Animal husbandry is a fast growing agricultural practise. Its growth can be attributed to the increasing global demand for meat and dairy products. The success of livestock farming has been greatly affected by continuous droughts coupled with the increasing costs of feed. As such, many farmers are experiencing feed deficit which poses a threat to the productivity of their livestock hence their income. This challenge is more pronounced amongst small farmers who cannot afford to provide sufficient cow feed under such circumstances. Agricultural research has therefore been focused on finding new unconventional feed resources. Part of these investigations is finding out whether cows can eat watermelons without affecting their health and productivity. In fact, some farmers in various countries including Australia are using watermelons as feed for cows and the results have been astounding.
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Can Cows Eat Watermelons?
Watermelon, also known as Citrullus lanatus belongs to the cucurbitaceae family. It is a rich source of vitamins, energy and proteins which are essential in the physiological development of cows. They also include trace minerals that are also necessary for cow development. A deficiency in these minerals can be detrimental to the health of cows. For this reason, cows can eat watermelons in order to acquire sufficient nutrients required to maintain their health and productivity. Agricultural research conducted on the effects of watermelon supplements to cattle feed indicate that when used properly, the feed does not have any negative influence on the quality of milk and meat as well as health. Instead, watermelons help in improving reproduction and physical development. Furthermore, watermelons consist of high water percentage. So cows can eat watermelons to keep hydrated in cases of inadequate water supply, for example in desert areas. That being said, it is important for farmers to be cautious about the rations provided. Watermelons should only make up 20% of the overall diet. This is because they have a lower nutritional value compared to hay and grains therefore cannot solely satisfy cow nutritional requirements. In addition, farmers should make sure the provided watermelons are free from any pesticides that can affect the health of cows. Failure to adhere to these recommendations can affect productivity and animal health.
Watermelon supplement for physical development
Cows can eat watermelons as an enhancement to their physiological development. Watermelon is a rich source of energy in the form of crude fibre. The ration for cattle should contain a good quantity of crude fibre. The minimum amount is considered to be approximately 20%. Watermelons also consists of starch and sugar which are of the essence in the development of cows. These nutrients help provide energy necessary for productivity. Note that watermelons have a high sugar content thus should not be given in excess as they can have an opposite effect. Watermelons also contain crude protein which is needed for growth, maintenance, reproduction and production. Crude protein is made up of true protein (chains of 20 different amino acids) and inorganic nitrogen salts, ammonia, urea, amino acids and other substances. Cows with a watermelon induced diet therefore perform better than their counterparts. Their weight is usually larger compared to those without watermelon supplements. This translates directly to profitability as the market value of cows is often determined by their weight. Lactating cows can eat watermelons to improve on their weight. A lactating cow usually losses weight at the beginning of lactation as a result of withdrawal of her body reserves. Cows can even under good feeding conditions lose as much as 66 kg in body mass during the first three months of lactation. Feed with a high nutrient content is necessary hence the use of watermelon supplements. A deficiency in crude protein among other nutrients causes:
- Small calves at birth
- Low milk production
- Lower protein content in the milk
- Loss of body weight
- Increased risk of infectious and metabolic diseases
- Fertility problems
Watermelon supplement for milk production
Lactating cows require a sufficient well balanced feed in various stages of production. Cows produce approximately half of their total milk yield during the first 100 days of lactation. For this reason, it is of the essence to provide a nutritious feed during the early days of lactation. A watermelon induced diet is therefore ideal as it has sufficient nutrients for milk production. For this reason, lactating cows can eat watermelons in order to produce a higher milk yield. In addition, milk produced often has a higher mineral content and so it is of superior quality. Carbohydrates, vitamins and proteins found in watermelons enable cows to maintain their health thus having a positive impact towards milk production. Keep in mind that a supply higher than the recommended amount does not improve milk yield but reduces it due to poor health conditions.
Watermelon supplements for health maintenance
The health of livestock is at the core of animal husbandry. This is because there is a direct correlation between health and productivity. Cows in poor health are not highly productive; depending on the condition, productivity can even come to a halt. As such, cows can eat watermelons so as to maintain good health. Vitamins found in watermelons are key to health improvement. They provide a boost to the immune system thereby enabling the system to effectively fight diseases. The result is a hardy livestock that is more tolerant to a range of diseases. In addition, cows can eat watermelons to protect themselves from damage caused by oxidative stress. Oxidation has a negative impact to the quality of meat. The meat produced has a poor colour, texture, taste and nutritional value. Watermelons used as antioxidants do not only have a preventive effect on the health of cows, but are also useful in improving metabolism hence increased milk and meat production.
Watermelon for hydration of livestock
Cows can eat watermelon to keep hydrated, which is quite a common practise in arid areas. Watermelon has the ability to remain fresh for prolonged periods of time, usually until the start of the rainy season particularly in dry areas. For this reason, most farmers view it as a perennial water source. It is therefore used to make sure that cattle are hydrated and are able to perform necessary body functions. Water plays a vital role in functioning of the body, milk production, and the total intake of food. A shortage or uneven supply of water has a direct impact on health and productivity. Note that the recommended limits should be followed even when using watermelons as a source of water.