Cattle feeds and feeding
Cattle are fed according to a feeding plan that takes into account the needs of each phase in production. Silage, wholegrain silage, hay and – during the pasture season – fresh grass, all of which are produced on the farms themselves, form the basis of nourishment for all cattle. Home-made feeds are analysed to identify the precise nutrient content and enable sufficient amounts of appropriate protein feeds, micronutrients, minerals and vitamins to be added.
Coarse feed is placed on the feeding table in the cow shed several times per day as the natural eating behaviour of cattle includes continuously grinding and ruminating feed. In recent years, the use of "mixed feed nutrition" has become a more widespread means of feeding cattle. This entails grinding up grain, plants containing protein and other required feed components with grass instead of feeding concentrated feed to cattle separately.
As production animals, a unique feature of cattle is rumination. Coarse feed must account for a sufficient proportion of the dry feed in the animal's diet to ensure that the paunch functions correctly. The most common form of coarse feed in Finland is grass silage. In some parts of the world, concentrated feed may account for a significant proportion of the nutritional needs of cattle. For this reason, the commercial term "grass-fed" has become more widely used to describe cattle that have mainly been fed on grass. In Finland, all cattle are fed a diet based on grass feed.
Grass-based nourishment is supplemented by industrial feeds to ensure that cattle receive sufficient protein, micronutrients and vitamins. In Finland, the primary source of protein for cattle is Finnish rapeseed extract and ground European colza, which are by-products of vegetable oil production. Additionally, Atria's contract farms use significant amounts of protein feeds derived from barley mash, which is a by-product from Finnish breweries, as well as starch produced in the manufacture of grain ethanol at Altia's Koskenkorva plant.