What do cows eat?

I can’t find much information on the websites of major retailers about the farms they source their milk from. Most of what is available makes reference to high welfare standards but lacks any real detail. Similarly, when it comes to how the cows are managed and, in particular the contribution from grazing, there is little substance. The extract below from www.tescofarming.com states that “cows eat grass in the summer and preserved grass in the water……..”.

I’m not sure when the cows are “in the water” – perhaps they mean in the winter? However, of more interest is the statement that cows eat grass in the summer. Do they? I wonder if all the cows supplying milk to Tesco eat grass in the summer and if they do, how much do they eat and for how many days of the year?

I’m not singling out Tesco for closer scrutiny – all of the major retailers seem to present images of herds of cows grazing lush pastures when promoting their milk. But, in reality, are they really demanding that suppliers graze their cows for a significant period of the year? I hear some supermarket milk contracts state that cows must go outside for part of the year but, in many instances, this may be for no more than a few weeks when the cows are dry (not producing milk).

Retailers should not mislead consumers by presenting images of cows at grass if they are not selling milk from herds that spend a significant part of their productive life grazing grass. If we are to instil real value in our milk then lets make sure that consumers have a clear understanding of how it is produced.

Tesco – facts about the dairy cow

What do cows eat?

Cows eat fresh grass in the summer and preserved grass in the water, such as silage (pickled grass) and hay (dried grass).


2 Responses to What do cows eat?

  • I am so amazed by how impossible it has been to find any information about the dairy cow farming methods on both supermarket websites and also branded milk websites (even on Waitrose website, a brand I expect to advocate free range dairy).

    I’ve been at university for the past 2 years in Holland and they even advertise on television that April 9th the Dutch cows (that supply for Campina milk) will be turned out into the pastures for at least 120 days a year, for 6 hours a day. On their website there is info on each farmer, the family, the farm, the methods of farming for the rest of the year etc. You name it the info for the public is there. In the UK my experience is that it is completely non-existent.

    After having read many articles on the nutritional benefits of milk from grass eating cows, I think it is extremely beneficial not just for the cows health, but for our health that we come together, as with the free range chicken campaign, and do the same for the dairy industry.

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