Approved by Dr. Paola Cuevas
If you are new to owning cows or are thinking about purchasing one or even a few, you might be surprised that they can have a much more complex diet than eating just grass, especially if you are going to be using them to produce milk. One of the most frequent questions we get is whether cows eat carrots since so many other animals on the farm can.
The short answer is yes. Cows can eat carrots, but keep reading while we look at how healthy they actually are for this animal, as well as the best way to serve them and how often.
Typical Cow Diet
A surprising number of people think that cows only eat grass since we always see them doing it. However, they can have a complex diet that includes a blend of organic whole grains, rice, wheat bran, alfalfa, flaxseed, cornmeal, and more. If you use the cows to give milk, it’s important to feed the cows a balanced diet year-round to ensure a better quality milk product. If the cow eats a healthy diet, it will not require any additional supplements.
Are Carrots Bad for Cows?
The only downside to feeding your cow carrots is that they contain nitrates. The body turns nitrates into nitrites that enter the bloodstream, where they combine with hemoglobin to produce methemoglobin, which cannot carry oxygen to the tissues. Too much of any food with high levels of nitrate can lead to nitrate poisoning, which presents as weakness, convulsions, rapid breathing, accelerated heartbeat, discoloration of the mucous membranes, and more.
Because of this, most experts recommend limiting the portion size of carrots to below 30 pounds per day. Thirty pounds might sound like a lot to you and me, but a cow typically eats between 110 and 120 pounds of food each day, so carrots can only make up about 25% of their daily food.
If carrots are grown conventionally and without the use of many pesticides, then the pesticides are easy to remove with a quick peel. Otherwise, even though they are grown under the ground, they can absorb pesticides through the soil.
Are Carrots Good For Cows?
Improved Milk Nutritional Value
As we mentioned earlier, carrots can help improve the quality of milk by improving the nutritional value. For example, cows that eat carrots as part of their regular diet produce milk higher in protein, omega fatty acids, vitamin C, retinol, and other important nutrients.
While we usually try to avoid sugar in most animals’ diets, the amount you find in carrots can benefit cows. Some farmers have even begun adding sugar to the feed, especially in areas where the cost of feed is rising and difficult to afford. Sugar is highly metabolizable by the cow, and it helps them produce higher quality milk and meat.
Cows are prone to a deficiency in vitamin A for several reasons, including high nitrite levels in the diet and water sources. Symptoms of a deficiency in this nutrient include night blindness, which is usually one of the first and easily recognizable. Other symptoms can include watering eyes, swelling legs, and stiff joints. Luckily, carrots contain plenty of Beta carotenes, a nutritional precursor that the cow then converts into vitamin A. So carrots and can be a great way to help avoid health problems.
B vitamins are another important nutrient that you can find in carrots that can help improve the overall health of your cow. It can improve the quality of the milk and is also important for calf development.
How Do I Feed Cows Carrots?
Cows can eat the entire carrot, leaves and all, and usually enjoy it quite a bit. You won’t need to cook or prepare them, and you don’t even need to break them up as the cow should have no trouble rating them. Avoid rotten carrots and choose fresh when possible. If you didn’t grow the carrots yourself without chemicals, make sure you wash them to get any foreign substances off.
While the cow should be able to handle up to 30 pounds per day, we highly recommend starting with much less than that, especially at first. Start with 3-5 pounds per day and let it eat other food first. If your cow seems to like them, you can increase the amount slowly.
Carrots are beneficial to a cow’s health. It’s a great idea to add them to its diet, especially if you are using the cow to produce milk because it improves its nutritional quality. Carrots are easy to grow in the garden, and inexpensive at the market, but you should find a reliable source to ensure they are free from pesticides. Aside from washing them off, there is little preparation needed, and carrots even help the cow avoid a vitamin A deficiency.
- Related read: Can Cows Eat Alfalfa? What You Need To Know!
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