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March 6, 2024 Health & Production

Why protein is important

ABP is excited to feature the writings of Barry Yaremcio, ruminant nutritionist and production management consultant. Barry is a trusted voice in cattle nutrition and forage production, operating Yaremcio Ag Consulting Ltd. This article was originally published on his BYOB Blog, which can be found on his website.

All living creatures and plants contain protein.

Plants take in nitrogen to produce protein. Some animals, including cattle, consume plant material. During digestion of the forage, the plant protein is broken down into amino acids. Rumen bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and viruses rebuild the amino acids into proteins that are required by the animal.

Microbes that break down ingested feed use some of the amino acids (ammonia) as a food source for themselves. This is to keep the microbe populations high to digest the ingested feeds. If protein levels are low, microbial populations decline, digestion rates decrease, and feed intake is reduced.

Protein is contained in every cell in the body. It is essential to build and maintain muscle, soft tissues, and blood. It is a part of antibodies needed for immune function.  Plus, is part of biological functions needed to keep the body functioning properly.
A cow that is not receiving adequate protein during pregnancy (7 per cent in mid pregnancy and 9 per cent in late pregnancy on a dry basis) will decrease calf development in utero.  Organs are smaller than normal. This reduces overall calf growth potential and mature size. The quantity and quality of colostrum is reduced if protein needs are not met, which results in the calf being more prone to diseases.
After calving, the protein requirement increases to 11 per cent on a dry basis.  Lower milk quality and possibly volume, and repair of the reproductive system to be ready for the breeding season, are impacted by the deficiency.
Small calves grow rapidly. Protein is essential to develop bones and muscles so they can frame out and grow properly.  Milk is a good source of protein and requirements of the suckling calf are usually met. Once weaned, calves continue to require a high protein ration.  A 450-pound calf requires approximately 14 to 15 per cent protein (on a dry basis). High quality hay or silage along with grain is a good base for the ration.
Inadequate protein in cattle rations reduces animal performance and creates various growth and health problems.  Supplementing protein when required is not an expense it is an investment in future returns be it pregnancy rates or pounds of calf for sale in the fall.

About the Author

Barry was raised on a mixed farm in northeastern Alberta. He completed a Bachelors degree in Agriculture specializing in Animal Science from the University of Alberta in 1984. He then worked for Alberta Agriculture as a District Agriculturalist, Laboratory Nutritionist, and Provincial Beef Nutritionist. In 1994, he left Alberta Agriculture to work in the private sector for various companies.

In 2003, Barry rejoined Alberta Agriculture as a Beef and Forage Specialist at the Ag Info Centre in Stettler. His responsibilities included providing advice to farmers and ranchers on cattle nutrition, forage production, animal management; troubleshooting production concerns; designing corrals; and handling facilities, hay sheds, and silage pits. 

In 2009 he completed a Master’s Degree in Animal Science (nutrition), evaluating the amount of feed waste by various feed delivery systems and the impact it had on the quality of feed consumed.

In March of 2020, he started Yaremcio Ag Consulting Ltd. as an independent ruminant nutritionist and production management consultant. You can contact Barry at

Cattle Report

Updated: 12/04/2024


Live: ---
Rail: 415.00-420.00 del


Live: ---
Rail: 415.00-420.00 del

Choice Steers

Live: 182.00 (KN, TX) 185.00 (NE)
Rail: 293.00-295.00 (NE, IA)

Choice Heifers

Live: 182.00 (KN, TX) 185.00 (NE)
Rail: 293.00-295.00 (NE, IA)

Boner Cows

Over 500 lbs: 250.84

Canadian Dollar

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Livestock Price Insurance Index

Expiry Fed Feeder Calf
8-Jul-24 226 -- --
5-Aug-24 222 318 --
2-Sep-24 220 324 --
30-Sep-24 220 324 366
28-Oct-24 218 324 366
25-Nov-24 216 320 364
23-Dec-24 222 312 360
Last Updated on April 11, 2024

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