Feed and Water for Ruminants

In order to get the most out of livestock you must always give animals enough good feed and clean water. Good feed is high in nutrients and provides everything that the body needs in order for the animal to grow and reproduce.

What an animal needs in its feed

All animals and humans need the nutrients called carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals in their feed in order to stay healthy, have energy, grow and reproduce.

Carbohydrates such as sugar and starch are burned in the body to give energy. Fats are broken down in the body to give carbohydrates and water. Animals and humans store carbohydrates as fat in the body.

Protein forms the building blocks of the body. It is needed to produce the muscles.

Minerals such as copper and calcium are needed to form the bones, brain, nerves and blood. Plants take in minerals from the soil. Vitamins are essential for a healthy body and all plants contain several vitamins.

If animals do not get enough of any nutrient they will become less productive and may die from a condition called a deficiency disease.

If an animal does not get enough fat, protein or carbohydrate in its feed it cannot grow properly, loses weight, milk production drops and production of young is affected. Lack of minerals results in such problems as failing to come into heat, poor bone growth and loss of hair or wool. While lack of essential vitamins can cause problems such as blindness and swollen joints.


Animals need plenty of fresh clean water every day. Always give water before feeding animals and allow them to drink at least three times a day. Ruminants on pastures can be watered every 2 – 3 days. Do not allow animals to stand in the water at the drinking place. This can cause disease to spread. Water needs will vary according to the feed they eat and the weather.

A pinch of salt can be added to the drinking water to provide minerals.

New methods of feeding animals have been developed and are used in many countries:

Feeding urea-treated straw. Straw is a low nutrient feed for ruminants but if it is wetted with urea and covered for a week it becomes more nutritious.

Molasses-urea-mineral blocks. Blocks made of molasses, mineral salts and urea are a good supplement for ruminants which lick the block and take in the nutrients.