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The Importance of Ration Balancing

By Jessica Smith, P.Ag., Regional Livestock Specialist, Swift Current

December 2016

Winter has officially arrived in much of Saskatchewan.  There is snow on the ground, the temperature has dropped and most livestock producers have likely started their winter feeding program.  Whether you are feeding pregnant cows, growing calves, finishing animals, bulls, or any other class of livestock, it’s important to know what the animal’s nutrient requirements are and what nutrients you are providing to them through the feed. 

Formulating a ration can help insure you are meeting the nutrient requirements of your livestock.  The first step to a balanced ration is feed testing.  This will determine what levels of protein, energy, minerals and other important nutrients are available in the feed you have.  Using these feed values and a ration balancing program can assist you in setting up a ration for the winter feeding period.  Having your feed tested for mycotoxins associated with ergot, fusarium and other plant diseases or moulds is also a good idea, especially in a wet year such as this one.  Knowledge of any possible issues can help determine if the feed is safe to use, if it can be used by diluting it with other feed or if it should not be used at all. 

Some important factors that influence an animal’s nutrient requirements can include temperature, wind chill, stage of production and water quality and availability.  All of these considerations can be factored in when putting together a ration.  It is also useful to feed different classes of animals separately.   For example, feed your animals in separate groups such as calves, bred heifers, bred cows, and bulls.  This allows you to more accurately meet the requirements of each group of animals.  

By using feed test results, animal nutrient requirements and environmental and animal conditions, you will be able to formulate a ration.  There are ration balancing programs available for you to complete a ration on your own.  You may also enlist the assistance of a Regional Livestock Specialists to prepare a ration. 

For more information on this or other livestock related topics, please contact Jessica Smith, Regional Livestock Specialist in Swift Current at 306-778-8289, call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377, or visit our website

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