What is the nutritional value of King Ranch bluestem for cattle? My grass-fed stocker steers don’t seem to like it. Is shredding it a good idea?
Answer: King Ranch bluestem is a very poor-quality grass. It generally runs about 7% to 10% crude protein, which is too low for stockers to gain on. Its Total Digestible Nutrient level is also very low. In general, most people experience what you have?very low palatability. By shredding it, do you mean chopping it with a flail chopper and leaving it in the field? Or chopping it and feeding it in a feed bunk? Either way, your cattle may eat it better, but they will not gain very well. With grass-fed beef, you want them to gain well in order to marble well. I would not recommend forcing them to eat it if you want your stockers to do well.Are there any other feeding options you have available to you? Although it will take three to four years, with increased soil fertility, coastal Bermuda grass will come back into bluestem pasture and crowd it out. You have to primarily apply increased nitrogen, but you should take a soil test first to understand where you are deficient and then apply nutrients accordingly. To find soil-testing laboratories in your area, consult ATTRA’s Alternative Soil Testing Laboratories database at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/soil_testing/.Other considerations will include how many stockers you are running, their weights, the weight you expect them to finish at, and their breeding.For more information, refer to the following ATTRA publications: Ruminant Nutrition For Graziershttps://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=201This publication provides managers with tools and references to consider biological and climatological variables and make decisions that ensure the ecological and economic viability of a grass-based ruminant livestock operation.Nutrient Cycles in Pastures https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=240This publication provides basic descriptions of pasture nutrient cycles, as well as guidelines for managing pastures to enhance nutrient cycling efficiency for productive forage and livestock growth, soil health, and water quality.Organic and Grass-Finished Beef Cattle Productionhttps://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=193This publication highlights the practices producers are using to provide customers with nutritious food from pasture- and rangeland-based farms and ranches.