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Alternative feeds for beef cattle
Shane Gadberry

Supplemental feed is the major cost of producing beef. Traditionally corn, grain sorghum, cottonseed meal and soybean meal have been used to provide supplemental energy (TDN, total digestible nutrients) and protein needed by cattle consuming forage diets. Arkansas cattle producers, however, are fortunate to have an abundance of alternative or byproduct feeds available.


Alternative feeds provide nutrients needed by cattle often at a lower cost than traditional feeds. Several factors should be considered, however, before a decision is made to use alternative feeds in cattle diets. Factors discussed relative to alternative feeds include the following:

  • Supplementation Basics
  • Composition (nutrient density)
  • Mineral Supplementation
  • Description
  • Availability and Storage
  • Feeding and Limitations

To maximise forage intake and digestion, protein requirements of cattle must be met. Protein supplements should be evaluated based on the digestive characteristics of the protein provided. A digestive characteristic of dietary protein is that it can be classified as either degradable intake protein (DIP) or undegradable intake protein (UIP).


Beef cattle should be provided with adequate levels of minerals year-round. When feeding some of the alternative feeds, special attention should be given to the calcium:phosphorus ratio of the diet. All of the alternative feeds mentioned in the article, except for soy hulls and cottonseed hulls, are relatively high in phosphorus.


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Article made possible through the contribution of University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

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