Supplementation Strategies for Cattle Producers

AUBURN, Ala. — Supplementation is an important management strategy for cattle producers to implement as cooler weather approaches.

Supplementation is adding or including ingredients into a beef herd’s diet to increase the energy or protein values or both over the base diet to a desired level, said Rickey Hudson, Alabama Extension Animal Science and Forages Regional Extension Agent.

The Goal

Supplementation is imperative for cattle producers because it allows for proper maintenance, growth and performance of cattle.

The primary goal is to complement the deficient base ingredients in the herd’s diet with the necessary nutrients to allow cattle to function without limitations said Hudson.

When Should Supplementation Begin

Producers might consider supplemental feeding in the fall when the nutritional value of warm-season forages begins to decrease, especially in fall-calving systems.

Supplementation should not occur year-round.

“Supplementation might become a necessity at any point during the year, resulting from environmental conditions,” said Hudson. “However, any extended period of supplementation begs for a review of the base diet, along with an audit of the planned beef production system.”


Because each operation has different goals and each herd has different dietary needs based on their age and stage of production, there is no single best supplementation strategy to follow.

According to Hudson there are, however, different ways to increase the energy and protein levels in your herd’s feed.

  • Corn is a feedstuff high in energy.
  • Oat and soybean hulls are moderate sources of energy and protein.
  • Corn gluten, cottonseed, dried brewer’s grain, dried distiller’s grain and wheat midds are high in energy and protein.
  • Soybean meal and cottonseed meal are high in protein.

The best supplementation strategy is one that complements the base diet by providing the herd with the needed nutrients while being cost effective for the producer said Hudson.

For more information on feed supplementation, contact your Alabama Cooperative Extension Animal Science and Forages Regional Extension Agent.


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