A balanced diet is essential for a calf’s wellbeing. It should provide enough calories, proteins, and minerals to satisfy its requirements.
Different feeds can be utilized to meet the nutritional requirements of growing cattle. Ideally, a custom-blended ration should provide your calf with an even ratio of calcium to phosphorus as well as include a mineral supplement.
Forage and Pasture
When pasture availability or hay production in an area are scarce, replacing pasture with feed can be an economical solution. However, make sure the feed does not negatively affect forage digestion.
One way to replace pasture is by mixing grains, such as corn distillers byproducts with forage or crop residues, into the mix. These are highly palatable and can increase intake of lower quality roughage without taking cattle away from pasture.
Another approach is to utilize a blend of 30:70 WDGS:roughage. Studies have shown that cows can replace up to 1 pound of grazed forage with this combination.
Finishing cattle on pasture has several advantages over grain-finished finishing systems, such as being more cost effective, less vulnerable to weather or nutrient availability, and producing leaner beef when delivered for market. This type of finishing system is becoming increasingly popular because it reduces soil erosion caused by trampling around the same feeding location.
Hay is an essential ingredient in cattle feed. It can be taken as a supplement or mixed in with grain and coproducts to meet protein and energy requirements.
Hay, whether it is grass, alfalfa, mixed (grass-legume) or cereal grain straw, has essential nutritional value. It provides essential vitamins and minerals that cows need for production of healthy milk, growth and healthy body weight maintenance. Hay also plays an essential role in providing energy to cows.
Hay can range greatly in quality. Rougher grass or alfalfa hay that has too many stems may contain less nutrients than immature varieties with finer stems. A reliable indicator of quality is odor: clean hay should not smell musty, sour or moldy and should have a bright green hue.
Hay is an essential staple for cows, particularly during times of winter or drought when pasture may not be available. Timing access to a low waste hay bale feeder with timed access can help stretch limited supplies of hay, providing adequate nutrition for your herd.
Concentrates are high-fiber, high-energy feeds that supply livestock with energy as well as essential nutrients like protein. They can be divided into individual ingredients, grain mixes or total mixed rations for added convenience.
The amount and quality of nutrients in concentrates can differ between farms. Therefore, testing may be necessary to monitor the nutrient quality of the concentrates being fed.
When feeding rs cattle diets, various byproducts such as corn silage, RS, rice straw and dried distillers grains can be used. However, these byproducts may have different nutrient contents than cereal grains and therefore need to be tested in a laboratory to ensure they meet the nutritional requirements of the animal being fed.
Furthermore, byproducts can be enhanced with nonprotein nitrogen sources to increase their formulated crude protein value. Examples include urea, calcium hydroxide and urea-lime treated RS. Utilizing these treatments improves rumen digestibility, DM intake and VFA concentration of RS.
Nutrient byproducts are an invaluable addition to cattle feed. Dairy cows benefit from extra fiber and slow ruminal degradability, which helps ensure milk yield remains consistent.
By adding byproducts to their feed ration, producers can recycle and reuse leftover food scraps. Not only does this reduce landfill waste, but it also saves farmers money on their feed bills!
One challenge with some byproducts is their high moisture content. This can lead to various issues, such as difficulty transporting them efficiently and spoilage from exposure to air.
Despite these challenges, increasing the use of food system by-products and residues as feed is a viable strategy to increase food system circularity8. Furthermore, it can reduce competition between producers of feed and improve resource use efficiency6.