Review Ruminant Nutrition and Feeding Practices Back »

2017 Animal Care Wednesday Webinars
Husbandry Practices in the Spotlight

During the July 5th Animal Care Wednesday Webinar, we discussed reminders for ruminant nutrition and choosing economical management practices. Alfredo DiCostanzo, Professor of Beef Cattle Nutrition & Management with the University of Minnesota, presented general reminders of ruminant nutrition and valuable considerations for feeding management.

Ruminant Nutrition

Ruminants, which includes cattle, sheep, and goats, provide us with nutritious meat and milk through grazing on pastures or being fed in drylot systems. “Regardless of the species or purpose, we enter into an unwritten covenant to provide safety, comfort, health, and the animal’s feed and water,” emphasized DiCostanzo.

Feed Selection
Nutrition is not only the foundation of an animal’s well-being, it also comprises 50-75% of the production costs. Therefore, it is critical to select the best feedstuffs to meet the animal’s nutrient requirements without overfeeding any nutrients because this costs money. Determining the stage of production (maintenance, growth, lactation, or pregnancy) is the first step to knowing how much of each nutrient to feed and guides the decisions of which feedstuffs to put into a ration. Producers need to remember that home-grown feeds may help keep feed costs down, but the cost of growing and harvesting them need to be figured into the expense when calculating the farm budget, just like purchased feeds are entered as an expense.

Water Quality
Water quality is key to good nutrition and feed intake. Ideal salinity or total dissolvable solids (TDS) should be less than 2,000 ppm for young or stressed animals and between 1,000 to 6,999 ppm for adult ruminants. Nitrate levels should be below 44 ppm and sulfate levels below 1,000 ppm – carefully balance diets when nitrates or sulfates are present in the water. Bacteria counts should be below 15 counts per 100 mL and coliforms less than 10 counts per 100 mL. DiCostanzo also reminded listeners that algae should not be present in water sources for livestock and can cause toxicity issues during summer months.

Avoiding Waste
Managing intake to avoid waste greatly impacts the amount of feed you need to have on hand and the cost of feeding your animals. Waste can occur by weather damage, animal trampling, and wildlife. Being cognizant of harvesting and storing feedstuffs along with determining the best method of feeding your animals will impact the quality and the amount of wasted feed.

Body Condition Scoring
In addition to reviewing the basics of how to calculate dry matter intake and various energy requirements for ruminants, the importance of body condition scoring animals was discussed. Assigning a body condition score helps caregivers to manage the nutrition and ensure the animal’s well-being while being financially responsible. The 9-point body condition scoring system was discussed for cattle. Evaluating the muscling and fat of the ribs, brisket, loin, hips, and tail head provide a simple guide to determine if nutritional changes need to be made.

In Summary

Reviewing the digestive system and calculating the nutritional requirements at various life or production stages is the first step in ensuring animal well-being. This Animal Care Wednesday Webinar provided listeners with the tools to manage their ruminant’s diet and body condition.

Animal Care Wednesday Webinars

To listen to this and past webinars, visit the animal care resource website. For more information about upcoming Animal Care Wednesday Webinars, please contact Heidi Carroll.

The next Animal Care Wednesday Webinar is August 2, 2017 @ 11:00am (CST). To join webinars, log in to the Zoom Meeting a few minutes prior to the start of the webinar.


For more information on livestock nutrition, contact an SDSU Extension expert.

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