By Diana Hsieh
I recently ran across an article entitled "By-Product Feedstuffs in Dairy Cattle Diets in the Upper Midwest" by Randy Shaver (Professor and Extension Dairy Nutritionist, Department of Dairy Science, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin at Madison). It describes "by-product feedstuffs commonly used in dairy cattle diets in the Upper Midwest." In other words, the article describes some of the foods given to and eaten by the cows that produce the milk that most people drink. Here's a few of the items that caught my attention:
Candy. Candy products are available through a number of distributors and sometimes directly from smaller plants. They are often economical sources of nutrients, particularly fat. They may be high in sugar and (or) fat content. Milk chocolate and candy may contain 48% and 22% fat, respectively. They are sometimes fed in their wrappers. Candies, such as cull gummy bears, lemon drops or gum drops, are high in sugar content. Several ingredient firms that handle food processing wastes produce blends of candy or chocolate with other ingredients, such as pasta or peanut skins. These are generally standardized to a certain content of protein and fat. ... The upper feeding limits for candy or candy blends and chocolate are 5 and 2 lb. per cow per day, respectively. ... The feeding rate of high-sugar candies should be limited to 2 to 4 lb. per cow per day.Notice that the wrappers on these candies may not be removed before feeding. And here are other modern milk cow foods:
Nuts. Peanuts, cashews, and various nuts or nut mixtures are sometimes available from processors. ... This high fat content restricts their use to less than 2 to 3 lb per cow per day. Nuts and nut mixtures should be analyzed frequently, particularly for fat and protein content, because the different kinds and mixtures are highly variable.And:
Pasta is available from pasta plants and some ingredient distributors as straight pasta or in blends with other ingredients, such as candy. Pasta must be used in limited amounts to avoid depression of milk fat test, because it is mostly starch. It does not have as much of a propensity for depression of milk fat test as cooked starch or bread. ... Pasta can be fed at up to 4 to 8 lb of DM per cow per day depending on the starch content of the diet.Oh, and here's another possibly involving wrappers:
Bakery Wastes. Stale bread and other pastry products from stores or bakeries can be fed to dairy cattle in limited amounts. These products are sometimes fed as received without drying or even removal of the wrappers. They may be run through a forage chopper to facilitate feeding. Some distributors and dairy producers dry and grind the material for inclusion into a concentrate or TMR. The feeding rate of bakery wastes must be limited to avoid milk fat test depression, because they are relatively high in cooked starch. The upper feeding limit for dried bread is 20% of concentrate DM and 10% of TMR DM. Higher levels may be fed to replacement heifers and dry cows. For bakery wastes that are relatively high in fat (i.e. donuts at 25% fat), the feeding rate should be limited so that no more than one pound of added fat per cow per day is consumed. This level may need to be reduced if other sources of non-rumen inert fat are included in the diet. Dried bakery product is a fairly standardized ingredient used by the feed industry. It generally consists of a mixture of bread, cookies, cake, crackers, flours and doughs.None of those foods are even remotely appropriate for cows -- and I have no doubt that relying on such impoverished and unsuitable foods affects the nutritional quality of the milk produced by them. (Measurable differences can be found in conventional versus pastured eggs, as Stephan has observed.)
In contrast, here's a picture of the cows at Isle Farms -- where I have a herdshare -- eating a meal:
Yes, it's the species-appropriate food of high-quality alfalfa hay. Unfortunately for most people and most cows, that diet is no longer the norm.