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Nutrition Basics

     Proper nutrition isn’t just for humans, cattle, like all animals, must have a healthy and nutritional diet if they are too flourish and produce the quality products and profitable operations  you are looking for.

       Cattle are called ruminants, which mean their stomachs contain four compartments allowing them to digest larger amounts of roughage, and use microorganisms in the stomach to digest. The digestion system of a cow needs a balance of essential nutrients including protein, energy, vitamins, and, of course, water.

     Nutrients are essential for healthy cattle growth, reproduction, milk production, or fattening and ultimately are one of the most important things you must consider and ensure when developing your feeding system. The most common and basic nutrients needed by cattle are:

 Energy
     We all need energy, and this also is the major nutrient requirement for beef cattle. Energy deficiencies can cause a host of problems, including stunted calves and brood cows. Lower energy also opens the cow up to increased disease vulnerability.

Protein
     Young growing animals and lactating cows and pregnant cows require a higher concentration of protein than other cattle. Protein in cattle is essential for healthy growth and reproduction.

Minerals
     Thirteen minerals are generally recognized as essential in beef nutrition, and generally, the normally prescribed beef cattle diet contains all the required minerals needed in a healthy diet. There are supplements for brood cows such as salt, calcium, and phosphorus and certain cows may need magnesium. Commercially, there are a number of supplements available that can be used in conjunction with your feed choice. Supplements have become a popular way to increase time to market by increasing growth rates. Supplements also can be used to improve milk production and quality, as well as alter the characteristics of beef cattle.

Vitamins
     Ideally, cattle will not require vitamin supplements if they have adequate pasture and are put on a healthy, regimented feeding program. Under drought conditions, or if adequate green plants are not available, Vitamin A may be required for your herd. Vitamin A is essential for healthy cattle and deficiencies in this required vitamin can cause a number of health and productivity issues if not addressed. A lack of vitamin A has been known to effect vision, growth in young calves, lack of coordination, joint problems and decreased reproduction. Your veterinarian can diagnose a vitamin A deficiency in cattle and, chances are, if one cow shows a low vitamin A count, the rest of the herd should be checked for the same result. Once detected, a vitamin A deficiency can easily be corrected over the period of a few months with the proper supplements.

     Ultimately, cattle diets have advanced over the years, requiring less food to produce the desired results. Advances in supplements have also made it possible to ensure your herd is getting its required nutrients.

     When choosing a diet for your herd, make sure to take into account your water supply. Water is a vital source of nutrition for cattle, and provides some of the essential ingredients for cattle health.

     Healthy feed and water is key to the success of your herd, and ultimately translates into higher productivity and profits. Make sure to keep your larger goals in mind, and tailor your program to the specific goals of your operation and the specific breeds you are raising.

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