Doc’s Blog

Politically Correct Cattle ?

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Cure for Insomnia

I have often said, in jest, that my book is a good cure for insomnia.   

Kevin with my book

Here is proof!  <VBG>

What are you really feeding?

For a valid assessment of any ration one must consider that you are actually dealing with 5 different rations. This is especially true of TMR’s (total mixed rations) for dairy cattle but also applies to other livestock including horses.   The 5 different rations are:

$ 35
  1. The ration printed out by the computer is the “Holy Grail” of many nutritionist and is considered to contain the final output of our accumulated nutritional knowledge coupled with the latest chemical analysis of the feedstuffs involved. 
  2. This second ration is what actually goes into the mixer.  It rarely matches the print-out as accurate measurement of ingredients  amounts becomes more difficult as the size of the mix increases. 
  3. Number 3 is what is actually delivered to the feed bunk.  If the ingredients are not properly mixed there will be different feeds delivered to different parts of the feed bunk.
  4. What the cow actually eats depends on many factors. The ‘pecking order’ in a group of cattle interferes with uniform consumption. Many cows will ‘sort’ feeds, eating only the more desirable fractions. 
  5. The final ration is what the cow actually digests and assimilates into her system.  This one may bear little resemblance to the computer print out but in reality is the only one that counts.

Formulating Equine Rations.

Elim-a-Net in use high res

The other day I was asked about a basic ration for an average horse using average ingredients, a task not as simple as it would appear at first glance.

It’s not too difficult to formulate rations for swine or poultry. Their nutritional needs are relatively simple and there is little variation in their environment.  Then too, they have a relatively short lifespan.

Dairy cattle rations are a little more complex. There is a wide variation in forages used.  Dairy nutritionists are successful in wringing out exceedingly high milk production. The downside being that the average dairy cow lives less that 4 years and 50% of those calving do so with an infectious or metabolic disease.  

The horse, however, is a complex and often enigmatic creature with a markedly different set of parameters associated with balancing a ration.  Even so, it isn’t all that difficult to formulate a basic ration for an individual horse - on paper.  

Don’t overlook the fact that horses evolved in a desert environment and needs high density - low moisture forages for ultimate health.    Kept in a stall for 23 hours a day and fed a fancy high protein ration with alfalfa hay as the only forage and soy as the main protein supplement is not conducive to optimal health.

The following 3 links will take you to equine ration calculators. These programs will enable you to input pertinent information about the horse as well as nutritional data about the feedstuffs you plan to use.

You can use numbers from a laboratory feed analysis of your own feeds or input averages for many different feeds available on a chart from Feedstuffs Magazine (Go to, scroll down to and click on Feedstuffs Reference Issue 2015. Download the file “Feedstuffs_RIBG_Ingredient Analysis Table 2015.pdf”) .  Once you have entered the basics, you can fine-tune the ration by adding appropriate sources of minerals, protein or energy.

That’s the easy part.  Managing the day-to-day vagaries of your horses nutritional needs is an art more than a science and cannot be made by a computer.   It requires a personal touch or a personal involvement - sort of like described over 2000 years ago by Cato the Elder in his treatise entitled "De Re Agricola";  “The master’s eye doth fat the ox, his foot doth fat the ground”.   I interpret this to mean that in order to have healthy and productive animals or crops the master must be personally involved in caring for both.