But, upon closer inspection you may (or more likely may not, due to my photography skills) see what is growing in that field:
Still can’t tell? Here’s a close-up brought to you by Google images since I forgot to take one:
|The dreaded crabgrass|
You might recognize this as a weed that has plagued your neighbor’s lawn and is slowly encroaching on your own, the dreaded Crabgrass, and this field has it growing about 3 feet tall. So if this weed is growing like crazy in the field, why am I swathing and baling it instead of spraying it with herbicide or working it under? The answer is cows. Cows can take this weed and turn it into delicious beef.
This got me thinking about what else cows eat that’s unusual, then I looked at my shirt. It’s made of cotton. After cotton is harvested, the seeds are separated from the fibers. Ranchers can buy those seeds or the seed hulls and mix them into a ration for cattle.
In my lunchbox I had a sandwich and a cookie. Large scale bakeries have products that have imperfections such as broken cookies. Folks with cattle that live near large bakeries can buy these products and feed them to their cattle. In the end the bakeries don’t have to throw away products that people don’t want to eat, and ranchers get a low-cost feed ingredient.
The pickup I was driving that day had gasoline in it that was 10% ethanol. Ethanol is made from distilling corn, and after the distillation process is complete, powdery corn leftovers are… well leftover. In the cattle industry these are known as distiller’s grain. Distiller’s grain makes for a great ration ingredient to add protein, phosphorus, and sulfur to a bovine diet.
The moral of this story is cattle are great at recycling. They take byproducts of everyday items and, with the help of their ruminant digestive system, turn them into food for people. So what do cows eat? Just about anything. Thanks for reading, and as always if you see or hear of something that concerns you about where your food comes from, ask a farmer.