What Do Cows Eat?

Dairy cows eat a balanced mixture of different kinds of feed to ensure they are in optimal health. Learn about what they eat!

Dairy cows requires a lot of energy to make delicious and nutritious milk. Have you ever wondered what exactly cows eat?

Just like you and I, cows need to eat a mixture of different kinds of food to maintain a well balanced diet. Cows eat a mixture of grass hay, alfalfa hay, grains as well as corn and grass silage. 

1. Grass and alfalfa are dried to make hay.
Farmers grow a lot of grass and corn at their farm, so even BC’s local dairy cows are eating local! Having dry hay ensures that the cows will have food all year round. Learn all about how hay is grown and produced in BC.

2. Grains are a mixtures of corn, oats, barley as well as added minerals and vitamins.
Dairy cows use a lot of energy to make milk. Farmers will add in extra minerals and vitamins into their feed to make sure that their cows are healthy and growing strong. 

3. Alfalfa and grass silage.
Silage is fermented to give it extra nutrients. Farmers use all parts of the corn including the husk and cob to make corn silage. While hay is dry, silage is moist.

Farmers work with animal nutritionists to make sure that their cows are given a healthy and nutritious diet. Each farm may have a special formula of food developed by the animal nutritionist. The average dairy farm in BC has 120 milking cows. On average each cow eats 100 pounds of food every day!  To ensure that the dairy cows are not picking through their food, farmers mix all five of these feeds into a TMR – total mixed ration. The goal is that every bite of food a cow takes will have exactly the same nutrients. 

Every jug of milk starts with the hardworking dairy farmers and the dairy cows. The dairy cow’s healthy and nutritious diet turns into quality milk which is sold in jugs or turned into your favorite dairy product. Milk is full of vitamin A and D, calcium and protein, and is a part of a healthy and balanced diet. 

For more interesting articles about cows, milk, and the dairy industry in BC, please visit: https://bcdairy.ca/milk/articles/#all-about-milk-g 

About BC Dairy

BC Dairy is a not-for-profit organization representing BC’s dairy farmers.