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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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  • Cows eat Grass (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:17AM (#41438329) Journal

    Cows evolved to eat grass.

    No good came from feeding them corn. I can't see how feeding them gummy worms will turn out well.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:18AM (#41438375) Journal

      Cheap beef came from feeding cows corn. A median income family in the US could eat beef for dinner every day because of corn fed cows. These days it's getting out of reach.

      Although, I am a bit worried about what this will do to gummy worm prices.

      • by jfengel (409917)

        Although, I am a bit worried about what this will do to gummy worm prices.

        I assume they're getting gummy worms cheap from some other process that would be disposing of them, perhaps surplus or stale. Competing with retail would, I imagine, be ruinously expensive.

        The gummy worms themselves start as corn, via corn syrup. If corn is going up, eventually the gummy worms are going to be more expensive as well. There may just be some lag time as the price increases work their way through the system. (Gummy worms, being shelf stable, are probably more resistant to price shocks than cows

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by curiousJan (2528280)

          Although, I am a bit worried about what this will do to gummy worm prices.

          I assume they're getting gummy worms cheap from some other process that would be disposing of them, perhaps surplus or stale. Competing with retail would, I imagine, be ruinously expensive.

          The gummy worms themselves start as corn, via corn syrup. If corn is going up, eventually the gummy worms are going to be more expensive as well. There may just be some lag time as the price increases work their way through the system. (Gummy worms, being shelf stable, are probably more resistant to price shocks than cows are.)

          When I was young, we raised day-old calves to approximately a year-old before selling them at auction. Part of their feed mix was stale/malformed gummy candies from the local candy factory. Dad doesn't that any more (most likely from risk of CJD), but during that time period CJD wasn't a concern here in the US. And yes, he did it was because it was more cost effective. You've nailed it on the head ... they would be discarded otherwise, and they're made from the same corn sugars that the cows would get from

    • by cod3r_ (2031620)
      agreed. This sounds silly. Most farmers search high and low for hay if they have a sizeable cow herd. Otherwise they just unload it or knock it down so the hay they do find will work. I've got friends in Texas that will truck hay in from any part of America where they can find it. Hay prices have sky rocketed as a result, but maybe these are not free range cows they are talking about.
    • by Sarten-X (1102295)
      No, cows evolved to eat a wide variety of things and extract nutrients from them. Grass happens to be one of the better (by human standards for the cows' products) choices for their food, but it's certainly not perfect.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        cows evolved to eat a wide variety of things and extract nutrients from them. Grass happens to be one of the better (by human standards for the cows' products) choices for their food, but it's certainly not perfect

        Cows were bred to eat a wide variety of things by humans from their historical predecessors [wikipedia.org]. We don't particularly care what the best food for cattle to eat is from their perspective, because we are not raising them to live long and prosper. We are raising them to get big and become food, or for that matter, to get big and make food (e.g. milk.)

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

          by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:37PM (#41439703) Homepage

          The structures [wikipedia.org] that allow cows to eat a wide diet [wikipedia.org] predate their domestication (by about 20 million years), so the breeding (which is really just human-guided evolution) is irrelevant.

          Cows (and other ruminants) are effectively omnivores whose meat has been replaced by eating their own gut bacteria. Grasses are a good food because they feed the gut bacteria while providing an entirely different set of nutrients directly to the cows. When the cows then digest the bacteria, they get the high-protein supplement they need. Any other feed that provides roughly the same nutrition to the cow is suitable, because a different species of bacteria will thrive on it, and the symbiosis remains.

      • I thought that was just women.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ackthpt (218170)

      Probably time for people to start moving away from meat, anyway. The amount of water and acreage of agricultural production, including various uses of petroleum (gas, diesel) required to raise one pound of beef, it's a luxury we can ill afford much more than once a week.

      There's also the extreme damage to lands by cattle grazing, which leads to erosion, including landslides. Time to move on from meat.

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

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:49AM (#41438899)

        The land doesn't suffer if it is managed properly. Research holistic land management. The Savory Institute is a good place to start. Here in Colorado, a few ranchers are making their cattle graze in patterns that the bison do naturally: grouped tighter together, never staying in the same area for very long. In any given area, the cattle don't eat too much or poop too much. They trample the ground just enough, pushing seeds just below the surface. The grass has evolved to grow optimally under these conditions. Animals and land have a symbiotic relationship; both benefit from each other. If we use animals as a tool to make a healthier earth, we all win.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        That will happen the instant a suitable replacement is found and not a moment sooner. I have high hopes for the beyondmeat folks, but we shall see.

