Chews for two moos?
August 8, 2007 1:09 PM   Subscribe

What do cows like to eat?

Soon I am going to be visiting a friend of mine who has two pet cows. I'll be bringing a 6-year-old who wants to feed the cows some treats. I asked my friend about the cows' preferences and she said that she'd tried all manner of fresh fruit and horse treats but her cows didn't like them.

What can I bring that the cows might enjoy? I have ready access to health, grocery, farm supply, and pet stores. Treat or toy suggestions are appreciated.
posted by mezzanayne to Pets & Animals (29 answers total)
i have seen cows tear through buckets of half-rotten veggies and loaves of week-old bread.
posted by gnutron at 1:12 PM on August 8, 2007

Hay, wheat berries, lettuce. A warning— horses are smart enough to not bite your hand, provided you give them the treats with a flat palm. Cows aren't. Cow bites hurt like hell.
posted by klangklangston at 1:19 PM on August 8, 2007

I'm not a farmer, but can't you just pick some grass and feed that to the cow?
posted by poppo at 1:23 PM on August 8, 2007

Probably grass of any kind, hay (I don't know about cows but horses really love alfalfa hay), vegetables...I'd browse around your local pet store and look for any treats with molasses in them.
posted by lohmannn at 1:24 PM on August 8, 2007

Most cows will enjoy a hay fork or two of sweet alfalfa hay. Some raised on feed lots will eat corn straight away, but the digestive systems of cows aren't really well adapted for corn, so if the cow isn't regularly fed grain already, go slowly. Cows fed large amounts of corn on feed lots generally get feed additives and antibiotics to help them deal with the high grain content of their rations. Cows are ruminants, that break down grass and hay by multiple regurgitation, chewing, and re-swallowing. "Chewing cud" is what the process is called, and it occupies about 1/2 a cow's time on rangeland, when it isn't grazing new grass or hay. Explaining this to a child, and showing him a cow actually chewing cud, apparently with some enjoyment, is usually powerfully interesting to a child who knows nothing about livestock.
posted by paulsc at 1:26 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Watermelon rind. As a kid we often used to picnic down on a farm. We'd eat big slabs of watermelon and the rinds we'd feed to the cows who pushed and mooed their way in to get a piece. They loved it!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:49 PM on August 8, 2007

Sliced watermelon and green beans.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:52 PM on August 8, 2007

The 6 year old might be just as happy feeding the cows whatever they regularly eat. You can explain that this is what the cow likes best. Be aware that a 6 year old will need to be closely supervised during this process.

I've never seen a cow with a toy, unless you count a fence with nice grass on the other side as a toy.
posted by yohko at 1:52 PM on August 8, 2007

Probably sprouts of any sort would go over well, too.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:53 PM on August 8, 2007

My husband, who was raised by a herd of cows (or lived on a farm maybe, one or the other), says ground corn. He also says his bet is "the cows don't, so much, not like the treat as they don't like the people holding said treat. It takes a *long* while standing with your arm out to get a cow to eat out of your hand. They'll do it, but it takes a long time"
posted by waterlily at 1:55 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Banana peels.

When we were kids, we spent summers at grandpa's farm, and he had a few cows. They would pretty much eat anything vegetable, but banana peels were the best because it's really easy for a kid to hold and offer to Bossie. (Cows are big and scary.)
posted by phliar at 2:25 PM on August 8, 2007

Seconding watermelon rind; really, any kind of melon rind went over well with the cows of my childhood.
posted by bluenausea at 2:32 PM on August 8, 2007

One year my dad planted his garden too close to the fence, on the other side of which was a dairy farm.

Fact #1: Cows love ears of corn.

Fact #2: Cows can climb fences when there are ears of corn on the opposite side.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:35 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Cows love clover, its like candy for them. -From person raised on cattle farm.
posted by Atreides at 2:43 PM on August 8, 2007

P.s. They also like range cubes and salt licks, best attained at feed stores.
posted by Atreides at 2:44 PM on August 8, 2007

My uncle used to let us feed whole ears of corn to his cows.
posted by Kellydamnit at 2:55 PM on August 8, 2007

Watermelon rinds, yes.
Also hay cubes (alfalfa or timothy, etc.) are readily available at feed/farm stores and easy for little kids to hold and feed.
Just explain to them they need to be patient.
posted by mmf at 3:05 PM on August 8, 2007

As Klang says, don't try to hold it in your hand. Whatever it is you bring, toss it on the ground.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:07 PM on August 8, 2007

Don't feed them corn. Corn is bad for cows, whose stomachs are not well adapted to it. Industrial cows are fed corn not because it's better for them but because it's cheaper and allows them to be kept in feed lots rather than on grass ranges.
posted by jedicus at 3:17 PM on August 8, 2007

Cows don't have teeth, but the best way to feed them things like alfalfa cubes is to put it on the flat of your palm so they don't inadvertently pinch your finger. Though I think the best suggestions are just long strands of green grass or alfalfa hay, which is easy to feed by just holding out a clump, and has the best chance of being something the cow would be into. Some cows and horses are not really interested in things they're not familiar with; I have known individuals of both species to refuse carrots and apples.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:15 PM on August 8, 2007

Front teeth, that is. Good grief.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:16 PM on August 8, 2007

Cows do so have front teeth. See here.
posted by klangklangston at 5:18 PM on August 8, 2007

Timothy and clover are their favs. But yes, you'll be amazed at what they'll eat. Damn near anything. Something on a stick might be best. Yes, they will bite the hand that feeds them.

Corn really isn't the worst thing in the world but it shouldn't be their only food. It would be like only eating butter. But the occasional pat, mmmm. Corn and butter, gurgle, gurgle, drool.

But I digress...
posted by Toekneesan at 5:24 PM on August 8, 2007

My future in-laws raise cattle and they have some sort of protein pellet "treats" that the cows love. They also love the alfalfa cube things.

Another warning, not only do they sometimes accidentally bite, their tongues are like slimy, really coarse sandpaper. They'll rasp your hand raw if you aren't careful.
posted by lilywing13 at 8:39 PM on August 8, 2007

Cows do so have front teeth. See here.

Only on the bottom.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:13 PM on August 8, 2007

Hay. I know for sure. I've pulled hay out of a cow's stomach through a hole in the body wall, put there on purpose so that vets could monitor the digestion process to ensure that the cow was getting the best possible nutrition.

Hay smells better before the cow eats it.

Best part? The sign saying "No open flames near cow"...
posted by caution live frogs at 9:36 PM on August 8, 2007

When I was a kid, we had a heifer every year and they always used to escape (the electric fence didn't seem to bother them too much when they heard the herd down the road lowing). We coaxed them back with a rotten apple, which they would follow if it was held in front of them (though we sometimes used a stick from behind as well). You could try a nice mushy apple on a flat palm. We were probably just using apples because we had a lot of mushy ones under the trees, but I do remember that holding a bunch of grass or a handful of hay was never as effective.
posted by ssg at 12:02 AM on August 9, 2007

Look in the yellow pages for a local feed plant - call them up, explain the situation, and ask if they could sell you just one bucket of cake. Yes, cake - they will know what you're talking about.
posted by nathan_teske at 7:49 AM on August 9, 2007

"Only on the bottom."

posted by klangklangston at 7:59 AM on August 9, 2007

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