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Earth Idle Science

Sweet Times For Cows As Gummy Worms Replace Corn Feed 432

Posted by samzenpus
from the sweet-milk dept.
PolygamousRanchKid writes "As the worst drought in half a century has ravaged this year's U.S. corn crop and driven corn prices sky high, the market for alternative feed rations for beef and dairy cows has also skyrocketed. Brokers are gathering up discarded food products and putting them out for the highest bid to feed lot operators and dairy producers, who are scrambling to keep their animals fed. In the mix are cookies, gummy worms, marshmallows, fruit loops, orange peels, even dried cranberries. Cattlemen are feeding virtually anything they can get their hands on that will replace the starchy sugar content traditionally delivered to the animals through corn. Operators must be careful to follow detailed nutritional analyses for their animals to make sure they are getting a healthy mix of nutrients, animal nutritionists caution. But ruminant animals such as cattle can safely ingest a wide variety of feedstuffs that chickens and hogs can't. The candy and cookies are only a small part of a broad mix of alternative feed offerings for cattle. Many operators use distillers grains, a byproduct that comes from the manufacture of ethanol."
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Sweet Times For Cows As Gummy Worms Replace Corn Feed

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  • by Kenja (541830) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:25PM (#41438495)

    corn and "alternative" feed is directly linked to the evolution of resistant ecoli strains

    It is? I would have had the overuse and abuse of antibiotics in factory farms pegged as the cause to antibiotic resistance in E. Coli.

    Strage as it sounds, yes it is. There have been a great many scientific studies and articles published on the subject since the mid 80s. Basically it comes down to how the cows dont have the digestive system to handle the grains which results in PH changes in their stomaches allowing e.coli to thrive and survive being "passed" by the cows. The resulting e.coli laden excrement gets stuck to the cows and does not properly get washed off during processing into meat. The solution the beef industry came up with was to wash the meat in ammonia rather then switch to grass feed even for a couple weeks towards the end of the cows life.

  • Re:Cows eat Grass (Score:4, Informative)

    by avandesande (143899) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:29PM (#41438581) Journal
    The prime food for dairy cows in the east is 'silage' which are the entire corn plant chopped up and fermented in the silo. You could pick kernels of corn out of the silage and if you chewed it a little alcohol would come out.
  • Re:Cows eat Grass (Score:5, Informative)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:30PM (#41438609) Homepage Journal

    No good came from feeding them corn

    Lol, wut?

    I.e. fattening them up. Changed the entire industry of cattle from range fed (grasses) to loading them up with Corn, which is a water-hungry crop. With the mentality of Wall Street, the cattle industry has gone after maximizing profits - steroids to fatten them up even more, antibiotics (which remain in the meat, even after cooking, so you end up with antibiotic resistant strains developing, not to overlook constant exposure to antibiotics hammers your own immune system) and a dependency upon water and petroleum, it's becoming less suitable to areas of land as the damage to land can be considerable, plus it has brought us the wonders of invasive plant species, thanks to feed coming from where-ever is cheap and available.

  • by Byrel (1991884) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:39PM (#41438749)

    This doesn't help develop resistant E. coli; it helps E. coli get into our food. Antibiotic-resistant E. Coli develops the same way any resistance does in a population: strong selective pressure. In this case, the only significant source of selective pressure is antibiotics. Now, I don't know if factory farms abuse antibiotics or not. But heavy use of antibiotics is the only thing known to develop significant populations of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

  • Re:Cows eat Grass (Score:5, Informative)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:41PM (#41438761) Homepage Journal

    If I eat beef every two days will I live twice as long? If not, I think you're practicing false economy. Beef is delicious. If you're trying to extend your life by avoiding pleasurable things, you're missing the point of life.

    The amount of beef you need to eat on a daily basis for your protein needs would be a cube (raw) is about 1.5 inches on a side, anything after that is just clogging up your colon and your arteries. It's shocking, at least to me, to see people ordering huge steaks, which do more harm to their health than they are aware of. If you like to eat it, add it to things, like stir-fry or stew, and by all means go for organic or free range meat, not that stuff loaded with steroids and antibiotics (gotta keep that fat bull alive long enough to get to the slaughterhouse.)

