What Do Cattle Eat: Diet Formulation & Nutrition

What Do Cattle Eat: Diet Formulation & Nutrition


The feedstuffs that we use are primarily silage, one of three types; grain, we primarily feed corn, but there are times of the year where wheat or milo can be provided; and then we utilize dry distillers grain. When the cattle come in they get started on what we refer to as a receiving diet or a starting diet. That diet has a higher proportion of roughage and a lower proportion of grain in it, than does the finish ration. Now, the thing that’s unique about cattle, is cattle are ruminants. So when we finish these animals we’re actually using the combination of roughage, or fiber if you will, along with starch that’s in the grain, and those two combinations is what allows us to be as efficient as possible in terms of developing beef for human consumption. The dry distillers grain we feed primarily as a supplemental protein source. When we look at the amount of grain that’s in a diet, we’re feeding grain primarily for energy. You know, whether it be corn, whether it be milo, whether it be wheat, we’re primarily feeding that for energy. The starch that’s contained in those grains is very energy dense as compared to what we can get out of roughages or forages, so we utilize that because it allows for a more efficient growth production, and it allows for a different fat deposition in the animals that makes that meat more desirable to the human consumption side of the business. The silages, whether one wants to refer to them as roughage, as forage or as fiber, That’s primarily included into the diet to make sure that we maintain rumen health, and by rumen health that’s what we want to maintain in terms of rumen fermentation. Obviously there’s a great deal of musculature in that rumen and we want to stimulate that musculature to keep it rolling. We also, the inside of the rumen wall is covered with what are called papillae, and all this acid that’s produced there has to be absorbed and those papillae are very instrumental in nutrient absorption, primarily the volatile fatty acids. And so that roughage that’s in there helps stimulate and maintain healthy papillae, which helps us have a more efficient nutrient absorption. And so it’s all a balancing act that we look at. Now silages, they also provide some energy but it’s not our primary source of energy. Just like grains, they’ll provide some protein as well but it’s not our primary source of protein. The distillers grain provides some energy but it’s not our primary source of energy. So they all have a multitude of nutrients that they bring to the overall nutritional package that’s taken into account when you formulate that diet, however you have to look at this is their primary responsibility of that individual ingredient that’s put there. And then you have to run economics against that to make sure you’ve got the proper ratios of those ingredients that are included there. Beyond that, obviously you have to manage those techniques very well relative to the ration of silage, roughage, forage, – whatever terminology you want to use – relative to the amount of grain that’s there because that acid production is a fine line between the animals being on target and growing very well or if those animals get too much acid they
can get into some digestive upset issues, and we want to manage that across. And we do that through diet formulation. We also do it through feed management, which we already talked about. We want these cattle cleaned up in the morning and then we can also handle that with making sure that they don’t get over-aggressive. So we want them cleaned up but we want to make sure they have adequate feed to be content from that perspective. Our objective is to make sure that we get the cattle to market, which means that they have a carcass that is very desirable to enter the human food chain, And we want them to be able to do that as efficiently as possible. Efficiently means we want to use the fewest amount of resources available to put on a pound of weight gain, so that we can supply human food with managing our natural resources that we have available to us.