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Brahman-type cattle may require less nitrogen, could reduce nitrogen emissions

03 August 2020

A recently funded Texas A&M AgriLife study will determine differences in nitrogen requirements between Brahman type cattle and other cattle. Measuring these differences may allow cattle producers to reduce the protein in cattle diets by allowing for precise diet formulations.

“Implementation of precision diet formulation in cattle diets can be the answer to producing a more affordable beef with a smaller environmental impact,” said Tryon Wickersham, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research, scientist and associate professor in the Department of Animal Science in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“We believe development of feeding systems that account for differences in cattle type will reduce over and under supplementation, allowing us to optimize growth, reproduction and animal health outcomes,” Wickersham said. “Additionally, precise feeding systems will reduce the environmental footprint of beef production.”

Different cattle subspecies, different nutritional needs
Cattle are divided into two subspecies, Bos taurus taurus, which generally have no hump and originate from Europe, and Bos taurus indicus, generally having a hump and originating in India.

“These cattle were selected under very different conditions and have developed the capacity to thrive under different conditions,” Wickersham said. “These adaptations affect the way they perform and have not been well accounted for in current beef cattle feeding systems, increasing the environmental and economic cost associated with beef production.”

Wickersham’s study is designed to address the relationship between urea recycling, microbial nitrogen capture and supplementation strategies in both types of cattle consuming low-quality forage.

“Cattle provide a valuable service to society by converting low-quality sources of nutrients such as grasses, crop residues and byproducts into beef, which is a high-quality source of amino acids, minerals and vitamins,” Wickersham said.

“However, there is room to improve the efficiency of this conversion to reduce the environmental effects of beef production and increase consumer access to these vital nutrients,” he said, “thus allowing more people to consume a diet meeting their requirements.”

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