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.
Types of Cattle Feed and Minerals
Cattle feed comes in three forms (or combination of the forms):
- Pelletized cattle feed has the ingredients milled and formed into pellets.
- Sweet feed comes in the form of fresh grains plus pellets
- Block feed has the ingredients milled and formed into solid blocks.
Minerals come in two forms:
· Loose minerals can be offered by a separate mineral feeder or added to feed just as people can put salt on food.
· Block minerals are solid blocks that the animals lick.
Feeding Cattle and Calves
The season is important when considering what type of cattle feed to give your heard, especially for pasture cattle. In the spring, pasture cattle need a high magnesium (Mg) mineral supplement to prevent the occurrence of grass tetany (also called grass staggers), a magnesium deficiency condition that commonly occurs when cattle are turned out onto fresh pasture in the spring. The rest of the year cattle only need a regular pasture mineral.
Grass Tetany causes nervousness, muscle twitching, high temperature, fast respiration, and abundant salivation. Progression of the condition is rapid – death can occur as little as two to six hours after onset.
Ask the following questions when determining what type of feed your cattle needs:
- What type of cattle do you own? Show cattle, dairy and beef cattle all have different nutritional needs.
- How old are the cattle/calves? Adult cattle have different nutritional needs than calves.
- What are the cattle’s overall feeding program? Pasture cattle (i.e., cattle that graze on pasture as a regular part of their feeding) will need mineral blocks or loose minerals to ensure complete nutrition.
- Are the cattle on pasture or dry lots? Pelletized feed works best for dry lots, while block feed is better for pasture.