  • Re:Cows eat Grass (Score:4, Informative)

    by fm6 (162816) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:42PM (#41438785) Homepage Journal

    Corn-fed beef is cheaper, so if you eat a burger every day, you can't complain about it.

    Then again, all this meat consumption (over a pound per U.S. resident per day; about 25% of it beef) is really a bad thing. Screws up your health, screws up the environment, depletes a non-renewable resource (oil) in the form of fertilizers and diesel fuel needed to grow all that corn.

    The oil issue was pumping up corn prices even before the drought. Oil prices can only go up [wikipedia.org], so we're going to have to get used to eating less meat, no matter how "anti-agriculture" [thehill.com] it might seem.

  • Re:Cows eat Grass (Score:5, Informative)

    by Byrel (1991884) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:52PM (#41438975)

    I.e. fattening them up. Changed the entire industry of cattle from range fed (grasses) to loading them up with Corn, which is a water-hungry crop.

    Bah. Corn's photosynthesis cycle is more than 10 times as efficient as grass's. Sure it's a water hungry crop; it's just a much less land hungry crop for the same production, which means less land area under cultivation per cow. Less land per food is a Good Thing when people are starving in some parts of the world. Less land per food means lower food prices and higher availability (given a reasonably free market.) It also means less erosion, less pollution, less CO2 release, and higher population average leisure time.

    All the things you mentioned do, indeed, increase profits. But they also lower costs, both to produce and to consume food. You can claim we should eat less meat, as it has relatively high impact on the environment per pound; you're right. But it would have even more impact if we switched to 'organic' or 'grass-fed' meat. There may be good reasons to buy organic; it may be healthier, lower risk of E. coli, more humane treatment of animals, and it just plain tastes good! But recognize, that whenever you indulge these scruples, you do it at the cost of the environment.

  • Re:Cows eat Grass (Score:4, Informative)

    by tomhath (637240) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:56PM (#41439035)
    Corn is a species of grass. It produces more calories per acre than most other grasses, which is why it's used for feed (and why it takes more water per acre than other grasses, more output requires more input).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:00PM (#41439095)

    Oh, he left out that part: the rich diet which causes this e. coli bloom in the cow's stomach can make them sick, so the agribusinesses will often add in a steady schedule of antibiotics to keep the cow "healthy" despite the bad diet. This leads to the development of resistant strains.

  • Re:Cows eat Grass (Score:5, Informative)

    by WGFCrafty (1062506) on Monday September 24, 2012 @02:04PM (#41440095)

    I.e. fattening them up. Changed the entire industry of cattle from range fed (grasses) to loading them up with Corn, which is a water-hungry crop.

    Bah. Corn's photosynthesis cycle is more than 10 times as efficient as grass's. Sure it's a water hungry crop; it's just a much less land hungry crop for the same production, which means less land area under cultivation per cow.

    I stopped reading after the first sentence.

    Corn IS a grass. It is a monocot and it is in the family poaceae.

    Traits like it's kernal size were developed through selective breeding over a few thousand years. It used to look more like the long stalks of other grass. Botany 101

  • Re:NOOOOOO! (Score:4, Informative)

    by fruitbane (454488) on Monday September 24, 2012 @02:29PM (#41440481) Homepage

    I'm an American and I love food. I eat a wide variety of plants and animals and, yes, I do often have a problem with eating too much of it. But I do have taste buds, I do appreciate quality food, and I'm capable of both eating and differentiating between food at the top AND the bottom of the food quality scale.

    Generalizations like this, especially in such heated terms, really do nothing for meaningful discussion. Then again, it's pretty clear from the tone of your comment that you're not interested in discussion. You're interested in being superior to everyone else. Good job. Work on your grammar and sentence structure a bit and maybe someday you'll actually impress upon someone that you are superior.

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