- Published: 05 December 2008
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Justin Peterson, age 11, of Champaign, Ill., for his question:
HOW MUCH DOES A COW EAT?
In America, the word "cattle" usually means cows, bulls, steers, heifers and calves. A "cow" is a female and a "bull" is a male. "Steers" are males whose reproductive organs have been removed by an operation. A young cow is called a "heifer" until she gives birth to a calf. And a "calf" is a young cow or bull.
Feeding methods developed during recent years have greatly improved the production of both meat and milk. Cattle, as you can imagine, eat a lot.
The daily diet recommended for fattening up a two year old beef steer includes 25 pounds of corn or sorghum silage, four pounds of red clover hay, 14 pounds of corn or ground grain sorghum and a pound and a quarter of linseed meal or cottonseed meal.
The amount of milk and butterfat produced each year by a cow can be increased by a proper diet. The average dairy cow eats three pounds of silage and one pound of hay each day for every 100 pounds of its body weight. Dairy cows also receive one pound of grain or other concentrated feed for every four to six pounds of milk they give.
Cows weigh from 900 to 2,000 pounds. The average annual output of milk per cow is about 10,000 pounds. One gallon of milk weighs 8.6 pounds.
Both dairy and beef cattle eat large amounts of forage, or rough feed such as clover or alfalfa. They also eat huge amounts of grass each year and turn it into meat and milk.
The fattening diet of younger cattle contains more grain and less roughage, or coarse feed such as hay. Cattle feeders watch the appetities of their cattle closely. They often add blackatrap molasses, a low grade sugar solution, to encourage cattle to eat more.
The best feeders use the latest scientific methods to make their cattle gain weight rapidly at the lowest cost.
Certain chemicals may be added to cattle feed to make cattle eat more and fatten more quickly.
Antibiotics are also sometimes added to feed to increase gains in cattle weight.
Many cattle have been poisoned by eating certain kinds of plants found in dry regions of the western United States. Weeds that may poison cattle include locoweed, death camas, prince's plume and some lupines and larkspurs. Cattle owners sometimes destroy these plants with chemicals.
A cow cannot produce milk unless it has given birth to a calf. Such a cow is known as a "fresh" cow. After the birth of the calf, the cow usually gives milk for about 10 months. A cow that does not give milk is called a "dry cow."
The five most important breeds of milk cows in the United States are the Holstein Friesian, Jersey, Guernsey, Ayrshire and Brown Swiss. Dairymen consider ail the breeds good milk producers, but some breeds, such as the Holstein Friesian, produce more milk than others.
The cows brought to America in colonial days produced little milk. Dairymen increased the milk output and butterfat content by improving herds.