Producers are reminded to know the nutritional needs of their livestock before buying feed or supplements
Knowing what is in a bag (or silo) of livestock feed is imperative to making sure a producer’s valuable animals get the required nutrition, and to make sure what the producer pays for is what’s actually required.
There is nothing worse than paying for feed and finding out later it wasn’t really what the herd or flock needed.
The first step in determining what a feed ration might be missing is to determine what the animals need to take in.
“Extension publications are a good place to start with gathering information about the nutrient needs of livestock. These can be obtained with the help of an Extension agent or Internet search,” said Dr. Shane Gadberry, professor of Ruminant Nutrition at the University of Arkansas.
Once a producer has determined how much protein, energy, vitamins and minerals their stock require, they can check the label or bulk feed ingredient list to ensure they are purchasing the right thing.
To assist the purchaser in selecting feeds that properly meet their animals’ nutritional needs, the feed label is required to include the following information: brand or trade name, product name, statement of intended purpose, guaranteed analysis of specific nutrients and compounds, feed ingredients, feeding directions, warnings or cautions, drug ingredients, name and address of manufacturer or distributor, and the net weight.
Energy can sometimes be difficult to determine when looking at a feed label.
“One of greatest supplemental feed challenges is energy,” Gadberry said. “If you look at a nutrient label on a sack of cat food or dog food, you might find the calculated energy density, something rarely shown on a sack of livestock feed. If you need supplemental calories (energy), ask for a calculated value,” he advised.
Once the needs of the animal and the contents of the feed being given have been determined, producers can “determine what is missing by comparing the total daily nutrients being provided to the total daily nutrients needed,” Gadberry explained.
“From this, one knows what appears to be coming up short – protein, energy, minerals, vitamins. It may also reveal what may be excessive too. This information helps determine what supplements are needed.”
It might seem easier to just grab a feed sack and go when it comes to buying livestock feed, but taking the extra steps to ensure nothing is missing will improve animal health and performance, which in turn leads to an improved bottom line for producers.