Before reading this article, you can find more information here about ear tags for cattle. Cattle are domestic animals which are most commonly known as cows even though this word refers to females only.
These animals can distinguish the primary tastes which are the sweet, the salty, the sour, and the bitter taste. Being herbivorous animals, cattle developed the ability to seek salt by smell and taste because plants have a lower level of sodium.
Basic info about their diet
As a grazing behavior, cattle avoid eating from areas that are contaminated by other cattle or sheep, but it is not applied the same thing when it comes to rabbit feces. It is very important to ensure that your cows have the necessary food because they spend about 6 hours a day eating.
They also drink between 25 and 50 gallons of water and they eat up to 100 pounds of feed every day. They are ruminant animals, meaning that they can bring back to the mouth the food from the stomach to chew it again. A beef cow should eat about 2-3% of their body weight daily.
The cow’s stomach has 4 chambers. The rumen chamber has the role of fermenting the food so the cows can take the nutrients from the eaten food.
Cows that are lactating need to eat more food than the ones that are pregnant or are too young to be milked. Some breeds like dairy cows need much more feed than the beef cows. You can test the milk periodically to see if the diet is influencing the production of the milk in some way.
The ideal pasture for your cow has both grass and legumes. Legumes are richer in protein than grass and they can also stay greener for a longer time. Alfalfa, lentils, and clover are examples of legumes.
The ideal height of the grass for a cow is between four and six inches. It is better to feed your cattle plants before they make seeds because once they seed, the intake of the nutrients is lowered. When grazing, the cow will eat the favorite grass first.
What can cows eat?
Their natural feeding behavior is to graze the fresh grass on pastures. The grasses that are indicated are fescue, bromegrass, wheat grass, orchard grass, and timothy.
The grass is more nutritive during the spring than in the summer because it is newly grown. The mature grass which is specific to the summer and fall has a lower content of protein and energy potential than the spring grass.
Cows should also be fed alfalfa to give them something to chew and corn to provide protein and energy. During the cold season, you can give them hay that is dried grass or dried alfalfa.
For a balanced diet, cows need to eat different types of food combined. Cows are fed grain and hay mixed but they have the habit to sort their food and pick the parts they like the most (usually the grain).
Another type of food that cows can eat is silage which is moist food. This type of food provides additional nutrients for your cow while going through a fermentation process. The silage is made of corn, using all its parts, including the husk and the cob.
The carbohydrates are brought by corn, oats, beet pulp, soy hulls, wheat, and barley. You can also give the cows oats and barley besides corn to bring more vitamins and minerals in their diet. This feed helps both the mature and the little cows in order to ensure them a healthier growth.
Both beef and dairy cows eat the same things. You can feed your beef cow trefoil, clover, lespedeza, and sainfoin.
If you want your cow to gain weight, you can give it some sweet treats such as apple slices. You can also treat your cow with vegetables like potatoes, carrots, cabbage leaves, cauliflower leaves, and molasses. Keep in mind that these are just treats and they are not supposed to be given as a main meal.
Carrots in cows’ diet
Root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots are safer than usual vegetables or grass because the probability of the contamination with pesticides is lower.
Carrots contain carotene which increases the quality of the milk and its nutritional value. These vegetables provide fat-soluble antioxidants in butter oil and they also help to maintain the β-carotene level in the cow’s blood.
These vegetables also contain 9.9% protein and 9.7% fiber. Before feeding your cattle carrots, make sure you wash and store them for two weeks to avoid scouring which is caused by eating too many fresh carrots at the same time. Be careful with the place of storage to avoid frost damage in the cold season.
To prevent choking, feed the carrots to your cows from the ground level. Choking is a serious cause of death encountered in cattle. The maximum amount of carrots that you can feed your cow is 35 pounds a day. It is recommended to avoid feeding your cow only carrots.
What cows should drink
Cows need to drink a lot of water, especially if they are milked every day because water stimulates lactation. The water is essential for them, more important than nutrients because the cows can even die of dehydration. The water also regulates their body temperature and their growth.
The nutrient intake
If you want to stimulate their rumen you can give them some yeast occasionally. Salts are also important in your cow’s diet so it is good for their health to give them some calcium salts.
Farmers also use Total Mixed Ratio (known as TMR) which is a formula specially made according to your cow’s stage of growth. It contains alfalfa hay, cottonseed, straw, pelleted soybean hulls, energy nuggets, dried distillers grains, and wet gluten.
It is indicated to be used for lactating cows but it is good for the rest of them too because these mixes are full of vitamins, protein, and calcium.
Canola meal and soybeans provide fiber and they have a lot of essential protein and give your cow the necessary energy for the entire day. In farms, some cows are given fish for the intake of omega-3.
What cows can’t eat
Cows are really smart when it comes to avoiding poisonous plants. They don’t approach that kind of plants because they attribute stomach aches, bad taste or mouth sores to those plants.
It is not recommended to feed your cow candies and bakery because they have a high level of sugar which can affect the health of your animals. Beans contain saponins that cause bloating and diarrhea to cattle. Do not feed your cattle cooked human food.
Another type of feed that should be avoided to be fed in large quantities are the brassica plants (brussels sprout, mustard) that have a toxin that can cause hemolysis which means that the blood cells are bursting. As a result, your cow may suffer from anemia.
Too much cabbage can also cause an acidic environment in the rumen chamber which can cause chronic malnutrition. The onions also cause anemia and amaranthus (known as pigweed) and this blocks the oxygen transportation. Green potatoes have a bitter taste and they can be poisonous for cattle.
It is better to consult a veterinary if you want to feed your cattle new things, and to avoid any unpleasant situations.