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These protein goals work

Even in times of high feed cost, Vance Kells is determined to keep protein levels in heifer diets at industry standards. He knows that if he were to skimp on protein, heifers at Circle Bar Heifer Ranch in Satanta, Kan., would not meet breeding size goals by 13 months of age.

If you don’t feed enough protein, “you’re not going to be able to maintain 50 inches (wither height) at 13 months old,” Kells says. “I think the numbers we give in the Gold Standards adequately grow that heifer to be bred by 13 months old.”

The “numbers” that Kells is referring to can be found in the Gold Standards II, a set of performance benchmarks developed by the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association. The standards recommend that Holstein heifers six to nine months of age receive a ration with a total protein content of 15 to 16 percent. Rations fed to Holstein heifers nine to 13 months of age should contain 14 to 15 percent total protein. Heifers 13 months of age to freshening need 13.5 to 14 percent total protein.

Feeding less protein may reduce ration cost, but those savings quickly evaporate if you end up sacrificing heifer body size goals at critical stages of development.

Source: Dairy Calf and Heifer Association


Health care is part of dairy beef quality

According to recent research from North Dakota State University, cattle treated for illness had inferior USDA quality grades at slaughter, an indication that animal health can have an important effect on carcass quality.

Dairy Animal Care and Quality Assurance (DACQA)-certified producers follow practices that prevent disease in dairy animals in order to avoid compromising carcass quality in the future. DACQA strongly encourages the following practices to prevent disease in dairy animals:

  • Design a herd-health plan in conjunction with your veterinarian. It should identify effective management practices that prevent disease, as well as action plans for animals that develop disease or injury. Include animal-observation protocols to detect disease and vaccination protocols to prevent disease.
  • Be able to recognize common health problems and know how to utilize animal-health products and other control measures.
  • Use a diagnostic laboratory to diagnose unusual or questionable illnesses.
  • Walk through the barn and observe how cattle walk. Listen for coughing induced by movement. Look for:
    • Reluctance to walk to the feed bunk.
    • Body condition score/appearance.
    • Lameness.
    • Crusted muzzle.
    • Sunken eyes.
    • Nasal discharge.
    • Rough, dry coat.
    • Diarrhea.
    • Coughing, sneezing.
    • Drooped head and ears.
    • Arched back.
    • Straining to urinate.

DACQA is a voluntary, national certification program intended to enhance and demonstrate quality animal-care practices, which assure food safety, quality and value as well as enhance consumer confidence in the milk and beef products that are harvested from cattle on America’s dairy farms.

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