The Three Principals of Feeding Ruminants

Principal 1: ‘Feed the Rumen First’

The rumen microorganisms are the key to breaking down the dry pasture to produce volatile fatty acids (VFAs). These VFAs are a source of energy and microbial protein that, in turn, are a source of protein for the animal.

Establishing an efficient working rumen is the key to increasing pasture intake and improving pasture utilisation. The more efficient the rumen is the better, which means an increased population of these rumen microorganisms. However, for these microorganisms to proliferate they need their own source of nutrients such as nitrogen, sulphur, sodium, potassium and trace minerals in order to function. Dry pasture is normally deficient in these important key nutrients and therefore must be provided to rumen microorganisms via a supplement.

Principal 2: Supply extra protein as ‘by-pass’ protein.

The animal requires a ready source of amino acids which can be provided from the microbial protein. However extra amino acids, greater than the amount the microbes can provide, are also needed for highly productive animals.

Even with the most efficiently working rumen the animal cannot provide sufficient protein to meet their needs for high physiological demands such as growth and lactation. Therefore extra protein (amino acids) must be provided in the diet as “by-pass” protein. Protein that is supplied in the diet and which is capable of escaping the fermentation process in the rumen is termed as “by-pass” protein.

Organic soybean meal provides a source of by-pass protein and fermentable protein for nitrogen.

Principal 3: Supply nutrients that are sources of glucose.

Glucose is the fundamental nutrient required by ruminants for maintenance, body growth, growth of the foetus and organs associated with pregnancy, body tissues and milk production.

Nutrients that can act as sources of glucose are important to the animal and therefore should be encouraged. These are volatile fatty acids (mainly propionic acid) and amino acids that are available from the protein from microbes, and the protein from by-pass protein.

Cattle fed on dry pasture alone are likely to be glucose deficient and this will impact significantly on their overall performance.