Submitted to: Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/15/1998
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: . PP. 85 - 93. Interpretive Summary: Winter feeding generally accounts for over 50% of the expense of raising calves for cow/calf producers in the Pacific Northwest. We conducted a study to determine the efficiency of different qualities of alfalfa hay as a protein supplement for cows on a low quality hay base diet. alfalfa supplementation improved intake and digestibility of the base diet, which improved cow body weight and condition compared to nonsupplemented cows. However, quality of alfalfa hay did not dramatically affect body weight or condition when fed on an equal protein basis. For alfalfa hay between 16 and 20% crude protein, producers should calculate the cost per unit or protein and use that cost in decisions concerning the preferred hay quality.
Technical Abstract: Three experiments were conducted to evaluate the influence of supplemental alfalfa quality on beef cattle consuming low-quality meadow grass roughages (hays or fall/winter pasture). Experiment 1 used fifteen ruminally-cannulated steers (550 lbs average weight) assigned to the following three treatments: 1) meadow grass hay (5.2 percent CP), no supplement; 2) meadow grass hay plus high-quality alfalfa (18.8 percent CP); and 3) meadow grass hay plus low-quality alfalfa (15.2 percent CP). Experiments 2 and 3 were cow performance studies conducted at Union and Burns, respectively. All three supplementation experiments suggest that alfalfa hay is an effective protein supplement to low-quality roughages. Alfalfa supplementation increased total intake and digestibility. Improvements in intake and digestibility in alfalfa supplemented cows, in turn, led to improved cow body weight and condition when compared to nonsupplemented cows. However, quality of alfalfa did not dramatically effect body weight and (or) body condition changes when fed on an equal protein basis. Thus, alfalfa hay between 15 and 20 percent CP do not differ in value as a supplemental protein source when supplements are fed on an equal protein basis.