Can Cows Eat Cabbage?

The productivity of livestock depends on the type of feed provided. Animals that are offered poor quality or unbalanced feed tend to suffer from health related issues. The same applies to cows provided with insufficient rations of feed. The consequence is always in the form of declined yields. For this reason, providing cows with sufficient rations of well-balanced feed is at the core of livestock farming. This task often becomes difficult during dry periods when pastures are not enough to meet the dietary needs of livestock. The agricultural community is therefore always on the lookout for alternative feed that is both nutritious and readily available. Recent studies have been focused on finding out whether cows can cabbages for their daily sustenance. The results were remarkable.

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Nutritional Value

Cows can eat cabbages without experiencing any adverse effects on health or otherwise. In fact, cows that are provided with feed inclusive of cabbage perform better than those on a strictly pasture diet. The upside of using cabbage as feed for ruminants is that it is a popular plant throughout the world and so is easily accessible to most farmers. Research points out that ruminants can tolerate dietary incorporation of cabbage waste to an estimated extent of 50%. This is because they can digest fibre more effectively in comparison to other animal species. Cabbage contains 86 to 140g dry matter per kilogram (DM/kg). It also consists of 137 too 280g crude protein, 186g crude fibre, 10.2MJ metabolisable energy and a total of 84% digestible nutrients. It is therefore a good source of feed for ruminants. In fact, it can be used to replace corn silage as it has a slightly higher protein value. Cows can feed on cabbage to acquire necessary nutrients for daily substance and productivity. Despite the highly nutritious nature of cabbage, it can be detrimental to animal health if provided in excess. The vegetable contains S-methyl-L-cysteine sulphoxide and glycosinolates that are known to depress intake. As intake declines, so does the health of livestock and productivity hence success of the entire agricultural venture is at risk. It is therefore of the utmost importance for farmers to be aware of and strictly adhere to proper feeding procedures.


Physical Development

The physical development of livestock is reliant on feed and nutritional intake. Since cabbage is a rich source of digestible nutrients, cows can eat cabbage so as to improve on their physiological development. The crude protein content found in cabbage is commendable and plays an important role in livestock growth and performance. According to research conducted on the subject matter, when provided in correct rations, cabbage improves feed intake and so animal dietary needs are effectively met. The increase in feed intake can be attribute to its palatable nature. Not only does it help in animal growth, but mature cows can feed on cabbage in a bid to increase their daily weight gain. The weight of cows often translates to their market value, particularly in beef cattle. Cows that weigh more command a higher market price thus are profitable.


Although cows can feed on cabbage for growth and development, it is of the essence to make sure that rations do no exceed 50%. To add on, cabbage is lacking in some nutrients including dry matter. The low dry matter content of the cabbage suggests that it should be incorporated in a diet rather than fed as a sole ingredient. Providing the vegetable as basic feed puts animals at risk of health related illnesses that can hinder proper growth and development leading to poor performance. Another factor to be aware of is that excess rations reduce feed palatability which affects the ability of cows to readily feed on the vegetable. This has negative impact on the physiological development of cows.


Milk Production

Dairy cows can be provided with cabbage waste instead of corn silage as it contains a slightly higher protein value. The protein value found in cabbage helps in the production of increased milk yield. Research shows that cabbage is best used as an alternative feed for corn silage which is particularly helpful during dry seasons when corn silage in unavailable. This enables farmers to cut costs as corn silage tends to be expensive during this period. The downside is that although cows can eat cabbage for improved production, the dietary plan is not sustainable long term. Cabbage is also rich in sulphur; high consumption is known to give milk a sulphur or eggy flavour. Cabbage waste left for a prolonged period prior to usage tends to intensify on the off-flavour. Milk produced can even have an off smell. For this reason, cows can feed on cabbage for about 3 consecutive days so as to maintain quality yield. However, current studies reveal that cabbage feed can be sustained for longer periods provided low levels of approximately 2 to 3 pounds dry matter are maintained. Also, supplementary feeds must be low in sulphur if cabbage is to be provided to cows for longer periods.


Health Maintenance

Cows can eat cabbage without experiencing negative effects on health. Note that this is only applicable if recommended guidelines on ration and feed supplements are followed. As previously stated, cabbage contains compounds that are known to hinder feed intake. Animals with a suppressed appetite often fail to meet their daily nutritional requirements and so become exposed to diseases. In addition, cabbage is lacking in a variety of nutrients which also weakens their immune systems. That being said, it is of the essence to provide feed additives so as to ensure healthy livestock. Another potential danger to health is due to high contents of sulphur found in cabbage. Feed additives such as thiamine, molybdenum and anthraquinone can be used to manage the issue. Experts state that hydrogen sulphide poisoning is best managed by feeding according to recommended guidelines. Heifers are known to be highly tolerant to cabbage (4 to 6 pounds DM) in comparison to dairy cows (2 to 3 pounds DM). This means they can be given slightly increased rations without any harm to health. The following is the step up program for feeding cabbage waste as suggested by agricultural experts:


Cabbage Waste Feeding Program
Day 1 Day 4 Day 7
Cows 1lb.DM 2lb.DM 3lb.DM
Heifers 1lb.DM 4lb.DM 6lb.DM