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Easing calves into silage - tips from cattle experts

Easing calves into silage - tips from cattle experts

By Scout Nelson

Introducing calves to silage requires careful observation and patience, say experts from the Kansas State University Beef Cattle Institute on the Cattle Chat podcast. The process demands a tailored approach to meet the unique responses of each group of calves.

"When introducing silage, you are going to have to watch the calves closely to know when you can start increasing the amount in the diet," K-State veterinarian Bob Larson advises. This cautious strategy helps in adjusting to the calves' acceptance levels and dietary needs.

The unique smell of silage, being a fermented feed, can cause initial aversion in calves. "Silage is a fermented feed resource, so it has a different taste and smell than calves are used to," notes beef cattle nutritionist Phillip Lancaster. To overcome these problems, mixing silage with more favored feed types can encourage calves to gradually adapt to the new taste and smell.

Fermentation variability affects silage appeal, with moisture levels playing a critical role. "If it is too wet, then it has a butyric fermentation that gives it a nasty odor that really turns cattle off on eating it," Lancaster explains. Conversely, overly dry silage risks mold development, further deterring consumption.

Ensuring optimal fermentation through analysis and silage inoculants at production can greatly improve silage quality. These steps help achieve a beneficial balance of fermentation acids, making the silage more acceptable to calves.

For producers facing inconsistency in calves' willingness to consume silage, veterinarian Brian Lubbers emphasizes the importance of sampling and analysis. "Take the samples as you are feeding so that you have a representative sample to help you figure out what is actually causing them to stop eating the silage," Lubbers recommends.

This proactive approach allows for adjustments based on concrete analysis, ensuring calves benefit from silage as part of their diet.

Photo Credit: gettyimages-diane-kuhl

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Categories: Kansas, Education, Livestock, Beef Cattle

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