The practise of livestock farming has grown tremendously over the years. This has increased the demand of livestock feed and in turn its prices. Since cow feed accounts to approximately 60% of the overall costs included in keeping livestock, some farmers are facing challenges in providing cattle with sufficient feed that is equally as nutritious. As such, the agricultural community has been largely focused on finding alternative feed sources that are affordable and can still provide animals with nutrients necessary for the sustenance of health and productivity. Since chocolate is known for its antioxidant agents as well as trace minerals among other nutrients, a number of research studies have been conducted on its utilisation as animal feed. The results indicate that cows can eat chocolate without any adverse effects on health.
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Chocolate Nutritional Value
Chocolate is made from cocoa which is contains nutrients and minerals essential for animal development. These are inclusive of energy, protein, vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium, potassium and fat among others. Cows can eat chocolate feed so as to acquire these essential nutrients. Chocolate is lacking in a number of minerals including sufficient vitamin levels and so should be provided with a complimentary feed source. Chocolate feed for cows is usually developed by mixing with the usual cow feed. More often than not, chocolate waste is combined with readily available ingredients such as grain and hay in order to come up with a ration that is balanced to supply the fibre and protein that a cow and its rumen microbes need. Note that although cows can eat chocolate without experiencing health challenges, excess feed can have a negative effects. As such, farmers should be aware of the recommended rations. Research indicates that cows fed approximately 15mg/kg body weight experience a decline milk yield. Cows that feed on chocolate rations that are as high as an estimate of 90mg/kg are said to be at risk of poisoning. The following symptoms occur: sweating, hyper excitability, increased respiration and heart rate. These symptoms generally subside when chocolate is withdrawn. A number of veterinary medical professionals have developed estimate rations based on this information.
- A 100kg calf should have an intake of 500gg dark chocolate or 3kg milk chocolate.
- A 250g heifer can eat 1kg dark chocolate or 8kg milk chocolate.
- A 500kg cow would have to eat 2kg dark chocolate 17kg milk chocolate.
Chocolate for Beef Cattle
The most important aspect of beef cattle is the quality of the meat. The amount of profit generated from beef cattle is increasingly becoming much more dependent on taste of the meat among other factors. Wagyu beef originally from Asia is considered to be of superior quality hence commands a higher market price. It is has been reported that its quality can be enhanced by providing cows with chocolate. As such, cows can eat chocolate in order to improve on meat quality thereby increasing profit. Some farmers have reported to have been feeding cows with chocolate due to lack of feed and excellent results are being recoded. Although cows can eat chocolate, their dietary plan should never consist of solely chocolate. It is advisable to provide animals with the usual feed so to achieve a well-balanced feed rations. Calves can be offered chocolate from as young as 30 months. Quantities at this stage are low and gradually increased as the animal ages.
Chocolate for Dairy Cattle
Cows can eat chocolate so as to produce superior quality milk. Livestock farming experts point out that cows with a dietary plan inclusive of chocolate tend to produce high quality milk which generates an increased income. The compounds found in chocolate play an important role in improving the content of butterfat in milk. Milk that is high in butterfat is often sold at high prices as it is considered to be of superior quality. In most countries, the standard for whole milk is about 3.5% butter milk. When milk contains levels higher than the standard, its price goes up. That being said, cows can eat chocolate but not in excess as it causes a decline in milk yield. Farmers are therefore advised to strictly adhere to the recommended guidelines.
Chocolate for Physiological Development
The physical development of livestock is largely dependent on feed. Cows can eat chocolate to improve on their physiological development, provided that a complimentary feed is offered. Properly prepared chocolate feed plays a crucial role in growth and development of cows. Some farmers have long adopted chocolate feed for cows and animals are reported to grow according to normal timeframes. In fact, when the feed provided is well-balanced, live weight gain is increased significantly. As a result, animals reach maturity at an earlier period which also translates to increased productivity as well as profits. Chocolate contains trace minerals including calcium, magnesium and potassium. These are of the essence in proper and timely growth of ruminants. Animals lacking in these trace minerals experience a number of health problems that can affect animal growth and development.
Chocolate for Health Maintenance
Chocolate is highly famed as an antioxidant agent. It contains flavonoid compounds which are effective in the control of lipid oxidation. According to research, flavonoids are a class of polyphenols known to have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory functions. Oxidative stress is a rampant problem in livestock farming. It results in poor quality meat that commands a very low market price. In severe cases, farmers experience loss hence the importance of anti-oxidative agents in the production of superior quality yields. In addition, these compounds aid in rumen fermentation, methane production and control of nutritional stress such as bloat and acidosis. As such, cows can eat chocolate for health enhancement thereby ensuring high output.
A popular misconception is that since chocolate contains toxic substances known as methylxanthines, particularly theobromine which is detrimental to dogs, it is equally as poisonous to all animal. Studies have proven that if provided in the appropriate amounts and mixed with complimentary feed, chocolate is highly beneficial to cows. Their digestive system is able to break down the toxic compounds found in chocolate hence cows can eat chocolate without negative effects on health. Chocolate is made from cocoa which contains nutrients and trace minerals necessary for the well-being of cows. To add on, it is highly famed for its ability to control the effect of and/or the occurrence of oxidative stress which is a major challenge in livestock farming. In order for farmers to reap these benefits, they should possess adequate knowledge on the nutritional value of chocolate. This allows them to provide suitable rations as well as appropriate supplementary feeds.