Beef cattle calves digestion of forage matter

Asked January 31, 2016, 2:32 PM EST

What is the age beef calves can begin to fully utilize range forage matter?


1 Response

Calves can start utilizing range forage by 60-90 days of age. However, they will still consume a significant proportion of their diet as milk during this time. If they're weaned, calves can start utilizing a diet of forage/grain at 120-150 days of age. With that said, the diet must be of adequate quality to meet acceptable performance of weaned calves. In other words, a diet of strictly low quality range forage is not recommended for growing cattle; performance will be poor without supplementation. In contrast, mature cows and bulls can utilize low quality range forage much more efficiently because they are not growing, have a lower nutrient requirement, and have a fully developed, much larger rumen. It's also important to remember that forage quality on range typically varies widely over the season. On cool season rangeland, quality is high when vegetation is actively growing in spring and early summer and declines rapidly following summer dormancy. Therefore, nutrient requirements might be met during the early season and not during the summer and fall.