A little canola meal goes a long way on heifer gains

Positive results of feeding canola meal to cattle is not new — the dairy industry is already a big fan of the protein supplement.

But ongoing beef cattle research out of Saskatchewan is looking at the impact of supplementing heifers on pasture and how the practice might extend grazing sites in lower grass production years.

It’s a win-win-win for the province, pastures, and producers, as it’s estimated that Western Canada could produce 50 per cent more canola meal over current levels in the next few years. All that meal needs a home.

Dwayne Summach, livestock and feed extension specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, has been part of the ADOPT (agricultural demonstration of practices and technologies) trials measuring the impact of meal on growing heifers.

When fed as a supplement, bred heifers gained about eight tenths of a pound a day, which is not a huge number; however the heifers not being fed canola meal actually lost about eight tenths of a pound a day. That’s a pretty huge difference, he says, especially considering the small amount being fed. (more below)

Summach says that there’s a few things to consider when considering feeding canola meal. One, of course, is cost of the product and to feeding it out. In the case of this trial, heifer received meal only every second day and with salt to limit intake. They also were not fed any added energy with the meal, which is something that may be assessed in the future.

“Can we supplement and keep them on pasture for less than we can feed them in the dry lot for?” he says.

Gains are one measure of improvement, but Summach says there’s also the consideration of extending pastures with the supplemental feeding that needs to enter the cost equation, too.

“I think it’s going to become a tool in the toolbox to help extend the grazing season. It will not be something that we can say we’re going to do this and it’s going to take our bred heifers to December 15 [but] it’s going to be one of those tools that we can use. If it can get us the next two or three weeks pretty easy, it might even get us an extra two months,” he says.

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