The Benefits of Custom Cattle Feeding Programs

Optimizing Growth and Health: The Art of Custom Feedlot Rations for Beef Cattle

As cattlemen, our main goal is to ensure the health and well-being of our cattle while maximizing their growth and productivity. One crucial aspect of achieving this is by formulating and mixing well-balanced diets or rations for our finished cattle. Custom feeding cattle typically consist of primary ingredients such as corn, hay, wet distillers grain, and supplements. Let me explain the process of feedlot rations for beef cattle by mixing these ingredients to create the optimal outcome for our cattle.

Identify the nutritional needs of feeder cattle

The first step in formulating a cattle diet is understanding the nutritional requirements of the animals. This involves considering factors like age, weight, breed, and desired growth rate. We consult with nutritionists or utilize resources like the National Research Council's guidelines to determine the proper nutrient composition for the cattle's stage of production.

Establish the forage base

Hay is an essential component of cattle diets as it provides necessary fiber and roughage. We select high-quality hay based on its nutrient content and availability. The forage base can vary depending on the season and region, with options like alfalfa, grass hay, or a combination of both.

Ground Hay

Incorporate energy sources

Corn is a common energy source in cattle diets due to its high starch content. It provides readily available energy for the animals. We consider the grain's quality, moisture content, and processing methods like grinding or rolling to enhance digestibility.We are constantly looking for ways to improve the efficiency and performance of our cattle. One significant improvement in finishing cattle diets is the use of steam-flaked corn instead of whole or cracked corn.

Elevated Cattle Nutrition: The Advantages of Steam-Flaked Corn and Ration Formulation

1. Enhanced digestibility:

Steam flaking corn involves the process of exposing whole or cracked corn kernels to steam and heat, followed by rolling them to flatten them into flakes. This process gelatinizes the starch in the corn, making it more digestible for the cattle. Flaked corn has a larger surface area, allowing for better enzymatic breakdown and absorption in the rumen. This increased digestibility results in improved feed efficiency and nutrient utilization.

Rolled Corn
2. Increased energy availability:

Flaking corn increases the availability of its energy content to the cattle. The gelatinized starch is more readily accessible for enzymatic action, leading to a faster and more efficient energy release during digestion. This helps cattle meet their energy requirements for growth, maintenance, and overall performance.

3. Enhanced palatability:

Steam flaked corn has a softer texture and a more palatable taste compared to whole or cracked corn. The process of steaming and rolling increases the corn's moisture content, making it easier for cattle to chew and digest. The improved palatability encourages cattle to consume more of the ration, leading to better feed intake and overall performance.

4. Improved rumen health:

The steam flaking process breaks down the tough outer layer of the corn kernel, making it easier for rumen microbes to access the nutrients inside. This improved accessibility promotes a healthy rumen environment and enhances microbial activity. A healthy rumen is crucial for optimal digestion and nutrient utilization, leading to better cattle performance.

5. Consistent ration formulation:

Steam-flaked corn provides a more consistent and predictable energy source in ration formulation. The flaking process ensures uniform particle size and moisture content, allowing for accurate and precise diet formulation. This consistency helps nutritionists and cattlemen design rations that meet the specific energy requirements of the cattle, leading to improved performance and weight gain. While steam-flaked corn offers numerous benefits, it is important to note that it requires specialized equipment and expertise to ensure proper processing. Cattlemen should work closely with feed mills or utilize on-farm steam flaking systems to ensure the corn is processed correctly.Steam-flaked corn offers significant improvements in finishing cattle diets. It enhances digestibility, increases energy availability, improves palatability, promotes rumen health, and allows for consistent ration formulation. By incorporating steam-flaked corn into our feeding program, we can optimize the performance and efficiency of our cattle and ultimately achieve better results in terms of weight gain and overall profitability.

6. Utilize wet distillers grain:

Wet distillers grain is a byproduct of the ethanol industry and is an excellent source of protein, energy, and minerals. It is typically mixed with corn to enhance the overall nutrient profile of the diet. As it is a moist feed, it helps improve palatability and can be adjusted according to the desired protein levels in the ration. (For more on distillers grain, head over to the post by Master Hand Milling covering this valuable feed product in detail.)

7. Include supplements:

Depending on the specific needs of the cattle, we incorporate supplements to address any nutritional deficiencies or imbalances. These supplements may include minerals, vitamins, and additives like probiotics or rumen enhancers. The supplementation is carefully calculated to meet the requirements and optimize the animal's health.

8. Mixing and processing:

Once the primary ingredients and supplements are determined, we mix them in appropriate proportions to create a well-balanced ration. This can be done manually or using specialized equipment like feed mixers. The mixing process ensures uniform distribution of nutrients throughout the diet.

9. Quality control and feed testing:

To ensure the accuracy and consistency of the feed rations, we conduct regular quality control checks. This involves analyzing the nutrient content of the feed ingredients and the final mixed ration. Feed testing allows us to make adjustments if needed and ensure that the cattle receive a nutritionally balanced diet.

Tailored Diets for Thriving Herds: Enhancing Cattle Health and Productivity

By following this process, our feedlot creates customized diets that meet the specific nutritional needs of our finished cattle. It is essential to regularly monitor animal performance, make necessary adjustments, and consult with nutritionists to optimize the ration's effectiveness and promote the overall health and productivity of our cattle. By understanding what the feedlot's feeding processes are and choosing to utilize a custom cattle feeding program, cattle producers can rest assured that their cattle are being fed the highest quality and most nutritious diet.

- Tom Fanning

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August 3, 2023
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