Tag Archives: cattle nutrition

An Aggie, Aussies, and Sampling…


We’ve been busy at the yard the past week. All of this rain we’ve been having has made for some muddy conditions! Everyone is working as hard as they can to clean out pens before we receive new cattle this upcoming week.

In addition, we had a tour group of Australians join us Friday afternoon to learn more about the feedlot industry in the United States. They were especially baffled by how close we are to ground water here in Cozad, being that the feedyard is right over the Ogallala Aquifer makes it just a short distance, about 10’, to ground water as opposed to their 500’ deep wells in Australia. Overall I think they really enjoyed their experience at Will Feed, and we certainly enjoyed their company!


Another very important task we accomplished this week was sampling feed stuffs for monthly nutritional analysis. Being that I am studying ruminant nutrition, it only seems fitting to share a bit about this critical aspect of the feedyard.

RationEVWe feed all of the cattle rations that are formulated with the help of the nutritionist. A ration can be thought of as a casserole. There are a variety of ingredients that all serve a different nutritional purpose whether it’s cracked corn for energy or roughage for fiber content, the ratio of ingredients within the “casseroles” are carefully calculated to meet the specific needs of the cattle at certain stages of growth.

If we do not know the right nutritional contents of our ingredients, our rations will be off and the cattle may not be able to reach their full potential and it could even cause health problems such as bloating. By sampling each individual ingredient, we can check the composition and ensure we are keeping the cattle happy and healthy with properly formulated rations.

All of the ingredients for a ration are loaded into the feed truck and the back of the truck acts like a giant mixing bowl. There is a combination of paddles and augers that mix the ration after all ingredients have been added. In theory this should create a perfectly homogeneous mixture.

To ensure this is the case, we also must sample the rations once they are mixed and delivered to the bunk. This ensures the feed truck is working properly, thoroughly combining all of the ingredients, and there is consistency amongst what is being fed.

One load of feed in the truck may be dispersed throughout multiple pens, it is key that what is delivered to the first bunk is the exact same as what is delivered to the last. Therefore, we collect samples along the bunk line from the first and last bunk the load was delivered to.

RationSamplingEVOnce all the samples are collected, both individual ingredients and mixed rations, they are brought to Ward Laboratories in Kearney, NE for testing. The feed results are reported back a few days later and analyzed by the nutritionist, that way rations/mixing procedures can be adjusted accordingly if necessary.

The nutritionist especially uses the calcium content as an indicator of how well the ration was mixed. It is important the mix is homogenous for a variety of reasons but especially so the supplement pellet is distributed to all of the cattle at the right amount being that it includes a variety of ingredients vital to food safety.

When we dropped off the samples, Dr. Ward was nice enough to show us around the lab. They do a variety of testing there including, soil, water, and feedstuffs.

Did you know people will send in homemade craft beers to be tested for mineral content to best be able to match/adjust their unique flavor profiles?

It was definitely a week full of learning experiences! I look forward to my last few days here in Cozad. We have a busy schedule ahead with lots of incoming cattle to receive, process, and acclimate!




Filed under Nutrition (cattle and human)


At age 36, I am not quite as strong nor do I eat quite as much, but I can still swim backstroke!

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!

Matt's high school senior football picture...ready to go and play at Dartmouth!

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!

DJ Jordan, a PhD graduate of the University of Nebraska in Ruminant Nutrition, my "consulting nutritionist"...

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:

The "Finishing Ration" at the feed yard: Wet Distillers Grains, Rolled Corn, Ground Alfalfa, Ground Corn Stalks, Mineral Supplement...

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.

Beef Quality Assurance ensures good nutritional care...

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.

My Girls...

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.

Eagerly eating a well balanced breakfast--formulated by DJ...

Mixed and Delivered by Doug...

This is another one of the ways that we “take the time it takes to do it right” at the feed yard…


Filed under Beef Life Cycle--Calf #718, General, Nutrition (cattle and human)