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Litter-Corn Mixture Boosts Cattle Weight Gain / March 31, 1998 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Litter-Corn Mixture Boosts Cattle Weight Gain

By Tara Weaver
March 31, 1998

Feeding a composted litter-corn mixture to cattle on tall fescue pasture could improve weight gains and profits for ranchers, Agricultural Research Service scientists report.

The mixture is safe for cattle if it's composted at 140 degrees F, a temperature that kills pathogens for at least 20 days, according to ARS scientists at the Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center, Booneville, Ark.

Tall fescue, a cool-season perennial grass, grows abundantly in the mid- to upper southern parts of the United States and holds up well under heavy grazing and other poor field conditions.

Many producers don't like growing cattle to graze tall fescue because it can be infected with a fungus--called an endophyte--that produces toxins that can cause health problems for the animals.

In a recent study, ARS scientist Glen Aiken found that feeding a litter-corn mixture at a 1-to-1 ratio to cattle dilutes the endotoxins in endophyte-infected tall fescue and increases daily weight gains per animal by 79 percent and live weight gain (pounds- per-acre gain over the grazing season) by 69 percent. This enables producers to give a less expensive feed to cattle and get the same performance from infected and non- infected fescue.

The researchers warn that feeding cattle a litter-corn mixture on infected fescue pasture can be cost-effective only if market prices for cattle are high enough to offset corn costs.

Scientific contact: Glen Aiken, ARS Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center, Booneville, Ark., (501) 675-3834, fax (501) 675-2940,

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