Corn, wheat, barley — you know starch is an essential component of cattle diets, but do you know why? Is wheat an easy swap out for barley in a ration? Is it worth buying steam-flaked corn?
In this episode of the Beef School, Karen Beauchemin, with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Lethbridge, lays out what you need to know about starch source and starch levels in cattle rations, how to assess acidosis risk, and how best to make the call on comparing apples to apples when running budgets on starch sources. (Story continues below)
Rumens are a magical place, and understanding how corn, barley, and wheat are digested is the key to managing a ration change or tweak. As Beauchemin explains, the reason wheat and barley can increase the risk of acidosis is all in the way rumen bacteria access the starch in the grain. It’s also why processing matters more for some grain, and less for others.
The key, she says, when using any starch source is to balance the amount of starch with adequate fibre to slow the rate of starch digestion and avoid the dreaded acidosis.
It’s also important to recognize that animal type and stage of production will influence how much starch is required, and the answer to feeding heifers and steers differently may be opposite to what most think.