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close this book Animal traction
close this folder Appendix B: Animal nutrition
View the document Energy needs: bovine animals
View the document Energy needs: equine animals
View the document Nutrient needs of draft animals: protein, minerals, vitamins
View the document Feeds and feed composition
View the document Calculating a ration
View the document Recommended rations and feeding practices

Recommended rations and feeding practices

The rations given below are intended to serve as general guidelines for establishing a successful feeding program. When formulating rations, consider the factors which may lower the benefits of the ration, including:

• Environmental factors which affect the composition and hence nutritional value of food: soil, climate, seasonal changes, insect damage, mold.

• Animals will adapt to a wide variety of feeds, but the change must be gradual to prevent the animal from going off feed.

• Digestibility: Individual digestive ability can be affected by age, teeth, condition of digestive organs and functions, presence of parasites, quality of food. In feeding ruminants, changes in diets from high roughage to low roughage (high concentrate) affect the population of microbes in the rumen. Rapid changes can result in serious upsets in the animals' physiology. Any major changes should be made gradually over a two week period.

Rations should be altered as experience and observation suggest.

In addition to the recommended guidelines, some specific suggestions follow on how and when to feed animals.

Note: Research and practical experience have demonstrated that the nutritional needs of animals and the nutrient values of various diets can be calculated quite accurately


Oxen need pasture, grain, and may need additional protein and mineral supplements in order to meet nutritional requirements. Supplements are expensive but may be practical and necessary (especially if mineral deficiencies are present).

Here is an example of a feeding schedule for a working ox kept on pasture:

5:30 am

1/2 kg cracked corn + 1/2 kg peanut cake (mixture)

(7-12 noon)


12-4 pm

short drink followed by free grazing (super vised). Let the animals graze toward a stream or well and give it free access to water.



6 pm

short drink

7 pm

mixture containing 1-1/2 kg crushed grain sorghum + 1/2 kg peanut cake or cottonseed meal

8 pm

free access to water and mineral block; stall feeding of 2 kg of legume hay. Water, hay and mineral block are left where the animal can reach them during the night.


Bovine animals need roughage (pasture grass, hay) in order to maintain basic nutritional and energy needs. Most oxen grazing on young pasture can consume enough feed and nutrients to maintain a healthy status in six to eight hours Oxen that do not have sufficient time to graze must be fed cut pasture in the stall at night.


Chart A approximates the amount of roughage an ox needs daily.

Other types of roughage which oxen eat include fresh legumes, grasses, hay, straw, corn or sorghum fodder, and tree fodder. These products should be included in the diet whenever possible.

When work schedules do not permit adequate grazing time, oxen should be stall-fed hay or cut green pasture at night. Estimate the amount of pasture to feed at night by using the following method:

1) Estimate the amount of pasture consumed daily by the animal. For example, assume an ox eats 3 kg of pasture per hour (rainy season; grass in abundance). Multiply the number of hours the animal grazed by three.


x 3

= 15

(number of hours grazed during day)

(kg of grass eaten per hour during rainy season)

(kg grass eaten while grazing during the day)

2) Subtract the amount of pasture eaten during free grazing from the total amount it needs. This gives the approximate kg of pasture to cut and feed at night.


- 15.0

= 7.5

(kg pasture needed by 300kg bull-obtained from Chart A).

(kg pasture eaten during free grazing)

(kg roughage to feed at night)

3) Establish a suitable standard of measure by using a bucket or container. Pack the bucket with grass, weigh it, and then subtract the weight of the bucket. Check the weight of the measure every few weeks, adjusting the amount to allow for changes in moisture content of the grass.

Grain and Other Concentrates

Grain is the seed portion of cereal plants such as corn, sorghum, millet and rice. Grains are low in fiber and thus are called "concentrates". Grains have a high starch content (carbohydrates) which is an important source of energy to work animals that have limited time to graze. Other concentrates include beans and mill by-products, such as peanut cake, cottonseed meal, and brewers' meal (described on page 185).

Amount of Concentrate to Feed

For working animals, use the table below (Chart B) to determine the amount of concentrates to feed. This should provide sufficient energy needed by working animals. Feed intake varies with the weight of the animal and the work load. The terms "light," medium" and "heavy" are used to define the work load.

Hours of Work





Ox pulling 1/8 its weight




Donkey pulling 1/5 its weight




Horse pulling 1/7 its weight




The concentrates may be decreased by 1 kg if the roughage intake includes 2 kg of legume hay or 5 kg of green legumes.

For non-working (idle) oxen, feed the following amounts of concentrates:

• Off-day during the work season-light work ration (see Chart B).

• Off-season or dry season-onehalf light work ration (each day).


Weight of ox

Amount of Grain to Feed per Day (in kg)

(in kg)

At Light Work

At Med. Work

At Heavy Work





















The figures are based on maintenance needs of ruminant animals (see page 176) and the assumption that one kg of grain (corn, sorghum, millet, and/or barley) has a forage value equal to one (one kg of 100% dry grain = 1 U.F.; see explanation of forage value on page 175.

