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Why Cattle Need Roughage for Optimal Digestion and Health

written by

Cassandra Row

posted on

February 12, 2024

Cattle are one of the most common farm animals around the world. They provide us with beef, milk, leather and so much more. As a responsible farmer or a curious parent, you must know that cattle have special dietary requirements for proper digestion and eventual good health. One of the most important dietary constituents for cattle is roughage. In this blog, we will discuss why it's crucial to keep roughage in the cattle's diet for optimal digestion and health.

The cattle's gut was designed to primarily digest forage like grass, hay, or other plant-based materials known as roughage. Their four-chambered stomach is particularly designed with an enormous fermentation vat called the rumen. The rumen helps break down the forage using a special community of microbes. It's like a mini biodigester that produces byproducts like propionate, acetate, and butyrate, which the cow uses to fuel itself. These microbes are also responsible for the characteristic belching of cows.

While grains are commonly fed to cattle and can have higher energy levels, roughage is essential for their digestive health. Without sufficient roughage, the acidity inside the rumen changes, ultimately leading to damage to the cellular walls. This can compromise a cow's digestion and overall health. The acidity level rises, known as acidosis or ruminal acidosis, which can lead to several severe health issues such as diarrhea, bloat, liver abscesses, and even death. Feeding sufficient roughage helps keep the rumen pH stable, and the acidity in check.

In addition to aiding digestion, roughage is essential to the cow's overall health. It doesn't just help keep their rumen pH level in check, but it's also good for their teeth. Cows need to chew regularly on coarse feed to grind their teeth naturally. Neglecting this can lead to a host of dental problems for them. Non-abrasive or soft food intake can cause teeth growth beyond normal levels or injuries and infections in their teeth and gums. As in wholistic human health, take care of the gut and you take care of the cow. Gut health is that important even for cattle.

In a nutshell, to ensure that the cattle we raise for you are always healthy, we provide them with a consistent supply of roughage in their diet. Cattle need to ruminate their food, and this takes a lot of time. Roughage provides a steady source of forage while keeping the rumen working properly. The addition of grains to their feed regimen can provide an energy boost, but only if added in proper balance and moderation. Without roughage, cattle's digestion and overall health can be severely compromised, leading to significant financial losses for us and poor beef for you.

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