Good Quality Grain Makes All the Difference – Emma Waterworth, Vita Plus

Posted on August 24, 2014 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Emma Waterworth, Vita Plus Fall River grain marketing intern
You know quality calf feed is vital to the health and development of a growing calf, but what makes a quality feed?

A good pelleted calf starter or grower consists of clean grains and a good, hard pellet.  Several factors to consider while assessing grain for livestock feed include cleanliness, color, mold, foreign material and plumpness.

The initial quality of the grains to be used in the feed is an important component of the end product.  First, the grain should be clean with little or no dust and dirt. Choose grains that don’t have a lot of fines in them. Fines can cause health issues and intake suppression in the calf.

When evaluating grain for calf feed, be wary of the color of the grain. Grains may differ in color due to genetic origin, overexposure to heat or mold.

Oats, unlike some of the other grains, can be found in a variety of colors. You may see gray, red or white oats depending on their origin.

Corn, unlike oats, should be the same yellow color. If you find corn that is dark brown or black, avoid feeding it. It is either damaged by heat or has mold. Heat-damaged corn has a burnt taste and odor to it, decreasing palatability and intake. Moldy corn can produce dangerous amounts of poisonous fungal toxins and should be avoided. Good quality grains are free of mold with little or no potential for growing mold.

A good quality grain also lacks the presence of foreign material. The best way to prevent foreign material in your calf feed is to work with a reputable and trusted feed manufacturer.

For example, here at Vita Plus, we take pride in the quality feed we produce for our customers. We put in the extra time and effort to grade the grain for foreign material as it comes in before the drivers are allowed to dump. This ensures the best quality for our customers.

Foreign material – which can include everything from stones to chaff to glass – can be detrimental to both the customer feeding the grain and the animal that consumes it.  Therefore, grain contaminated with foreign material must be cleaned before it can be fed to the livestock. This becomes an expensive and time-consuming process for the customer.  Additionally, foreign material adds nothing to the feed value, but customers will pay as much for foreign material – due to the extra weight and volume – as the grain itself.

The most important nutritional factor in calf starters and growers is protein. The endosperm is the energy-supplying portion of the grain. It is made up of high-energy carbohydrates and proteins.  A plump kernel is usually a sign that the endosperm is well-developed. The plumper a kernel is, the higher the energy the grain has. A plump kernel contains fewer hulls and less crude fiber, which, in turn, gives the grain a higher feeding value.  Test weight can be used as an indirect measure of plumpness for your grain.

Good grains are fundamental to a quality calf feed that will provide adequate nourishment to a growing calf. When choosing a grain to use in starters and growers, pick grains that are free of fines, dirt, and dust, have little or no mold, heat damage, or foreign material, and are plump and full of protein. Good quality grains produce good quality calves.

Category: Calf and heifer nutrition
Starting Strong - Calf Care