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Mixing feeds an important tool for feeding cattle

Cattle feeding seems simple enough, but mixing different forages and ensuring they're getting proper nutrition can turn complicated quickly.

To that end, processing the feed is considered an important part of maintaining a healthy herd.

That can be as simple as throwing that feed into a tub grinder or bale shredder, both of which mix up different forages into one feed.

Livestock and Feed Extension Specialist Alexis Decorby details some of the benefits of using that equipment.

"Grinding low-quality forages actually makes that feed a little bit more palatable for that cattle. So essentially we can use a really high-quality forage and mix it down with that lower quality forage, such as slough hay or straw, and really make a balanced ration that can meet those animals' needs and be palatable as well."

The mixing of different types of feed can also help out with picky eaters since cattle can avoid lower quality feed in unmixed batches.

"They typically want those good pieces of feed, whether that's a long hay, they're not really keen on eating that straw so they will certainly pick through it, but it certainly helps by processing," said DeCorby, "We're able to break out those stems and that essentially allows for greater consumption."

Wastage can also go down from mixed feed, though the number does change based on how it's fed to cattle.

When we feed bales at round feeders we might see up to 25 per cent wastage," said DeCorby, "You can see a little bit less with that processor, almost essentially no wastage. Of curse that will still change as to whether you feed on the snow or not, you may still see a little bit of wastage, about 12 per cent."

Something else to keep an eye on when mixing feeds is to keep a good amount of fiber in their diet, to help with digestion.

"The one thing you want to be aware of while processing is that we still have physically effective neutral detergent fiber in the ration," said DeCorby, "What that actually does is it helps the animal to ruminate and kind of increase the rate of excretion, and that helps keep the forage PH rate at a good level."

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