How to Figure Feed Rations for Steers

Providing proper rations for steers requires a balance of adequate nutrition, palatable feed and economics.
Providing proper rations for steers requires a balance of adequate nutrition, palatable feed and economics. (Image: Ralf Nau/Lifesize/Getty Images)

In tough economic times, families often look for ways to save money. One idea is to raise your own food, including growing vegetables and raising a steer for beef. Whether raising a steer for food to save money or for better health or to show at a major stock show or as a 4H project, ensuring the steer has proper nutrition is a must.

Figuring feed rations for a steer is a complex task which will generally require input from experts. The key is efficiency: how to achieve the fastest weight gain with the least feed energy while finishing the steer properly according to his breed specifications.

Things You'll Need

  • Scales or sewing tape measure
  • Pasture or hay
  • Protein
  • Grains
  • Minerals

Weigh your steer to establish a starting weight. It's preferable to use scales, but the weight can be estimated by measuring the steer's heart girth and body length. Weight equals the heart girth multiplied by itself and the body length and the total divided by 300. Weight should be taken every three to four weeks until finished.

Determine the desired daily gain for your steer. If raising for a show, use the show date as your finish date for the steer. Determine the desired weight at finish, often dependent upon the breed of the steer. Divide the number of pounds left to gain by the number of days left to calculate the desired daily gain.

Figure feed ration based upon desired daily gain. The simplest way to figure rations is to use computer programs designed specifically for the complex task. Most local extension offices or state agricultural departments offer such services to the community. Rations should balance nutritional concerns with financial concerns and be palatable to the steer to ensure he will eat it.

Commercially made premixes are available and provide a simpler alternative to figuring and mixing your own rations. Commercial mixes are designed in growing rations and finishing rations. For those less experienced this is a viable option.

Remember to include a protein supplement, such as soybean meal or linseed oil meal, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorous and potassium. Minerals should be offered free choice through the feeding out process.

Tips & Warnings

  • Proper rations balance roughage, grains, protein and vitamins and minerals.
  • The finishing process should include at least the final 140 days of feeding out the steer. At this point, the steer should be receiving 70 to 80 percent of his feed in the form of various grains including corn and oats.
  • Change your steer's diet gradually over several weeks to avoid digestive upset. This is true whether transitioning from pasture to hay or when adding grain to the diet.

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