Grain Feeding

Many parts of Queensland and New South Wales may be experiencing unprecedented hot conditions.  This is resulting in a massive reduction of pasture quality and quantity.  Australia’s dry seasons and/or dry years result in pastures that have insufficient nutrient levels to adequately grow out cattle to meet customer requirements and this is leading to more animals being introduced to grain feeds at some stage of their lives.

There are three common situations that result in animals being introduced to a grain based diet and they are:

  1. In a drought ration;
  2. As a supplement to grazing (grain assist);
  3. Full feedlotting.

In all of these situations care must be taken, especially on introduction or conditioning to grain feeding. A grain ration should be designed to give maximum weight gains and fattening rates at the lowest cost possible with minimal metabolic issues.

If you are considering putting your livestock onto a grain ration there are a few important details that you need to consider and these are discussed below:

What ingredients to use?

The initial selection of ingredients for your ration will depend largely on what is readily available to you and at the lowest cost possible.  When selecting ingredients it is important to look at the quality and quantity.  A very cheap source of contaminated grain or silage won’t end up so cheap if you end up losing the majority of your herd to toxicity.  You must also be able to adapt the ration as the cost and availability of the ingredients change over time.

How to formulate a ration?

The main thing to focus on when formulating a ration is to remember that all animals require a balanced diet to bring out the best in their genetic potential.  A balanced ration requires adequate supplies of:

Roughage (hay, pasture, silage, haylage, chaff, whole cottonseed and straw) because adequate fibre is crucial to a healthy gut environment for rumen microbes and to help prevent metabolic issues.

Energy, which is provided in the forms of starch, sugars, cellulose and fat, is the “fuel” which drives growth (weight gain) and the function of all body systems.

Protein is the building block of the body and is the primary component of muscle and developing bone.

Minerals are inorganic substances, present in all body tissues and fluids that play important roles in physiological, structural and regulatory functions within the animal’s body and without adequate levels a number of health issues may arise.

Vitamins are nutrients that animals require in very small quantities for normal growth and maintenance of life and the needs for each differ considerably.

Water is vital to the life of the animal and the water content of the body must be maintained at all times.  Water quality and palatability is critical and it’s important to regularly clean the water troughs of livestock on high grain diets.

How to introduce livestock to grain rations?

Stock that are fed grain or any feed with a high carbohydrate content should be introduced gradually to the ration so that the animal’s rumen has time to adapt.  Starter rations should not contain any more than about 50% grain and the transition to the final diet should be taken slowly over at least 10-14 days.

How can AgSolutions Help?

AgSolutions has developed the MegaMin Feedlot Enhancer to assist farmers in balancing their grain rations.  Feedlot Enhancer is a superior vitamin and mineral premix formulated to be thoroughly mixed with grains, protein meals, roughage and other feed components to provide a balanced ration for feedlot or grain assist situations.  A complimentary ration formulation service is provided to help clients provide their stock with a complete and balanced diet made from ingredients that are readily available.  In addition to this service AgSolutions’ can also provide access to a feed testing service as testing feeds will help clients to make more informed decisions on the quality and safety of the feed that they are providing their stock.

By Shannon Godwin (BAppSc GDTL)

About the Australian Feedlot Industry. (2017, June 12). Retrieved from Australian Lot Feeders Association:

Blackwood, I. C. (2007). Supplementary Feeding of Cattle. State of NSW through NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Feeding Management. (2017, September 4). Retrieved from NSW Department of Primary Industries :

Knee, B. (2017, August 15). Hints on Feeding. Retrieved from Agriculture Victoria:

Meat & Livestock Australia. (2006). Beef Cattle Nutrition an Introduction to the Essentials. Sydney: Meat & Livestock Australia Lminited.

RAGFAR. (2007). Ruminal Acidosis – understandings, prevention and treatment. Australian Veterinary Association.