Ration Balancing

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • Complete inventories of each feed that you have available for use. Submit representative samples of each feed to determine nutrient content. It is critical to know the nutrient content of the feeds prior to balancing a ration.
  • Estimate the length of feeding period and total number of animals to be fed. Using the feed inventory information and animal days of feeding, rough estimates can be calculated to determine how much feed is available per head per day to be able to make it through the entire feeding period
  • Balance for energy first. Calculate the amount of feed needed to supply the animal's requirement for digestible energy (DE). Divide energy requirement by the amount of DE in each pound of feed to obtain the number of pounds to be fed. Check to see if the animals you are feeding would consume this amount. Growing calves should consume 2 to 2.5% of their body weight in moisture-free feeds. Mature pregnant cows generally consume 2% of body weight on a moisture free basis.
  • Protein is essential for growth and development. For each feedstuff, multiply the number of pounds fed by the amount of protein in each pound to obtain the total amount of protein supplied. If the minimum requirement is not met, add some protein supplement to the ration, or reformulate the ration using feeds with higher protein content. If significant changes in feedstuffs are made to balance for protein, go back and check to see if the energy level is still sufficient.
  • Calcium and phosphorus levels in cattle rations are critical as the excess or deficiency of one will interfere with the utilization of the other. Take into account the amounts of Ca and P supplied by each feed to determine total levels supplied by the ration. Once the macro minerals (Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, Sodium, Chlorine and Sulfur), are balanced consider how much supplemental mineral is needed and balance the micro minerals (ie. Copper, Zinc, Selenium, Cobalt, Iodine, Manganese etc.).
  • Vitamins are required in adequate amounts to enable animals to efficiently utilize other nutrients. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K can be stored in the animals' liver, therefore, providing reserves if larger amounts than required are fed. Balance vitamin requirements for the specific animal type and stage of performance.
  • Check to make certain that the ration is practical. Do not allow moisture content in the ration to exceed 50% by weight. Calculate the cost and assess the effectiveness of the ration by maintaining a close watch on your cattle throughout the winter. If possible, condition score and weigh a random number of your cattle periodically and adjust the ration according to need.
  • Remember that cattle tend to waste feed, which needs to be accounted for in the formulation of the ration. Feed more than the calculated amount. Amounts will depend on weather conditions and feeding facilities available.
  • All basic nutrient calculations can be done with a computerized ration balancing program. A computer program allows more feeding options to be evaluated. This allows for evaluation of production goals and economic performance.
  • If you are not confident with the results you have obtained, consult with a qualified nutritionist.
Fact Sheets

Forages for Cattle: New Methods of Determining Energy Content and Evaluating Heat Damage


Feed Value Calculator

Forage Quality - Fiber and Energy

NRC Nutrient Requirements for Beef Cattle

Beef Ration Rules of Thumb

Using NDF and ADF To Balance Diets

Research Papers

Let us know of good research papers for this topic.
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Linda Hunt.
This information published to the web on October 6, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on October 16, 2015.

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