When to Feed Concentrates

• Working oxen: Feed 1/4-1/3 of the ration in the morning, the rest in the evening. Do not feed when the animal is hot (i.e., immediately after work) or after it has had large quantities of water.

• Non-working oxen: Feed the entire ration in the evening when the animal returns from pasture.

How to Feed Concentrates

Feed concentrates in a container that cannot be knocked over. Stake or corral oxen so each has access to a separate container. This way you can see how much and what each animal eats. Also, it keeps more aggressive individuals from taking other animals' food.

Experiment with grains to find out which ones an animal likes. If an ox refuses to eat grain, crush it and add a little salt. Leave it near the ox throughout the night. A little water added to cottonseed will make it a little more palatable.

Give the animal fresh rations every day. Keep the feeding container clean.

Feed Supplements

A diet consisting of high quality grass, hay, and grain should supply protein, vitamins, and minerals necessary for overall health. However, nutrition deficiencies can result from unavailability of feeds or conditions which affect the quality or digestibility of feed. The following supplements should be fed to provide balanced diets:

• Protein: Mature oxen should be provided with concentrates that supply additional protein. Examples of this would include feeding a daily allowance of one of the following: 1/3 kg peanut cake, 3/4 cottonseed meal, 1 kg wet brewers' meal, or 1-1/2 kg sorghum bran.

• Minerals and salt: Animals should have free access to a salt block lick wich contains two parts calcium, one part phosphorous and one part salt. If a lick is not obtainable, mix bone meal (or other source of calcium and phosphorous) and salt in the feed. (For quantities, see Appendix B, page 192.)


Equine animals must be fed with regard to their particular needs and digestive capabilities. While an ox can be fed once at the end of the day, a working horse should be given feed in small quantities. This practice facilitates complete, regular digestion of nutrients and ensures that the animal will be comfortable while working.

Horses and Mules

1) Feed the right amount. Total daily consumption of roughages and concentrates combined should be between 0.8 and 1.0 kg for every 40 kg of live body weight. A 320 kg horse, for example, should get between 6.4 and 8 kg of feed per day.

2) Idle horses are fed chiefly on grass and hay. One-third to one-half of the roughage should be grass or legume hay. (Straw should not be fed to horses, for they do not have the ability to digest it.)

3) For working horses, about half of the total ration should consist of roughage, half grain and other concentrates.

4) Working horses should be fed ration in three equal parts at morning, noon and night. Idle horses may be given the entire ration in the evening, or half in the morning and half in the evening.

5) Grain should be partially crushed to aid digestion.

6) A few handfuls of chopped straw or dry corn leaves can be offered along with the grain. These feeds encourage the animal to chew more thoroughly.

7) Both idle and working horses need one-third of a high protein supplement like bran, brewers' meal or cottonseed meal mixed with the grain. Brewers' meal can be mixed in water and given as a drink.

8) Allow animals free access to a mineral/salt block lick, or add bone meal and salt to the concentrate ration as recommended in Appendix B, page 192.

Recommended Rations

For a 300-kg horse the recommendations are:

Idle: 3-1/2 kg cured grass hay + 2 kg legume hay + 1/2 kg grain mixed with several handfuls of wet brewers' meal with the grain;


4 kg green pasture containing legumes + 1 kg grain + 1/2 kg cottonseed meal;


3 kg dried pasture grass (standing hay) + 2 kg legume hay + 1/2 kg grain + 1/2 kg sorghum bran.

Medium work: 2 kg green pasture + 2 kg legume hay + 3 kg grain + 1/2 kg brewers' meal;


2 kg green pasture (legumes + grass) + 2 kg cured grass hay + 3 kg grain + 1/2 kg cotton

seed meal (or cowpea meal or peanut cake).

As workload increases:

• Replace cured grass hay or green pasture with legume hay.

• Increase the concentrate meal portion by l/2 kg and decrease the grain portion by 1/2 kg.

As workload decreases:

• Decrease the grain portion and increase the roughage portion.

• Adjust the ration according to the weight of the animal using the rules given above (1-3). Use the rations given for the 300-kg horse as a guide for establishing the proportions of various feeds.


Generally speaking, donkeys are fed like horses. However, donkeys can subsist on very coarse forages like straw, crop stubble, and leaves and stems of desert plants. Unlike horses, they will not overeat when given free access to pasture or grain. They prefer to nibble throughout the day.

Donkeys can be fed according to the following rules:

1) Allow free access to pasture whenever possible. Otherwise, supply the donkey with fresh hay and straw.

2) Provide a 1/3-kg mixture of grain plus oilcake daily.

3) Provide a 90-llO kg working donkey with additional grain along with the above rations, according to the following guidelines:

light work: l kg additional grain

medium work: 1-1/2 kg additional grain

hard work: 2 kg additional grain

(Larger donkeys should be given grain in proportionate amounts.)

4) Provide free access to mineral/ salt lick and water as with horses.