Limiter product keeps cows, calves from eating too much
Imagine the perfect situation where you can put out bulk feed for cattle to supplement without over consuming. Cargill is making this a reality with their Ranger Limiter Technology. The limiter is a pellet meal crumble containing nine to ten percent fat and other by-products undisclosed by Ranger Limiter refiner Dusty Abney, PhD, a Beef Cow/Calf Nutritionist at Cargill. He lives in Athens, Texas, but travels the country consulting with ranches.
“It’s proprietary technology. Basically what Ranger does is acts in several different ways with several different ingredients that allows us to affect the palatability of the feed and there are chemical reactions in bovine – some in the mouth some in the intestine – that determine intake,” Abney said.
Ideally, cows or calves consume the crumbly pellet mixed in with the rancher’s choice of a loose protein source, energy source, or both, causing the animal to consume smaller, frequent meals, allowing for better digestion of consumed forage. Pellets and grain are some of the items that could be fed with the limiter. The product can be fed to cows and/or calves.
Abney recommends mixing the limiter product with the supplement at a level of 10 to 50 percent. The higher the percent of limiter, the less supplement the cows or calves are expected to eat.
Ranger Limiter may help minimize costs and labor.
“With a cube you’re using your time, fuel, and labor to put out so much per head per day,” Abney said. “With this technology, you mix it in, fill a feeder, and have much less labor.”
According to Abney, the limiter can be used with a cube but feeding it on the ground wouldn’t be ideal. In addition he points out that a rancher feeding cake in a pickup feeder is already controlling the amount the cows will eat, so the limiter might not be necessary.
The formula for Ranger Limiter was a fluke, Abney said, though a good one.
“We actually made the formula by accident,”he said. “We got a call from a customer who said the cattle weren’t eating as much as they were supposed to. The eureka moment got us to where we are today. That was six or seven years ago.”
While Ranger Limiter could be fed on its own, it is better mixed with another feed product.
“Everything in the product is safe and proven and has nutritive value…and everything that is in it the USDA generally regarded as safe (GRAS),” Abney said. “It has been used in its current form at least five years without issues. It has salt, but salt is not what’s doing the limitation.”
Sort around the limiter is not an issue, Abney said. “It’s a pellet meal crumble for a couple reasons. The 32 percent crude protein concentrate is 9 or 10 percent fat, making it tough to sort. We could make a really good pellet, but because it wants to fall apart pretty easily, when you mix Ranger in it makes it difficult to sort,” he said. “If we make a really good pellet, cattle tend to eat more of it, just because they like how it feels in their mouth and can scoop more into their mouth at any one time.”
Abney said the pellet does not work by fiber limitation or swelling.
Abney recommends using Ranger Limiter in conjunction with creep feeding calves in areas where forage is available but not as plentiful as other years. Doing so will allow for cows to better sustain less-hungry calves and push back a wean date to subsequently maintain a five to seven condition on cows.
“If forage quantity and quality will be low, Ranger will not be a great fit for cows, but keep calves on cows for another month or so,” Abney said. “This allows calves to not get fat when supplementing but ranchers don’t have to wean calves too early.” Feeding the calf, not the cow helps the calf grow and takes pressure off cow, he said.
Abney added that Ranger technology isn’t ideal for all ages of calves, but coming into fall should be the perfect time to utilize it.
“When calves are really small, it won’t take much pressure off the cow. If they’re less than 300 pounds they have milk and consume less grass. Even with a creep feeder out there [young calves] may not eat much,” Abney said. “As they get bigger, they start to eat more feed if it’s available.”
The rancher should consider feeding the energy or protein supplement of choice at about one percent of the calves’ body weights. The limiter can then be mixed in at a level of 10 to 50 percent of the supplement.
“For a three-weight, they should consume 3 pounds [of supplement]. When they eat less, it’s not much good; if they eat more, the efficiency goes down,” Abney said. “It’s a one percent bang-for-your-buck from a feed conversion standpoint, return-on-investment or cost-to-gain standpoint, and pure cost per gain standpoint.”
Julie Kappen, a Cargill Beef Sale Consultant out of Bayard, Nebraska, consulted with other nutritionists for second opinions on her personal herd of beef cattle.
“He said protein is needed. There’s roughage there but the good is gone out of the roughage,” Kappen said.
Ranchers may need to supplement their cows earlier than normal this year if protein is lacking in the hay. If forage is limited as well, an energy-source may be necessary. By combining an additional protein and/or energy sources to lactating, pregnant cows and supplementing calves via creep feed with Ranger Limiters, ranchers may find that happy medium, Abney said.
“I’d be interested to use creep feeders with limiters for my herd,” Kappen said.