Often times, ruminant animal farmers ask: for how long can the concentrates to be fed to my ruminant animals be stored before it becomes unfit for the animal’s consumption?
Well, this depends on how long the ingredients have been stored before milling. Ideally, feeds should not be stored for too long to prevent contamination which will affect the animals.
I do recommend a maximum of two weeks for storage of feeds to be served them. This may however vary depending on the freshness of the feed ingredients. Storing forages would have lost most of its water contents which is highly cherished by the animals.
Feed, also called animal feed, food grown or developed for livestock and poultry. Modern feeds are produced by carefully selecting and blending ingredients to provide highly nutritional diets that both maintain the health of the animals and increase the quality of such end products as meat, milk, or eggs. Ongoing improvements in animal diets have resulted from research, experimentation, and chemical analysis by agricultural scientists.
Animals in general require the same nutrients as humans. Some feeds, such as pasture grasses, hay and silage crops, and certain cereal grains, are grown specifically for animals.
Other feeds, such as sugar beet pulp, brewers’ grains, and pineapple bran, are by-products that remain after a food crop has been processed for human use. Surplus food crops, such as wheat, other cereals, fruits, vegetables, and roots, may also be fed to animals.
History does not record when dried roughage or other stored feeds were first given to animals. Most early records refer to nomadic peoples who, with their herds and flocks, followed the natural feed supplies. When animals were domesticated and used for work in crop production, some of the residues were doubtless fed to them.
Feed and Water for Ruminants
In order to get the most out of livestock you must always give animals enough good feed and clean water. Good feed is high in nutrients and provides everything that the body needs in order for the animal to grow and reproduce.
What an animal needs in its feed
- All animals and humans need the nutrients called carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals in their feed in order to stay healthy, have energy, grow and reproduce.
- Carbohydrates such as sugar and starch are burned in the body to give energy. Fats are broken down in the body to give carbohydrates and water. Animals and humans store carbohydrates as fat in the body.
- Protein forms the building blocks of the body. It is needed to produce the muscles.
- Minerals such as copper and calcium are needed to form the bones, brain, nerves and blood. Plants take in minerals from the soil.
- Vitamins are essential for a healthy body and all plants contain several vitamins. Lack of essential vitamins can cause problems such as blindness and swollen joints.
- If animals do not get enough of any nutrient they will become less productive and may die from a condition called a deficiency disease.
- If an animal does not get enough fat, protein or carbohydrate in its feed it cannot grow properly, loses weight, milk production drops and production of young is affected.
- Lack of minerals results in such problems as failing to come into heat, poor bone growth and loss of hair or wool.
Types of Ruminant Animals Feed
A good, rich feed contains more energy than a poor feed and a cow gets as much energy from 1 kg of sorghum, barley or corn as it does from 6 kg of grass. Some feeds are very poor and of little use to the animal. For example, old straw contains little energy, most of it cannot be digested and passes out of the animal as dung.
- Roughage is bulky and low in energy-giving carbohydrates. Examples of such feeds are grasses, maize stalks and sweet potato tops.
- Concentrates are feeds which are rich in proteins and carbohydrates, e.g. grain crops.
The large stomach of the ruminant with its four compartments means that it can live mainly on roughage. Animals with single stomachs need more concentrates than ruminants.
A daily ration is the amount of feed an animal needs every day. A good ration will contain all of the nutrients. Some nutrients are found in large amounts in some plants:
|Carbohydrate||maize, sorghum, wheat, oats, rice, grass|
|Protein||lucerne (alfalfa), clovers, beans, grass|
|Fats||cotton seed, sunflower seeds, grass, groundnuts|
An example of a good ration which can be given to animals not on pasture is 3 parts of maize, part sunflowers and 1 part unshelled groundnuts. The ration is fed at the rate of 2 – 3% of body weight each day.
Green growing grass contains all the nutrients but in the dry season grass contains little protein and vitamins. It is necessary to give additional feeds at this time in order to prevent weight loss, maintain high milk production, growth and reproduction. It may also become necessary to give minerals to the animal.
Feed for the dry season
- In the dry season grass becomes scarce and is low in nutrients. When grass is plentiful in the wet growing season you can cut grass, and store it until it is needed in the dry season.
- The grass can be kept as hay or silage.
- Hay is dried grasses. The best hay is prepared from young grasses. Cut the grass and leave it to dry in the sun for several days turning it over to make sure it is completely dry when it can be stored until needed. Do not try to make hay in the rainy season.
