the size of our operation and needed to be able to do more with less work.” For the Herzogs, not spending all morning feeding hay was a key time saver.
In order to minimise both the time and cost expense of feeding hay, the Herzogs stock piled enough forage during the year to be able to utilize a winter grazing program and once every 10 days they put out enough SweetPro supplement calculated to last the herd until the next delivery.
“I’m not saying we never feed hay. We do when the snow gets too deep, but I’d rather be doing something else than feeding $150/ton hay all day every day.” Courtney noted, “We try to keep our cows in good enough condition in the fall where they can afford to lose a little weight in the winter.” This year with the snow deep in some places, Courtney said they did lose some weight, but by the middle of January when the snow went off, they started gaining weight again.
Don particularly liked the results they were seeing using the non-molasses supplement with raising replacement heifers and Courtney agreed. “Breed back had been good, really good.” he said.
“We feed supplement to our yearling heifers, actually starting before they are weaned. They will stay on it, year round, until after they calve as three year olds.” As Don put it, “It’s the toughest year of their lives. They are facing a lot of physical demands as they are still growing, feeding their first calf, and we are asking them to also re-breed.” Last year he reported 99% bred on the three year olds with only one open cow, and believes their feeding program deserves some of the credit.
Another key aspect in choosing SweetPro was feed efficiency. “For us, it was a good selling point,” Courtney said. “Range conditions can make feed efficiency hard to quantify but we did our own field trial, and put the SweetPro up against what we were using at the time. At the end of the season, we liked what we were seeing with SweetPro.” Don commented, “I’m not saying it will for everybody, but it’s worked very well for our operation. There are a lot of folks who graze off all their grass during the summer and feed hay all winter. We just think that’s too expensive.”
When asked about the role of supplement in his operation, Don said “It’s not the magic bullet, it’s a management tool that you have to use in conjunction with a lot of other things you are doing, but we wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t work well for us.”