Cattle farming is a common farming activity across the world. It is characterised by increased investments in livestock feed which is usually either bought or cultivated in farms. Most countries in recent years have experienced drought thus affecting the ability of farmers to cultivate livestock feed. To exacerbate this situation, cattle feed is expensive thus most small farmers cannot afford to provide adequate feed for cows. The result has been detrimental to cattle farming as cows die of starvation, sickness, produce low milk and weigh below standard. Farmers are therefore seeking for readily available feed that can boost production. As such, the agricultural community is set on examining the effects of high value foods, bananas in particular, on cattle production.

Can Cows Eat Bananas

Bananas are high in fibre, particularly in hemicelluloses; they also contain high amounts of crucial minerals including potassium and sodium. In addition, they contain various types of vitamins, namely, A, B1, B2, and C. Bananas are a rich source of starch and glucose. Cows can eat bananas as a means to absorb these nutrients. They are of the essence in milk production, growth enhancement, health maintenance as well as boosting their immune systems. Although cows can eat bananas regardless of the part or level of maturity, most farmers use banana waste such as peels and leaves as cattle feed. It is of the utmost importance to note than bananas should be partly incorporated into cow feed. It is highly unadvisable to replace the usual cow feed such as hay and straw with bananas. This is because bananas contain high levels of sugar and other substances that maybe harmful if given in excess.  Also, bananas have low levels of protein which is essential in the health of cattle. Therefore, they must be ensiled with molasses, grass, rice bran or any product that can complement their nutritional value. Cows can feed on bananas, provided they are supplemented by a meal rich in protein as well as other nutrients lacking in the plant. The recommended limit is approximately 15% to 30%, however, cows can eats bananas until up to 50% of the overall feed without experiencing negative effects. Amounts more than 50% have been reported to cause low productivity.

Banana feed for milk production

Bananas are a valuable feed resource in cattle farming. They contain a significant amount of glucose which is significant for lactating cows. Lactating dairy cows require a good supply of glucose due to the demands of milk synthesis for glucose.  Therefore, cows can feed on bananas as a means to increase milk production. None the less, this is only effective if banana extracts are accompanied by a strategic supplement, for example sunflower seed cakes. Some farmers in countries like Tanzania have adopted use of banana leaves for cow feed. These are mixed with sunflower seeds and given to cows twice a day, at sunset as well as at sunrise. This practice results in increased milk production. As a matter of fact, the agricultural community has approved this practise. Banana peels and overripe bananas that can no longer be sold can be used to replace leaves. Bananas can be added to cattle feed up to about 15% of the overall diet. This means that bananas can ensiled with broiler litter at a ratio of 45:60 and with wheat straw by approximately 25:75.  Slight alterations however do not have any negative impact. It is therefore highly recommended to add banana extracts to cow feeds in order to reap a higher produce.

Banana feed for growth enhancement

Cows can eat banana feed in order to boost their weight, especially in drought stricken areas. Cows that have banana extracts in their diet have been proven to weigh more than those with none, unless the nutrients are supplemented by another feed. For lactating cows, a rich diet is of the essence in order to maintain weight during lactation. A lactating cow can lose about 50kg in body mass if not more, during the first 3 months. This can happen even though it is well fed. Addition of bananas in their normal feed is an effective manner to minimise weight loss. Pregnant cows also need a rich diet so as to produce healthy calves. Underfed cows deteriorate in health thus give birth to light weight and week offspring. For this reason, pregnant cows can feed on banana extract induced feed as a means to keep healthy during pregnancy thereby producing healthy calves. In fact, adult cows generally require feed rich in nutrients in order to survive. Cows can eat banana ensiled feed so as to acquire necessary nutrients for vital body functions like respiration, blood circulation, maintaining the body temperature and movement. These are commonly referred to as the maintenance requirement of the cow. Cows that receive less than their maintenance requirements tend to weigh far much less and are susceptible to diseases.  Inclusion of banana extracts of approximately 15% to 25% is recommended for weight gain. Note that over application of banana extracts can cause health problems hence the need to strictly adhere to the suggested amount.

Banana feed for health maintenance

Bananas contain important minerals essential for animal health, these include trace minerals. Trace minerals, also known as micro minerals are minerals needed by the body but in small amounts. Trace or micro minerals include cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc. They are often over looked by most farmers because deficiencies do not immediately impact milk yield or growth. Reduced reproductive performance or impaired health can take several months before a deficiency appears. Bananas contain various trace nutrients, and so cows can feed on banana extracts to acquire them. Bananas have 32 mg magnesium, 1.2 microgram selenium, 26 mg phosphorus and 0.31 mg iron. Minerals present in trace amounts include calcium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, fluoride and selenium. To control health deficiencies caused by lack of these minerals, it is advisable for farmers to add bananas in the daily dietary plan. Also, the provision of trace mineral to cows boosts their immune system thus allowing them some form of resistance to common diseases.

For small scale farmers that often find it difficult to provide cattle with sufficient feed, bananas can be used as supplement. They provide cows with nutrients necessary for improved productivity. Farmers living in drought stricken areas can also use bananas to maintain the health and productivity of their cattle. They should however be cautious of the rations given to the livestock. Cows can eat bananas, but only in limited amounts. Excess bananas in cattle diet are known to cause a decline in productivity.