Performance and Behavior of Weaned Beef Cattle that Were Fed Tall Fescue Dry Hay or Haylage

Smotherman, Angela
Morgan, Jessica
Johnson, Anna
Lannom, Kayla
Black, Jonathan
Carter, Jessica
Gill, Warren
Johnson, Anna
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Tennessee cattle producers may not understand the real benefits of feeding haylage because research on cattle performance and behavior has not been documented. Therefore, the objective of this experiment was to determine if there were differences in performance and behavior of feeder calves fed Tall Fescue dry hay (hay) or fescue haylage (haylage). The project began on October 20, 2008 and concluded on December 4, 2008. Total of 60 calves were weaned and preconditioned for 40 d prior to the study. Calves were 222 ± 45 d average age on trial and weighed 209.3 ± 13.3 kg. Breed type and sex were evenly distributed across treatments. Four pens of weaned calves including steers and heifers (n = 15 per pen) were used. Half of the calves (2 pens) were fed haylage and the other half (2 pens) were fed hay. Animals were housed in one of four adjacent paddocks with minimal forage available in each paddock. Each paddock included 1 cone-style hay ring and a water trough. Animal performance (weight and Average Daily Gain [ADG]) were monitored for a 45-d feeding period. Behavior was recorded on d 2, 22, and 41 using a live observation using a 5-min scan sampling methodology over four consecutive hours from 1300 to 1600. Active was a defined as a summation of standing and walking. Inactive was defined as lying laterally or lying on their sternum. Time eating (eating) was defined as the summation of time an animal engaged in head inside the hay ring or grazing. Time at drinker (drinker) was defined as head down inside the water tank. Time at licking mineral was defined as head down inside the mineral feeder. Pen was the experimental unit for both the performance and behavior data. Data were analyzed using the PROC GLM of SAS. PDIFF was used to separate differences at a P-value of P < 0.05. There were no (P = 0.96) differences between d-0 weights or during the first 21-d feeding period between treatments (P = 0.96). There were differences (P = 0.0002) in ADG for the two treatments between d 21 to 45. Overall ADG differed (P = 0.03) for calves fed hay (0.23 kg/d) compared to for calves fed haylage (0.11 kg/d). There were no (P > 0.05) differences observed in the cattle behavioral repertoire for treatment or for the day by treatment interactions. In conclusion, reductions in performance were detected when calves were fed haylage compared to hay but their behavioral repertoire did not differ.