Once/day feeding of feedlot cattle might work for you.
In most cattle feedlots, cattle are fed the finishing ration more than once/day. Feeding more often has the assumed benefit that providing fresh feed will stimulate intake and result in improved animal performance. Additionally, many feedlots don't have adequate bunk capacity to hold a 24-hour allotment of feed; thus, multiple feedings are a necessity.
Colorado State University feedlot researchers at the Southeastern Colorado Research Center conducted a study to determine the effects of once, twice and three times/day feeding on finishing-steer performance and carcass traits. Steers were housed in 30 pens of nine head each and were fed a total of 170 days. The once/day feeding treatment was fed at 8 a.m.; twice/day feedings occurred at 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.; and the three times/day steers were fed at 7 and 10 a.m., and 2 p.m. Feed calls were made daily prior to the initial morning feeding.
Interestingly, cattle fed once vs. twice daily had identical performance. Feed intake, daily gain, slaughter and carcass weight, and all other economically important production parameters were not different between steers fed once and those fed twice daily.
Cattle feeders and farmer-feeders who routinely feed twice/day may consider cutting back their feeding schedule to once/day. This could reduce labor, machinery wear and the overall cost of feeding. Some factors to consider before making such a change, however, include bunk capacity, uniformity of the ration mix being delivered to multiple bunks, bunk management to prevent out-of-condition feed, and wintertime feeding conditions.
The study also found that steers fed three times/day consumed more feed and had greater daily gains and heavier slaughter and carcass weights than steers fed once or twice daily. Feed-to-gain, dressing percentage and USDA quality and yield grades were not affected by feeding frequency. In feedlots where once/day feeding isn't feasible, or in commercial feedlots, three/day feeding seems most economical.
Read the full report at http://ansci.colostate.edu/files/research_reports/06ResearchReports/Schutz.pdf.
Minimal health effects associated with transit
Feeder-calf health and performance associated with location within the transport trailer where a calf is housed during transit was studied by Kansas State University Beef Stocker Unit researchers. Twenty-four loads of Southeast-origin steer and bull calves shipped via commercial transport carriers from Tennessee to Kansas over a two-year time period were evaluated during six-week backgrounding periods.
Animals were confined during transit in one of six or eight uniquely identified compartments within the transport trailer. Areas within the trailer were identified as top or bottom deck, and front, middle and rear of each deck. In some instances, the middle section of each deck was divided into front and rear compartments.
Upon arrival, cattle were identified by the specific compartment in which they were transported. Within 24 hours, the calves were processed and weighed. Vaccines were boostered and calves reweighed at about two weeks post arrival; they were weighed again at the end of the six-week backgrounding period.
When the effects of arrival time, gender, load and pen were accounted for, no significant associations were identified between compartment within the transport trailer and the probability of a calf becoming ill and being treated for the first, second or third time or dying from bovine respiratory disease. Daily gain over the entire backgrounding time was also not affected by area within the truck where calves were loaded and transported.
During the time from arrival to revaccination, daily gain was reduced in calves housed in the rear sections of the trailer compared to the more forward sections but this difference disappeared by the end of the study. This led to speculation that airflow within the trailer may not be uniform. Additional research is needed.
Read the full report at http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/library/lvstk2/SRP1010.pdf — page 27.
Scott B. Laudert, Ph.D., is a beef cattle technical consultant and former Kansas State University Extension livestock specialist based in Woodland Park, CO.