Can Cows Safely Eat Pumpkins?

Pumpkins make fantastic decorations in the fall for any number of fall events, but after the event, they will slowly go bad and begin to rot.

Or maybe you or someone you know is growing a pumpkin patch and have leftovers you aren’t sure what to do with them all. 

Composting them is one option, but you might also wonder if feeding pumpkins to cattle is another option?

Cows can safely eat pumpkins. Not only can cows safely eat them, but there are many benefits of pumpkins as supplemental food for cattle! Pieces of pumpkins added to cattle feeders or letting them roam an old pumpkin patch is a great way to supplement their diet. 

Read on to learn more about why pumpkins are good for cows, if cows like the taste of pumpkin, and which parts of the pumpkin have the most nutritional benefit.

can cows eat pumpkins

Are Pumpkins Good For Cows?

Pumpkins are an excellent source of nutrition on a dry matter basis, meaning what nutrients are in a feed when all the water is removed. 

Autumn pumpkins are a good crude protein source for cattle on a dry matter basis, between 12-17%, which is a very healthy range for cattle and is safe for them to consume in moderate quantities. 

The high range of protein is great for both young calves and pregnant cows and provides plenty of useful energy to encourage growth. 

Pumpkin rinds have a high moisture content at between 80-85%, which makes them an excellent source of moisture for your cows, especially for dairy cows which require much higher amounts of moisture in their diets to keep up with milk production. 

On top of high moisture content, pumpkins also contain dietary fibers, making them an excellent supplement to help to keep the digestive system working regularly. 

Pumpkin seeds contain cucurbitacins which are terpenes acting as a natural dewormer and can help keep your cows healthy. 

Cucurbitacin serves as a natural dewormer and has been observed to assist with digestion in livestock, and has the same benefits for human consumption! 

Pumpkins contain many important nutrients for cattle development, including: 

  • Vitamin B6 
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium 
  • Folate
  • Fatty acids 
  • Calcium

All of these nutrients are important for the physical development of cows, especially while they are young calves, and assist in reproduction in breeding stock. 

For dairy cows, in particular, pumpkins are an excellent source of the nutrients they need, especially Vitamin B6, which can assist in lactation and improves cardiovascular health, making for healthier cows. 

What Type Of Pumpkin Can I Feed To Cows?

Finding out what kind of pumpkins cows can eat is very easy. 

As long as they are not moldy, rotten, painted, or have any other noticeable problems which may cause issues, they are completely fine to feed to cows.

This includes leftover pumpkins in a pumpkin patch, carved Jack’O’Lanterns, and even pumpkin guts if you choose to save them. 

Saving pumpkin seeds is recommended to supplement their diet, and any extra pumpkin seeds and guts are great foods for cattle to obtain the benefits mentioned earlier. 

Pumpkins do not have to be prepared in any special way, and both raw pumpkins and cooked pumpkins are safe to feed to cows, and the stems do not need to be removed as they will eat around them. 

Pumpkins may be fed whole to cows, and they will find a way to break them apart and eat them; however, breaking or cutting them before feeding will make it easier for your cows to eat them. 

Breaking up pumpkins is recommended if they are still fresh and very firm and difficult to break apart, and as they weaken over time, feeding them whole is easier for the cows to break them apart into bite-size pieces. 

Cows will also prefer to eat pre-cut or smashed pieces of pumpkin rind because it is easier to chew and digest these smaller pieces and takes less work. 

Letting cows loose in a pumpkin patch after the season is over is a very easy way to feed pumpkins to cattle and naturally help clear a patch and help fertilize it for the next season. 

How Many Pumpkins Can A Cow Eat?

As a general rule, cows can eat up to 1% of their body weight in pumpkins per day. 

So a 1,000-pound cow can eat 10 pounds of pumpkins per day. 

However, this applies to dry matter, and pumpkins are 85% water. 

Taking this into account, to reach 10 pounds of dry pumpkin matter, use 67 pounds of pumpkin as is. 

Yes, this seems like a lot, but cows are big animals, so it’s not too surprising. 

Do Cows Enjoy Pumpkins?

While pumpkins have as many natural benefits as possible food for cattle farmers, this does not do much good if the cows are not interested in eating it. 

Thankfully feeding pumpkins to cows is easy because they love to eat pumpkins, and it is one of their favorite treats. 

While cows enjoy pumpkins, and they are healthy for them, a diet of only pumpkins is too much of a good thing. 

If cows are only fed pumpkin occasionally, such as being let into a pumpkin patch at the end of a season or after Halloween, then only feeding them about 1% of their body weight in pumpkin dry matter per day is a safe amount.

With the high percentage of moisture in pumpkins, feeding them 6-7 pounds of pumpkin for every 100 pounds the cow ways is a good estimate to feed them.

This can account for up to half a cow’s diet per day, and the other half should be some form of grass hay or other forage to maintain a healthy diet. 

Related: Will cattle eat bread?

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Growing up amidst the sprawling farms of the South, Wesley developed a profound connection with farm animals from a young age. His childhood experiences instilled in him a deep respect for sustainable and humane farming practices. Today, through, Wesley shares his rich knowledge, aiming to inspire and educate others about the joys and intricacies of rural life.

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