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Molasses Based Products on Pasture

Pasture growth is slow in many parts of the province. Last year’s dry conditions and grazing programs left many pastures in poor condition going into winter. Cool temperatures this April and May has not resulted in a normal rapid growth.

Photo Credit: Peter Vitti

With feed supplies exhausted, some producers were forced to turn cows out earlier than normal. Supplementing pastures with a lick tank, block or tub are options to extend the grass supply. But what are some of the considerations when using molasses based products. A paper by Kunkle et. al, provides some insights:

Energy content of beet molasses is reported as 75% TDN on a dry matter basis (Beef NRC 2000). With most liquid products containing approximately 40% water, the TDN per pound consumed is only 45%. About the same energy content as straw. For the poured or block products, water content is much lower which improves TDN per pound consumed. Some companies add fat to the product which increases the energy content.

Products can contain anywhere from 10% to 32% protein. This improves digestive efficiency and weight gain. Urea is the protein source. It can be digested and used by cows and larger animals but is not available to calves under 450 pounds. When the product is first introduced into the herd, over consumption of the product (and thus urea) is a concern. Urea is broken down into ammonia in the rumen. When the microbes cannot convert all of the ammonia to amino acids; ammonia toxicity results. The excess ammonia is absorbed into the blood, death may be caused by heart, respiratory or metabolic failure.

Calcium, phosphorus and magnesium are difficult to keep in suspension in molasses products. Thus, levels are low and may not meet the nutritional needs of the animal depending on the type of pasture the animals are grazing. In many situations it is necessary to provide additional minerals and salt free choice.

The molasses based products are beneficial to reduce forage intake and improve nutrient intake on pasture. Typically, they are more effective in late fall in normal years; but with limited forage availability this spring, any management strategy to stretch pastures should be considered.

For additional information on using molasses based products on pasture, contact Barry at 403-741-6032 or


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