Feeding the Cattle

Cattle are very efficient at extracting as much nutrition as they can from forage materials. Ruminants have a special stomach chamber filled with microorganisms efficient at breaking down the components of grass, hay and other plants. The rumen, or special stomach, enables these creatures to live off of plants other single-stomach animals cannot digest.

Beef cattle do, however, need specific nutrients to grow and thrive. Most beef cattle feed plans include different ratios of hay, grain and free choice minerals to help cattle grow and develop. As cattle transition from open fields to feedlots prior to slaughter, many are given ground shelled corn to ‘sweeten’ the meat and add fat that makes meat cuts tender.

Beef cattle need the following nutrients for health:

  • Protein: Cattle can extract protein from vegetable plants. While hay and various grasses do contain protein, most beef cattle get their protein from legumes. Soybeans are the most common protein source, followed by cottonseed meal and linseed. Some farmers feed their beef cattle mineral blocks that also include extra protein. This is especially helpful for young, growing calves.

  • Minerals: The amount of minerals in hay varies according to the mineral content in the soils in which hay is grown, so proper attention to good pasture maintenance and care is essential for healthy cattle. Beef cattle need calcium, phosphorous, potassium and salt as their basic minerals. They also need trace amounts of iodine, copper, cobalt, zinc and selenium.To make sure your cattle get plenty of minerals, a mineral block placed under an overhang or shelter so rain water doesn’t waste it is a good idea. Cattle lick the block because it tastes good, and it gives them whatever minerals and salts they need.

  • Vitamins: Beef cattle also need an abundance of vitamins, including vitamins A, D and E. The bacteria that live in the rumen, or fourth stomach, actually produce vitamins K and B, so you don’t need to worry about feeding your cattle these vitamins. Stressed cattle, such as recently weaned cattle or cattle transported long distances, however, do benefit from a little supplemental vitamin B.

For finishing beef cattle prior to slaughter, most are fed a mixture of ground, shelled corn or millet. These grains are inexpensive, nutritious and add fat to the meat to make it tender.

Importance of good pasture

Good pasture makes good beef. The better the pasture, the less supplemental fodder you’ll need to give to your cattle because they’ll be able to get most of their nutrients straight from the field.

Pasture grass is both high in vitamins and roughage, two important components necessary for cattle health. Pasture grass is higher in both vitamins E and K as well, making it an even better alternative to feeding commercial rations.

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