Saturday, July 20, 2024

Feeding Materials for Ruminant Animals

Feed is an important component of livestock production (ruminant animals). The feed and feeding practices employed in farm animal production is one of the determining factors for the profitability of the venture.

It is important to know the nutrient need of the animal, the type of feed or meal mixture that will adequately meet the requirements for maintenance and production purposes.

Feed Materials Used in Ruminant Feeding

Roughages form the main component of ruminant feed. Roughages are bulky feeds containing high crude fibre content usually above 18% and less than 60% total digestible nutrient. Roughages are made up of grasses and legumes or products made from these two.

There are two types of roughages based on their moisture content, namely dry roughages and succulent roughages, fresh grasses, legumes and some browse plants and fodders such as silage constitutes the succulent roughage while hay and other dry standing grass (standing hay) or straw are the dry roughages.

1. Dry Roughages

Dry roughage has 10 to15% moisture. These include hay, dry standing grass (standing hay) and straw. Hay is made by cutting the grass or legume while fresh and is sun dried or cured, baled and kept in the feed store for dry season or stall feeding.

2. Succulent Roughages

These are grasses or legumes or browse plants containing above 60% moisture. They can be cut and fed or grazed. Examples of grasses used as pasture are Guinea grass (Panicum maximum), Gamba grass (Andropogon spp), Elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum), Giant star grass (Cynodon,spp) etc.

Examples of legumes are Centrosemapubescens, Calopogonium Spp, mucuna Spp, Pueraria phaseolorides,Lucerneetc while the following are example of the browse plant, Gliricidia Sepium,Leucena leucocephalia,Acacia tortilis etc.

Plants like elephant grass and maize are used to prepare silage. Grasses or legumes are also planted as pasture, fenced and grazed by ruminant.

3. Pasture

Pasture can be established by planting some of the earlier mentioned grasses or legumes. It is a piece of land which naturally have grasses or legumes growing on it or planted on it. If it is a natural one it is called natural grassland or if seeded it is called artificial pasture.

It may be fenced or otherwise. If grass and legume are planted together they are called mixed pasture and if only one type of pasture is found, it is called sole pasture. Pastures can be managed by application of fertilizer and weeding.

It can also be renovated by burning to allow new young green lush pasture to come up or the whole pasture ploughed into the soil so that new ones are allowed to grow in place of the old.

4. Grazing Systems

Ruminants are often grazed on pasture where there is facility for it especially during the rainy season when the grasses/legumes grow luxuriously. At this stage, it can form the sole diet for beef cattle with little supplementation in form of concentrate in case of dairy.

Where fenced, the pasture could be partitioned or divided into paddocks to facilitate good grazing management. The grazing system used include, continuous grazing, rotational grazing and strip grazing systems.

Continuous grazing is an uninterrupted type of grazing system. It has the disadvantage of the pasture being depleted due to overgrazing and a major advantage of little or no need for fencing thereby lowering cost.

Rotational grazing from the name implies rotating the animal on fenced pastures. It is an effective grazing management carrying capacity is controlled and persistency of the pasture. It is also good for the control of parasites and other diseases.

Strip grazing is restricting the animal to a section of the pasture usually with electric fence. It has an advantage of increased utilization of the pasture.

5. Pasture Conservation

During the rainy season, there is usually an abundance in the supply or availability of fodder i.e. grasses and legumes.

Therefore, conservation methods for fodder have been developed over the years to feed ruminants during the dry season. Fodders may be conserved in form of hay, silage, and haylage. These shall be briefly discussed as below;

6. Hay

Hay is a green grass, legume or any fodder crop of about 80 to 85% dry matter content, harvested, chopped and allowed to dry or cure on the field to 15 to 20% moisture content.

Feeding Materials for Ruminant Animals

The fodder or grass to be used must be harvested in the morning when the weather condition is good i.e. no rain and bright sunshine. The leaves must not be allowed to shatter or rain allowed on it to prevent leaching of the nutrients in the leaves.

It must be turned regularly on the field to prevent browning. It is later packed after about two or three days drying on the field, baled using a hay baler and stored for later use especially during the dry or winter season.

Hay must be stored in a well-ventilated store that will prevent the growth of moulds or fungi. Hay infested with fungi or moulds are definitely not good as feed for ruminants.

7. Silage

Silage is made from fodder crops (of about 30 – 35% dry matter) through controlled fermentation to retain its high moisture. Silage making or ensilage involves the cutting and chopping of forage plants into small pieces and kept in specialized trenches / container called silo (either a pit or trench).

Read Also : General Features of Ruminant Animals

The pieces are packed air-tight in the silo. If it is not air- tight, it will grow moulds and fungi. Sometime heavy earth moving machine like a tractor is run over the mass of the chopped- fodder if in a trench silo to ensure air-tightness.

After this, it is covered with polythene sheets with heavy materials like stones or used tyres are put on it and left to ferment for a period of about 21 to 28 days.

A good silage must not grow mould/fungi and must have pH 4.0 to 5.0. The colour must be greenish yellow and have a vinegar odour as a result of organic acids such as formic acid, acetic acid, propionic acid and butyric acid. Silage is very palatable to ruminants.

8. Haylage

Grasses and legumes that are cut for hay making with dry matter range of about 30 to 45% could be ensiled. The product obtained is called haylage.

In summary, below is the summary of what you have learnt in this article:

The feed materials for ruminants are predominantly grasses and legumes. Concentrates such as soybean cake and others are given only as supplements.

The feed materials are called roughages which is classified into dry and succulent.

Ruminants are also fed or grazed on pasture which is a piece of land where grass or legumes or combination of both grow.

Pasture or fodder crops can be conserved as hay or silage or haylage. This must be done with precautionary measures to ensure that good quality hay or silage or haylage is produced.

Read Also : Proper Wastes Treatment and Disposal Methods


Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with several years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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