Concentrate vs. Roughage

What's the Difference?

Concentrate and roughage are two types of feed commonly used in animal nutrition. Concentrate refers to feed that is high in energy and low in fiber, such as grains, oilseeds, and by-products of food processing. It is typically rich in nutrients and easily digestible, making it a valuable source of energy for animals. On the other hand, roughage refers to feed that is high in fiber and low in energy, such as hay, grass, and silage. Roughage provides bulk to the diet and promotes proper digestion and gut health in animals. While concentrates are essential for meeting energy requirements, roughage is crucial for maintaining a healthy digestive system and preventing issues like colic or acidosis. A balanced diet for animals often includes a combination of both concentrate and roughage to ensure optimal nutrition and overall well-being.


DefinitionHighly digestible feed with low fiber contentFeed with high fiber content and lower digestibility
SourceGrains, oilseeds, and by-productsHay, grass, and forage
Nutrient contentHigher in energy, protein, and mineralsLower in energy, protein, and minerals
Fiber contentLow fiber contentHigh fiber content
DigestibilityHighly digestibleLess digestible
Feeding purposeUsed to provide concentrated nutritionUsed to provide bulk and promote digestion
Feeding amountUsually fed in smaller quantitiesUsually fed in larger quantities
Feeding frequencyCan be fed multiple times a dayUsually fed continuously or multiple times a day

Further Detail


When it comes to animal nutrition, two key components that play a vital role in their diet are concentrate and roughage. Concentrate and roughage are both essential sources of nutrients for animals, but they differ in various aspects. In this article, we will explore the attributes of concentrate and roughage, highlighting their differences and understanding their importance in animal diets.

What is Concentrate?

Concentrate refers to feed ingredients that are highly digestible and provide a concentrated source of energy and nutrients. These ingredients are typically low in fiber and high in carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Concentrate feeds are often processed and formulated to meet specific nutritional requirements of animals, such as growth, milk production, or weight gain.

Concentrate feeds are commonly found in the form of grains, oilseeds, and by-products of food processing. Examples of concentrate feeds include corn, soybean meal, wheat bran, and various types of oilcakes. These feeds are usually rich in energy and provide animals with readily available nutrients, making them an excellent choice for meeting high energy demands.

One of the key advantages of concentrate feeds is their high nutrient density. Animals consuming concentrate feeds can obtain a significant amount of energy and nutrients in a relatively small volume of feed. This attribute is particularly beneficial for animals with limited appetite or those requiring a specific nutrient boost.

However, it is important to note that concentrate feeds should be fed in moderation and balanced with other components of the diet to avoid nutritional imbalances or digestive issues. Excessive reliance on concentrate feeds without adequate roughage can lead to problems such as acidosis or reduced rumen function in ruminant animals.

What is Roughage?

Roughage, also known as forage or fiber, refers to feed ingredients that are high in fiber and low in digestibility. Roughage plays a crucial role in maintaining proper digestive function and overall health of animals. It includes various plant materials such as grasses, legumes, hay, silage, and pasture.

Roughage is an essential component of the diet for herbivorous animals, as it provides the necessary bulk and fiber content required for proper rumen function. The high fiber content in roughage aids in maintaining a healthy gut environment, promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, and preventing digestive disorders.

Unlike concentrate feeds, roughage is typically lower in energy and nutrient density. However, it compensates for this by providing essential vitamins, minerals, and trace elements that may be lacking in concentrate feeds. Additionally, the chewing action required to break down roughage stimulates saliva production, which aids in buffering the rumen and maintaining a stable pH.

Roughage feeds are available in various forms, including fresh pasture, hay, and silage. Each form has its own advantages and considerations. Fresh pasture provides animals with a diverse range of nutrients and allows for natural grazing behavior. Hay, on the other hand, is a dried form of forage that can be stored and fed year-round, making it a valuable feed source during periods of limited pasture availability. Silage is fermented forage that is stored in airtight conditions, preserving its nutritional value and providing a consistent feed source throughout the year.

Key Differences

While both concentrate and roughage are important components of an animal's diet, they differ in several key aspects:

  • Nutrient Composition: Concentrate feeds are high in energy, proteins, and fats, while roughage is high in fiber and provides essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Digestibility: Concentrate feeds are highly digestible, allowing animals to extract nutrients efficiently. Roughage, on the other hand, has lower digestibility due to its high fiber content.
  • Feeding Rate: Concentrate feeds are typically fed in smaller quantities due to their high nutrient density. Roughage, on the contrary, is fed in larger quantities to provide the necessary bulk and fiber content.
  • Role in Rumen Function: Roughage plays a crucial role in maintaining proper rumen function by promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and stimulating saliva production. Concentrate feeds, when fed in excess, can disrupt rumen pH and lead to digestive issues.
  • Cost: Concentrate feeds are often more expensive than roughage due to their higher nutrient density and processing requirements.

Importance in Animal Diets

Both concentrate and roughage are essential components of a balanced animal diet, and their inclusion depends on the specific nutritional requirements of the animal and its production goals.

Concentrate feeds are particularly important for animals with high energy demands, such as growing animals, lactating cows, or performance horses. These feeds provide the necessary energy and nutrients to support growth, milk production, or athletic performance. However, it is crucial to ensure that concentrate feeds are fed in appropriate amounts and balanced with roughage to maintain proper digestive function.

Roughage, on the other hand, is vital for maintaining a healthy digestive system and overall well-being of animals. It provides the necessary fiber content, stimulates rumination, and supports the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Roughage is especially important for ruminant animals, as it allows for proper rumen function and fermentation.

By combining concentrate feeds and roughage in appropriate proportions, animal nutritionists and farmers can create a well-balanced diet that meets the specific nutritional needs of each animal, ensuring optimal health, growth, and productivity.


Concentrate and roughage are two essential components of animal diets, each with its own unique attributes and importance. Concentrate feeds provide a concentrated source of energy and nutrients, while roughage supports proper rumen function and digestive health. Understanding the differences between concentrate and roughage allows animal nutritionists and farmers to formulate balanced diets that meet the specific nutritional requirements of animals, ensuring their well-being and productivity.

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