Understanding Livestock Feed Types

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Not every livestock feed is the same. Have you considered if you are feeding the most appropriate supplement to your livestock? Let’s take a look at a few things to consider when you pick out your next feed supplement.

“All Stock” feed

Most companies have a version of all stock feed. These feeds are formulated so that they can be fed to multiple livestock species. These formulations are also usually some of the cheapest formulations. However, keep in mind that they may be missing key nutrients, and vitamins that your species of livestock need. It is usually best to feed the supplement that will best meet your intended feeding and production goals and feed a ration specific to your species of livestock.

What Percent Protein is best?

Many feeds for each species of livestock may vary by protein percentage. Some common feeds would be 12%, 14%, 16% or even 18% Protein. These feeds will differ in their crude protein (CP) measurement. Keep in mind that crude protein is just based on the estimated nitrogen content. It is an important consideration for feeding non-ruminant livestock, especially swine. CP is also an important consideration for formulating rations for non-matured growing animals which typically need feed higher in protein to support continued growth and development. However, feeds higher in CP content are not necessarily a better quality or best fit in every circumstance. To make matters more complicated, not all feeds of the same %CP are of equal quality. They can differ in many other areas such as energy or fiber content. Typically, those feeds that are higher in fiber and lower in energy will be priced cheaper than a a feed with the same CP but lower fiber/higher energy.

Pelletized, Cracked/Crumble, or Fines/scratch?

Livestock feedstuffs come in many different forms. Some feeds are ground fine then compressed with heat and pressure into a pellet. Other feeds are ground through larger screens and come as cracked (for ruminants) or crumble (for poultry) products. Other feeds are ground very fine and labeled as fine ground as meal, sometimes referred to as “”fines”” for many livestock or as “”scratch”” for poultry. Many farmers also will consider feeding whole grains such as shell corn or whole soybeans. For the most part, swine feed should be fed as finely ground meal or as pellets. Mature chickens should be fed pellets or crumbles to minimize feed waste. Scratch or starter is required when feeding immature baby chickens and pullets. Coarsely ground or cracked feeds are best for goats and cattle. Sheep will produce better and have better feed efficiency and less waste when feed ground feed or pellets. In recent years, research has shown very little difference in feed efficiency or performance when comparing those fed cracked or whole kernel corn. Cattle may have more feed waste when fed finely ground feed instead of pelletized feed.

Specialty Feeds

Some feed are formulated as medicated for specific purposes. These feeds will have very specific labels. Remember that this label is the law regarding restrictions and use instructions. Make sure to be aware of, fully understand, and follow all restrictions when feeding medicated feeds.

If you would like assistance making your livestock feeding plan and choosing the right feed, contact us at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Yancey County Center.”