Nutritional Requirements For Cattle, Goat, And Sheep

Feeding is very important in livestock production; there is a direct relationship between feeding and performance of the animal. The nutritional requirements of livestock vary with several factors; however, the most prominent factor is the digestion and digestive system of different types of livestock.

There are different types of livestock; cattle, goat, and sheep have different nutritional requirement compared to poultry, pigs and rabbit. This is a function of their digestive system. They are called ruminant animals

The nutritional requirements of cattle, goat, and sheep differ from other livestock solely because of their digestive system. Unlike poultry birds, cattle, goat, and sheep have a complex stomach structure that allows them to utilize any form of feed optimally.

Cattle, goat, and sheep have 4 stomach compartments; reticulum, rumen, omasum, and abomasum. These structures play an active role in the digestion of feed in ruminant animals. The rumen is the most active and functional structure of the four structures; it contains microorganisms that aid in the breakdown of different feed forms into a usable form by these animals

When you feed ruminants balanced diet, you are simply providing a conducive environment for the growth and development of the microorganisms in the rumen. Like other livestock, cattle, goat and sheep require the six classes of nutrient in varying quantities and concentration. They need:

  • Energy
  • Protein
  • Fats
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water

Energy requirement for Cattle, Goat, and Sheep

Energy is one of the most expensive nutrients in livestock animal; ruminant animals need energy for all activities they perform. Energy is derived from carbohydrate. There are two types of carbohydrates; we have:

  • The soluble carbohydrates in form of starch and sugar; an example is maize.
  • The insoluble or structural carbohydrate, in form of cellulose and hemicellulose. These are gotten from fibrous feedstuff like pasture and forage.

Cattle, goat, and sheep require both the soluble and insoluble carbohydrates in their feed. These two forms of carbohydrate are very important in their diet. Ruminant needs the insoluble carbohydrates for proper rumen function while the soluble carbohydrate is required in their diet for growth, reproduction, and production.

In the rumen, microbial fermentation and digestion take place. What makes the rumen work is the insoluble carbohydrate. If cattle, goat, and sheep are not fed insoluble carbohydrate, the rumen is left idle and this will affect the overall functioning and metabolism of other nutrients.

Fermentation occurs in the rumen, which makes the rumen acidic, however, this acid has to be neutralized, this is only possible when you feed these animals insoluble carbohydrates.


Fibrous materials stimulate longer chewing in these animals; as they chew, they produce saliva. The longer cattle, goat, and sheep chew, the more the saliva they produce. Saliva acts as a buffering agent that helps neutralize the acid produced during fermentation in the rumen. The saliva is very important and only insoluble carbohydrates can stimulate saliva production.

Also, the form of the feed material is also important; fresh pasture or forage contains 75 percent water and 25 percent dry matter. What does the work of saliva production is the dry matter. This is why it is important to feed cattle, goat and sheep dried forage and pasture.

Protein requirement for Cattle, Goat, and Sheep

The need for protein in ruminant feed is solely for the rumen microorganisms. Naturally, cattle, goat or sheep will produce the protein they require by the action of the microorganisms in the rumen; however, protein can be supplemented for rapid growth, lactation, and reproduction.

There are two types of protein utilized by the Ruminant animals namely:

  • Rumen degradable protein
  • Rumen undegradable or rumen by-pass protein.

When cattle goat or sheep eat, the protein content of the feed is attacked by microbes for their own use only. Such protein is called the rumen degradable protein; such protein is not available to the animal for use; it is solely to sustain the microbes.

However, some protein molecules escape into the abomasum, where enzymatic digestion takes place. Such protein is called rumen by-pass or rumen undegradable protein; this form of protein is solely for use by the animal. Any feed material that enters the abomasum, is digested and absorbed for the animal use only.

Generally, ruminant animals do not require any special requirement for protein as the protein produced by the microbes is sufficient to cater for the need of the animal as a whole.

Fats requirements for Cattle, Goat, and Sheep

Cattle, goat, and sheep do not require much fat in their diet. The fat gotten from the pasture or forage serve is enough to cater for their requirement. However, when there is a need to increase the energy in their diet, in most cases for the lactating or gestating animal, fat can be included in their diet. It should not be more than 7 percent.

Vitamins and Mineral requirements for Cattle, Goat, and Sheep

When cattle, goat or sheep consume high-quality forage, they do not need supplementation of vitamins or minerals. Supplementing vitamins when there is no deficiency can cause poisoning or death in severe cases.

Ruminants can synthesize all the B-vitamins and vitamin C through the action of the rumen microbes. Mineral deficiency is less likely to occur if green forage is a major part of their diet.

Water requirement for cattle, goat, and sheep

Water is very important as it aids digestion, absorption of nutrients and metabolic activities. A cow requires at least 100 liters of water daily while goat and sheep need about 50 liters daily.


Feeding cattle, goat, and sheep is less expensive compared to poultry birds; they do not require any special formulation. So far quality green plants are available in your environment, you can easily meet the nutritional requirements of these livestock animals. Proper hygiene is required to have a good return on investment of ruminant animals.

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1 thought on “Nutritional Requirements For Cattle, Goat, And Sheep”

  1. This helps.
    Because I’m a son of a farmer, who have not gone to school or college to learn agriculture.


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