Last update: January 17, 2011 01:29:05 PM E-mail Print




J H Hoon1, M L Jonker2, M J Herselman1& C B van Zyl3


1Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute, P/Bag X529, Middelburg, 5900

2Vaalharts Research Station, P/Bag X9. Jan Kempdorp, 8850

3Koopmansfontein Research Station, P/Bag X1. Koopmansfontein, 8390



Drastic weight losses during the dry winter months have a detrimental effect on the conception and calving percentages of mature cows as well as on the growth and development of young beef cattle. Supplementation with natural protein and NPN sources can usually alleviate these weight losses. Large amounts of poultry litter (both broiler and layer) are available in South Africa and there is an increased interest in the use of this inexpensive source of protein as a supplement for ruminants, especially during the dry winter months. Positive results were obtained by Van der Westhuizen & Hugo (1972) and Bosman (1973) with the inclusion of poultry litter at levels of up to 50% in growth and fattening diets for cattle. In the beef producing areas of the Northern Cape the use of poultry litter as a winter supplement for beef cattle has gained ground over the past few years. The aim of this experiment was therefore to investigate the effect of broiler litter as a winter supplement, compared to other traditional supplements, on the production of beef cows and weaner calves under natural grazing conditions on Tarchonanthus veld.



The experiment was carried out at the Koopmansfontein Research Station near Barkly West in the Northern Cape. Sixty mature Bonsmara cows were randomly divided into three groups. A control group, received a phosphate-salt mixture (50 % dicalcium phosphate,18.45% salt, 5% molasses powder), a second group received sterilised broiler litter (24% protein), while a third group received a mixture with a high urea content (Dundee lick – 48% salt, 19% maize meal, 16% feedgrade urea, 16% dicalcium phosphate18 and 1% feedgrade sulphur). All the mixtures were available on an ad libitum basis. Fifty weaner calves were also randomly divided into three groups and received the same treatments than the cows. The groups were rotated weekly between the allocated camps to eliminate possible camp effects. The treatments for both cows and calves started after weaning on 26/05/97 and were terminated on 6/10/97 for the cows (130 days) and on 17/11/97 for the calves (170 days). Body weight of individual animals, as well as supplement intake of the groups, were recorded. Statistical analysis were performed by using the GLM procedures of SAS (Littell et al., 1991).



The changes in body weight, average daily gain and average daily  supplement intake of the cows and calves are presented in Tables 1 and 2 respectively.

No differences (P>0.05) in body weight of both the cows and calves were recorded for the duration of the experiment. The ADG of the cows receiving broiler litter was, however, significantly higher (P<0.05) than that of the other two groups. In the case of the calves the ADG of the two treatment groups was significantly higher (P<0.05) than that of the control group.



Due to the relatively favourable veld conditions during the duration of the experiment, the increase in body weight and ADG of the cows receiving broiler litter will probably not have a significant effect on conception and calving percentages compared to the other two groups. Under harsher winter veld conditions, however, supplementation with broiler litter might be of greater economic importance.



Bosman, S.W., 1973. S. Afr. J. Anim. Sci. 3,57-61.

Littell, R.C., et al., 1991, SAS System for Linear Models, Third Edition, SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC.

Van der Westhuizen, A.A. & Hugo, J.M., 1972. S. Afr. J. Anim. Sci. 2, 13.