TitleInfluence of supplemental alfalfa quality on the intake, use, and subsequent performance of beef cattle consuming low-quality roughages.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsWeder, CE, Delcurto, T, Svejcar, T, Jaeger, JR, Bailey, RK
JournalJ Anim Sci
Date Published1999 May
KeywordsAnimals, Cattle, Dietary Supplements, Digestion, Eating, Female, Medicago sativa, Pregnancy, Weight Gain

Three experiments were conducted to evaluate influences of supplemental alfalfa quality on intake and use of low-quality meadow grass roughages (MG) by beef cattle. In Exp. 1, 15 steers (250 kg) were assigned to three treatments: 1) MG (5.2% CP), no supplement; 2) MG plus high-quality alfalfa (18.8% CP); and 3) MG plus low-quality alfalfa (15.2% CP). High- and low-quality alfalfa supplements were fed at .45 and .55% BW, respectively. Total DMI was greater (P < .01) for alfalfa-supplemented steers than for MG. Likewise, intake of digestible DM, DM digestibility (DMD), and ruminal ammonia level were greater (P < .01) for supplemented steers. In Exp. 2, 96 pregnant Hereford x Simmental cows (537 kg; body condition [BC] score 4.86) were assigned to the same treatments as in Exp. 1. For d 0 to 42, cows grazed on 19.1 ha of stockpiled MG (4,539 kg/ha; 6.8% CP), whereas, on d 43 to 84, cows received MG hay (5.2% CP). Supplemented cows gained more BW (P < .01), BC score (P < .01), and had heavier calf birth weight (P < .01) than nonsupplemented cows. However, there were no treatment effects (P > .10) on cow cyclicity, pregnancy rate, or calving interval. In Exp. 3, 90 pregnant Angus x Hereford cows (475 kg; BC score 4.59) were assigned to three treatments: 16.1%, 17.8% or 20.0% CP alfalfa supplement, with levels of .63, .55, and .50% of BW, respectively. Weight gain and BC score for the 84-d study displayed a quadratic response (P < .10), yet represented only 7 kg BW and .2 units of BC score. In conclusion, alfalfa hay supplementation was effective in increasing DMI and digestibility. However, alfalfa hay quality did not dramatically affect BW, BC score, and(or) calf birth weight, when fed on an isonitrogenous basis.

Alternate JournalJ. Anim. Sci.
PubMed ID10340596