Producers should understand what the nutritional value is of their livestock’s feed ration
Nutritional requirements vary across production livestock. The best way to determine if a rancher is providing a feed ration that is utilized to its full potential is to review the feed analysis report.
A feed analysis report provides reliable nutritional information that is important to not only feed balanced rations but also to ensure the most economical option is utilized. Unfortunately, these reports can be quite daunting if you’re new to the industry or have never paid much attention to them.
The first components on a feed analysis report is typically dry matter. Dry matter is the moisture-free content of the feed and contains the essential nutrients within a given feed or forage. Moisture dilutes the nutritional value of a feed.
Why is knowing moisture content important? It allows us the opportunity to compare nutrient content of different feeds on an equal basis.
Feed nutrients are determined on either an as-fed basis or a dry matter basis. Feeds having a higher moisture content, like pasture grass or hay, have a much lower nutrient content than dry hay when compared on an as-fed basis. But when you correct for water content and compare on a dry matter basis, they are nutritionally the same. As a rule of thumb, hay or other dry feed should not exceed a moisture content of greater than 15 percent.
Another feed component on an analysis will be fiber, which will be represented as NDF (Neutral Detergent Fiber) or ADF (Acid Detergent Fiber) on the report. Fiber content is important, especially in cattle and sheep, since they are classified as ruminants.
Fiber cannot be digested by mammalian organisms but it can be digested by ruminants; because of this, it’s important to pay close attention to these numbers in feed rations.
The next factor, most people are familiar with, is crude protein. Crude protein measures the amount of nitrogen in a feed because protein is made up of around 16 percent nitrogen. This isn’t very specific for the average producer. There are additional protein values like soluble crude protein, by-pass protein and more. Essentially, these other values will help inform the producer if the feed is mainly amino acids (the building blocks of protein) or other components like urea and ammonia. These factors help with solubility and digestibility.
Protein is essential for weight gain in livestock. Consider the fact that most beef cattle are finished on feed lots. Why? Because most grains have a higher protein content than most grasses. In this scenario, it’s easier to increase weight gain and bring cattle to market weight than it would be on a grass-finished basis. However, for the local small-town producer, grass-finished livestock is not uncommon.
Other components of a feed ration to pay attention to include fat and minerals. Why is all of this important? Consumption of one feed could result in an increase in the consumption of another feed or vice versa.
Over feeding or under feeding certain minerals and feedstuffs could be life threatening to your herd. If you have questions regarding certain feed rations, contact your local feed mill.