The 'ins and outs' of livestock feed

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By NANCY SMITH-Non-Ruminant Specialist
Why complying with the regulations is so important

In Canada the Feeds Act and Feeds Regulations regulate the production and sale of livestock feed. Livestock is defined in the Feeds Act to include cattle, sheep, goats, swine, poultry, fish, rabbits, mink, foxes, horses and any other creatures as may be designated by regulation as livestock, for the purpose of the Act.

Livestock feed includes complete feeds, supplements and premixes:

(a) for consumption by livestock,

(b) for providing the nutritional requirements of livestock,

(c) for the purpose of preventing or correcting nutritional disorders of livestock,

or any substance for use in the above mixtures. 

The Acts and Regulations are enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to prevent the use of unauthorized feed ingredients (e.g. drugs), to ensure food safety and to prevent health risks to both livestock and humans. All manufacturers of feed, commercial mills or kitchens, and on-farm mills and kitchens must adhere to these regulations and should anticipate an inspection of their premises, feed and paperwork.   

The first concern in livestock feeding is to ensure the appropriate feed is being fed to a given species based on its age and production cycle. Chicks need chick starter not layer ration. Copper in dairy rations can be toxic to fast growing lambs and horses will perform much better on a horse ration than one designed for fattening beef.

There are a myriad of potential hazards involved with feeding livestock. Feed must be mixed and fed as directed. Read the labels. If the label is missing, ask your supplier for a copy. Years of research go into the development of new feed formulas, determining the appropriate use of new ingredients and the efficacy of various drugs or micro additives. Proper mixing and feeding rates will ensure livestock get the maximum benefit from the product. 

When making major ingredient changes get a feed analysis to be sure of the nutrient levels. Seek the advice of your feed supplier, or a nutritionist, to make gradual changes while maintaining the desired feed nutrient levels. Palatability can be affected considerably if changes are made too quickly. A cheaper source of grain or protein isn’t a good deal if your animals go off feed or the new ration is unbalanced. 

Medicated feeds have their own set of rules. Medicated feeds must meet the standards set out in the Compendium of Medicating Ingredient Brochures (CMIB). The CMIB (available on-line) is a listing of all drug premixes approved for livestock feeding in Canada, with indications of acceptable feeding rates for each class of livestock. Feeding too little of the medication may cause the drug to be ineffective, or increase the opportunity for pathogen resistance to develop. Too much medication is costly and may affect withdrawal times.  Veterinary prescription feeds are exempt from the CMIB, but feeding directions supplied by the prescribing veterinarian must be followed carefully. An updated prescription is an annual requirement for these feeds.    

Premixes have expiry dates: vitamins oxidize, drugs become less effective and so on. Using the first-in, first-out policy will help ensure old stock gets used up before its expiry date.

Prohibited materials in livestock feed include proteins of ruminant origin: meat meal, meat and bone meal and other by-products containing specified risk material. These ingredients can be used in non-ruminant feeds but there must be no risk of contamination in the manufacture, delivery or feeding of ruminants with these ingredients.

Feed spoilage is a costly waste of feed. Some feed ingredients are prone to contamination with pathogens including E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter. Proper storage to ensure dry ingredients stay dry, fresh ingredients are kept cold and frozen ingredients are kept frozen will go a long way to prevent unnecessary waste. It is important to pay attention to feed odours: molds, bacterial contamination and rancid fats can all be detected. Be in the habit of noticing unusual odours to prevent feeding spoiled product.

On the farm keep feed dry and clean, prevent cross contamination with other ingredients or feeds, do regular maintenance of bins to prevent leaks and clean up spills to avoid attracting pests.

Sample mixed feeds and bulk ingredients regularly. Keep samples and the lab analyses in a dry cupboard or storage area designed for that purpose. When necessary, reformulate with the help of your feed supplier or nutritionist. Maintaining a paper trail to be able to track mixing formulas, suppliers, medication use, prescription formulas, use of prohibited material, etc. is a critical step in ensuring your feeding program is in compliance with Canadian regulations.

To review the Feeds Act and Regulations, go to

For further information or assistance in evaluating the compliance readiness of your feed mill or feed kitchen contact Perennia non-ruminant specialists:

Alex Oderkirk: (902) 896-0277, ext.222 or Email:

Nancy Smith: (902) 896-0277, ext. 234 or Email:



Organizations: Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Geographic location: Canada

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