Prolific rains during the spring and summer have produced a wealth of forages perfect for stocker calves. As summer heat builds and forage plants progress to a reproductive state, the nutritional value of many grasses will begin to decrease. Producers who wish to capitalize on late summer pasture may consider the Oklahoma Gold or Oklahoma Super Gold programs to boost gains that may otherwise begin to falter. 

The Oklahoma Gold and Super Gold programs were developed for stocker cattle grazing low quality forage during late summer and fall. As hot, dry conditions develop, the nutrient quality of native range will decline. Pastures that may have boasted 10 – 15% protein in April and May are likely now 5 - 8% protein. Depending on weight, growing cattle (500-750 lbs.) require a mini- mum of 10% dietary protein. Diets deficient in protein lead to decreased forage intake and reduced digestibility which are both detrimental to performance. The Oklahoma Gold and Supergold supplementation programs are designed to make up for the amount of protein that is lacking from this forage. 

 

Shade for livestock 

Livestock experience heat from several different sources. They produce their own heat through metabolism and through movement, but it is the environmental heat that can be detrimental this time of year. One thing we can do as caretakers is to make sure that the animals have plenty of shade. 

Shade can be provided by either natural surrounds, man-made permanent shelters, or man-made portable shelters. Cattle seem to prefer natural shade. Trees are very effective at blocking solar radiation and the evaporating moisture from the leaves help to cool the shade. The down falls to natural shade are that it is not normally right where you need it and after a lot of cattle congregating under the tree it could cause erosion that could possibly kill the tree. You can plant trees to provide shade in the future but plan its location and usefulness carefully. 

Man-made permanent shelters provide great shade, but most of our permanent shelters are enclosed barns that allow little to no air flow. To help combat heat, the shelter needs to be well ventilated and allow the wind to flow through it. 

Man-made portable shelters can provide an advantage over the other two options in the fact that it can be moved from pasture to pasture or even moved within the pasture. The biggest problem with the portable shelter is high winds that can be encountered and keeping the shelter firmly on the ground. 

If the shade is not big enough to provide adequate shade for everyone, then you may have only com- pounded the heat problem. Animals will work their way to the shade and as they stand closer and closer together, they begin to share body heat and only make the situation worse. Some recommendations are to provide approximately 15-20 square feet per 400-pound calf, provide 30-40 square feet per beef cow, and provide 40-50 square feet per dairy cow. 

Providing adequate, well ventilated shade has shown to improve weight gains, herd fertility, and milk pro- duction. If you have any question about shade structures, please contact your local OSU Extension office. 

 

What is the Oklahoma Gold program?

Oklahoma Gold is a supplementation program designed to provide stocker cattle 1 lb. per head of a 38% protein supplement on a daily basis. Some feed sources appropriate for this program include: soybean meal, dried distillers’ grains, corn gluten feed, and cottonseed meal. Complementing a low protein forage with a high protein supplement is the goal here and so high starch feeds such as rolled corn should be avoided. 

 

What is the Oklahoma Super Gold program? 

Oklahoma Supergold is a supplementation program designed to provide 2.5 lbs. of a 25% protein supplement to stocker cattle. Diets formulated for this program should contain high quality protein ingredients utilized in the Oklahoma Gold program in addition to some high energy and low starch ingredients such as soybean hulls or wheat middling’s. 

It is important to keep in mind that adequate forage is a requirement to reap the benefits from these programs. The Oklahoma Gold and Supergold programs are not designed to replace forage. In instances where forage is short, alternative diets should be considered. 

 

Cattle performance 

Based on OSU research trials, healthy growing calves should gain approximately 0.4 lbs. per head daily on the Gold program and 0.7 lbs. per head daily on the Supergold program. The inclusion of an ionophore such as Bovatec or Rumensin fed at a rate of 100- 200 mg/lb. in the supplement will further boost gains by 0.2 lbs. per head daily. The Oklahoma Gold and Super Gold programs also work very well for preconditioning replacement heifers. Heifers must reach an acceptable weight before reaching puberty and both programs fed in coordination with an ionophore will assist in achieving this. 

Prior to utilizing these supplementation strategies, producers should put the “pencil-to-the-paper” to determine the value of these supplementation strategies. The return on additional weight gain must be analyzed for each particular weight class and may change according to market prices. Take time to shop around for supplements options to get the most economical price. 

Contact your local county OSU Extension Educator for questions regarding supplementation strategies and their value in your beef herd this summer.

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