Review: Restricted and Programmed Feeding of Beef Cattle-Definitions, Application, and Research Results

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Restricted and programmed feeding are two commonly used approaches to manage feed intake by cattle. Restricted feeding, which is most often applied to starting cattle on feed and to finishing cattle, takes various forms but generally includes any method of feed intake management with which intake is restricted relative to actual or anticipated ad libitum intake. Conversely, programmed feeding, which is most frequently used in growing programs, is a method in which net energy equations are used to calculate the quantities of feed required to meet the needs for maintenance and a specific rate of gain. Both restricted and programmed feeding have been shown to improve feed efficiency, perhaps in part because recent research data suggest that body energy gain by cattle increases in a diminishing manner with increasing energy intake. Nonetheless, commercial application of restricted and(or) programmed feeding is limited by concerns related to application in large vs small pens and potential negative effects of restriction and(or) programming on daily gain and carcass quality grade. Research findings suggest consistent improvements in feed efficiency, generally decreased daily gain, and generally lower carcass quality grade when intake is restricted from 5 to 15% relative to pair-fed ad libitum controls in finishing cattle. Application of restricted and(or) programmed feeding during growing periods followed by ad libitum feeding, however, seems to have little effect on subsequent performance and carcass quality grade. Although restricted feeding offers the advantages of simplified feed bunk management, advanced knowledge of feed milling needs, and potential environmental benefits, additional research and field-level fine tuning will be needed before widespread commercial application is likely.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalProfessional Animal Scientist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 1999


  • Beef Cattle
  • Carcass Grade Quality
  • Feed Efficiency
  • Programmed Feeding
  • Restricted Feeding


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