We’ve learned that, due to cattle’s unique ruminant digestive system, they can eat a variety of feeds that humans cannot, converting them into high-quality beef and milk.
To learn about the variety of feed ingredients available in Arizona, we first visited a dairy, then a ranch, and now we explore the diet at an Arizona cattle feed yards.
Wyatt Scott, of Pinal Feeding Co., showed us the ingredients in their cattle feed.
Pinal Feeding Co. in Maricopa is located next to Pinal Energy, an ethanol production facility, and the two have found a mutually beneficial relationship. One of the by-products from producing ethanol, a renewable fuel, is distillers grains.
Wet distillers grains (there are also dry distillers grains) are mixed into the feed ration and provide fiber, energy and protein to the diet. The wet distillers grains also provide moisture. The consistency is that of thick oatmeal and has the sweet, earthy smell of a brewery.
“We also incorporate used vegetable oil from Phoenix-area restaurants,” Wyatt added, “which adds fat that cattle convert to energy.”
Most of the cattle feed is made up of roughages – alfalfa, corn stalks, bermuda and sometimes sudan grass – that are imperative for the ruminant digestive system. Added to the mix are steam-flaked corn, wet distillers grains, used vegetable oil, vitamins and minerals.
Similar to human dietitians with whom we consult for healthy and balanced meal plans, Arizona’s feed yards all consult with beef cattle nutritionists who formulate a nutritious, balanced feed ration. Wyatt explained, “We also test our feed weekly, analyzing the nutritional profile to ensure we are producing quality feed the cattle want to eat. It behooves us to constantly review our process as it directly correlates to the performance and health of the cattle.”
Aren’t cattle fascinating? The seemingly odd choices of cattle feed from distillers grains to bakery meal actually has many benefits. Not only are cattle able to process sugar into energy extremely efficiently because of their digestive system, but it also keeps by-products like distillers grains and used vegetable oil – that would otherwise be thrown into a landfill – from being wasted.
“I truly enjoy the idea of constantly looking for ways to improve how we care for cattle and they are the most transparent with the results. They may not be able to communicate like we do, but it is really simple to see how they are responding to a change. They are a visible 3 dimensional reflection of the work you put in,” shared Wyatt.
These ruminant animals can digest forages humans cannot consume and turn them into great-tasting, nutrient-rich beef loaded with zinc, iron, protein and B vitamins.
Landfills are the number one source of man-made methane emissions (according to the EPA). Isn’t it great that we can mitigate some of that?
Ultimately, there are many ways to raise and feed cattle. We’ll continue to share interesting stories from the beef community in Arizona.
Thank you for ruminating with us.