In an earlier post we referred to feeding urea and molasses to our heifers ( We are now feeding urea molasses to our cattle again and various people have asked how we do it.

General information on feeding urea molasses can be found in this old DPI publication. Despite the advice in the publication it is more convenient and safer to buy the licker drums than to make them from old fuel drums. The ones we use are found here. We used to dissolve the urea in hot water but it is a lot of hard work so we have modified our technique as follows:

We put a 20 litre bucket of granular urea into the licker drum followed by two 20 litre drums of molasses. We then add water from a fire hose (between 80 – 120 litres) to mix it up. It does not dissolve at this time but will do so over the next 24 hours. Thirty cows will finish this off within about 3 days when they are on dry feed. You can see when the cattle have finished the mixture because the drum, which floats on the mixture, drops to the level of the top of the tank. We then just add 1 bucket of urea and 2 buckets of molasses plus water to top up the licker drum.

We used to take out the drum and to mix the urea and molasses in the tank but the makers have made the drums hard to get out and secondly the mixture dissolves pretty well with the cows spinning the drum.

When the herd has access to the licker drum the calves learn how to do it pretty quickly and they never forget. When first offering the system to cows it is best to leave some straight molasses on the drum to get them started on licking it. While adult cattle can roll the drum with their tongues, younger animals such as calves and weaners tend to roll the drum with their heads – they end up with black faces as a result.

Urea molasses is really only of use when cattle have access to fibrous feed. Urea provides the rumen microflora with a source of nitrogen for protein synthesis. We find that with urea molasses drums the cattle will ‘clean up’ rough paddock feed. Urea lick blocks do not provide enough urea to do the job. Cows need at least 60 gm of urea per day and the licks only provide about a tenth of this. Our cows with calves consume about 100 gm per day. The cows self regulate their intake – if we get rain and a fresh green pick they ignore the licker drums totally.

The cost of feeding urea molasses varies somewhat with the price of molasses being quite volatile. Currently it costs about 30 cents per head per day. While ever there is rough feed available we find it better value than feeding other protein sources.

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