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Phosphorus nutrition and management – overcoming constraints to wider adoption

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Dixon, R.M., Coates, D.B., Holmes, W.E., English, B. H. and Rolfe, J. W. (2011) Phosphorus nutrition and management – overcoming constraints to wider adoption. In: NBRUC Conference, 3-4 August 2011., Darwin, Australia.



The importance of phosphorus nutrition for cattle grazing northern Australian rangelands has been well documented and demonstrated. Phosphorus is clearly one of the most important nutritional deficiencies, within the limitations of potential metabolizable energy intakes, of grazing cattle in the seasonally dry tropics. Nevertheless it appears that only a small proportion of cattle grazing phosphorus deficient pastures are supplemented or otherwise managed to alleviate phosphorus deficiency. Estimated requirements for dietary phosphorus by various classes of cattle grazing tropical pastures have recently been revised (CSIRO 2007). The development of faecal near infrared spectroscopy (F.NIRS) allows the routine estimation of metabolizable energy and nitrogen concentrations in the diet, and thus the potential productivity, of cattle grazing northern rangelands.
The concentration of phosphorus in the diet of grazing cattle can be estimated from the concentration of phosphorus in the faeces, at least in cattle not fed phosphorus supplements.
Combining estimates of diet metabolizable energy, nitrogen and phosphorus allows estimation whether current needs of the animal are supplied by the diet. Phosphorus-replete cattle have substantial body reserves of phosphorus which can be mobilized, especially in late pregnancy and lactation, to alleviate a dietary deficiency. However, these body reserves need to be replenished in late lactation or post-lactation if mobilization occurs each year. Diagnosis of subclinical phosphorus deficiency in grazing cattle, and prediction of animal responses to phosphorus supplements is difficult. In growing cattle the concentration of inorganic phosphorus in blood (Pi), in the late wet or early dry season, combined with information on diet metabolizable energy and nitrogen concentrations obtained by F.NIRS, provides the most reliable test. In pregnant or lactating cows measurements of faecal phosphorus concentration and F.NIRS provide the best estimate of whether phosphorus intake meets the current needs of the animal. However, estimates of adequacy of phosphorus supply need to also consider possible mobilization of body phosphorus reserves.
Indicative responses to provision of phosphorus supplements by cattle grazing pastures ranging from marginal to acute deficiency are summarized. Economic evaluation of benchmark enterprises where cattle are expected to be phosphorus deficient indicate that phosphorus supplementation is highly cost-effective. Major obstacles to more widespread adoption of phosphorus supplementation appear to be lack of knowledge and appreciation by managers of the phosphorus status of their cattle, lack of appreciation of the cost-effectiveness of a phosphorus supplementation particularly for some classes of cattle, and the practical difficulties in implementing phosphorus supplementation during the wet season.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Business groups:Animal Science
Subjects:Animal culture > Cattle
Animal culture > Rangelands. Range management. Grazing
Animal culture > Feeds and feeding. Animal nutrition
Live Archive:10 Dec 2020 03:10
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:46

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