Farm Feed

A Guide to What Most Farm Animals Eat

If you’re a small farm owner or a homesteader, maintaining the well-being of your farm animals is crucial.

Ensuring they receive proper nutrition not only contributes to their overall health but also plays a vital role in providing us with essential carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and proteins.

This post will dive into various farm animals’ dietary requirements, focusing on small-scale farm and homestead animals.

Join us as we explore the importance of a balanced diet for our hardworking farm friends, and gain valuable insights to help you optimize their care and productivity. Let’s get started! 

Main ingredients in farm animal feed

The main ingredients in farm animal feed are listed in this section based on what nutrients they are rich in, such as carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.


Carbohydrates are crucial in animal diets to keep the animals’ energy up (through body fat) and produce positive growth. Here are some of the carb-rich animal feed ingredients:

Corn grits or maize: This grain feed is known to be one of the main feed ingredients for many farm animals, comprising about half of its total bulk.

This carbohydrate-rich animal feed, made mainly of starch, is usually white or yellow, depending on your location. Although it’s loaded with carbohydrates, it lacks sufficient protein, so it’s mixed with other components when making livestock feed.

Peas and beans: These two work well as ingredients in animal feed because they are rich in verbascose, a carbohydrate essential for building animals’ energy. Peas and beans are also protein-rich.

Wheat: This ingredient has been planted and used since the Neolithic Revolution and is known to be a bearer of carbohydrates and more protein than corn grits or maize.When mixing animal feed, wheat is vital as the binding agent, combining the different ingredients.

Noodle waste: In shifting to a more energy-rich, cost-efficient, and lesser food waste alternative, another option for an animal feed ingredient is noodle waste or table scraps.

Noodle waste is a significant carrier of starch, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, among others, which help satisfy the nutritional needs of animals.

Protein content

To help an animal repair body tissues easily, its nutritional needs must be satisfied, which means increasing protein consumption. Here’s a list of what animal feed ingredients are rich in protein:

Fish meal: This animal feed staple, made by dry milling, is a reliable source of digestible and high-quality protein, vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids. However, this is one of the more expensive feed options.

Synthetic Amino Acids: Another livestock feed essential (of secondary importance) that helps in an animal’s growth, development, and production is feed made with expensive synthetic amino acids.

It also has its benefits in terms of animal waste because it makes the latter more eco-friendly, reducing nitrogen pollution.

Palm kernel: One of the plant-based feed ingredients to keep protein, oil, and fiber levels in check is a palm kernel. Small quantities of this ingredient are an excellent mix for livestock feed because it has high levels of fiber and oil for energy, fat, and protein.

Soya beans: If the top priority for complementary feed for poultry, pigs, horses, or rabbits is protein and amino acids, cooked soya beans best fit the bill. 

Conversely, raw ingredients from soya beans can also be digested by others, such as goats and cattle.

Vitamins and minerals

A farm animal can only be called healthy with ample vitamins and minerals essential for growth and livestock production. Here are some ingredients that give vitamins and minerals that farm animals need:

Oyster or sea shells: These food sources help keep the bones and eggs strong by providing calcium, especially important for hens.

Aside from that, oysters or sea shells are also easy to prepare and affordable. Yet, its availability and accessibility are not that farmer-friendly.

Salt: In human food and animal food, salt has established itself to be reliable in maintaining an ample amount of minerals in the body, keeping livestock in good health (especially with rock salt).

Bone meal: This keeps bones, teeth, normal functioning, growth, and production growing smoothly as it is rich in calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals.

For humans, bones must not be from infected cattle, as it can cause mad cow disease.

Nutritional quality requirements

Keeping dairy cows, wild pigs, beef cattle, and other poultry fit for healthy growth and livestock production is necessary to ensure they meet their nutritional needs.

To help you understand what each animal needs, here’s a comprehensive list:


For a pig to thrive, it needs the following:

  • 2 to 3 kg of water for every kg of dry feed
  • carbohydrates depending on weight
  • dietary amino acid (lysine, tryptophan, threonine, and methionine)
  • minerals (calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, potassium, iron, iodine)
  • vitamins A, C, D, E, K, B12


To keep the chickens at their prime, here’s what they need:

  • large quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and salt (oyster shell, bone)
  • average of 20% protein, 4.5% fat, 3% fiber
  • cool and clean drinking water
  • vitamins A, D, and B complex
  • root crops (e.g., carrot peel)
  • vegetable oil

The quantity of protein, fat, fiber, and other food essentials depends if the chicken is a broiler, pullet, or laying hen. 


Dairy or beef cows need the following nutritional sources to boost growth and production:

  • energy for maintenance (grains, feed lots)
  • protein for lactation
  • water for body regulation and milk production
  • macro and micro minerals for strength and immunity
  • vitamins A, D, E, K

Dairy meals and pellets can help cows produce more milk.


Meat and egg production, among others, make geese valuable. To keep them healthy, here are what they need:

  • 11,100 kJ/kg of energy for a grower
  • 10,500 kJ/kg for the breeder
  • 5% fat for a grower
  • 4% for the breeder
  • 1% calcium for a grower
  • 3% for the breeder

Geese are known for eating grass (80% fresh or dried grass)


In conclusion, small farm owners and homesteaders play a crucial role in maintaining the well-being of their farm animals.

Proper nutrition is vital not only for the animals’ overall health but also for providing essential nutrients to humans.

We have explored the dietary requirements of various farm animals and the importance of a balanced diet. We’ve discussed key ingredients in animal feed rich in carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

By applying the valuable insights gained from this guide, you’ll be better equipped to optimize the care and productivity of your hardworking farm friends. 

Frequently Asked Questions – What do Farm Animals eat?

What types of food should I provide for each type of farm animal?

The appropriate food varies between different farm animals. Generally, herbivores like cows, sheep, and goats thrive on a diet of grasses, hay, and legumes. Omnivorous animals such as pigs and chickens benefit from a mix of grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein sources like insects or commercial feeds. Always ensure that your animals receive a balanced diet tailored to their specific needs.

How can I determine the right amount of food for my farm animals?

The ideal quantity of food depends on factors such as the animal’s age, size, breed, and activity level. Monitor the body condition and growth of your animals, and adjust their feeding portions accordingly. Consult with a veterinarian or an animal nutrition specialist for personalized advice on proper feeding practices.

Can farm animals be fed table scraps or leftovers?

While some table scraps and leftovers can be suitable for certain farm animals like pigs and chickens, it’s essential to be cautious. Always avoid feeding them anything moldy, overly salty, or containing harmful substances. Feeding your animals a well-balanced diet specifically designed for their nutritional needs is the best approach to ensure their health and productivity.

By Noah Smith

I'm Noah. I'm a late bloomer when it comes to farming. I really enjoy working our land, especially when I get to fight weeds! I also really like my big truck.

I'm so happy I can share my love for farming and our farm animals with Zoe. It's great that we can wake up to fresh eggs and the sound of bees making honey every day!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *