Dry, pregnant beef cows grazing low quality warm season pastures in late summer, fall, and early winter are usually supplemented with high protein supplements. It would be desirable to feed the supplement at less frequent intervals (than daily) to reduce labor, equipment, and gasoline costs. A study done at OSU in the 1990's has indicated that cows fed the same amount of total 40% crude protein supplement either 3 or 6 days per week perform similarly. Interestingly enough, similar research was reported almost 40 years ago with similar results. Below in table 1 are the key results of this experiment. Cows were fed 21 pounds of protein cubes per week from November 17 until March 9. From March 10 to April 22, cows were fed 28 pounds of supplement per week and only 17.5 pounds per week from April 23 to May 15. Cows were provided free choice grass hay when snow or ice covered the standing forage, or when the temperature was less than 40 degrees and raining or was less than 25 degrees at noon. Cows were exposed to bulls for 75 days beginning May 17 and palpated for pregnancy 90 days after the breeding season. In this trial, the cattle performance was virtually identical and was not affected by the interval at which the cows were fed the protein supplement.
Table 1. Influence of supplementation interval on body weight, body condition score, and pregnancy rate of beef cows. (Wettemann and Lusby, 1994 OSU Animal Science Research Report)
Interval feeding will be successful when feeding a high protein supplement in a relatively small package. In situations where forage is limited and large amounts (5 pounds or more of supplement per day) of high energy supplements must be fed, then daily feeding is still necessary.