Chocolate bars and gummy bears, it’s what’s for dinner. That’s what some cattle producers are saying when it comes time to feed their animals. With the price of corn-based livestock feed up 20-percent, cattle producers are looking for ways to stretch their feed dollar and that’s led to the use of leftover or items like partially melted candy bars for feed.
Iowa Beef Center director, Dan Loy, says animals with four stomachs like cows can effectively use a lot of the unusual sources of nutrients. “Those feeds if you analyze those, have energy values very comparable to corn grain. The problem is that they are digested very quickly and so they can cause some digestive upsets or stomach problems for cattle if they’re fed too quickly or in too large a quantities,” Loy says.
While they wouldn’t make it on a school lunch menu, Loy says the remarkable thing is that non-traditional food products for the most part are nutritionally sound for cattle because they’re made from starch or sugar.
“A lot of the examples are from food processing by-products — might be bakery products might be day-old bread — ( I’ve) gotten questions about candy, gummy bears, even chewing gum is something that’s has been feed to cattle at one time or another,” Loy says.
Kids are always told not to swallow their chewing gum because it will stick in their stomachs. Loy says a producer who fed gum to his cows joked when asked how it worked for them as a feed.
“There’s really nothing in the books on the nutritional value of chewing gum, an so I was curious about that, so I asked the producer about the value of that and the impact on cattle,” Loy says. “His response was he really didn’t know about the nutritional value, but their breath was certainly fresher.”
Loy says it’s important for farmers to work with a nutritionist if they’re planning to introduce something new into the feed mix. Corn that’s bringing as much as eight dollars a bushel is good news for grain farmers, but the higher prices hits hard on the pocketbook of livestock farmers and will keep them looking for alternatives to add to the corn-based feed to make it stretch a litte farther.