I recently exchanged emails with a Chef from California who wanted to know what I fed to my cattle. His genuine interest in what the cattle in my feedyard eat leads me to think that perhaps you all would be interested as well.
So, what do I feed to my cattle?
- Wet Distillers Grains: Wet Distillers Grains is a co-product of Corn-based Ethanol Production Plants. It is the part of the corn kernel that is left once the ethanol is harvested, and it is a GREAT feed for cattle. It is easily digestible by the rumen, and makes a very palatable and healthy basis for the cattle’s diet.
- Rolled Corn Kernels: Corn kernels are the seed of the corn plant. We roll the seed to crack its shell so that the resulting product is easier for our cattle to digest. The corn kernels are harvested from the corn plant during the fall months after the plant is mature. We use a machine called a combine to harvest the corn kernels. Now that we feed Wet Distillers Grains, we do not feed nearly as many rolled corn kernels as we used to.
- Ground corn stalks and roughage: The part of the corn plant that is left after the kernel is harvested is called corn stalks. We harvest the corn stalks to grind up and feed to our cattle. We swath or mow down the corn stalks and then roll them into bales to store them until we grind them into roughage to feed to our animals.
- Ground Alfalfa Hay: Alfalfa is a perennial legume that grows easily in the Platte River Valley where I live. We swath the alfalfa with a huge “lawn mower’ type harvester and then bale it for storage purposes much like the corn stalks. When we are ready to feed the alfalfa to our cattle then we grind it up into pieces just like the corn stalks.
- Mineral Supplement Pellet: My ruminant nutritionist formulates the diet of my cattle and also the make up of a mineral supplement pellet. This pellet carries trace minerals that the animals need to remain healthy. Trace minerals are important for the maintenance of a healthy immune system. The pellet also contains rumensin and tylan. I will blog more about both rumensin and tylan in future blogs.
So, our complete ration is a combination of corn kernels and wet distillers grains, forage (both alfalfa and corn stalks), and a trace mineral supplement pellet. I want to point out that corn is actually a grass, and is not an “unnatural” feed for cattle. We feed the entire corn plant (both the seed kernels and the corn stalks) to provide a blend of corn and forage.