Is limit feeding an option for newly received cattle?


By Kylene Scott, High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal (KS)

Dec 2, 2018


There are several stressful periods in the life of a calf. Two of the most stressful—the period after weaning and when they move into a confined feeding situation—come early in life and can hinder performance.


Dale Blasi, Kansas State University professor and Extension specialist for beef cattle nutrition and management, conducts research trials of limit feeding newly acquired calves and tracking how they perform. Blasi, who is also manager and director of the KSU Beef Stocker Unit, spoke at the 5 State Beef Conference in Greensburg, Kansas, Nov. 13.


“I think one thing we’d all agree on with respect to any calves started on feed is not to stress them,” he said. “Don’t add any further stress, and that’s certainly a very important point.”


Studies in the mid-1980s and even back into the 1970s, Blasi said, showed low intakes are a real problem with these types of calves. Especially when they’re sick.


“Long stem hay is really a staple that we use to get these calves transitioned off of the truck, get them started, get them comfortable,” he said.


Previous studies looked at the relationships between energy content in a receiving diet and morbidity, and found there is “definitely a problem.” Follow-up work in the mid-2000s looked at the removal of roughage to increase energy in the diet.


Researchers found with increased concentration of energy in the diet, there’s morbidity, however, there’s also improvement in performance. “And I guess today, maybe nutritionists are really itchy about how we increase energy in receiving diets because of that.”


According to Blasi, limit feeding has been around a long, long time and there’s a lot of advantages to it. He has developed his own metaphor for explaining it, too.


“You got an all-night, all you can eat buffet—Vegas, baby, versus the boot camp breakfast,” Blasi said. “If you’re in boot camp, you do your calisthenics and eat for 15 minutes, or maybe 10 minutes, and then you get on with your day.”


He said that’s exactly the approach, or philosophy, with respect to limit feeding.


There are more benefits to limit feeding cattle: