What is a supplement?
Olsson’s produce nutrition supplements, not feeds, and as such do not make any products that contain sufficient carbohydrates to act as an energy supplement. However, it must be re-iterated that more energy is made available from feed when digestibility is improved, and rumen emptying time is accelerated by providing rumen microbes with a balance of trace mineral and vitamins not present or limited in feed rations.
All protein that is broken down in the rumen is transformed into ammonia and the ammonia then is transformed to bacterial protein. It is this bacterial protein, when it passes down to the true stomach (Abomasum) that is further broken down to amino acids and absorbed and so provides the majority of protein for the ruminant. This important difference in the ruminant, compared to the horse and dog and other animals, for protein utilization, can be exploited.
Non-protein nitrogen (urea) can be used as the source of ammonia and so can build up bacterial protein relatively cheaply. This is the reason why urea is added to diets.
Non protein nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus are utilized by approximately 75% of rumen bacteria that in turn utilize dry feed. In addition, rumen fungi (which have an important role in fibre breakdown) have a high requirement of sulphur. Provided those 25% of rumen microorganisms that require proteins (peptides and amino acids) are not deficient, non-protein elements can improve the digestibility of low protein pastures and hays. If natural protein supplements are required, these can be provided by feeding out lupins, beans or oil-seeds.
Protein not digested in the rumen that passes to the Abomasum (UDP) provide an efficient protein source in times when the animals needs for protein are high: late pregnancy, lactation or in weaners. The source of these by pass proteins are some crops and grasses when in the early growing phase and proteins that have been heat or formaldehyde treated (e.g. cottonseed meal, canola meal and copra meal).
Macro and trace minerals are required by rumen microorganisms for the synthesis of enzymes used in the fermentation of feedstuffs, especially phosphorus and cobalt. A deficiency of essential minerals will also lead to specific diseases in the ruminant.
In Australia, Vitamins A and E will be deficient after two months of grain feeding of six months of drought. Vitamin D deficiency might occur when animals are shedded or rugged.
A surplus of one element will not make up for a deficiency in another. That is why it is important to ensure that NOTHING is missing from your livestock’s diet by feeding a balanced compound feed supplement.
Why supplement pasture?
In a pasture based animal production systems the two principle components of the system to consider are:
Pasture, depending on climatic conditions, has a dormant phase and a growing phase. The growing phase can further be classified into a green phase and a dry phase and the nutritive value of the pasture is dynamic and continually changing depending on the moisture value and lignin in the plant.
From this diagram you can see that when the pasture is young and green it has the maximum amount of protein, energy and digestibility, but it also has a high water content and so animals tend to scour on these lush pastures and not do well on them. However, as the pasture matures and dries to the flowering stage the protein, energy and water content decrease. At this stage, there is the ideal amount of protein and energy in the pasture and the digestibility is such that animals do very well on this pasture, especially lactating and growing animals. In fact, if we could have pasture at this stage all year round, the animals would need no supplementation provided they had enough of the pasture to eat.
However, when pasture dries off, it becomes very stalky and has a high lignin content, is very low in protein and because the digestibility is low, the energy in the pasture becomes inaccessible to the animal.
This drying pasture leads to the sort of grazing behavior where the animals selectively eat out the pasture, chasing any young green shoots and progressively loosing weight while there is a large body of dry feed not utilized. If this grazing behavior continues, the pasture quality declines and weeds tend to take over as the main pasture species.
The use of a correct supplementation will enable the ruminants to fully utilize this drying pasture in a less selective way, and so utilize dry pastures, which is a very valuable resource.
The nutritional requirements of the animals depend on their physiological status and age. The protein to energy ratio should be highest in the following situations:
a. Young actively growing animals
b. Lactating females, especially in the first six to twelve weeks of lactation
c. Females in the last third of pregnancy
d. Animals affected heavily with lice and worms
e. Post weaning animals
For animals in these situations, the protein level of the feed has to be above 14%. The ideal is to have animals with the highest protein requirement on the pasture with the highest protein levels. This can be achieved with irrigated improved pasture, which is costly, or managing the physiological status and nutritive status of the animal in complement with the nutritive status of the pasture.
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