Thank goodness its Friday! On Fridays I will post a photo from the ranch and discuss the subject. Take a gander and see if you can guess what we are looking at…

You may have heard that cattle have a digestive system quite unlike ours. They chew their cud and eat all sorts of raw plant materials. They have four stomachs. Just imagine if we had four stomachs. We could eat so much more at family gatherings and on holidays. But we only have a single, simple stomach and that is why we require several different food sources to supply our nutritional requirements.

Cows on the other hand have actual microrganisms living in their rumen (1st stomach) that break down plant materials and allow them to obtain their nutrient requirements from a plant-based diet. When forage availability is decreased, or the quality of the forage is not peak, we need to supplement the cow’s diet with a protein source to feed these microrganisms so they can multiply and do a better job of breaking down these tougher forages. Pictured above is one of these protein sources in the form of lick tub.

In college, I had a professor that hated these molasses filled tubs. He says there was no use for them and other feed sources are better utilized and cost efficient. Let’s just say I’m not gonna argue with him. However, there are two types of these tubs from which we can choose. The difference is the source of protein – Non-protein Nitrogen (urea) or Natural Plant Protein sources.

The urea sourced protein has what we call a “negative associative effect” on forage consumption. This source of protein is broken down quickly in the cow’s rumen and much of the resulting nitrogen is excreted in the urine, resulting in poor (50%) utilization of the nitrogen source. On the other hand natural plant protein sources are degraded in the rumen at a rate that feeds the microrganisms, increases their numbers, and in turn, increases forage digestability. We call this a “postivie associate effect” because the supplement is used efficiently to help breakdown and utilize poor forages. (A very brief explanation here. Believe me. We have multiple courses on cattle nutrition in college and many people still have a hard time grasping the topic).

Anyways, I prefer using the natural plant protein supplements for better efficiency and performance of the cattle, even though these tubs cost more. So think of these molasses  tubs as cow candy. You might be suprised to learn what all is in that brown stuff.

  • Cows eat the supplement by licking. (And often end up with a brown tongue like they just ate a big tootsie roll)
  • The empty tubs make for great back porch garden planters, water tanks, feed buckets, you name it.
  • Fed mostly during the summer and fall months when forage digestability decreases
  • Contain cane molasses, cottonseed meal, soybean meal, soybean oil, along with many mineral sources
  • Producers must consider Energy vs Protein needs before supplementing livestock
  • These feed sources only work in the presence of forage sources (carbohydrate source needed to form proteins)
  • If you really want to get into comparisons here is a great study from Mississippi State
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