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Diet quality, liveweight change and responses to N supplements by cattle grazing Astrebla spp. (Mitchell grass) pastures in the semi-arid tropics in north-western Queensland, Australia

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Dixon, R. M., Sullivan, M. T., O’Connor, S. N. and Mayer, R. J. (2022) Diet quality, liveweight change and responses to N supplements by cattle grazing Astrebla spp. (Mitchell grass) pastures in the semi-arid tropics in north-western Queensland, Australia. The Rangeland Journal, 44 (2). pp. 97-113.

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Article Link(s): https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ21056

Publisher URL: https://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/RJ21056

Abstract

Experiments during 4 years examined the diets selected, growth, and responses to N supplements by Bos indicus-cross steers grazing summer-rainfall semi-arid C4 Astrebla spp. (Mitchell grass) rangelands at a site in north-western Queensland, Australia. Paddock groups of steers were not supplemented (T-NIL), or were fed a non-protein N (T-NPN) or a cottonseed meal (T-CSM) supplement. In Experiment 1, young and older steers were measured during the late dry season (LDS) and the rainy season (RS), while steers in Experiments 2–4 were measured through the annual cycle. Because of severe drought the measurements during Experiment 3 annual cycle were limited to T-NIL steers. Pasture availability and species composition were measured twice annually. Diet was measured at 1–2 week intervals using near infrared spectroscopy of faeces (F.NIRS). Annual rainfalls (1 July–30 June) were 42–68% of the long-term average (471 mm), and the seasonal break ranged from 17 December to 3 March. There was wide variation in pasture, diet (crude protein (CP), DM digestibility (DMD), the CP to metabolisable energy (CP/ME) ratio) and steer liveweight change (LWC) within and between annual cycles. High diet quality and steer liveweight (LW) gain during the RS declined progressively through the transition season (TS) and early dry season (EDS), and often the first part of the LDS. Steers commenced losing LW as the LDS progressed. In Experiments 1 and 2 where forbs comprised ≤15 g/kg of the pasture sward, steers selected strongly for forbs so that they comprised 117–236 g/kg of the diet. However, in Experiments 3 and 4 where forbs comprised substantial proportions of the pasture (173–397 g/kg), there were comparable proportions in the diet (300–396 g/kg). With appropriate stocking rates the annual steer LW gains were acceptable (121–220 kg) despite the low rainfall. The N supplements had no effect on steer LW during the TS and the EDS, but usually reduced steer LW loss by 20–30 kg during the LDS. Thus during low rainfall years in Mitchell grass pastures there were substantial LW responses by steers to N supplements towards the end of the dry season when the diet contained c. <58 g CP/kg or c. <7.0 g CP/MJ ME.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Keywords:dietary protein, digestibility, faeces, forbs, grazing, near infrared spectroscopy, protein supplements, rangelands, steers.
Subjects:Animal culture > Cattle
Animal culture > Rangelands. Range management. Grazing
Animal culture > Feeds and feeding. Animal nutrition
Agriculture > By region or country > Australia > Queensland
Deposited On:04 Nov 2022 05:10
Last Modified:04 Nov 2022 05:10

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