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Creative Cow Chow

Written by Jennifer Womack
Hay-eating critters, from guinea pigs to horses and cows, are being called upon to prove their true worth this year. I’m placing one of my horses and one small dog in the witness protection program. I’m over the limit, or so I’m told, in the horse department and my short-legged dog is the victim of constant teasing. Before loading them out, however, maybe I should explore some alternative feed sources.
    Based on recent news, folks are getting downright creative when it comes to meeting feed needs. Most things a cow might eat are in short supply this year, but in North Dakota malformed potatoes are presenting themselves as an option. I suppose there are folks out there who regularly feed potatoes, but it had never occurred to me that a cow would eat one. According to a Drover’s article, farmers in North Dakota planted five percent more potatoes this year than they did one year ago. Dry weather resulted in malformed spuds, which are being culled from the crop destined for consumers. Since cows can choke on whole potatoes, they’re best served smashed, sliced or freeze-dried. This could add a whole new element to the morning feeding routine if taken even a bit too far.
    I know of some cows in southeastern Wyoming that dine on pumpkins in the fall. They didn’t take to them right off, but readily ate them after first learning to break them with their noses. If they don’t make the cut for jack-o-lanterns, they become cow chow.
    According to an article on Yahoo News, one Kentucky farmer replaced corn with low-grade candy in the diet of 1,400 cows. The end result was chocolate-laced cattle feed he claims has a higher ratio of fat than straight corn.
    Mike Yoder of northern Indiana, according to an article in BEEF Magazine, feeds his cows a colorful mix of candy sprinkles. He says the treats provide an adequate substitute for the starchy sugar content cows usually get from corn.
    When we’ve reached the point we’re comparing the prices between field-grown corn and candy corn, something has gone awry. I admire innovation, however, and hate to pass up a chance to average out this year’s hay prices with a lower cost alternative. With that thought in mind the Womack boys will be hitting the streets with a new level of vigor this Halloween. We’ve always encouraged them to take two when it’s polite – one for them and one for their brother.
    This year we’ll be coaching them to ask, “Do you have a couple hundred more of those? Ya know, for the cows?”
    We’ll forgo pillow case totes and fill the back of the pickup and the cake feeder instead. We’ll have to figure it by the ton, but maybe we’ll offer neighborhood kids some cold hard cash in exchange for their Halloween loot.
    Once home, I suspect there will be more hurdles to clear. Will it be more difficult to move and work our cattle while they’re on a sugar high? Does a cow on a candy-filled diet make the trip from young cow to gummer more quickly than her foraging counterparts? Innovation seems to be a key ingredient among successful ranchers, but I suspect the rest of the crew around here will stop me in my tracks before I get too creative with our cow chow.
    Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.