If your loaf of bread went stale, you might be wondering what to do with it without creating food waste.
The thought of tossing it to your farm animals might cross your mind.
Can you safely feed the bread to your cows?
Cattle will eat bread if you give it to them. Bread makes a great nutritional supplementary feed as long as it isn’t moldy or fed in large quantities. Make sure your cattle still get enough forage, and they’ll appreciate the extra carbs.
Read on to learn how to safely feed bread to your cattle, things to avoid feeding to them, and the nutrient makeup in bread.
Should You Feed Bread to Cows?
Like us, cattle enjoy carbs, including bread! If your bovine friend isn’t picky, they will eat most forms of bread you give to them, including loaves, bagels, and muffins.
Cattle have a different stomach system than we do, so they can digest and break down many foods humans can’t, like grass and raw corn, which then convert to energy.
Cattle are called ruminants because of their complex, multi-chambered digestive system.
Unless cattle are completely grass-fed, they must also be fed a combination of grains to round out their diet and gain weight.
While humans can’t digest raw grains like cattle can, cattle can digest the processed human foods.
According to a Cornell study, cattle’s ruminant stomach can digest bread and other bakery products more efficiently than corn-based feed.
Baked goods have already been processed to make them more digestible, making them easier to break down.
Bread is also more energy-dense than grass or unprocessed grains.
Since weight gain is usually the goal of cattle owners, the extra carbohydrates are a welcome addition to the bovine diet.
Farmers don’t buy bread at the store specifically for their livestock, though, since it is more expensive than bulk grains and free grass.
Farmers who do feed bread products to their cows and steers form a symbiotic relationship with local bakeries, stores, or food industry processing plants to lower food costs.
Instead of throwing out stale or day-old buns and doughnuts, these places can work out a beneficial system with farmers.
They can either sell the bakery waste or old goods at a discount or give the baked goods away for free and have the farmer pay for transportation.
This also eliminates food waste.
If you are able to work out a system, feeding bread to cows is an economical, smart choice to enhance their diet.
There are a few caveats to consider first.
We’ll cover this more in depth below, but you want to watch the quantity and quality of the baked goods before adding them to your animal feed.
Nutrients in Bread for Cattle
Farmers have tossed old bread and scraps to their animals for centuries, but there are only a few recent studies about cattle eating bread.
The nutrients in bread vary by brand and style, but it is a good source of various nutrients and minerals.
In moderation, this provides additional needed nutrition.
However, it does not provide the full amount of everything cattle need.
For example, cattle require at least 20% of crude protein intake daily, which is more than what bread provides.
They need to make up the extra protein through other food.
You also don’t want to provide too much of one ingredient, as this can cause digestive issues or a deficiency in another area.
Carefully balance nutrients, energy, and protein levels in the feed mixture you provide to your cattle.
Monitor your herd for nutrient deficiencies, especially after altering feed mixtures.
Some signs of deficiencies are:
- Small birth weight for calves
- Low milk production and protein content
- Losing weight
- Increased disease rate
- Fertility problems
Is It Safe to Feed My Cattle Bread?
Cows can eat a variety of kinds of bread, including loaves, buns, cinnamon rolls, tortillas, and muffins.
There are three safety concerns to consider before adding any baked goods into the feed trough:
Mold poses a dangerous threat for any animal consuming it.
This is a concern for all cattle food, not just bread.
Moldy food causes the following common mycotoxins or toxic compounds:
- F-2 toxin
- Penicillic acid
Bulk grains are typically tested to determine the feed’s mold level.
If it has a mold spore count of one million parts per gram or more is unsafe.
The more mold spores present in food, the worse the side effects.
These include respiratory illnesses and digestive issues.
Before feeding your cattle any baked goods, check for signs of mold.
Fresh Bread vs. Raw Dough
Cows can handle a variety of fresh and somewhat stale bread products, but they should not be fed raw bread dough.
If you put raw dough out for them, it can ferment before it’s eaten.
Fermentation creates alcohol, which can lead to alcohol poisoning in the cows.
Bread with Additives
Check what spices or added ingredients are included in the bread.
Cows can digest most things, including chocolate, but plain bread or bread-based products are better for your cows.
Cheesy bread should be fed sparingly, as it can upset a cow’s stomach.
Amount of Bread
Cows’ ruminant digestive system words by multiple regurgitations and re-chewing of their food, also known as chewing cud, to fully break down the foods other animals can’t.
However, this digestive system is prone to bloat if its rumen is filled with bread.
Cattle bloat has the potential to be fatal if not caught soon enough.
Cows don’t understand self-control, and they will overeat past being full.
Because of this, you need to feed bread in moderation and monitor for signs of cattle bloat.
Forage foods, including grass and hay, should be the main feed intake.
If given too much bread, cattle will not eat enough forage and miss out on necessary nutrients.