ONA REPORT

published in

THE FLORIDA CATTLEMAN AND LIVESTOCK JOURNAL


January 2017

Using RFID Technology to Assess Factors
Impacting Variation in Free-Choice Mineral Intake among Grazing Cattle

by John Athington


For questions or comments regarding this publication contact: Dr. John Arthington, University of Florida, IFAS


In the June Ona Report, faculty from the Range Cattle Research and Education Center presented an overview of their current research efforts and accomplishments with a special highlight on topics directly related to the FCA Research Priority List. In that article, we introduced a new technology developed using funding support from the 2015 FCA Beef Enhancement Grant. As a result of this support, our team constructed RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology to accurately assess the frequency of individual animal visits to a mineral feeder. Using this technology, we have completed, two initial studies aimed at investigating potential breed differences in free-choice mineral intake behavior among Bos indicus vs. Bos taurus. A summary of these data are provided in this Ona Report.

Two observational studies were conducted at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center (Ona, FL) to evaluate behavior differences due to breed on the consumption of salt-based, free-choice mineral supplements.  In both studies, cattle were allocated to a single “Jiggs” bermudagrass pasture with access to a single RFID-equipped mineral feeder containing a salt-based mineral supplement in amounts to ensure free-choice consumption (9.1, 4.0, and 62.5% Ca, P, and NaCl, and 1,750, 60.0, and 5,000 mg/kg Cu, Se, and Zn, respectively).  Supplement intake was evaluated throughout both studies by calculation of mineral disappearance. The distribution of visits were reported in 8 h intervals; morning = 05:00 to 12:59, afternoon = 13:00 to 20:59, and night = 21:00 to 04:59.

In the first study, 12 yearling heifers representing 3 breeds were utilized (4/breed; Brahman, Braford, and Ona White Angus) over a 47 day evaluation (June to July, 2016).  There was a tendency for Brahman heifers to visit the mineral feeder more often than Ona White Angus (P = 0.08) and Braford heifers (P = 0.11). There were no differences in the frequency of mineral feeder visits between Braford and Ona White Angus heifers (P = 0.90). As a total of visits, the Brahman heifers visited the feeder 516 times (2.74 visits/heifer daily), while the Braford and Ona White Angus heifers made 445 and 439 visits, respectively (2.37 and 2.34 total visits/heifer daily).  

When assessing mineral feeder visits by breed and time of day, Brahman and Braford heifers had a greater (P ≤ 0.05) number of visits to the feeder in the mornings when compared to Ona White Angus heifers. There were 223, 197, and 134 visits, respectively, for Brahman, Braford, and Ona White Angus heifers, representing 1.19, 1.05, and 0.71 morning visits/heifer daily.   

For the afternoon period, Brahman heifers had the greatest (P ≤ 0.01) number of visits when compared to the other two breeds. There were no differences (P = 0.55) for the number of afternoon visits between Braford and Ona White Angus heifers.  There were 233, 172, and 152 visits, respectively, for the Brahman, Ona White Angus and Braford heifers, representing 1.24, 0.91, and 0.81 afternoon visits/heifer daily.  

For the night period, Ona White Angus heifers had a greater (P ≤ 0.01) number of visits compared to Brahman heifers, and tended (P = 0.10) to have a greater number of visits compared to Braford heifers. There were no differences (P = 0.22) among Brahman and Braford heifers for the number of night visits to the mineral feeder. There were 133, 91, and 60 visits, respectively, for White Angus, Braford and Brahman, representing 0.71, 0.48, and 0.32 night visits/heifer daily.

The preferences within breed for each period were also evaluated. Braford heifers had a greater (P ≤ 0.05) number of visits to the mineral feeder in the morning versus night with no differences between morning and afternoon periods (P = 0.40) or afternoon and night periods (P = 0.16). Brahman heifers visited the mineral feeder visited the mineral feeder more often (P ≤ 0.01) in the morning and afternoon versus night period.  Ona White Angus heifers visited the mineral feeder at the same frequency (P = 0.32) throughout the day.

Mineral supplement intake was recorded and calculated by the rate of disappearance. During the evaluation period, mineral supplement intake ranged from 38 to 130 g/head daily (1.3 to 4.6 oz), which resulted in an average of 79 g/head daily (2.8 oz). These data illustrate the expected variation in free-choice mineral intake.

In the second study, mineral feeder visits of mature Black Angus (n = 15) and Brahman (n = 19) cows were recorded from October to December 2016, resulting in a total of 449 readings over a 35-day evaluation. Visits to the reader were reported as the weekly average for each breed in each period of the day. Brahman cows had a greater (P ≤ 0.01) total number of visits to the mineral feeder when compared to the Black Angus cows. Brahman cows visited the mineral feeder 335 times, while the Black Angus cows made 114 visits to the mineral feeder, resulting in 3.50 and 1.50 visits/cow weekly for Black Angus and Brahman cows, respectively.


 For the morning and night period, there were no effects (P ≥ 0.25) of cow breed for  the number of mineral feeder visits (0.70 and 0.35, and 1.10 vs. 0.70 visits/cow weekly for Brahman and Black Angus cows in the morning and night periods, respectively). However, for the afternoon period, Brahman cows had a greater (P ≤ 0.01) number of visits to the mineral feeder compared to the Black Angus cows (1.70 and 0.45 visits/cow weekly, respectively).


The preferences within breed for each period were also evaluated. Brahman cows made a greater (P ≤ 0.07) number of visits to the mineral feeder in the afternoon versus the morning and night periods, while Black Angus cows visited the mineral feeder at the same frequency (P > 0.32) throughout the day.


Mineral supplement intake ranged from 15 to 54 g/head daily (0.52 to 1.90 oz), resulting in an average voluntary intake of 30 g/head daily (1.09 oz).  In this study, average voluntary mineral intake did not reach the targeted amount of 50 g daily (1.75 oz).

In summary, these data illustrate unique differences in free-choice mineral intake behavior among Brahman and Angus cattle.  Throughout the day, Brahman heifers and mature cows make more frequent visits to the mineral feeder compared to Angus cattle. In addition, Brahman cattle appear to favor afternoon visits to the mineral feeder when compared to morning and night periods. Mineral feeder visits among Angus cows and heifers appear to be more equally distributed throughout the day. In current studies, we will seek to determine if these behavioral intake differences impact overall mineral status with the goal to establish mineral nutrition management protocols that best address the requirements of grazing cattle in Florida.

***

Join us on January 20, at 11:00 a.m. for the first of seven 2017 'Ona Program Highlights' presented by the UF/IFAS Range Cattle Research and Education Center (RCREC). The first highlight will be provided by John Arthington, a professor of animal sciences who specializes in beef cattle nutrition and management.

There are two participation options. To participate by webinar register online at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5754821149224688900.  To join us in person for this presentation call 863-735-1314 to register and meet us at the Grazinglands Education Building at the RCREC at 10:50 a.m. on 1/20.

To learn more about John and his program visit our website: http://rcrec-ona.ifas.ufl.edu.


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