When I was attending the TCU Ranch Management Program in the 1970s, Mr. John Merrill referred to basic facts or truths about production biology as "hitching posts" because they don't change. Here's an example: "Any nutrient deficiency will slow digestion, which slows the rate of passage, which reduces intake, which lowers performance." A classic illustration of this usually occurs in summer with stocker cattle grazing warm-season perennial forages. Almost invariably, sometime in July or August, protein content of summer grass drops below the cattle's requirements. Digestion slows, intake is reduced, and daily gains decline.
In the 1980s, researchers at Oklahoma State University focused on this summer slump in stocker cattle performance and came up with the Oklahoma Gold Program. Their trials show that feeding 1 pound of a high protein supplement (38 percent or more) can improve average daily gain (ADG) by 0.4 pounds. This increase in performance is achieved by eliminating the protein deficiency, therefore increasing forage digestibility and intake by 15-20 percent and 20-30 percent, respectively.
They also found that adding an ionophore to the protein supplement at appropriate levels generated an additional response of 0.2 pounds of ADG. On average, gains were increased by 0.6 pounds of ADG by feeding the Oklahoma Gold Program.
So how does that work out economically? Here's how to figure it:
Multiply the value of gain (VOG) for your cattle by the increase in performance using Oklahoma Gold. From that revenue, subtract the cost of the Oklahoma Gold feed on a per head, per day basis. The difference is the net increase (or decrease) in income from the practice.
As an example, your value of gain is 75¢ and you expect a 0.6 pound increase from feeding Oklahoma Gold (75¢ * 0.6 = 45¢ additional revenue per day). Now, assume the feed costs $260 per ton or 13¢ per lb of feed, which is the cost per head per day. The added income from the practice is 32¢ per head per day (45¢ - 13¢ = 32¢).
The Oklahoma Gold Program only works when cattle have adequate forage available to them. Oklahoma Gold has been profitable virtually every summer since OSU rolled it out in the 1980s.
Note: Dr. Ryan Reuter has developed a calculator on our Web site to figure VOG. It also has a supplement conversion calculation in it. This tool can be found at: http://www.noble.org/ag/tools/livestock/value-of-grain-calculator/.