Determination of Energy Efficiency of Beef Cows under Grazing Conditions Using a Mechanistic Model and the Evaluation of a Slow-Release Urea Product for Finishing Beef Cattle
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The cow/calf phase of production represents a large expense in the production of beef, and efficient beef cows use fewer resources to obtain the same outcome in a sustainable environment. The objective of study 1 was to utilize a mechanistic nutrition model to estimate metabolizable energy requirement (MER) of grazing cows based on changes in cow body weight (BW) and fatness measurements (body condition score, BCS) along with calf age and BW, as well as forage quality and quantity. In addition, an energy efficiency index (EEI), computed as MER of the cow and calf divided by calf weaning BW, was used to rank cows within a herd based on their efficiency of utilizing available forage to meet their maintenance requirements and support calf growth. Data were collected from one herd of approximately 140 Santa Gertrudis cows over a four-year period, and analyzed per calving cycle, conception to weaning. The model's estimation of EEI appears to be moderately heritable and repeatable across years, and efficient cows might have greater peak milk and be leaner. In typical feedlot diets, the rates of ruminal fermentation of highly processed grains and the hydrolysis rate of urea may not match. Asynchronous utilization of carbohydrate and protein would result in some portion of the urea unknot being utilized by the ruminal microbes and ultimately the animal. The use of slow-release urea (SRU) products offers a unique opportunity to synchronize ruminal fermentation of carbohydrate with non-protein nitrogen (NPN) release rate. Two experiments were conducted to examine the impact of source, urea or SRU, and level of dietary NPN on 1) performance and carcass characteristics and 2) N balance of finishing cattle. Steers had lower initial F:G when SRU was used as the only source of feed N (treatment 3), suggesting that SRU may replace both NPN and true protein feeds in finishing cattle diets. High levels of either NPN source had greater N intake and urinary N excretion, as well as N absorption and no major differences were observed between SRU and urea, suggesting that SRU can replace urea at different levels of N intake.
Bourg, Brandi Marie (2011). Determination of Energy Efficiency of Beef Cows under Grazing Conditions Using a Mechanistic Model and the Evaluation of a Slow-Release Urea Product for Finishing Beef Cattle. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from