Despite the fact that my “flesh condition” (another cattle term) has always tended to be “green”, I am a really good eater. Not long after I first met my husband, I invited him to dinner with the Dartmouth Women’s Swim Team. I still laugh when I remember the look on his face when the food was served and my teammates and I began to eat. He describes it, quite literally, as a “feeding frenzy”. To this day, he proudly declares that the women’s swim team could out-eat the football team any day!
Shortly after we moved back to Nebraska, one of my friends called to check in. When she asked what I had done that day, I told her that I had spent the day with my nutritionist. Following my statement, there was a fairly long period of silence. My friend finally said, “Anne, are you ok?” At first, I had no idea what she was talking about but it finally occurred to me that she thought that I was going to human nutritional counseling…
I have a consulting nutritionist at the feed yard, and he is an important part of our feeding/nutrition team. He has his PhD in ruminant nutrition. Cattle are herbivore animals with unique digestive systems. As herbivores, their diet consists of various plants. In order to more efficiently digest their plant diet, cattle have flat teeth which help to grind the food up, and a very complex digestive tract consisting of four stomachs. They are known as “ruminant animals”. Grazing cattle on land that is not suitable for raising crops for a large portion of their lives (like calf #718) more than doubles the land area that can be used to grow food. This converts grass that humans are not able to digest into nutrient rich beef that we can. Finishing cattle in a feed yard, under the tutelage of a trained nutritionist, enables the mature calf to be prepared for harvest using fewer natural resources while also giving it the “grain finished” taste that I love so much!
From a nutritional standpoint, calf #718 transitions from eating his mama’s milk; to grazing grass; to a weaning diet of wet distillers grains, mineral supplement and hay; to finally a feed yard diet of wet distillers grains, rolled corn, mineral supplement, ground corn stalks, and ground alfalfa hay. The acclimation time for calf #718 as he enters the feed yard is very important and I rely heavily on my consulting ruminant nutritionist to ensure that it is a smooth transition nutritionally.
Let’s take a look at the cattle’s feed:
When #718 first entered the feed yard, he was placed on a “receiving ration” that is relatively high in forage (alfalfa hay and corn stalks), and relatively low in grain. During the first month at the feed yard, his diet is slowly changed as he becomes accustomed to the feed. The amount of grain is slowly increased and the amount of forage is slowly decreased. Once he is placed on the “finishing ration” (approximately 30 days after arrival), he will remain on that ration until harvest (approximately 110 days).
In addition to relying on DJ to formulate comprehensive and nutritionally balanced rations for our cattle, we also take frequent samples of our feed to insure that the nutritional content of calf #718’s breakfast is accurate and wholesome! These feed samples are analyzed in a laboratory. In other words, we have a quality control system (Based on Beef Quality Assurances Protocols) to ensure that the feed that is fed to the animals matches the nutritional formation that DJ puts together for the cattle. DJ also visits the feed yard once per month to assess both cattle health, and our crew’s job of delivering fresh and appropriately mixed cattle feed.
As a mom, human nutrition is important to me—I try to offer my girls well balanced meals that ensure that they receive the energy and vitamins/minerals that they need to stay strong and healthy.
As a cattle caregiver, ruminant nutrition is important to me—DJ creates well balanced rations (meals) for the cattle, and my crew and I ensure that the feed is fresh, formulated accurately, and delivered regularly to the cattle.
This is another one of the ways that we “take the time it takes to do it right” at the feed yard…