Farm Talk


May 6, 2014

DDGs have big stocker gain impact on hot fescue pastures

Parsons, Kansas — Distillers grains can be a very cool addition to hot fescue pastures.

In studies at the Southeast Agricultural Research Center, supplementing stocker cattle grazing high-endophyte pastures with DDGs  had a dramatic impact on gain.

Speaking to cattlemen at the Center’s Beef Cattle and Forage Field Day at Mound Valley, Kan., Research Center Head and Animal Scientist Lyle Lomas outlined a five-year study on the interaction of supplementation with several fescue cultivars.

Groups of non-implanted yearling 5-weight steers were provided two levels of DDG supplementation (0 or 0.8 percent of body weight) on high-endophyte Kentucky 31, low-endophyte Kentucky 31 and two novel — nontoxic — varieties.

The biggest response to supplementation came from the high-endophyte pastures where steers achieved a 97 percent gain increase.

On the low-endophyte variety, as wells as the two novel cultivars, there was a 30 to 40 percent gain increase during the approximately 200-day grazing period. DDG-supplemented cattle had a 2.25 pound average daily gain on all varieties compared to 1.51 for non-supplemented cattle.

Generally, however, the low-endophyte and non-toxic endophyte fescue varieties resulted in higher grazing weight gains than the high-endophyte Kentucky 31.

Combining non-toxic varieties with DDG supplementation offers stocker operators an opportunity to maximize production from fescue pastures, Lomas said.

Steers receiving no supplement were stocked at a rate of one animal per 1.25 acres on fertilized grass.

The stocking rate for the supplemented groups was one animal per acre.

In addition to supporting higher stocking rates, DDG supplementation also reduced nitrogen fertilizer need by providing 30 to 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre — excreted in the steers’ urine, Lomas found. DDGs contained 4 to 5 percent nitrogen, he noted.

The Center’s forage researcher, Joe Moyer, shared information from his multi-year tall fescue cultivar performance trials.

In 2013, the 18 varieties in the trial produced an average of 5.4 tons per acre at 12 percent moisture. At 5.85 tons per acre, Texoma MaxQ II had the highest total, which was significantly better than seven of the entries. The lowest total for 2013 was 4.99 tons per acre.

Heading dates, Moyer pointed out, ranged from 113 to 128 days, noting that in his trials the earlier heading varieties tended to yield more.

Moyer also said that he found only small differences in the relative hardiness of the varieties  and he cautioned producers about choosing high-endophyte fescue because it tends to be tougher.

“The reason high-endophyte Kentucky 31 requires less management is because cattle don’t eat as much,” he said. “With the novel cultivars, they eat more so you do have to take more care of the pasture.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re less hardy — the cattle are just tougher on those pastures.”

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