The exercise on these pages uses a feed tag for sheep feed as an example. However, for learning purposes, it is applicable to other animals such as poultry, swine, dairy, beef, goats, rabbits, etc. Read the following information in preparation for the interactive exercise. The material used in this exercise was generously provided by Daneke Club Lambs and Livestock. No changes were made to the narrative below, some changes were made to the feed tag.

Understanding a Feed Tag

Below is Information and a list of Related Websites

A commercial feed in the United States is required to carry the following information:

Product name and brand name, if any.

Medication information, if used. There are many different medications available depending upon the class of animal being fed.

Purpose Statement: Since some product names are ambiguous on what animals the feed may be fed to, a purpose statement states what animal and what feeding situation the feed is designed for (i.e., For Holsteins fed in confinement for slaughter).

Guaranteed Analysis: There are three basic nutrients that must be on all labels: a) If the product is intended to supply protein, minimum crude protein. If a source of non-protein nitrogen is used, the maximum amount of "equivalent protein from non-protein nitrogen" needs to appear. b) minimum crude fat, and c) maximum crude fiber. If the total minerals added to the feed exceed 6.5%, additional guarantees are required for beef cattle labels. These guarantees are minimum and maximum calcium, minimum phosphorus, minimum Vitamin A if added, and if salt is added, minimum and maximum salt. Other minerals and vitamins may be guaranteed. Mineral supplements must state (when these nutrients are added) minimum/maximum calcium (Ca), minimum phosphorus (P), minimum/maximum added salt (NaCl), minimum magnesium (Mg), minimum potassium (K), minimum zinc (Zn), minimum copper (Cu), minimum selenium (Se), and minimum Vitamin A.

Non-protein nitrogen (NPN) sources generally found in commercial feeds are urea, monoammonium phosphate, ammonium sulfate and ammonium chloride. Non-protein nitrogen is highly soluble, converts rapidly to ammonia in the rumen and is utilized by ruminal microbes to produce microbial protein which the animal then uses. To convert NPN to "crude protein" multiply the amount of nitrogen by 6.25. Different sources of NPN may be used in feeds for a variety of reasons. Urea is used as a low cost source of crude protein. Urea containing feeds have a lower price than feeds containing "all natural" proteins. Monoammonium phosphate is a source of phosphorus often found in mineral supplements. Ammonium sulfate and ammonium chloride are used to help prevent urinary calculi (water belly) in wethers and steers. Ammonium sulfate is also used as a source of sulfur for high urea diets.

Ingredient Statement: The major ingredients of the feed may be listed specifically (i.e., corn, soybean meal, alfalfa) or may be represented by collective terms (grain products, plant protein products, forage products, etc.) Collective terms refer to a group of ingredients used for a common purpose. Collective terms makes it easier to "best-cost" formulations (using the best combination of ingredients to meet a specific nutrient profile for the feed at the lowest possible cost) without reprinting labels each time an ingredient is changed. An abbreviated list of collective terms is in Table 1. The order in which ingredients appear is not regulated, but generally is from the greatest amount to the least amount.

Since August 1997, United States feed companies have been prohibited from feeding ruminant derived meat and bone meal back to ruminants, including cattle and sheep. This rule was put I place to prevent ny chance of introducing Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) into the United States. Any feed containing ruminant meat and bone meal must be labeled "do not feed to cattle or other ruminants." If "animal protein products" appears on the tag of the commercial feed you are using, don't panic. Ask your feed company to explain the source of "animal protein products." This term includes porcine meat and bone meal (legal to feed to ruminants), hydrolyzed feather meal, fish meal and blood meal (no BSE concern). Animal fat poses no threat from BSE.

Cautions, Warnings: This section gives any precautionary warnings such as with medicated feeds like Lasalocid (Bovatec): "The safety of lasalocid in unapproved species has not been established." Another commonly seen warning is "Caution: Do Not Feed to Sheep" found on feeds with high levels of supplementary copper and "Caution: Use as Directed" seen on feeds with high levels of urea. Feeding or Mixing Directions: Directions are expected to be fullly explanatory. This section should indicate minimum and maximum amounts to feed. Amounts may be in absolute weights (i.e., feed 0.1 to 2 lb.), expressed as the amount of feed on a body weight basis (i.e., 1 to 1.5% body weight would be 10 to 15 lb. for a 1000 lb. bull) or the amount an animal is expected to consume when the product is fed free choice (i.e., optimum intake is 2-4 oz/head/day). It should also indicate if other feeds should be used in conjunction with this feed. If special care should be used in mixing this product, the directions would indicate for instance "mix thoroughly with grain and/or roughage prior to use.

Net Weight of Unit: Net weight refers to bag weight (50 lb) or bulk amount (2000 LB).

Manufacturers or Distributors Name: The name and address of the company selling the feed must be on the tag.



Feed Composition for Cattle and Sheep

Monitoring Feedstuffs

Tables of Feed Composition Nutritional Data for U.S. & Canadian Feeds
This is a online book with the ability to print the pages you want or order a complete copy.

What a Feed Tag Really Tells You


When you have finished studying the information on this page, click the next page icon below to go to an interactive exercise.