Understanding dry matter intake

by David Wieland from BEEF Magazine

A Handbook for Ranch Managers How much dry matter will a cow eat? There’s no simple and exact answer, but we can predict DMI reasonably well from tables and practical experience.

Dry matter intake (DMI) is a factor that must be estimated before an animal’s diet can be properly calculated. Yet, DMI is a concept that’s commonly misunderstood.

Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual   The National Research Council (NRC) requirement tables include a column for DMI. The amount listed, however, is often mistaken to be the amount of dry matter that a cow must consume regardless of the quality of the feed. In reality, this is the level of intake that a cow must consume of a ration that contains the energy concentration recommended for her by nutrient tables.

Consumption controls

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian ViewIt’s well known that consumption of less-digestible, low-energy, high-fiber diets is controlled by rumen fill and the feed passage rate through the animal. Meanwhile, consumption of highly digestible, high-energy, low-fiber feeds is controlled by the animal’s energy needs and by metabolic factors.

Combat Shooter's Handbook Reconnaissance Marine MCI 03.32f: Marine Corps Institute The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other MisfitsThese concepts may seem quite simple, but the factors that regulate DMI are complex and aren’t fully understood.

The Essence of Liberty: Volume I: Liberty and History: The Rise and Fall of the Noble Experiment with Constitutionally Limited Government (Liberty and ... Limited Government) (Volume 1)  The Essence of Liberty: Volume II: The Economics of Liberty (Volume 2) The Essence of Liberty: Volume III: A Universal Philosophy of Political Economy (Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic) (Volume 3)How much dry matter will a cow eat? There’s no simple and exact answer, but we can predict DMI reasonably well from tables and practical experience.

Depending on the quality of the diet, a mature cow will usually consume 1-3% of her body weight (BW). Consumption of low-quality feeds may be 1-2% of BW, while green pasture may be 2-3%.

The factors that influence the amount a cow will eat include her size, body condition, stage and level of production. Other factors include the quality and availability of forage, amount and type of supplements and her environment.

With diets high in fiber, the rate and level of digestibility — and rate of passage of the feed — will have a large effect on intake. The faster the feed is digested, the faster it passes through the digestive tract and the more it allows for an increase in consumption. Poor-quality roughage such as straw, on the other hand, will have a slower rate of digestion than a high-quality feed such as alfalfa.

Feeding more dry matter than is required to meet an animal’s needs is a waste of feed. With high-quality alfalfa hay, the energy and protein requirements can be met with about 17.5 lbs. of hay. Since the rate of passage will be relatively fast, the cow may appear hungry before the next feeding, even though her nutrient requirements have been met.

With straw, the cow would have to eat about 44 lbs. (NRC) to meet her energy and protein requirements. This she can’t do. We can predict that she would eat only 20 lbs. [1,000 lb. X 2% DMI (max.)].

The cow will appear full, but she won’t be meeting her nutrient requirements. It’s a scenario I see quite often in cattle on corn stalks or other poor quality roughage.

 Implants tend to increase feed intake while Rumensin tends to decrease feed intake. Meanwhile, Bovatec has little effect.

A protein deficiency (less than 6-8%) also may decrease feed intake. This often occurs when cattle are on corn stalks, straw or other low-quality roughage.

This explains why supplemental protein increases DMI, as well as the digestibility of the roughage. Protein is needed by the rumen bugs to multiply and digest fiber.

Palatability also may affect DMI. Highly palatable feeds encourage consumption, while bitter-tasting feeds, no matter the value, will limit consumption. Molasses-based supplements encourage dry matter consumption. They’re a good example of how we can manipulate DMI and, inherently dry matter digestibility, which increases rate of passage.

Not an exact science

Predicting DMI isn’t an exact science. But by understanding the factors that affect DMI and the tables to estimate levels, as well as some practical experience, we can become comfortable in using estimates.

One problem in estimating DMI from tables or published data using rumen fill or energy demand is the phenomena of large increases in DMI in certain situations. These would include during lactation, cold stress and shortly before an impending storm or low-pressure front advancing to an area.

In addition, decreases in DMI have been observed with advancing pregnancy just when there are increased nutrient demands on the cow.

When calculating diets for cows for the middle trimester, we may use low-quality roughage to meet both DMI and nutrient requirements. Nearer to calving, we should increase the nutrient density of the feed to meet the increased requirements with less rumen fill. In any event, we need to keep the appetite of the cow satisfied in addition to meeting her nutrient requirements.

By the way, you can find feed composition values for 280 commonly used feeds for sheep and cattle here.

In addition, you’ll find the NRC’s 7th revised edition of “Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle.”

David Wieland, Shepherd, MT, is a nutrition consultant specializing in cow/calf, feedlot and horses. He also publishes a subscription newsletter and runs a cowherd. Contact him at 406/373-5512 or dwieland@usadig.com.

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian View

edited by

Dr Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume

Is now available in both PAPERBACK and Kindle

BookCoverImageMurray N. Rothbard was the father of what some call Radical Libertarianism or Anarcho-Capitalism which Hans-Hermann Hoppe described as “Rothbard’s unique contribution to the rediscovery of property and property rights as the common foundation of both economics and political philosophy, and the systematic reconstruction and conceptual integration of modern, marginalist economics and natural-law political philosophy into a unified moral science: libertarianism.”

This book applies the principles of this “unified moral science” to environmental and natural resource management issues.

The book started out life as an assigned reading list for a university level course entitled Environmental and Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian View.

As I began to prepare to teach the course, I quickly saw that there was a plethora of textbooks suitable for universal level courses dealing with environmental and natural resource economics. The only problem was that they were all based in mainstream neo-classical (or Keynesian) theory. I could find no single collection of material comprising a comprehensive treatment of environmental and natural resource economics based on Austrian Economic Theory.

However, I was able to find a large number of essays, monographs, papers delivered at professional meetings and published from a multitude of sources. This book is the result. It is composed of a collection of research reports and essays by reputable scientists, economists, and legal experts as well as private property and free market activists.

The book is organized into seven parts: I. Environmentalism: The New State Religion; II. The New State Religion Debunked; III. Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics; IV. Interventionism: Law and Regulation; V. Pollution and Recycling; VI. Property Rights: Planning, Zoning and Eminent Domain; and VII. Free Market Conservation. It also includes an elaborate Bibliography, References and Recommended Reading section including an extensive Annotated Bibliography of related and works on the subject.

The intellectual level of the individual works ranges from quite scholarly to informed editorial opinion.


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About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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