Cows may spend most of their lives eating grass, which includes hay and silage, but they also eat a variety of other foods, including grains like wheat and oats, leaves and stems from corn, and if they’re lucky, tasty treats like apples, pears, and carrots.
As much as cows love grass, it may not always be feasible for them to solely consume without additional supplementation considering that the nutrient content is generally highest during the spring and lower in late fall and winter.
In times of very long winters, or extremely dry springs or summers, in particular, grass may not provide all the nutrients that cows need to thrive.
4 Types of Foods Cows Eat Besides Grass
Cows consume grain, though not in as high amounts as people think. On average, grain makes up less than a quarter of dairy cow diets. While some grain may have specifically been grown for cows, it can also come from recycled sources, like barley that was first used to brew beer.
Cattle eat grains for their highly nutritious, energy-rich properties, and also for the reason that they can be stored for use throughout the year.
While corn may be a grain (as well as a fruit and vegetable) it deserves special mention because it is commonly used to help cattle gain weight quickly. It does not typically make up a large portion of cattle diets but is used in the “finishing” period to bring cattle to market more quickly.
Cows do not need to consume corn nor do they consume it in nature, but it is an excellent, economical way for farmers and ranchers to improve the efficiency of growth.
Vitamins, Minerals & Supplements
Farmers provide their cows with minerals and supplements in either loose or block form to ensure that they get everything they need to thrive.
There are a variety of pre-mixed formulations to choose from that are designed specifically for cows, though some farmers work with a veterinarian or a nutritionist to tailor a formulation specially for their residents.
While you don’t want to make a habit of feeding cows too many treats, as it can result in bloat or gastric distress, a few treats every now and again is a great way to keep the herd happy.
Some of the most popular treats for cows include apples, pears, bananas, carrots, watermelon, oranges, pumpkins, and alfalfa cubes.