Pelleting distillers grains, artificial insemination (AI) vs. natural service, the effects of corn processing and particle size, animal temperament and hay bale-binding material are among the beef cattle topics North Dakota State University researchers studied in the past year.

In the study of AI and natural service, the researchers from the NDSU Animal Sciences Department and Central Grasslands Research Extension Center near Streeter, along with colleagues from the University of Florida, compared the growth, attainment of puberty and pregnancy rate of heifers born to dams exposed to the two breeding systems. The researchers found that while heifers born to dams exposed to AI were heavier at birth, by 189 days of age, they weighed the same as heifers born to dams exposed to natural-service bulls.

The research also indicated that pregnancy rates were similar among the heifers born from the two breeding systems. In addition, AI did not increase the number of heifers that became cyclic, or pregnant, early, compared with heifers born to dams exposed to natural service-bulls.

Researchers in the Animal Sciences Department conducted the hay bale-binding material study because of concerns about the effects on cattle if they ingest excessive amounts of net wrap. The researchers found that the three types of net wrapping and the biodegradable twine they evaluated had not disappeared 14 days after cattle ate hay with those wrappings. However, more than 70 percent of the sisal twine they evaluated did disappear during that 14-day period.

“Because none of the plastic products disappeared during our study interval, the potential exists for these products to build up in the rumen through time and possibly lead to associated complications,” says NDSU Extension Service beef cattle specialist Carl Dahlen, one of the researchers. “Whether complications occur as a result of net wrap consumed likely is based on the volume of the product consumed and the ability of the plastic particles to move through the digestive tract.”

Researchers from NDSU’s Carrington Research Extension Center and Northern Crops Institute on campus teamed up for the distillers grains study. They said that while pelleting distillers grains with solubles can make them easier to transport, they don’t pellet well as a single ingredient. However, the researchers found that adding field pea flour to the distillers grains improves their pelleting quality and nutritional value.

In the corn processing study, researchers from NDSU’s Hettinger and Carrington Research Extension Centers were hoping to help answer the questions of how much processing is necessary and when to process to obtain optimum feed efficiency and dry-matter intake. The researchers found that when forages make up more than 15.5 percent of the diet on a dry-matter basis, corn should be processed by dry rolling or fine grinding to achieve a particle size of about 1.35 to 5.5 millimeters.

Animal Sciences Department researchers found that temperament did not have any significant correlation with feeding behavior or growth performance, but it did have significant correlations with certain carcass characteristics, such as hot carcass weight, marbling and yield grade.

“Temperament in cattle is an important issue in the cattle industry,” says Gerald Stokka, the study’s lead researcher, Extension livestock stewardship specialist and veterinarian, and associate professor. “Easily excitable cattle are potentially dangerous to themselves and personnel handling them. Also, research has shown that excitable cattle tend to have lower-quality carcasses than calmer cattle.”

For more information about these studies, as well as other NDSU beef cattle research, see the “2014 North Dakota Beef Report”.