The world’s growing demand for livestock feed has led to increased cost of production. Cows feed currently makes up approximately 60 to 70% of the overall cost of cattle rearing. This is expected to increase rapidly within the next few years. As such, most farmers particularly small holder producers cannot afford to maintain good quality diets. In order to counter this challenge, most farmer are making use of unconventional feed stuff. As a matter of fact, most agricultural research has been directed towards finding alternative feed sources that are both nutritious and affordable. Meat is often readily available and is known for its high nutritional value including a rich amount of protein; it is also palatable to other livestock such as pigs hence its consideration as cow feed. However, it cannot be considered for ruminants as cows cannot digest meat.

Digestion of Meat Supplements

The fact that cows cannot digest meat can never be overemphasized. Since cows are herbivores, their digestive system is intended for grass and comparable feedstuff. To add on, cows are ruminants and so they digest feed differently. This means that their digestive system is not equipped to handle meat. In contrast to pigs and humans, their stomach is comprised of four compartments hence they digest feed in a different manner.  When cows are provided with meat supplements, it cannot be processed efficiently, especially if the proportions are exorbitant. Consequently, it can rot in the fermentation chamber killing beneficial bacteria that is intended to process grass. According to research, if meat is consumed in excess, the cow might even die. A common misconception is that cows have evolved to eat meat as other animals such as pigs are able to digest it. This is however not true, farmers should always take care not to provide ruminants with any form of meat as cows cannot digest meat.

Causes of Meat Consumption

Protein is a basic requirement in all livestock dietary plans. As a matter of fact, protein is of the essence in growth, production as well as health maintenance. It is however expensive and so some farmers find it difficult to sustain a balanced diet.  Experts state that despite the fact that cows cannot digest met, when their dietary plan is lacking in protein, they may develop an interest in order to supplement lacking nutrients. Shortage of minerals such as calcium among others is also said to be a leading factor in the consumption of meat. According to research findings, under normal circumstances cows are not interested in meat based diets. Since cows are herbivorous animals, their teeth, stomachs, and whole physiology is designed to get sustenance from grasses thus cows cannot digest meat. This means that meat consumption is regarded as abnormal and so there is need for farmers to acquire knowledge on its possible causes. This is most likely to help ensure that livestock are provided with sufficient nutrients and so do not develop a taste for meat.

Can a Cow Eat Meat?

Cows cannot digest meat and so should not eat it. A number of farmers have recorded cases where cows have been witnessed to eat meat. In areas like India, it is said that cows have become habituated to eating chicken and fish scraps. One cow is believed to be responsible for the disappearance of 48 chickens from a village in India. This has caused some confused among small holder farmers hence the misconception that cows have evolved to eat meat. This being exacerbated by the fact that no adverse effects were witnessed on animal health. Some farmers around the world even argue that meat dietary plans lead to improved milk production as well as superior quality milk. Note that despite the fact that there were negative effects recorded, cows have not evolved to eat meat. As a matter of fact, their digestive systems remain unchanged and so cows cannot digest meat. According to experts, this behaviour is absolutely deliberate and likely motivated by a need for some minerals lacking in their dietary plans. Some veterinarians attribute this behaviour to disease. Whatever the cause, farmers should keep in mind that cows cannot digest meat and so ensure that they do not consume it. Upon consumption, a veterinarian should be consulted. The following are some meat products used as livestock feed that farmers should try to avoid:

  • Blood meal: made from fresh animal blood, limited to feedstuff such as hair, stomach belching, and urine that is not used as human food.
  • Fish meal: dried, crushed flesh of undecomposed fish or its cuttings.
  • Meat and bone meal: made from animal products such as bone, blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, stomach and rumen contents.

What Happens If You Feed A Cow Meat?

Since cows cannot digest meat, feeding a cow meat leads to a number of health related issues which in turn affects growth, production as well as profitability. Cows that feed on meat are prone to attack by a disease known as BSE. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), is also known as the Mad Cow Disease; it is caused by consumption of meat supplements including blood, bone, and other unwanted flesh from infected farm animals. The symptoms of mad cow disease include abnormal behaviour, trouble walking, and weight loss. As the disease progresses, the cow fails to function normally and the brain is affected. Note that feeding a cow meat may not have an immediate effect. Research reveals that infected cattle appear normal for 2 to 8 years. In fact, rarely would they become ill within days. This disease also has severe effects on production. It is stated that weight loss and a drop in milk production may be noted. Farmers should keep in mind that all cows with mad cow disease die and so feedstuff compromising of meat are not worth the risk despite of popular myths. The most important point to note is that mad cow disease can be transferred to humans. A disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob develops when human eat infected meat. Initial signs of vCJD include behavioural changes and abnormal sensations. At later stages of the diseases, incoordination and dementia are experienced, followed by coma and death. Since cows cannot digest meat, it should not be provided to livestock even in small rations.