Good nutrition is essential for the health of your herd, but there are many different factors that affect what nutrition your cattle need. By understanding your cattle's needs, you can adjust their diet to offer them the best possible feed in different situations.
What Nutrition Cattle Need
All cattle need a balanced diet that includes a variety of components, such as:
- Fiber and roughage
- Starch and carbohydrates
- Minerals, nutrients and salts
The exact proportions of these dietary components can vary greatly depending on each animal's needs. Every cattle farmer, however, should be sure their herd is getting the proper nutrition without depriving them of any essential components.
Changing Nutritional Needs
Different cows have different nutritional needs, and there are a number of factors that influence what diet type is best for each animal. To offer the appropriate feed for the herd, each of these factors needs to be considered:
- Age / Stage of Life: Calves and adult cattle have very different nutritional needs, and mature cattle have further dietary requirements. The same type of diet is not appropriate for every cow at every point of their lives.
- Breed / Size: Dietary nutrition and overall food availability should be adjusted for different cattle breeds and animal sizes, particularly if the animals may be underweight or overweight.
- Purpose: The purpose of the herd – diary, beef, show, etc. – will help dictate what nutrition is best to keep it in top form for that purpose.
- Condition: Each animal's general health dictates some of its dietary needs. Coat and hoof condition, energy level, and any illnesses all impact the type of feed that may be best for cattle.
- Reproduction: Pregnant or nursing cows as well as stud bulls may all have different nutrition requirements to keep them in peak reproductive condition for the healthiest, most desirable offspring.
- Climate: The nutritional needs of cattle change with the season, as they need more calories in cold weather, while in hot weather they may require different mineral proportions to compensate for sweating.
Cattle Feed Sources
With so many factors influencing the best diet for your cattle, it is important to use different types of cattle feed to meet the animals' needs. The most common types of food available for cattle include forage from grazing, grain, feed pellets, feed blocks, mineral supplements and more. Before choosing the exact blend of feed that will be best for your cattle, consult with your veterinarian about any special considerations, and always monitor the herd closely for changing needs. By being aware of what can affect the nutrition your cattle need and how to meet those needs, you can provide the best possible food for your cattle.