Proper Rumen pH for Cattle 

At the end of my internship with Greg Judy, there was a grazing school at Green Pastures Farm. Greg was there and gave several presentations and pasture walks. Ian Mitchell-Innes was the “featured speaker”. In addition to these already great minds, Mark Bader was there. However, not too many people know about Mark Bader, but they should. He gave a few hour long presentations on the biology of cattle. He is a really, really smart guy. So, what you are about to learn from me, actually came from Mark Bader.

The rumen in a cow needs to be the correct pH, so the micro-flora can flourish. The pH is determined by the protein to energy ratio. This is determined by the cow’s diet. According to Mark; “Grasses and legumes contain high amounts of protein and insufficient amounts of energy to balance the ration making an animal with poor fill, poor health, and poor breeding”. To offset this excess protein, you have options. First, you can feed dry grass hay. This roughage will dilute the excess protein taken in by the cow, and will result in firmer manure piles, and a pH closer to 7. You next option would be to feed grain. I’m not going to feed any of my animals grain, so I won’t go into detail about that. Your last option is to feed a supplement. A supplement of fermented grain, which will contain alcohol, amino acids and fatty acids. This will promote proper rumen function. These usually come in the form of a “lick tub”. Be sure that you are spending your money on a supplement that contains all of the ingredients I mentioned.

Now you may be asking yourself, how do I check for proper rumen pH? Easily. You obtain some pH testing strips from your local pharmacy or online. I would recommend increments of .2, so you can really get an accurate measurement of pH. You’ll probably have to order these online. After you’ve obtained pH testing strips, you go out to your cattle and wait for them to urinate. Take a urine sample. It’s best to find a drop of urine that has not been in contact with the soil. Find a drop on a blade of grass. Now, you will have an accurate pH reading. I like to get at least 3 different samples. If your pH is above 8, your cattle are getting too much protein, and try one of the solutions mentioned above.

Thank you Mark Bader for teaching me this valuable info!

Do you test your cattle’s pH? If so, what results are you getting? I’m curious to find out.

Chris Stelzer

Chris Stelzer is a published Author, founder of Agricultural Insights and creator of many resources that help family farmers and ranchers grow their businesses. His flagship courses are the Grazing Mastery Program and The Farm Marketing Mastery Program. 

Chris Stelzer

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