26 January 1996

Beware low protein

CATTLE producers are being urged to check the rations of their stock, given the low protein content of many silages. When proteins are low cattle will need extra supplements if performance targets are to be met, warns Basil Lowman of the Scottish Agricultural College.

"Though there have been some very good energy silages about, some have low protein contents and we are beginning to get one or two cases of protein deficiency in finishing cattle and suckler cows," says Dr Lowman.

He says cows will "seize up" when rumen microbes become short of protein. "Cattle dont digest feed as rapidly or pass dung as frequently and lose condition.

"Go out and kick a bit of dung – when it is reasonably solid and hurts your toe go back to the diet and check protein levels."

For cattle over 200kg the main protein requirement will be for extra rumen degradable protein. This can be supplied using protein from sources such as soya, maize gluten, rapeseed meal or distillery by-products, depending on price.

Minimum crude protein requirement in the total diet (DM) for store cattle is 11%, finishing steers and heifers 13% and finishing bulls 15%. &#42