Farm & Food Talk – Beef Cattle Diets

September 18, 2019

Are there regulations covering what can be fed to animals
raised for food?

Yes, there are regulations on animal feed.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in charge of inspecting feed mills to ensure quality ingredients are going into animal feed. There are regulations on what types of feed can be given to different animal species.

For instance, because of concerns over Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (sometimes called Mad Cow Disease), the U.S. has banned feeding ruminant products back to ruminants since 1997.

Nutritionists, livestock producers and feed company personnel have a shared responsibility to ensure good quality feed is offered to our food-producing animals.

What are diets of beef cattle comprised of?

The common ingredient across all beef cattle diets is grain – typically corn or corn products – as it is an excellent source of energy (calories) for animals.

However, different animal species have different digestive systems and can utilize other feedstuffs for energy, protein, vitamins and minerals. As living beings, animals have a daily requirement for energy, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and bison are called ruminants, which means their stomachs have multiple compartments to facilitate their unusual digestive system. These animals can utilize forages like hay, corn silage and oat silage as an energy and protein source. Silage is created by harvesting a crop while it is still green, chopping it finely and packing it tightly in a silo for storage.

Protein sources for all animals can also come from soybeans, canola, sunflowers and many other plants. Those also provide essential amino acids that animals need for growth and development.

Vitamins and minerals come from natural plant sources, organic sources (limestone, bicarbonate), and many other supplements, much like people meet their daily vitamin and mineral requirements.

Should consumers be concerned about the use of candy and baked goods in these diets?

Candy and other baked goods provide an energy source for animals, just like they do for people. However, it is the balance of those energy sources with the right amount of protein and minerals that ensures animals meet their daily requirements for growth and development.

Just like too much candy on Halloween upsets a child’s stomach, too much of one thing in an animal’s diet can have the same effect.

That is why so much care goes into growing feed, harvesting it at the right time, and offering a balance of different nutrients to our animals to meet their needs.

Source: Best Food Facts; Dr. Danelle Bickett-Weddle, Iowa State University