A balanced ration should provide protein, energy, minerals and vitamins from dry fodders, green fodders, concentrates, mineral supplements etc., in appropriate quantities to enable the animal to perform optimally and remain healthy.
There are certain advantages associated with feeding balanced rations to your animals as it improves the general performance of your livestock’s.
Imbalanced feeding results to the following errors:
• Low milk production, poor growth and reproduction
• Milk production of animals lower than their genetic potential
• Shorter lactation length and longer calving intervals
• Animals more prone to metabolic disorders such as milk fever and ketosis
• Slow growth in young animals and delayed age at first calving
• Shorter productive life
• Excessive amounts of pollutants released into the environment
• Lower profit to farmers.
Now, Let us discuss in details those characteristics of feeding the required balanced ration to your animals and how they benefit you in return as the farmer below.
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But first let us understand what a balanced ration means and that brings us to our first question which is:
What is a Balanced Ration?
A balanced ration is the amount of feed that will supply the proper amount and proportions of nutrients needed for an animal to perform a specific purpose such as growth, maintenance, lactation or gestation.
Difference Between a Ration and a Balanced Ration
Ration: It is the allowance of feed given to the animal for a period of 24 hours.
Balanced ration: It is a ration which supplies all the essential nutrients to the animal in required proportion, form and quantity for 24 hours.
What is a Nutrient?
Nutrients are any feed component or group of feed components that are similar in chemical composition and that aid in the support of animal life. Examples of nutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins.
What are Nutrient Requirements?
Nutrient requirements are the amount of nutrients the animal needs for a specific purpose. They are influenced by many factors, such as weight of animal, sex, desired rate of growth, stage of lactation, environment and others.
Meanwhile the nutrient composition of a feed is the amount of specific nutrients contained in the feed. They are expressed as a percentage of the dry matter and may also be found in published feed composition tables. A word of caution: feed composition tables contain only average values. Unless your feed is average, the data would not be accurate.
Now let us look at some of the Nutrient requirements of livestock animals and their uses.
Dry matter is the portion of the feed left after all water has been removed. It contains the nutrients. Values for dry matter intake shown in nutrient requirement tables are not all an animal will consume, but represent an amount that can be consumed under normal circumstances.
Different feeds contain different levels of dry matter; therefore, it is desirable to balance the ration on a dry matter basis and then convert the various feeds back to an as-fed basis.
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Crude protein may also be called total protein. It is determined by measuring the nitrogen content of feed and multiplying by the value 6.25 because proteins typically contain 16% nitrogen. Not all nitrogen-containing compounds are true proteins. These are called nonprotein nitrogen (NPN) sources.
Many of these NPN compounds can have their nitrogen converted to microbial protein in the rumen under proper conditions.
Generally, NPN sources are not used well as protein when cattle are on high roughage rations or have high protein requirements, such as young cattle with high rates of growth. True protein sources should be used in these cases.
Energy is not actually a nutrient. It is contained in nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, etc. For practical purposes energy will be considered a nutrient. There are several methods of measuring feed energy values.
Some of these are digestible energy, net energy for maintenance and gain and total digestible nutrients. Total digestible nutrients (TDN) is the value most commonly used in simple ration balancing.
Minerals are compounds needed to regulate many metabolic functions in the body. They may be classed as macro or trace minerals depending on the amounts needed. Examples of macro minerals are calcium and phosphorus. Iron, zinc and copper are examples of trace minerals.
Other important nutrients are vitamins and water. Rations are not normally balanced for these nutrients, but adequate amounts must be provided for desired rates of growth. Water is particularly important because feed intake decreases when water intake is not adequate.
Roughages are feeds that are relatively high in fiber and low in energy. Hay, straw, cobs, cottonseed hulls and corn stalks are examples of roughages.
Concentrates are feeds or mixtures of feeds that are relatively low in fiber and provide energy as the primary nutrient.
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Guide on How to Formulate the Right Rations
A systematic approach will help in ration balancing. First, determine the nutrient requirements of the animal being fed. This means determining the sex, size and production level of the animal.
The next step is to determine the feeds available for use. List their composition on a dry matter basis from a composition table or a chemical analysis. Now the amounts of the feeds necessary to balance the ration can be determined.
Desirable Characteristics of Good Ration
i. Ration should be properly balanced with all necessary nutrients.
ii. Ration should include variety of feed stuffs so as to provide better nutrient composition to the body.
iii. Ration should include sufficient green fodders preferably legumes.
iv. Ration should include palatable and digestible feed stuffs so as to ensure optimum feed intake and maximum nutrient availability as they may reduce the nutrient availability leading to health disorders,
v. Ration should satisfy the total dry matter requirement of an animal based on weight.
vi. Ration should be fairly bulky as it is required for satisfaction of hunger and expulsion of undigested material due to its laxative action
vii.Ration should be fresh and free from undesirable weeds and dust.
viii. Ration should be properly processed to ensure its desirable intake.
ix. Ration should be economical as feed accounts to about 60 – 70% cost of animal rearing.
Let’s take cattle feeding for instance:
The thumb rule for cattle feeding or the Principles of thumb rule for feeding cattle include but not limited to the following:
1) The average DM (Dry matter) requirement of desi cow is 2 (dry) to 2.5 (lactating) Kg / 100 Kg. body weight / day while it is 2.5 (dry) to 3.0 Kg. (lactating) in cross breed cows and buffaloes.
2) The roughage requirement is fulfilled through green and dry fodders, about 2/3 of DM through dry fodder and remaining 1/3 from green fodder
3) The concentrate requirement of animal for maintenance production and pregnancy is as follows:
3a) Maintenance requirement of desi cow and crossbred cow / buffalo is 1 and 1.5 Kg. respectively.
3b) Lactating animal should be given 1 Kg. additional concentrate for every 2.5 Kg (Buffalo) to 3 Kg. (Cow) milk produced.
3c) Pregnant cows. buffaloes should receive 1.5 Kg. per day extra concentrate allowance during advance pregnancy to meet extra need of nutrients for growth of foetus
3d) Breeding bulls in service should get 1 Kg. per day extra concentrate. Allowance to maintain good health and sex libido.
4) Mineral mixture and common salt each @ 25-50 gm should be given to fulfill mineral requirement of animal.
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It is minimum allowance of ration given to the animal for carrying out its essential body processes at optimum rate without gain or loss in body weight.
It is usually given to dry non-producing animals. It roughly satisfies the nutrient requirement for maintenance.
Gestation or Pregnancy Ration It is the allowance of ration given to the pregnant animal in addition to maintenance ration during the last quarter of pregnancy.
It is given to satisfy nutrient requirement of pregnant animals. It is required for optimum foetal growth. It helps in proper development of udder for future lactation.
It is the additional allowance of ration given to the animal over and above the maintenance ration for the purpose of production like milk, meat, wool and work.
It is given to meet the nutrient losses through milk. It helps to maintain milk production to optimum level.
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