Managing calf feed intake takes more than pouring a bucket of feed in a trough.
To create the most finished calf – to get the most bang for the buck – feed management is a very detailed, meticulous process.
Benton County, Ark., Extension Agent Johnny Gunsaulis said there are two key ways to manage feed intake in calves: hand feeding and intake limiters.
When a livestock producer feeds by hand – they can measure how many pounds per head, per day – then add a free choice limiter.
There are many options of limiters for producers, and it is based on the producer’s budget and preference.
However, it is important for producers to understand the need for a balanced ration to have a healthy herd.
Arkansas cattle producer Benjamin Anderson has experienced the importance of hand feeding in his short time working with cattle.
“In showing club calves ration is important,” said Anderson. “You can’t underfeed the calf or it won’t finish, but on the other hand you can’t overfeed it.”
Anderson’s limiter of choice is adding forages to the calves’ diet. He has seen success with Bermuda and Johnsongrass hay.
“I like using Bermuda hay because our hay is a cleaner cut of hay because we spray and fertilize – which my calves prefer,” Anderson said.
Forages are popular limiters for cattle producers, especially in the winter, however there are other supplements that can limit a calf’s intake.
Salt is a supplement Gunsaulis recommended as a feed intake limiter.
“The salt makes the feed so salty the calves won’t want to eat as much in one sitting, because they won’t like the salt taste anymore,” Gunsaulis said.
Gunsaulis also recommended intake limiters that can be mixed in with the calves feed.
“Purina has a few products that can be mixed into the cattle’s feed or even ground corn to feed,” Gunsaulis said.
The supplement is a non-salt additive that can balance the nutrition the calf’s diet that it doesn’t receive from the forage supplement.
A gradual increase of intake is also important to maintain a healthy calf. As the calf grows the ration needs to increase.
Anderson calculated the percentage of the calf’s weight to the amount of feed and forages it required.
“The ration I prefer is about 2.5 percent of the calf’s weight per day in grain,” Anderson said. “So a 700-pound calf would receive 17.5 pounds of grain per day.”
To have heathy calves fill out to their full potential, ration and intake limiters are important.
Therefore, when the cattle producer goes to pour their bucket of feed into the trough, they need to prepare the ration thoughtfully and precisely.


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