Types of Cow Feed

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Holstein dairy cows consume a diet of concentrates and roughages.
Holstein dairy cows consume a diet of concentrates and roughages. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Cattle are ruminants, or animals with four-compartment stomachs. Microbes complete much of the digestion in ruminant stomachs. Cattle are adapted to diets primarily composed of roughage feeds, which have a high fiber content. Under certain situations, cattle also consume concentrates -- feeds with a high energy level and low fiber content. Cattle require adequate levels of protein, energy, vitamins and minerals in their diet, which will vary according to each animal’s age, size, weight and stage of reproduction.

Roughages

During the growing season, cattle graze pastures and rangeland. Roughages are dried and baled into hay or fermented and stored as silage. Common hays for cattle include alfalfa, meadow grass, oat and clover. Silage is often made from corn and alfalfa plants.

Concentrates

Barley, corn, oat and wheat grains are common concentrates in the diet of cattle. Concentrates are fed to cattle whole, ground, cracked or rolled. Concentrates in the diet increase the energy content of the ration and are common in beef-cattle growing rations. Dairy cattle consume a high level of concentrates for optimum milk production.

Byproducts

Feed resulting from food and feed processing industries is common in cattle rations. The cost may be lower than traditional roughages and concentrates. Whole cottonseed, a byproduct of cotton production, provides energy and protein. Brewer’s grains, products left over from the beer and malt industries, also provide energy and protein in cattle rations. Clean, dried and ground fish are made into fish meal, providing protein. A wide variety of byproduct feeds are available for cattle.

Nutrients

Green feeds, such as alfalfa hay, contain a high level of vitamin A and calcium. Grains contain relatively high levels of phosphorus. A trace mineralized salt block provides a variety of minerals for cattle. All cattle require clean, fresh water.

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