Most countries have been experiencing continuous periods of drought. The consequences include shortage of livestock feed as animals compete with humans for grain and increased costs of grain feed. As such, there is need for alternative feed resources in order to diminish the dependence of livestock on grains that can be consumed by humans. Over the last years, an enormous amount of agricultural research has therefore been directed towards the examination of various feed alternatives for livestock. They key is to discover new sources of feed that can either maintain or improve animal productivity. Results from these investigations indicate that cows can eat oranges as supplementary feed and still achieve high productivity.

Can Cows Eat Oranges?

Oranges are a rich source of nutrients necessary for the physiological development of cows. They consist of proteins, soluble fibre in the form of pectin, calcium and phosphorous among many other minerals. They are highly famed as a source of vitamins. Furthermore, oranges have about 54% water soluble sugars. They also contain trace minerals that are needed for healthy cows. Trace minerals are basically those that are required by the body in very little amounts. A shortage of these can be detrimental to livestock sometimes leading to death. Cows can eat oranges to meet their nutrient requirements for maintenance, growth, reproduction and production. The main feed that can be provided includes fresh citrus pulp, citrus silage, dried citrus pulp, citrus meal and fines, citrus molasses, citrus peel liquor, and citrus activated sludge. Agricultural research has revealed that oranges can be used as a high energy feed in ruminant rations to support growth and lactation, with fewer negative effects on rumen fermentation than starch rich feeds. However, oranges are low in amino acids and so should be paired with a complimentary feed. Cows can eat oranges only in limited quantities because excess feeding might cause rumen parakeratosis, particularly when the level of dietary forage is low.

Orange supplements for physiological development

Oranges can be used as an alternative feed and energy source for cows without any detrimental effect to animal growth. In fact, it has been proven that their nutrient content allows for increased body weight and average daily gain of cows compared to those that are on a strict grain dietary plan. Incorporation of 100 g/kg of oranges into cow diets is reported to enhance average daily gain and feed conversion efficiency. This is due to polyphenols and essential oils in oranges which protect proteins from rumen degradation, thereby increasing the amount of dietary protein reaching the small intestine for absorption. The improvement in conversion of dietary protein to animal protein subsequently leads to improved growth performance. For this reason, cows can eat oranges so as to improve their physiological development. Addition of orange supplements to levels that are higher than the suggested amount is not advisable. Proanthocyanidins, eugenol, and limonene from these oranges would impede feed intake as well as the ruminal microbial activity, and reduce endogenous digestive enzyme activities, thereby adversely influencing the growth performance of cows.

Orange supplements for milk production

Orange supplements are beneficial to dairy cows. Lactating cows can eat oranges as a means to improve their milk production. Oranges are a good supply of glucose which is required by lactating cows. In addition, they are rich in proteins which are of the essence in milk production. Milk produced by cows with an orange induced diet has a higher nutritional value. Protein content of the milk is significantly increased. In fact, the milk yield may be up to 12% higher. None the less, note that this is only possible when oranges are paired up with a complimentary feed. It is also important to note that cows can eat oranges provided that a nutritious balance with a core feed is maintained. Agricultural research has shown that provision of high orange supplements to lactating cows can increase the risk of lactic acidosis.

Orange supplements for health maintenance

Bioactive compounds such as flavonoids and proanthocyanidins from citrus fruits are highly famed for their ability to enhance and modulate the immune system of cows. Proanthocyanidins have the ability to bind protein in the rumen, thereby making it unavailable for digestion and absorption until it reaches the more acidic abomasum. This high quality protein bypass effect has the potential to enhance the immune response and increase resistance to diseases. Oranges have protein binding, active site interference and antioxidant effects that allow for healthy animals. Accordingly, cows can eat oranges to strengthen their immune systems thereby becoming more tolerant to diseases. The addition of oranges to the cow dietary plan tends to lower monounsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids in cows. Oranges have a significant amount of trace minerals which are necessary for blood synthesis, hormone structure, normal reproduction, vitamin synthesis, enzyme formation, and immune system integrity. A deficiency in these leads to reduced reproductive performance and impaired health over time.

Oranges as antioxidant agent

Addition of orange supplements in cow dietary plans is crucial in reducing the occurrence of oxidative stress. Lipid oxidation has a negative effect on the health of animals thus affecting the quality of the meat. Therefore, cows can eat oranges as a means to guard against oxidation. Polyphenols found in oranges act as antioxidants by scavenging free radicals and disrupting oxidative reactions; they protect cells from oxidative damage and decrease the danger of diseases associated with oxidative stress. Furthermore, polyphenols from oranges are involved in the suppression of reactive oxygen species formation by inhibiting enzymes involved in their production and offering protection of antioxidant defences. The results are hardy healthier animals that are well protected from oxidative stress.

Orange supplements for hydration

Oranges contain 54% water soluble sugars and so have been used by farmers in arid lands as a natural water source. Cows can eat oranges to keep hydrated thereby enabling their system to carry out the necessary bodily functions.  An insufficient supply of water is detrimental to productivity and places animals at risk of poor health thus exposing them to diseases and parasites. In arid lands where water is in short supply, farmers have to seek alternative source else their livestock might die. Note that caution should be taken not to overfeed animals as it can cause health problems such as rumen parakeratosis and lactic acidosis.


Cows can eat oranges as they possess essential nutrients for health and physiological development. Prior to use, oranges should be mixed with a good complimentary feed like grass, hay or cereal straw in order to improve on their nutrient supply. Orange supplements enhance the overall quantity and quality of the feed. Despite the super power of oranges to animal health and productivity, too much can cause health issues thus lowering productivity. For this reason, farmers should maintain a 70:30 feed to orange supplement ratio.