What do cattle eat?
Jaime Sackmann runs Sackmann Cattle Co. with her husband Jeff. She's also a livestock nutritionist who plans the diets of their cattle and for other farmers and ranchers. Animal nutritionists like Jaime have scientific knowledge of what cattle need to eat to be healthy, grow, and ultimately produce quality beef. Learn from Jaime what cattle eat on their ranch and what cattle eat at feed yards in Washington to know more about how beef is raised.
"Our cattle eat a more balanced diet than many of us humans. I can control what is in front of a cow and available to eat much easier than in front of myself and kids. No snack size goodies calling my cow's name in the checkout line!"
- Jaime Sackmann, Sackmann Cattle Co., Warden, WA
Cattle on Crop Aftermath
Being a rancher means being a good steward of resources. A key management practice on our ranch is utilizing as much crop aftermath (what the mechanical harvesting of plants leaves behind) to feed our cows as possible. Rather than running a tractor and implement across a field to further break up plant matter, in the fall we will graze our cows on those fields. Cows are able to turn that crop aftermath into high quality complete protein (beef!) and return organic matter (manure) back to the soil. We also apply composted manure (organic fertilizer) available from a local feed yard to make our crop fields productive.
Recycling at the Feed Yard
Besides providing high quality compost to neighboring farmers, feed yards also fit into today's agricultural community by preventing the byproducts of food processing from becoming waste. Did you know? Grant County produces more potatoes per acre than any other county in the United States! That also means we process a lot of potatoes here. Several local food processing plants turn potatoes into chips, french fries, tater tots, dried mashed potatoes, and any other potato product you can conceive. We enjoy these at restaurants and take them home from our grocery freezer case.
So where do all those potato skins and pieces go that don’t make the cut? In our area, they go to cattle feed yards. Cattle help reduce waste in our food system by turning excess and the trimmings of fruit and vegetables into high quality, complete protein. Cattle in Washington enjoy the "leftovers" from apple and other vegetable processing (like carrots, corn & peas). Even our beverage and energy choices result in potential waste that cattle turn into nutrient and protein-rich beef. Byproducts of ethanol energy, beer and spirits processing are called distillers grains, which offers great nutrition to a feed yard ration (the mixture of feeds provided to cattle each day).
The bovine ruminant digestive system allows cattle to eat a lot of foods we can’t. From grazing cattle on crop aftermath and land where food crops cannot be grown, to reducing waste from food processing, raising beef cattle is an important part of a food system that is capable of feeding billions.
Nutrition and Sustainability
When I think about my role as an animal nutritionist and mother, I have to sometimes laugh. Our cattle eat a more balanced diet than many of us humans. I can control what is in front of a cow and available to eat much easier than in front of myself and kids. No snack size goodies calling my cow's name in the checkout line! Nutritionists are able to utilize a variety of primarily locally grown feed sources to provide our feed yard animals with a diet balanced to meet all of the animal's nutritional needs.
A sobering statistic I’ve read is that about 40% of the food taken home in America is wasted. That’s insane! And it's not sustainable. I think it's important for everyone to do their part, which makes me proud of my work building cattle diets that include food processing byproducts, based on my biological knowledge of what cattle need. I see ranchers, cattle feeders, and local farmers working together every day to eliminate waste and I love being a part of that.
To learn more about what cattle eat click here.
To join the beef community in the effort to waste less food, click here.
Jaime Sackmann, MS
To meet a ranch mom like Jaime is to meet a renaissance woman and an MVP on the ranch squad. Her expertise in cattle nutrition is a huge asset to daily operations and decisions. She shares her knowledge through teaching a course at Big Bend Community College.
Add collaborating with Jeff on the marketing of their purebred cattle, shuttling the kids to sports and helping them with their 4-H hog and steer projects, and the struggle is real. "I even try to feed all the kids a couple times and day and provide clean laundry. Yet most days I don't feel like I accomplish anything," says Jaime.
Ranch Mom, we salute you.