- Silage is grass or other plants which are cut while green and stored without air. To make silage you will need an airtight container or pit to store it in. Dig a pit 2 meters deep and 1.5 to 2.0 meters wide.
- Put a base of large stones in the bottom of the silo. Cut grass and fill the silo with it, stamping down the grass with your feet. The silo must be filled in 1 to 2 days. When filled cover the top of the silo with a sheet of plastic or stones and a covering of soil in order to keep out water and air. Leave the silage for a few months before using it. The quality of the silage will depend on the plants used. Silage keeps well and animals like it.
In some communities’ people traditionally cut tree branches to feed their animals. We now know that some trees are better than others for feed. The best trees are leguminous trees (Leucaena).
These trees can be grown in rows 4 m apart. Other crops can be grown between the rows of trees (alley farming). The leaves and branches of the trees can be cut through the year and used as animal feed.
Using these trees for feed is beneficial because:
- The leaves of the trees provide good feed for animals all through the year.
- The rotting leaves provide a mineral rich mulch (natural fertilizer) for other crops.
- The trees provide fuel wood, timber and shelter from the wind.
The trees stop soil erosion and improve the fertility of the soil. To know more, ask your agriculture officer or veterinarian about using fodder trees.
- Supplementary feeds are given when the grass is poor and dry or when an animal is pregnant, giving milk or is a working animal.
- The best supplementary feed is cake. The cheapest of which is the waste material from the processing of coconuts, groundnuts, cottonseed and palm oil.
- You can use whatever is available locally.
- Animals need plenty of fresh clean water every day.
- Always give water before feeding animals and allow them to drink at least three times a day.
- Ruminants on pastures can be watered every 2 – 3 days.
- Do not allow animals to stand in the water at the drinking place. This can cause disease to spread.
- Water needs will vary according to the feed they eat and the weather.
- A pinch of salt can be added to the drinking water to provide minerals.
Points to remember
Take care not to spread disease through feed and water. Keep water and feed troughs clean and do not allow animals to eat old or musty feed. Change feeds slowly. Take special care when introducing fresh green feed so that bloat is avoided.
Several methods of feeding animals have been developed such as the following:
- Feeding urea-treated straw: Straw is a low nutrient feed for ruminants but if it is wetted with urea and covered for a week it becomes more nutritious.
- Molasses-urea-mineral blocks: Blocks made of molasses, mineral salts and urea are a good supplement for ruminants which lick the block and take in the nutrients.
Read Also: How Often to Clean a Ruminant Pen
Tips for Feeding Dairy Cattle
- Concentrate must be feed individually according to production requirements.
- Good quality roughage saves concentrates. Approximately 20 kg of grasses (guinea, napier, etc.) or 6-8 kg legume fodder (cowpea, lucerne) can replace 1 kg of concentrate mixture (0.14-0.16 kg of DCP) in terms of protein content.
- 1kg straw can replace 4-5 kg of grass on dry matter basis. In this case the deficiency of protein and other nutrients should be compensated by a suitable concentrate mixture.
- Regularity in feeding should be followed. Concentrate mixture can be fed at or preferably before milking – half in the morning and the other half in the evening – before the two milkings. Half the roughage ration can be fed in the forenoon after watering and cleaning the animals. The other half is fed in the evening, after milking and watering. High yielding animals may be fed three times a day (both roughage and concentrate). Increasing the frequency of concentrate feeding will help maintain normal rumen motility and optimum milk fat levels.
- Over-feeding concentrates may result in off feed and indigestion.
- Abrupt change in the feed should be avoided.
- Grains should be ground to medium degree of fineness before being fed to cattle.
- Long and thick-stemmed fodders such as Napier may be chopped and fed.
- Highly moist and tender grasses may be wilted or mixed with straw before feeding. Legume fodders may be mixed with straw or other grasses to prevent the occurrence of bloat and indigestion.
- Silage and other feeds, which may impart flavour to milk, may be fed after milking. Concentrate mixture in the form of mash may be moistened with water and fed immediately. Pellets can be fed as such.
- All feeds must be stored properly in well-ventilated and dry places. Mouldy or otherwise damaged feed should not be fed.
- For high yielding animals, the optimum concentrate roughage ratio on dry matter basis should be 60:40.
Here are some amazing ruminant farming books to guide and assist you further: