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Starting Cattle Management: Nutrition and Health

August 20, 2021

Howard Blalock, PhD

Vice President of Technical Services

by Howard Blalock, Ph.D., VP of Technical Services

The first 21 days in the feedlot is undoubtedly the most critical time of feeding cattle.  Having a plan in place when cattle arrive is important to achieving a good start and a fast finish.  There are many items to consider in developing a management plan for starting cattle, the following lists several of the major concepts:

Starting Cattle Management Plan: Goals and Considerations

  • Get calves eating
  • Promote consistent feed intake
  • Increase ration nutrient density to match intake
  • Ample clean water supply
  • Calf observation
  • Proper vaccination program
  • Stress reduction
  • Focus on animal health

Achieving adequate dry matter intake is important to achieve our desired health responses leading to more efficient gain, reduced mortality, and lower vet/med costs through reduced morbidity, and particularly fewer re-treats.  A common misconception of starting cattle is that a good start means maximal DMI.  While good feed intake is important during this time, if intake is too high it can lead to cyclic intake patterns at later times when energy density increases during the finishing phase.  Intake of the right calories and nutrients should be the primary consideration, nutrients that boost the immune system and fight the effects of stress while also promoting long-term performance efficiency.

Sufficient protein and energy intake are paramount to get cattle started.  Not only are these nutrients primary drivers of growth and development but are also essential for normal cellular functions enabling the animal to respond effectively to the many stressors that are presented during this time.  Of particular importance, the immune system is dependent upon protein and energy to respond effectively to disease challenges and the achievement of immunity from vaccinations.

A QLF Starter supplement will help to get calves off to a good start.  QLF Starters provide sugar, a readily degradable carbohydrate that will help jump-start rumen bugs to achieve optimal rumen fermentation and utilization of nitrogen (protein) within the rumen.  The sugar content of the products can also be effective in enticing cattle to locate and consume unfamiliar feeds, helping to achieve our primary goal of starting cattle, feed intake. Additionally, most QLF Starters contain a yeast extract product that provides essential metabolites for rumen bugs to achieve a faster start and a healthier rumen environment while also promoting immune function.

Most QLF Starters contain organic zinc, copper, manganese, and cobalt from Availa 4® along with elevated levels of Vitamin E.  QLF Starters are fortified with selenium and other essential macro and micro minerals and vitamins.  Adequate vitamin and mineral nutrition is essential to support the immune system of stressed calves.  These nutrients are often depleted during weaning and transit in response to stress and must be replenished to achieve optimal health of calves.  Replenishing these nutrients is critical to help calves respond to treatment and vaccination protocols, minimizing the number of re-treats.

With further questions regarding QLF’s starter programs or for help in developing your own Starting Cattle Management Plan, please contact your local QLF District Sales Manager.

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