Transitioning from grain to grass/hay fed

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Red Boots Farm
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Transitioning from grain to grass/hay fed

Post by Red Boots Farm » Sat Mar 30, 2019 4:54 pm

Looking for the best way to "wean" grain-fed animals off grain and rely mostly on forage, as we grow our own hay and have some pasture.

We just raise a few beef each year for 4-H kids, then around 14 mos. we butcher for sale and personal use. Our open British White x Holstein heifer yearling shared the same trough with the three beef animals that just left, so her share has been about 15–17 lb corn/sweet feed daily. The Charolais x Holstein bottle calf will get grain (separately), plus pasture & hay, 'til county fair time in July, after which we'd like to transition to forage too.

Any ideas on the wisest way to do this?

Also, at 14 mo. the BW/Holstein heifer would make some really nice beef right now, but the original plan was to breed her to a BW and try raising a beef calf on the mama, plus have extra milk for a bottle calf.... But that's a topic for another day... :roll:

Thanks!



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Re: Transitioning from grain to grass/hay fed

Post by TexasBred » Sat Mar 30, 2019 4:56 pm

Just do it. She'll learn to graze instead of stand at the feed trough. May have a little weight loss initially but that's to be expected.
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Re: Transitioning from grain to grass/hay fed

Post by Red Boots Farm » Sat Mar 30, 2019 5:03 pm

TexasBred wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2019 4:56 pm
Just do it. She'll learn to graze instead of stand at the feed trough. May have a little weight loss initially but that's to be expected.
Thanks - I guess that works with people too! LOL

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Re: Transitioning from grain to grass/hay fed

Post by Stocker Steve » Sat Mar 30, 2019 5:25 pm

Depends on the quality of the forage.
Depends on your ADG goal.
If it is lush spring grass - - they should have a free choice source of fiber for a couple weeks. Grassy hay works.
Standard is not more than 0.5% of body weight of corn daily to a forage fed animal to avoid negative effects in the rumen.
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Re: Transitioning from grain to grass/hay fed

Post by Red Boots Farm » Sun Mar 31, 2019 1:54 pm

Stocker Steve wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2019 5:25 pm
Depends on the quality of the forage.
Depends on your ADG goal.
If it is lush spring grass - - they should have a free choice source of fiber for a couple weeks. Grassy hay works.
Standard is not more than 0.5% of body weight of corn daily to a forage fed animal to avoid negative effects in the rumen.
Lots of good information on this forum, thanks!
Good quality pasture; we ease them into it slowly. Currently we are using good quality long-stem grass hay, round bales, until we get our own hay in later. We have baled an oat/barley/field pea blend, plus medium quality grass hay. We are still fine-tuning this year's seeding plan (first year alfalfa, so oats first, and grass). Alfalfa is for the diary goats primarily.
ADG goals are would be maintenance for the heifer (I assume) as we are breeding her; the feeder calf is Charolais X so he'll finish more slowly anyway. What is a good ADG goal for a steer finished on forage?
The 2 steers we just butchered had about 2.75 – 3.09 ADG at the end, on pasture, hay and grain (18 lb grain each daily w/Bovigain). We switched to an open-pollinated heritage corn at the end with high protein content. They loved it.
Thanks for the tip on the corn standard.

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Re: Transitioning from grain to grass/hay fed

Post by Stocker Steve » Sun Mar 31, 2019 2:00 pm

ADG depends mostly on steer genetics, steer size, rumen conditioning, and energy intake.

For cool season perennial pasture - - 1.5 to 2.0 lb/day is pretty common, 0.5 to 4.5 lb/day is possible.
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Re: Transitioning from grain to grass/hay fed

Post by Red Boots Farm » Sun Mar 31, 2019 4:32 pm

You mention rumen conditioning... We feed calf starter early on for that reason, and normally we feed grain on top of forage. However, would early calf starter be a benefit or detriment to gaining on forage?

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Re: Transitioning from grain to grass/hay fed

Post by Stocker Steve » Sun Mar 31, 2019 4:39 pm

Rumen maturity is usually talked about as a function of age or weight. Not sure how much calf starter would effect this.

Feeding starchy feed (like corn) makes it harder for them to digest fiber (like grass) because of their confused rumen bug populations.

To get higher gains - - cattle need to be on mostly roughage and have a mature rumen and be in a green (thinner) condition before turning out to pasture.
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Re: Transitioning from grain to grass/hay fed

Post by Red Boots Farm » Sun Mar 31, 2019 9:12 pm

Very interesting... and helpful! Thanks Stocker!

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Re: Transitioning from grain to grass/hay fed

Post by TexasBred » Mon Apr 01, 2019 11:16 am

Stocker Steve wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2019 5:25 pm
Depends on the quality of the forage.
Depends on your ADG goal.
If it is lush spring grass - - they should have a free choice source of fiber for a couple weeks. Grassy hay works.
Standard is not more than 0.5% of body weight of corn daily to a forage fed animal to avoid negative effects in the rumen.
No idea of his location but no much "lush" grazing in July so grass should provide adequate fiber. No need for any grain either if you're moving to grassfed. The life of rumen bacteria measured in seconds and minutes so any adjustments are usually fairly rapid.
A dung beetle walks into a bar, looks around and says "Is this stool taken"????

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Re: Transitioning from grain to grass/hay fed

Post by Red Boots Farm » Tue Apr 02, 2019 10:09 pm

I'm in Minnesota, so we thankfully still have a lot of pasture growth in July. And by then hay is coming in, too.

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