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Livestock Care

Cattle Feeding and Nutrition

The majority of feed consumed by cattle should be forage.

Livestock feeds provide animals with the protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals they need. Some cattle feeds are designed to be the primary source of food for the animals, while other feeds are designed to provide animals that eat forage with the extra protein and energy they need to complete their diet.

Supplements provide cattle with extra minerals, vitamins, and other compounds they may require to meet specific needs.

When an animal eats forage, it means the animal grazes on grass in a pasture or field or eats some kind of preserved forage such as hay, silage or haylage.

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Calf Housing and Management

Baby calves need adequate nutrition, housing and other types of care to grow into a healthy and productive adult cow or bull. It helps to have a good understanding of best calf management practices and how each practice benefits both the calves and you as a livestock owner.

Here are some quick tips for properly caring for calves:

  • Keep young calves separated until they are weaned. Once a calf has been weaned and if a calf is healthy and disease-free, release the calf into the herd.
  • Sanitize calf pens, hutches, waterers and buckets before introducing a new calf into a previously-occupied space.

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Common Cattle Diseases

While it isn’t possible to cover the full range of animal diseases and conditions, it is useful to know something about the ones that are among the most common. If you think your livestock need treatment of any of the listed conditions or the animal just doesn't seem right but you don't know why, contact your veterinarian.

Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex (BRDC)

Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex (BRDC), or “Shipping Fever”, is a general term for the pneumonia commonly seen in shipped or stressed calves. Several disease agents or other interacting factors may cause the syndrome.

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How to Choose the Best Breed of Cattle

You're ready to put a few bulls and cows on your farm. Now, how do you decide what breed of cattle to choose?

The choices are practically endless when you consider the dozens of beef breeds and composite breeds, or mixed breeds that combine the best characteristics of other established cattle breeds.

Your choice of cattle breed also depends on your interests, the type of farm environment, resources, and your ability to care for them.

If you want just one cow, you might select a dual-purpose breed such as Shorthorn, Brown Swiss, Simmental, or Dexter that could serve as a family milk cow while raising a calf for meat. If you prefer a herd, your selection will depend on available space on your farm, the local climate and weather patterns, and the type of pasture you have planted.

Some breeds, such as Galloway and Scotch Highland, are well adapted to very cold climates, while Brahman, Brangus, Senepol, Santa Gertrudis, and other Brahman crosses and composites do well in hot climates.

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Cattle Feeding & Nutrition Q&A

Mature cows should have continuous access (free-choice) to good quality pasture or hay.

Question: Where can I find the most accurate and up to date information about Cattle Feed offered at Tractor Supply Co.?
Everything you need to select the right feed for your cattle is listed on the back of the feed bag.

Question: What do I feed my Cattle?
A balanced diet for Cattle includes roughage (hay, pasture, haylage and silage), some supplemental concentrates (grains or manufactured feed), minerals and a supply of fresh water.

Question: How much do I feed my Cattle?
Mature cows should have continuous access (free-choice) to good quality pasture or hay. They will need minimal concentrate supplementation unless forage quality drops. First-calf heifers may need the addition of concentrates to their diet. Consult the backs of the feed bags for specific feeding instructions. Cattle being fed for market need a proper balance of forage and concentrates. See feed packaging for suggestions.

Question: Why buy minerals?
Minerals control the life of the brood cow. Without adequate minerals in their diet, cattle do not grow, reproduce, or convert feed efficiently.

Question: What is a recommended mineral program for a cow-calf producer?
Tractor Supply Company recommends Sweet Mag Mineral for the spring when cattle are grazing lush, new grass and Grass Tetany is a problem. 12% Hy-Phos with added Selenium is recommended for the rest of the year.

Question: What is the rumen?
The first chamber of the ruminant stomach is called the rumen. (The term ruminant refers to any animal with a multi-chambered stomach.) The rumen acts as a large fermentation vat. It contains microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, and protozoa that assist in the digestive process.

Question: What is Urea?
Urea is a non-protein source of Nitrogen commonly used for ruminants due to convenience, availability, and low cost. It is used by the micro organisms in the rumen to produce protein. The protein is then digested, absorbed, and used by the animal.

Question: When can a calf utilize Urea in a protein supplement?
A calf’s rumen is not fully functional until a calf is 3-4 months old or weighing 300-400 pounds.