For the Love of Bovine – Part 3
Over the last 2 months we’ve been writing about some of the things you need to take into consideration when you’re planning to purchase cattle, as well as a brief overview of breed characteristics and disposition. This week we will take a look at nutrition.
There are a number of things you should consider in regards to cattle nutrition. Cattle are ruminants and the rumen is in effect a large vat which stores and begins the process of digesting the food consumed. The rumen contains microbes which help to break down the feed and turn it into an energy source the cow can effectively use. As discussed previously, the quality and availability of your pasture will affect the needs and requirements of supplementary feeding. Hay in the form of dry grassy hay is recommended for cattle. Prime lucerne hay, which is often fed to horses, is generally too rich for cattle. Dry grassy, Rhodes, barley, oaten ,sorghum, millet, soybean and shedded lucerne are all suitable.
I usually recommend that all cattle have access to a vitamin and mineral lick block such as Megamin Block (original). This allows cattle to lick the block and obtain some of the essential vitamins and minerals required for health and productivity. Generally speaking, they will know when they need to lick at the block.
The pastures in our district are renowned for copper and selenium deficiencies. These two elements are required for growth, fertility and general health. Some cattle require ruminal boluses (like a large cattle sized multivitamin pill, only with copper and selenium) to help counteract the effects of insufficient intake through grazing.
Pelletised food can also be fed. This is generally a grain based food. Having the grain processed into pellets allows for improved absorption of nutrients.
Another supplement which is high in protein is copra meal. It can be moistened or soaked prior to feeding (as it absorbs the water and swells).
Some supplements incorporate urea (such as lick blocks and pellets). Urea is a nitrogen source which provides energy to those rumen microbes, which in turn is converted to energy to which the cow can then absorb. The need to supplement urea in this district is debatable. Generally it is recommended in those more drought prone areas of the state.
Care must be taken though when supplement feeding, whether it’s a mineral or supplement block or pellets. Commencing the doses too high can cause metabolic disturbances and infact be harmful or toxic to the cattle. A similar but perhaps not quite so devastating comparison for humans would be your doctor recommending you increase your fibre intake. You purchase a fibre supplement such as Metamucil. Now, if you are a little gung-ho at the beginning with this supplement it may cause you to not move too far from the lavatory! On the other hand, if you slowly introduce your body to the increased fibre, then your body will benefit it’s effects in a number of ways (regularity, satiety, cholesterol to name a few).
By introducing supplements and new feeds in small quantities and slowly over a number of weeks increasing the percentage of that substance offered, you will reduce the likelihood of causing any harm as it will allow their body to adjust and adapt and utilise the nutrients offered.
There are some food items which I do not recommend feeding to cattle (or horses). Bread and yeast products are just one. The yeast in these products can ferment in the animals rumen and may lead to bloat and acidosis, to which they can die from. Vegetables and fruits in general are fine. Those with seeds or with a spherical shape should be fed with caution or cut up so as to avoid the food from becoming lodged in the oesophagus (choke).
It is illegal to feed cattle meat in Australia. Food producing animals are not to be fed foods that are from their own species.
Again, for more information please give us a call at the clinic on 3425 1544.
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