Basic Nutrition Guidelines

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • The use of adequate, well-balanced diets can maximize profits or minimize losses in a feeding program. An animal's diet 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 soaking 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 proper stomach, corresponding to the simple monogastric stomach, is called the abomasum.
  • Feeds for beef cattle must supply energy, protein, certain vitamins and minerals. The main components of food are water and dry matter. The dry matter consists of organic material and inorganic material.
  • If ample amounts of all nutrients but one are fed, the level of that particular nutrient will limit performance.
  • Animals require energy for maintenance, growth, work, and milk production. Feeds are evaluated in terms of the amount of energy an animal can obtain from them. The digestible energy (DE) is the gross (total) amount of energy in the feed less the amount lost in the feces. Energy is usually reported in megacalories (Mcal) per kilogram.
  • Proteins are composed of amino acids which contain carbohydrates, nitrogen and sometimes sulphur. Ruminants only need a source of nitrogen, or a poor quality protein, from which the microbes in the rumen can then construct the ten essential amino acids if all other nutrients are adequate.
  • The major minerals in cattle nutrition are calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, and potassium. They are required at comparatively high levels described as percent of diet or grams per day. Those required in very small amounts (micro or trace minerals) include iodine, copper, zinc, sulphur and selenium.
  • Adding supplementary minerals to the ration is usually required and is determined by the feeds in the ration and the animal's requirements. Trace mineral feeding is very complex with many interrelationships. Some minerals fed in excess amounts may cause a deficiency in others.
  • Vitamins are required by the body for metabolism. Green forages containing carotenoids may supply enough Vitamin A. Vitamin D is found in sun-cured forages. It is called the sunshine vitamin because ultraviolet light acts on a compound in the animal’s skin changing it to vitamin D.
  • Vitamin E and selenium work together, for proper development of muscle tissue. Lack of Vitamin E and/or selenium causes white muscle disease, lower reproductive performance and immunity.
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 Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Mary Ann Nelson.
This information published to the web on June 20, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on January 23, 2017.

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