What Do Cows Eat, and Why?

On its face, this seems like a silly question. Don't we all know what cows eat?! So when Fred Provenza, as a new professor at Utah State University, chose this question for his research focus, there were some raised eyebrows. Three decades of research later, it turns out that Dr. Provenza's research was ground-breaking, giving us important insights into how animals choose what to eat and providing the foundation for new ways to work with our livestock as land management tools. What Fred discovered is that animals have to learn what to eat. They learn from their mothers, their herd mates and from personal experience with nutrients and toxins in foods. That means that animals can add things to their diets beyond what we typically consider appropriate for them. He found that animals use the feedback from nutrients and toxins in forages to mix a diet that is perfect for their individual needs. That's why, when he compared the weight gain of steers eating a standard Total Mixed Ration (TMR) with weight gain of steers allowed to choose from all the items in the TMR, the ani

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One thought on “What Do Cows Eat, and Why?

  1. Great work, I using replacement dairy heifers to graze bedstraw which is an invasive species in forage acres is eastern Canada. If I graze intensively it seems to kept in in check. my problem is that the roadsides and fallow land provides lots of seed to spread.

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