Lately an article drifting around social media has been causing quite the stir among some. A semi truck and trailer overturned spilling mass quantities of skittles. These skittles were intended to be used as cattle feed.
The whole thought of cows eating a sweet treat was foreign to most people. Here is a great thing about cows, they are amazing recyclers! If these skittles didn’t find a way to be repurposed they’d be destined to go to a landfill to rot.
Cattle are able to use many products in their diets that would otherwise be thrown out. These are called byproducts. A byproduct is something that is leftover from manufacturing of a product. Cattle are able to utilize byproducts from bakeries, ethanol plants, breweries and everything in between! It’s pretty amazing.
The great thing about byproducts is they are able to reduce the cost of rations. Generally they are cheaper and used in smaller amounts than more traditional feeds. Cows, just like humans have nutritional needs to be met in order to produce milk, gain weight and grow. With the help of a cattle nutritionists they are able to eat a ration that is balanced to their needs, with or without the use of byproducts.
So what are some byproducts cows eat other than red skittles?
Brewers Grains- This is mainly the barley (and some hops) left over from the production of beer. It’s very easily digested by the cows and is a great source of protein.
Bakery Waste- breads, pasteries, cookies, etc that are left over from large scale bakeries. Often when it comes to the farm it is all ground in to small particles. This is a great source of additional far and starch in a cows diet.
Beer Pulp- this is the part of the sugar beet that is leftover from sugar production. It adds fiber and allows less forages to be fed.
Chips/Potato Waste- leftovers from potato chip factories can be a great source of starch.
Distillers Grains- generally corn, barley and other small grains left over from the production of ethanol.
Candy- the infamous skittles, funny bears, milk chocolate, gum drops, etc. All of these are very high in sugar and fat, enabling energy to be added to the cows ration.
Obviously a cow can’t live on candy and bread alone. Just like humans, a cattle nutritionist balances their ration. Together with traditional feedstuffs (silage, hay, corn, soybeans) a economical and efficient ration can be made! This is another way farms are being more sustainable and reducing waste.