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Alternative Feed Sources

I had the pleasure of being a part of many webinars and conferences this week put on by JJM Nutrition Consulting, Merch, and Ag-West Bio. Be ready for some data overload:


Alternative feed sources are a key part of feeding cattle during drought conditions and feed shortages. They keys to success with alternative feed are nutritional content and variability, pricing and consistency of supply, handling, storage, shrinkage, and anti-nutrient concerns (mycotoxins). All information provided comes from John McKinnin's webinar. I am just providing the basic nutritional benefits of each product and concerns of the products if there are concerns. Some alternate feed sources include:


Canola Meal

  • 30-40% protein, 75-90% energy (intermediate)

  • Need to watch sulfur content

Dried Distilllers Grains- corn or wheat

  • 30-40% protein, 80-90% energy (high)

  • Sulfur content concerns depending on source

Oat Hulls

  • 2.5-4.5% protein, 45-50% energy, 40-50% fiber

  • Similar to straw, need to limit intake to prevent impaction

  • Highly palatable

  • Difficult to handle- bulky, dusty, difficult to store (blow away)

  • Ammoniation improves fiber digestibility, protein (nitrogen) levels, intake, and digestible energy

Refuse Grain Screenings

  • 15% protein, 9.9% fat

  • Lower in starch than barley is

  • Problems- variation based on source, mycotoxins (ergot), unprocessed screenings are less digestible so cattle consume more but excrete the product rather than digesting

Canola Hay or Silage

  • Stage of maturity matters- late bloom to mid podded stage

  • 15% protein, 60% TDN

  • Hay is similar to alfalfa grass

  • Concerns- palatability, nitrates, sulfur levels

Cereal Greenfeed

  • Late milk to hard dough

  • 10-11% CP, 56-58% TDN

  • Nitrate and potassium levels are a concern

  • Drought stress causes divergence in head filling (high variance in quantity)

Off- Grade Grain

  • Sprouted or drought/frozen influenced crops

  • Each type has a critical test weight before it interferes with performance

Wheat Midds

  • CP 14-18%, relatively high fiber, intermediate energy source

  • Use as supplement for wintering cows/backgrounding cattle

Malt sprouts

  • Crude protein 18-24%, intermediate energy (70-75%)

Extruded Feed Products

  • Specialty feed pellets- flax seed, pulses, canola, alfalfa

  • Targeting high quality protein/fat that bypasses rumen

  • CP >20%, fat >20%

These are just base numbers for these alternative feed sources. It is highly recommended to feed test all products prior to presenting the products to cattle. It is also important to consider what type of cattle you are feeding. Cows and feeder cattle have very different nutritional requirements and performance goals, therefore need different diets.