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During the summer of 2010, I searched for an outside-of-the-box nutritionist who would help me with my beef operation in Ohio. I wanted to develop a feeding program that would take care of my animals from their first day to last. And I wanted it done in such a way that I obtained a superior product at a reasonable profit. That’s when I met Buck Chastain, who came highly recommended by the “Montana Angus Mafia.”

Since my Angus cattle were raised under shelter, we supplied them with their entire diet. Cost of feed was our single great- est operational expense. So, feed conversion was critical to my financial success. With cattle, it can take up to 7 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of live animal (a feed conversion of 7:1). This was not a recipe for long-term success. So I retained Buck as my nutritionist, and he showed me how it’s done.

What I Learned: Amino What?

Coming out of the chicken industry, I was unprepared to feed an animal equipped with a 50-gallon bioreactor (i.e. a rumen). I quickly learned, “Happy rumen, happy calf. Unhappy rumen, unhappy calf.” What Buck helped me understand is that the rumen is primarily designed to digest grass. The result is that many common feed ingredients go straight through the rumen—undigested—and into the manure pile. This is how feed conversions wind up at an astronomical 7:1 and your finances start seeing red!

It turns out that cottonseed is the perfect combination of protein, fat, and fiber for cattle. But more importantly, it has the proper amino acid profile to promote optimal digestion and absorption. Protein is a combination of amino acids. And if your protein source is made up of the wrong amino acids, they simply end up in the manure pile. On the other hand, if your protein source contains the right amino acids, then your cattle get more of the nutrition they need.