Basic Nutrition Guidelines

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • The use of adequate, well-balanced rations can improve profits or help minimize losses in a livestock operation. An animal's ration must contain the essential nutrients in appropriate amounts and ratios.
  • The diet of a ruminant consists mainly of fibrous plant material, which requires prolonged chewing, fermentation and rumination before its nutrients are available for digestion and absorption.
  • The compartments in which this takes place are the forestomachs, of which there are three: the rumen, the reticulum, and the omasum. The fourth compartment, the proper stomach which corresponds to the simple stomach of a monogastric is the abomasum.
  • Feed for beef cattle must supply energy, protein, vitamins, macro and trace minerals. Consumed feeds contain both water and dry matter. The amount of each depends on the type of forage or stored feed that is provided to the animal. The dry matter consists of organic and inorganic material.
  • If all nutrients except one are supplied in adequate amounts, animal performance will be restricted by the nutrient that is deficient (first limiting nutrient).
  • Animals require energy for maintenance, growth, work, milk production, reproduction and immunity. Feeds are evaluated in terms of the amount of energy an animal can obtain from them. There are four different energy systems used in North America. They are the Metabolic energy, Net energy, Digestible energy, and TDN. Each one has its use in different situations. Most laboratory reports have values reported for each system.
  • Proteins are composed of amino acids which contain carbohydrates (starches and sugars), nitrogen and some of the amino acids contain sulphur. Microbial populations found in the digestive system of the ruminant breakdown feed proteins into amino acids and then build the ten essential amino acids to form the new proteins that are required by the animal. All other nutrients need to be supplied in proper amounts for this process to be efficient.
  • The major minerals in cattle nutrition are calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, potassium and sulfur. They are required at comparatively high levels described as percent of diet or grams per head per day. Macro minerals are required in very small amounts. They include cobalt, iodine, copper, manganese, zinc, and selenium.
  • Supplementary macro and trace minerals are often added to the ration depending on the type and amounts of feeds in the ration, size and age of the animal being fed and stage of production (pregnant or lactating) or level of performance required (average daily gain or kg of milk produced). Macro and trace mineral feeding is complex with many interrelationships between individual and groups of nutrients. Nutrients fed in excess amounts can cause interference with the absorption of other nutrients causing deficiencies in others.
  • Vitamins are required by the body in metabolic, immune and reproductive functions. Growing or recently cut green forages containing carotenoids may supply adequate amounts of Vitamin A precursors. Vitamin D is obtained by animals being in the sun and is formed in the skin of the animal.
  • Vitamin E and selenium work together in all functions of the body. The lack of vitamin E and/or selenium causes white muscle disease, lower metabolic and reproductive efficiency, and immune function.
Fact Sheets

Backgrounding - Feeder Cattle Nutrition

Basic Beef Cattle Nutrition.

Beef Cow Rations and Winter Feeding Guidelines

Beef Ration Rules of Thumb

Fibre Digestiblity and Forage Quality

Formulating Supplements - available in PDF format only

Know Your Feed Terms

NRC Nutrient Requirements for Beef Cows. - available in PDF format only

Nutrients for Cattle.

Nutritional Guidelines for Backgrounding Calves.

Ten Year Average Analyses of Alberta Feeds 1984 - 1994.

Working with Your Consulting Nutritionist/Feedmill

Research Papers

Animal Unit Equivalent for Beef Cattle Based on Metabolic Weight

Enzymes in Ruminant Diets - available in PDF format only

Evaluation of the National Research Council (NRC) nutrient requirement for beef cattle: Predicting feedlot performance - available in PDF format only

Improving protein utilization in silage to increase animal performance and reduce environmental burden - available in PDF format only
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Barry Yaremcio.
This document is maintained by Mary Ann Nelson.
This information published to the web on June 20, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on April 26, 2018.

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