Francis L. Fluharty
Research Scientist

Feed Bunk Management and Feed Intake Control
"The most important operation in the feedlot"

Defined as the supervision and execution of determining and delivering, in an acceptable and consistent manner, the amount of feed that an animal can consume in a given period of time.


1. Maximize animal performance.
2. Minimize digestive disorders.
3. Keep animals consuming a consistent amount of feed.

Good bunk management increases feed efficiency and lowers cost of gain.

Feed Bunk Scoring System

Score Bunk Description
0- Bunk empty for more than 1 hour
0 Bunk empty for less than 1 hour
0+ A few fines or clumps of feed in the bunk
1 Less than 1 inch of feed in the bunk
2 Less than 2 inches of feed in the bunk
3 Less than 3 inches of feed in the bunk

Normally, feed is given on a weight per head basis and multiplied by the number of head in the pen.


  1.     Follow the 10% rule. Never increase or decrease the amount of feed offered by more than 5-10%.
  2.     Always allow 1 day between increases or decreases in feed offered to allow animals an adjustment period.
  3.     If the score is 0-, for two consecutive days, increase the amount of feed by 5-10%.
  4.     Dry feeds may be fed once daily.
  5.     High moisture feeds may need to be fed twice daily to avoid spoiling in hot weather, and freezing in cold weather.
  6.     Animals not being fed enough will engorge when fed, and this leads to acidosis and the "yo-yo" effect of over-eating and under-eating. This dramatically
        decreases animal performance and animal health.
  7.     Prior to cold fronts, animals feed intake increases dramatically, and decreases after the front passes.
  8.     Feed should be fresh!
  9.     If animals rush the bunk when fed, they are probably being underfed.
  10.     If animals have no interest in coming to the bunk when they are fed, they are probably being overfed, or there is spoiled feed in their bunk.
  11.     Bunks containing spoiled feed or "fines" should be cleaned out.
  12.     If fines are constantly a problem, consider adding molasses, silage or other wet feeds to the diet to decrease the sorting of mineral and vitamin supplements.
  13.     Clean waterers are necessary to maximize feed intake.
  14.     Many of these rules also apply to self feeders.

For Farm Fresh Calves That Are Not Trucked:

Start the calves on 4 pounds/head of a corn/supplement mix formulated to be 16-18% crude protein.

Start calves on 2.0 to 3.0 pounds/head/day of hay, and then top dress the concentrate mix. As calves consume more concentrate, back off the amount of hay fed to 1.5 to 2.0 pounds per day.

If they do not eat the mix, weigh back the uneaten concentrate into a large bucket (we use 30 gallon rubbermaid trash cans). If the uneaten feed looks pretty similar to the original mix (no sorting), it can be re-mixed with new concentrate mix so that there is little feed wasted, but be sure that you take into account the pounds of uneaten feed that you are re-feeding, and don't give them that plus the normal amount of new feed, or they will be fed too much.

Don't increase intake by more than 1 pound of concentrate/head/day, even if the feed is cleaned up in a couple of hours. Also, don't feed more than 2-3 pounds of hay/head/day. This concentrate feed is what allows rapid gains (not hay), but the cattle must be adjusted to the diet slowly.

Keep a feed record book with the daily amounts of concentrate offered, hay offered, concentrate refused, and hay refused. This is the only way to actually know intake. If the amount of refused feed is guessed and not weighed, the data is useless. Once the calves are on feed, I would expect little or no refused feed. In a properly managed feed bunk, the calves should clean up the feed in approximately 18-24 hours.

For More Information:

Francis L. Fluharty
Department of Animal Sciences
OARDC/OSU Wooster, OH 44691
Phone: (330) 263-3904

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