Large round bale feeder design affects hay utilization and cow behavior, say Michigan State University researchers.

Beef cows in this study were allotted to one of eight pens with four feeder designs: cone, ring, trailer or cradle. All feeder types provide approximately 37cm (14.5 in.) of linear feeder space/animal. Alfalfa and orchardgrass round bales were weighed and sampled before feeding.

Hay that fell onto the concrete surrounding the feeder was considered waste and was collected and sampled daily. At the end of a seven-day period, each feeder type was assigned to a different pen for a second seven-day period.

  • Dry matter hay waste was 3.5%, 6.1%, 11.4% and 14.6% for the cone, ring, trailer and cradle feeders, respectively.

  • Calculated dry matter intake of hay ranged from 1.8 to 2.0% of body weight and was not different among feeder type.

  • Percentage of organic matter, neutral detergent fiber (NDF), acid detergent fiber (ADF) and crude protein were all lower and acid detergent lignin was higher in the recovered waste compared to the hay fed.

  • Cows feeding from the cradle feeder had nearly three times the agonistic interactions (behaviors resulting in the displacement of another cow from the feeder) and four times the frequency of entrances compared to cows feeding from the other feeder types.

  • Feed losses were positively correlated with agonistic interactions, frequency of regular and irregular entrances and feeder occupancy rate.

  • Use of the ring feeder resulted in nearly twice the amount of waste compared to the cone feeder, whereas the trailer and cradle feeders resulted in four times the waste per animal compared to the cone design.

  • Hay waste, as a percentage of hay disappearance, was less for the cone and ring feeders compared to the trailer and cradle feeders.

  • Cattle eating from the cone and ring feeders would have been able to more closely mimic a grazing position than those eating from the trailer and cradle feeder would.

  • Feed losses were similar for bales stored inside (12.4%) or covered with plastic outside (13.4 to 14.5%), but were higher for bales stored uncovered outside (24.7%).

  • Slanted bar designs encourage animals to keep their heads in the feeder opening by providing some constraint.

Daniel Buskirk, Dept. of Animal Science, 1290 Anthony Hall, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, 48824-1225,

Effect of early weaning on the performance of three-year-old heifers, first-calf heifers and calves reared in the subtropics was the focus of a study conducted at the University of Florida.

This study was designed to investigate the effectiveness of early weaning fall-born calves on heifer and calf performance in Florida. Three-year-old Braford and Brahman x Angus first-calf heifers were assigned to one of two treatments — early-weaned (January) and normal-weaned (August).

Following early weaning, all first-calf heifers were returned to bahiagrass pastures. Early-weaned calves were maintained on annual ryegrass. Normal-weaned calves remained with their dams on bahiagrass.

  • Early-weaned calves had a greater average daily gain (ADG) in year 1, but a lower ADG in year 2 compared with normal-weaned calves.

  • Early weaning resulted in heavier first-calf heifers with greater body condition scores at the time of normal weaning (August).

  • Heifers with early-weaned calves had a higher pregnancy rate during both years than normal weaned heifers.

  • Early-weaned first-calf heifers also had a lower calving interval in year 2 (384 vs. 404 days).

These data suggest that early weaning will improve body condition of first-calf heifers resulting in an increased pregnancy rate. Early-weaned calves maintained on winter ryegrass provided producers with the ability to optimize early-weaned calf performance, while capitalizing on low cost of gain and favorable spring markets.

Research by Arthington and Kalmbacher, Univ. of Florida. Compiled by Tom R. Troxel, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, University of Arkansas, Little Rock, AR, Phone 501/ 671-2000.

The McGregor Bovine Genomics Project, designed to identify specific genes that influence fertility, feed efficiency and growth, is underway at Texas A&M University.

Through embryo transfer, researchers will produce 400 animals in 10 families for the study. They will collect DNA from each animal, as well as its parents and grandparents, and also document phenotypic information from each animal.

Steer calves are being studied for feed efficiency, and heifer calves will be studied for fertility and cow productivity. After the genes are mapped, researchers will pool information from the human, mouse, rat and bovine genome sequencing projects to establish gene functions and look for associations between genes and phenotypic traits.

By last February, researchers had collected 222 frozen embryos, with 88 confirmed pregnancies. Embryo transfer continued throughout the spring. A group of 256 recipient cows have been gathered for use in this project.

This spring, the first group of calves was born, and a Web-based database was built to maintain the project data. Researchers also completed a feeding regime pilot test and established the feeding protocols. A full report on the results of this study will be available by next spring.

For more information on the McGregor Bovine Genomics Project, contact the Texas A&M Beef Cattle office at 979/845-6931.

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