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The Nutritive Value of Ruminant Feeds


In this paper, we experimented to assess the nutritive value of ruminant feeds. To do so, we analyzed the chemical compositions of dry matter, crude protein, acid detergent fibre, neutral detergent fibre, ash, and ether extract. Our findings revealed that ryegrass had the highest concentrations of dry matter (95.46), neutral detergent fibre (68.25), and acid detergent fibre (37.62). Similarly, canola and rice bran provided the highest levels of energy.

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Based on this analysis, we argue that a combination of these feeds would improve the growth and wellbeing of ruminant animals and help to meet their gut feel requirements. The findings of this paper could be useful when applying rations to pasture-based nutrition.


Ruminant nutrition is an important area of science for professionals studying both modern and traditional agriculture. In this discipline, areas of critical focus have been nutrition and ration formulation. In most parts of Australia, ruminant nutrition is pasture-based. However, some farmers provide their livestock with supplementary pelletized feeds to supplement nutritional needs during periods when there is inadequate pasture (Hundal, Wadhwa & Bakshi 2016; Mertens 2002).

Ideally, most farmers should strive to provide their livestock with a well-balanced diet to enhance the growth and wellbeing of their animals (Kamalak et al. 2005). This goal has made the supply of supplementary feeds a big business in most parts of Australia. A significant percentage of cereal grain production goes into supporting this business (Coffey et al. 2015).

With the increasing popularity of supplementary feeds in livestock growth and development and the growing nature of animal feeds, it is important to understand the nutritional attributes of these feeds to know whether they are economically viable and environmentally sustainable (Nelson et al. 1990).

This is the entire premise of this paper because we strive to explain the nutritive value of ruminant feeds. To do so, we analyzed feed and forage using several chemical tests to determine the nutritional content of ruminant feeds and estimate the availability of the nutrients in the first place. The key nutrients we analyzed in this report include crude protein, dry matter, and moisture. Other key chemical components analyzed include neutral detergent fibre, acid detergent fibre, ash, organic matter, and ether extracts. Our findings appear below.

Results and Discussions

In this paper, we experimented to assess the nutritive value of ruminant feeds for seven feed components: lucerne, canola oil pellet, rice bran oil pellets, flaxseed oil pellet, safflower oil pellet, rumen by-pass pellet, and ryegrass hay. Our findings appear below.

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Dry Matter

We dried small crucible in an oven for three minutes. All the feeds we analyzed were based on a dry weight basis. Our findings revealed high concentrations of ryegrass Hay. The other six feeds were also highly concentrated.

Crude Protein

We undertook the crude protein test in a science laboratory by analyzing the nitrogen component of the feed to establish the crude protein percentage. To obtain this percentage, we multiplied the nitrogen component by 6.25. Our findings revealed that the highest concentration of feed components was Lucerne, which was 17.1. The concentrations of rice bran oil pellets and rumen by-pass pellets were almost the same at 15.2 and 15.6 respectively. The concentration of Canola oil pellets, flaxseed oil pellets, safflower oil pellets, and ryegrass hay were 13.5, 14.6, 13.6, and 4.29 respectively.

Acid Detergent Fibre (ADF)

Our findings showed that ADF had the highest concentration of Lucerne compared to the other feed components analyzed. The levels of flaxseed oil pellets and safflower oil pellets were almost similar at 10.4 and 10.0 respectively. The percentage of ryegrass hay was higher at 37.62. The lowest feed concentrations for this analytical group were canola oil pellets, rice bran oil pellets, and rumen by-pass pellets, which were 9.4, 7.5, and 8.2 respectively.

Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF)

Our analysis showed varied feed compositions for the neutral detergent fibre. Ryegrass hay was the most prevalent feed composition in this category (68.25). The second highest feed composition was Lucerne, which was 47.2. The percentages of flaxseed oil pellets and safflower oil pellets were almost similar at 22.2 and 22.1 respectively. The same is true for canola oil pellets and rice bran oil pellets, which were 19.1 and 19.0 respectively.


This category generally had low concentrations of all the seven feed components analyzed. None of them exceeded 8.4. The highest was Lucerne (8.4) and the lowest was canola oil pellet (6.2).

Other Extracts (EE)

There were low concentrations of feed components for EE compared to other types of chemical components analyzed. For example, none of the feed components were higher than 5.6. This figure represented rice canola oil pellets and flaxseed oil pellets. The concentrations of rice bran oil pellets and safflower oil pellets were slightly lower at 5.5 and 5.5 respectively. This concentration was followed by rumen by-pass pellets, which had a concentration of 5.1. The lowest concentrations of feeds were Lucerne and ryegrass hay, which were 1.5 and 1.24 respectively.

The table below provides a summary of our findings:

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Chemical composition
(% DM)
Feed components
Lucerne Canola oil pellet Rice bran oil pellet Flaxseed oil pellet Safflower oil pellet Rumen
by-pass pellet
Ryegrass Hay
DM 86.8 91.0 89.9 90.7 89.9 89.7 95.46
CP 17.1 13.5 15.2 14.6 13.6 15.6 4.29
ADF 36.9 9.4 7.5 10.4 10.0 8.2 37.62
NDF 47.2 19.1 19.0 22.2 21.1 20.4 68.25
EE 1.5 5.6 5.5 5.6 5.5 5.1 1.24
ASH 8.4 6.2 6.7 8.2 8.2 6.5 2.37


The importance of understanding the nutritional value of feed components stems from the need to manage what farmers give ruminant animals and to quantify the kinds of produce they could get from the same animals (Ansar, Kaushik & Singh 2014). Dry matter proved to be relatively constant across the seven feed types mentioned above. The greatest difference across this group of feed components was ryegrass hay and Lucerne, which were 95.46 and 86.8 respectively.

Nonetheless, bearing these differences in mind, it is also important to point out that the quantity of feeds given to animals depends on the age and type of animal (Hundal, Wadhwa & Bakshi 2016; Mertens 2002). Ryegrass hay provided the highest concentration of NDF. This feed component provides the best indicator for feed digestibility (Jančík et al. 2008). The recommended NDF content for livestock is 31.2% (Coffey et al. 2015).

However, this percentage is also dependent on different biotic and abiotic factors. Based on the nutritional content of dry matter, it is pertinent to point out that this chemical composition is essential in supporting microbial communities through rumen mat formation. An increased concentration of dry mat would easily meet the gut fill requirements for ruminant animals (Barber, Anstis & Posada 2010). The possible outcomes are high milk yield and increased body weight gain.

While it is important to understand the contribution of dry matter to the nutritional diet of ruminant animals, it is also important to recognize that the amount of dry matter fed to the animals is subject to the animal’s weight and stage of production (lactation, pregnancy, weaning, and the likes). NOP regulations add that ruminant animals should get 30% of their dry matter from natural pasture. Based on this finding, grazing is an important source of dry matter (Barber, Anstis & Posada 2010).

ADF and NDF both had similar concentrations of feed components. This similarity comes from the fact that both chemical components were structured carbohydrates. Nonetheless, both ADF and NDF share an inverse relationship. This means that there needs to be proper rationing because it affects digestibility (Hundal, Wadhwa & Bakshi 2016). According to Mertens (2002), the minimum ADF for cattle is 18.2% (Barber, Anstis & Posada 2010).

The failure to provide enough dietary fibre could lead to several issues, such as reduced fat content, reduced milk production, diarrhea, and acidosis. Laminitis is also another condition that may emerge because of the same problem (Barber, Anstis & Posada 2010). Adding oily feeds to the animal diet could solve some of these problems, including reducing the incidence of respiratory diseases and improving the taste of the animal feeds (Hundal, Wadhwa & Bakshi 2016).

The percentages of crude protein sampled in the above table represent the nutritional requirements for animals during their growth and development stages (Karim et al. 2015). Depending on the specific stage of growth, farmers may be required to supplement these feed components (Kamalak et al. 2005). For example, during the lactation stage, an ideal diet should contain 16%-17% of CP (Chase, Higgs & Van Amburgh 2012).

This percentage is ideal for maximizing the quantity of milk. During the middle lactation period, the percentage of CP may fall to 14% (Chase, Higgs & Van Amburgh 2012). Lastly, from our analysis, ryegrass provided the greatest percentage of crude protein. Therefore, if farmers want to supplement the protein intake of their ruminant animals, they could give them this feed.

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Although the data provided in this analysis help to provide us with valuable information about the nutritive value of ruminant feeds, significant improvements could be made. For example, we could seek professional views in this analysis to improve the reliability and credibility of our findings because most of the information presented in this report is from academicians and not nutritionists. Therefore, this report could contain experimental errors. Such errors could have occurred at different stages of analysis, including the subsampling process, weighing the feed stage, or even through variations within the feed samples. Nonetheless, to provide balanced nutrition, farmers should consider the nutritional content of the animal feeds and also the seasons, life stages, and reproductive potential of their pasture.


It is important to provide livestock with a balanced diet. The first step of doing so is to understand the nutritive value of ruminant feeds. This was the entire premise of this paper. Ryegrass had the greatest concentrations of most of the chemical compositions sampled, while Canola and Rice bran had the largest EE composition. This variation stresses the importance of mixing feeds to have the strongest blend of nutritional components.


Ansar, A, Kaushik, P & Singh, A 2014, ‘Supplemental rumen-protected / by-pass fat for lactating holstein friesian cows’, International journal of advanced research, vol. 2, no. 12, pp. 604-610.

Barber, D, Anstis, A & Posada, V 2010, Factors affecting feed intake. Web.

Chase, L, Higgs, R & Van Amburgh, M 2012, Feeding Low Crude Protein Rations to Dairy Cows – What Have We Learned?. Web.

Coffey, D, Dawson, K, Ferket, P & Connolly, A 2015, ‘Review of the feed industry from a historical perspective and implications for its future’, Journal of applied animal nutrition, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 1-11.

Hundal, J, Wadhwa, M & Bakshi, M 2016, ‘Effect of supplementing essential oils on the in vitro methane production and digestibility of wheat straw’, Journal of animal nutrition, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 1-7.

Jančík, F, Homolka, P, Čermák, B & Lád, F 2008, ‘Determination of indigestible neutral detergent fibre contents of grasses and its prediction from chemical composition’, Czech j. anim. sci., vol. 53, no. 1, pp. 128–135.

Kamalak, A, Canbolat, O, Gürbüz, Y & Özay, O 2005, ‘Protected protein and amino acids in ruminant nutrition’, Journal of science and engineering, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 84-88.

Karim, R, Amin, M, Moniruzzaman, M, Sarker, M & Kabir, A 2015, ‘Effect of Moringa oleifera leaf on the efficiency to increase protein supply to ruminants’, Bang. j. anim. sci., vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 46-51.

Mertens, D 2002, ‘Gravimetric determination of amylase-treated neutral detergent fiber in feeds with refluxing in beakers or crucibles: collaborative study’, Journal of aoac international, vol. 85, no. 6, pp. 1217-1240.

Nelson, M, Motjope, L, Finley, J & Parish, S 1990, ‘Ash-free indigestible acid detergent fiber as an internal marker to estimate digestibility with grazing ruminants’, Journal of range management, vol. 43, no. 3, pp. 224-228.

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