Cattle are amazing animals that can produce meat, milk, leather, and other valuable products. But to get the most out of cattle, you need to feed them well. Feeding your cattle properly can improve their health, productivity, and profitability. In this article, we will share some tips on how to choose cattle feed and how to feed cattle properly for optimal health and performance.
Know your cattle's nutritional needs
The first step in cattle feeding is to know what nutrition they need. Different cattle have different needs depending on their age, stage of production, and type of production (beef or dairy cattle). For example, lactating cows need more energy and protein than dry cows, and heifers need more energy and protein than mature cows to support their growth. Cattle also need minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and sodium to maintain their health and prevent diseases such as milk fever or grass tetany.
To determine cattle's nutritional needs, you can refer to veteran farmers’ experience, use tables or software that provide nutrient requirements for different classes of cattle, or consult veterinarians or nutritionists for advice.
Choose the right quality feed
The second step in cattle feeding is to choose the right quality feed. Cattle are herbivores that feed mainly on vegetation such as grass, hay, silage, grains, and legumes. In addition to the quality and quantity of cattle feed provided should match their nutritional needs, the availability, cost, and palatability should be put into consideration as well. Here are some common types of cattle feed:
- Pasture - the natural diet of cattle and provides them with fresh grass and other plants. Pasture can be a cheap and high-quality source of feed if managed well. However, pasture quality and quantity can vary depending on the season, weather, soil fertility, and grazing management.
- Hay - dried grass or legumes that can be stored for long periods of time. Hay can provide roughage and fiber for cattle's rumen health. Quality hay for cattle should be green, leafy, soft, and free of mold and dust.
- Silage - fermented grass or legumes that can be stored in airtight containers such as silos or bags. Silage can provide energy and protein for cattle production. You can choose silage that is well-fermented, acidic (pH < 4.5), sweet-smelling, and free of mold and spoilage.
- Concentrates - feeds that are high in energy and protein but low in fiber such as grains (corn, barley, wheat, oats), oilseeds (soybean, canola, sunflower), and byproducts (distiller grains, soybean meal, cottonseed meal). Concentrates provide extra energy and protein, but they might be expensive or cause digestive problems such as acidosis or bloat if fed too much or too fast. You should limit the amount of concentrates to 0.5% to 1% of your cattle's body weight daily and feed them gradually and evenly throughout the day.
- Minerals - essential nutrients of cattle feed in small amounts for various functions such as bone formation, nerve transmission, enzyme activation, and hormone production. Minerals (such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chlorine, potassium, sulfur, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, iodine, and cobalt) can be provided through pasture, hay, silage, concentrates, water, or supplements. You should choose mineral supplements that are balanced and suitable and offer free-choice access to salt and fresh water at all times to them.
Feed your cattle properly
Feeding cattle properly can improve feed intake, digestion, health, and performance.
- Set a feeding program and goal for cattle based on their age, weight, health score, stage of production, and type (beef or dairy cattle). And, regularly monitor their performance indicators such as milk yield, milk quality, weight gain, reproduction rate, and health status, or adjust accordingly.
- Feed your cattle in a routine calendar, at a fixed time and place every day. And, make sure not to change the amount and types of feed because it might upset their rumen balance or cause digestive problems.
- Ensure an adequate feed intake. You should avoid underfeeding or overfeeding your cattle as both can have negative consequences on their health and performance. Underfeeding can cause weight loss, poor milk production, poor reproduction rate, poor immunity, and increased susceptibility to diseases. Overfeeding can cause weight gain, fat deposition, metabolic disorders, lameness, mastitis, and reduced fertility.
- Provide a comfortable and clean environment during feeding. Cattle need a well-ventilated, well-lit, and well-drained space that is free of mud, dust, flies, and other pests. You can provide adequate space and feed bunk space for your cattle to access the feed without competition or crowding. And, the feed bunks and water troughs should be cleaned and disinfected regularly to prevent contamination and spoilage of the feed and water.
Enable reasonable cattle feeding
Cattle feeding is an important aspect of production and management. By knowing your cattle's nutritional needs, choosing the right quality feed, and feeding them in a proper way, cattle’s health and performance can be optimized, so the profitability can be increased. We hope these tips will be helpful for you. Happy cattle feeding!
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*Any cattle feeding practices should be subject to the actual situation.