Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

December 1993


Published for Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XIII December 6, 7, & 8, 1993, Cheyenne, WY.


Cattle producers in many ways have expertise in nutrition. Each day when cattle are fed or when grazing, they are taking in nutrients (protein, energy, minerals, etc.) that are vital for their life and production. Cattlemen are responsible for providing the feeds that supply the nutrients for the beef animal. If provided in the proper balance and portions at an economical level then the desired results should be obtained. If shortages occur with any required nutrient or if the nutrients are fed in excess or the sources are extremely costly then economic losses will be experienced. Because the largest cost in maintaining a beef cow and producing a calf is feed expenses, it is logical to concentrate on this high ticket item. Cattlemen often want direct answers concerning their feeding program such as "how much and what type of supplement should I feed to grazing cows in early winter." Unfortunately, there is not an accurate answer to this question until more is known about the type of cattle and the base forage the cattle are consuming. Perhaps if ranchers would couple their excellent experience in feeding cattle with some basic facts on the nutrition of the cow, then the feeding program could be fine tuned and more profit gained.

The title of this paper indicates both simple and basic nutrition. Sometimes a basic concept appears to be anything but simple to a person that is attempting to use the concept and apply it in a practical feeding situation. The challenge and objective of this brief discussion is to try to keep the basic concepts simple to understand and yet show why it is important to further understand cow nutrition. This brief discussion will not be complete enough for many readers. Many textbooks and other publications go into great detail and allow further pursuit of a more thorough understanding of basic nutrition.