What’s A Feed Tag Telling You?

July 2009

When looking at a feed tag, there is some information that is mandated by law that the feed manufacturer has to provide on a feed tag. A custom formulated feed would be the only exception to the mandated law. All commercially available feeds have to contain a label or tag that includes the following information.

  1. The net weight.
  2. The product and/or brand name.
  3. A guaranteed analysis stating the level of those nutrients guaranteed by the company.
  4. The common name of each ingredient. Some states may permit the use of collective terms for ingredients of similar type.
  5. The name and principal mailing address of the manufacturer/seller.
  6. Adequate directions for use of all commercial feeds containing drugs.
  7. Precautionary statements for safe and effective use.

If the feed includes a medication, there is additional information that needs to be included on the label. In addition to the information required for non-medicated products, medicated feeds require the following information.

  1. The purpose of the medication.
  2. Directions for use of the feed product.
  3. The names of all active drug ingredients.
  4. The concentration of all active drug ingredients in the feed.
  5. A warning or precautionary statement for withdrawal period when required by law.
  6. Warnings against misuse.

Medicated feeds/supplements must be fed according to label directions. If the feed is medicated, the word "MEDICATED" usually appears directly below the title or name of the feed. As an example: Land O Lakes has a feed named CREEP PASTURE GEST 16 B-68. This is a medicated feed and directly below the name of the feed, it indicates this feed is medicated. There is no "extra" label use or feeding of medicated feeds. That means that your nutritionist, veterinarian, or beef specialist can not prescribe a feeding level other than what is indicated on the label. Beef Quality Assurance standards suggest that you keep records when feeding medicated feeds for at least one year and Nebraska BQA recommends keeping the records for three years. You need to record what medicated feed was fed, active ingredient, to whom the feed was fed to, beginning and ending dates the medicated feed was fed. It is suggested to sample the feed and store the feed sample and the feed tag in a plastic bag in a safe place that is mouse proof.

The feed tag will have a purpose statement. The purpose statement gives a very brief description of what the product is to be used for. For example, a manufacture designs a medicated feed for the control of coccidosis and the feed tag will say "for control of coccidosis". The manufacturer simply states the intend of the product. Also on the tag is a Guaranteed Analysis that provides the nutritional information for the product and indicates minimums and maximums of certain nutrients. State agencies specify the nutrients which must be guaranteed. The feed company must include a minimum amount of information in this area. The Guaranteed Analysis also does not provide an accurate indication of the quality of the products used. An endless combinations of ingredients can be combined to meet these specifications at a wide range of costs.

Within the feed tag there usually appears collective feed terms. Collective terms refer to a general classification of ingredients of common origin, and that have a similar function, but does not imply equivalent nutritional values. Collective terms provide flexibility in feed formulation by allowing feed manufacturers in different geographical areas to use the same feed labels and take advantage of ingredient price fluctuations. This is commonly referred to as an ingredient list. The ingredient list is a, may be a list of specific or non-specific, of the ingredients used in the manufacture of the product. This may be a list of actual ingredients (corn, cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal, etc.) which are included in the product. Feed companies will commonly use collective terminology which groups ingredients into broader categories. As another example, corn or milo (grain sorghum) would fall into the Grain Products category and Soybean meal or Cottonseed meal would fall into the Plant Protein Products. This gives the feed company more flexibility to modify the product as necessary to take advantage of market movements. Minerals and vitamins are specified individually. Ingredients are to be included in the order of highest to lowest inclusion level.

Feeding directions will also be included on the feed tag. Feeding direction indicate how the product is to be fed to produce the results desired. Again, medicated feeds are fed according to label directions.

There may be a caution or a warning statement on the feed tag. These are usually included to warn the user that this product is not to be fed to specific livestock. If there a withdrawal period on this product prior to slaughter, it will appear in this portion of the feed tag.

Be an informed buyer. A feed tag contains a lot of information and it is important that you understand the information provided. If you purchase a medicated feed, follow label directions and any withdrawal that appears on the tag. Also, feed according to label directions as a medicated feed can not be fed any other way or it is a violation of the law.

For additional information, please see two additional articles in our series.

Rick Rasby Dr. Rick Rasby, Professor of Animal Science
Animal Science, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, NE