Oklahoma Gold, SuperGold Programs Beneficial
by Donald Stotts

STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma State University’s Oklahoma Gold and SuperGold programs unlock energy in late-summer forage by providing a small amount of protein and a feed additive to improve forage utilization.

"Economically, forage is an inexpensive feed source for cattle; producers need to optimize use of this resource as much as possible," said David Lalman, OSU Cooperative Extension beef cattle specialist.

A key part of forage use is that cattle perform to a level consistent with the most limiting nutrient in their diet.

For example, a 550-pound steer gaining 1.5 pounds per day requires a diet containing a minimum \ of 10% crude protein on a dry matter basis.

Unfortunately, protein concentration rapidly declines below this point after the month of May.

"A deficiency in dietary protein causes dramatic reductions in forage intake and digestibility," Lalman said. "As a consequence, stocker cattle gains can fall from performance highs of around 3 pounds per day during the spring and early summer to less than 1 pound per day through the late summer grazing period."

In several OSU research trials conducted with prairie hay harvested in mid summer, forage intake was increased by 20% to 30% while digestibility was improved by 15% to 20% when cattle were administered a pound of 38% to 41% protein supplement.

"Of course, this assumes that forage availability is adequate; a small quantity of high protein supplement will not improve weight gain if pastures are overgrazed," Lalman said.

The Oklahoma Gold program uses a low-cost, high-protein supplement with an ionophore to promote efficient gains on summer grass. The ionophore increases cattle’s ability to process forage, adding about 0.2 pound per day to cattle grazing dry, summer native range.

"Assuming an average response of 0.6 pound per day from the protein supplement and ionophore combined, and an average value of gain of $0.55, the total increase in revenue would be around $0.33 per day," Lalman said.

In addition, assuming a cost of $0.10 per pound for the supplement and a 1 pound per day feeding rate, the added income from the supplementation program would be $0.23 per head per day.

Growth promoting implants can further increase weight gain by approximately 12%. Currently, most of the implants approved for grazing cattle cost around $0.90 to $1.50 over the retail counter.

"The technology often generates a tremendous return per dollar invested, although producers need to make sure that cattle are not grazed considerably longer than the life of the implant or some benefit will be lost," Lalman said.

Active life of growth promoting implants for grazing cattle range from 70 to 200 days. If cattle are grazed longer than the expected active life of an implant, a second implant near the middle of the grazing period is usually recommended.

OSU’s SuperGold program adds about 1.5 pounds of wheat midds to a pound of
Oklahoma Gold feed. This results in 2.5 pounds of supplement that is 25% protein.

"While Oklahoma Gold can’t be beat for efficiency, SuperGold is targeted for lighter cattle that need the extra feed energy or are in situations where forage is more limiting," Lalman said.

Producers need to implement a sound animal health program as well.

"Effective, economical internal and external parasite control will further improve animal performance and the efficiency of forage utilization," Lalman said. "Management really is the key to offsetting nutrient value declines through the summer grazing period."