Block supplements can boost forage intake and digestibility by beef cattle significantly, compared to shelled corn or no supplement at all, researchers at Kansas State University say.

Researchers compared free choice intake and digestibility of a low quality prairie hay for 12 steers given no supplement, 4 lbs./day shelled corn, 5 g./day Smartamine-M, or 1 lb./day of a low-moisture block, Crystalyx(R).

Results of the feeding trial indicate that the block treatment increased digestible dry matter intake 29% compared to no supplement, and 14% compared to the shelled corn treatment. The Smartamine-M did not improve intake or digestion of the prairie hay.

Results also show digestible fiber intake was lowest for the corn treatment and highest for the block treatment, a classic example of the negative effect highly fermentable starch has on fiber digestion, researchers say.

The block treatment increased digestible Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF) intake by 21% compared to no supplement. The corn treatment decreased digestible NDF intake by 19% compared to no supplement.

Supplemental crude protein intake was similar for the corn and block treatments (0.30 and 0.31 lbs./head/ day respectively).

Depending on the type of product, low-moisture block supplements can be fed for approximately 10-25 cents/head/day.

For more information contact Evan Titgemeyer, Kansas State University, at 913/532-1220 (etitgeme@oz.oznet. ksu.edu).

Beef cattle can breathe a sigh of relief thanks to a new vaccine that prevents bovine herpes virus 1 (BHV-1) from ever entering the animal's body. That's according to Geoffrey Letchworth, virologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who developed the experimental vaccine.

When sprayed into a cow's nose, the vaccine stimulates the animal's immune system to make antibodies. These antibodies line the cow's nasal passages and block the bovine herpes virus from entering the animal.

BHV-1 infections cause abortions among pregnant cows and lead to shipping fever, problems that cost the U.S. livestock industry millions of dollars annually.

Letchworth explains that most viruses enter animals and people through mucous membranes, but most vaccines are injected into a muscle. Placing the same antigen on mucosa stimulates a different part of the immune system, which appears to protect the body's surfaces, he adds.

Letchworth tested the nasal approach by vaccinating 20 animals and then challenging each cow with 10 million units of BHV-1. Despite the huge dose, 70% of the cows remained free of the virus, says Letchworth. Whereas, cattle injected with the vaccine and then challenged with the large dose became infected with BHV-1.

Letchworth's goal is for the vaccine to be readily available to producers and easy to administer. He envisions a modified feeder so when an animal puts its head in to feed, a dose of the vaccine would be sprayed into the air above the feed.

For more information contact Geoffrey Letchworth, University of Wisconsin-Madison, at 608/262-8616 (gjl@ahabs.wisc.edu).

Implant strategies caused significant differences in carcass characteristics in a study conducted at South Dakota State University.

Using yearling steers, researchers evaluated the effects of no implant, Synovex Plus, Revalor-S or Ralgro implanted day one, and re-implanted on day 56 with Revalor-S (Ralgro-Revalor-S) on carcass traits.

The Ralgro-Revalor-S group had a higher marbling score and a greater percent of cattle grading choice compared to the other implanted cattle.

Implant strategies did not differ in cumulative average daily gain, dry matter intake or feed efficiency.

For more information contact Sheri Bierman, South Dakota State University, at 605/688-5165.

Idaho researchers are beefing up rainbow trout with a cattle hormone. In two studies, rainbow trout given bovine somatotropin (BST) grew nearly 70% faster and 50% more efficiently than untreated fish.

BST is the growth hormone used to boost milk production in dairy cattle and is being studied for its growth stimulation in beef cattle.

The research suggests that fish farmers may look to BST for the same reasons as beef and dairy producers: faster, leaner and more efficient production.

For more information contact Gerald Schelling, University of Idaho, at 208/885-7310.

Computer-simulated animals may help researchers design livestock facilities, eliminating the expense of using real animals, says University of Maryland researcher Ray Stricklin.

The simulations are called "animats" and are programmed with data from real animals. Researchers learn from the animats' virtual experiences.

Researchers have already developed animats that move, compete for social dominance, and are motivated to obtain food, resting sites and water. They are now developing an animat that learns its behavior from spatial and movement data collected on live pigs, according to Stricklin.

As computers and animats become more sophisticated, researchers hope to use them to develop livestock housing and handling facilities that would be more comfortable, more productive, and, therefore, more profitable for producers, Stricklin says.

For more information contact Ray Stricklin, University of Maryland, at 301/405-1382.