        Now get on the replacement tuna.

    • Cows evolved to eat grass.

      Humans evolved eyes to forage and see danger. We should stop looking at back lit squares since that's not what our eyes were evolved to do. No good came from looking at back lit squares.

      No good came from feeding them corn.

      No good at all. Unless, of course, you mean we preserved top soil by stopping massive herds from turning the entire nation into a dust bowl. Or perhaps the good that comes from us being able to furnish an ever growing population with food? There are some valid complaints about feed cattle feed corn. Saying there is not

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        The problem is they want to do an experiment and sell the result. Normally animals used for experiments would be destroyed not sold as food.

      • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

        you mean we preserved top soil by stopping massive herds from turning the entire nation into a dust bowl... Saying there is nothing good doing it is a bit of a hyperbole.

        Hypocrite much?

        And besides, the actual Dust Bowl was caused by the replacement of prairie grasses (which cattle could eat) with intensive farming that stripped the topsoil.

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

      by fm6 (162816) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:42AM (#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.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        I don't eat nearly that much beef but I could do it and still just stick to grass fed. The local grocery store has it for about $5/lb which seems pretty affordable for many if not most folks. Assuming you don't eat nothing but beef for dinner.

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

      by samazon (2601193) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:55AM (#41439031)
      Cows eat grass [wikipedia.org] huh? You realize that corn [wikipedia.org] is of the genus Zea [wikipedia.org] which makes it... a type.. of grass.
    • Re:Cows eat Grass (Score:4, Informative)

      by tomhath (637240) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:56AM (#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 MiniMike (234881)

      This could be really bad for dairy cows- if they consume too much sugar, they won't be able to process all of it and the excess will end up in their milk. This will also cause an increase in the viscosity of the milk. The end result- High Fructose Cow Syrup!

  • by Kenja (541830) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:18AM (#41438355)
    Not only does it taste better, but corn and "alternative" feed is directly linked to the evolution of resistant ecoli strains. Only reason to feed cows corn, or corn sysup in the form of gummy worms, is due to farm subsides making corn literally cheaper then weeds.
    • by Microlith (54737)

      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.

      Only reason to feed cows corn, or corn sysup in the form of gummy worms, is due to farm subsides making corn literally cheaper then weeds.

      Basically. Leveraging a subsidy in one industry for yourself. I say fuck Iowa and end the corn subsidies.

      • by Kenja (541830) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:25AM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Byrel (1991884)

          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: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            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.

          • by jburroug (45317) <slashdot AT acerbic DOT org> on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:42PM (#41439785) Homepage Journal

            You're both right.

            E. Coli naturally lives in the bovine digestive track and older strains of it had no tolerance to a highly acidic environments - a grass fed ruminate's stomachs have a fairly neutral pH - and so weren't a threat to humans if we consumed any. Feeding cattle a lot of corn lowers the pH in their stomachs enough that E. Coli strains have now evolved enough of an acid tolerance to survive in our guts and do bad things to us.

            Cattle get sick a lot easier with the more acidic stomachs, since they never evolved a digestive track capable of handling strong acids, which is only exacerbated by the conditions they live in at the feedlot so they have to fed antibiotics by the shovel full every day just to survive long enough to be slaughtered. Thus the now acid tolerant E. Coli also gets a chance to evolve tolerance to a wide array of antibiotics.

            Finally modern slaughter houses run so fast, mostly with untrained immigrant labor, that they can't even be bothered to butcher the animals carefully enough to avoid getting shit all over the meat. The shit contains E. Coli and when you eat this meat (especially meat ground at the factory) you end up eating some of this infected shit.

            Cheers,

        • by MarkRose (820682)

          The majority of cattle are fed grass for most of their lives because it's cheaper. Sometimes grains are used through winter when there isn't hay available, and grains are also used on a supplemental basis for more rapid growth. It's usually when they have about six weeks left that they're shipped off to CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) where they are fed grains to fatten them up. Many (most?) people prefer the fattened meat as it's sweeter and more tender, and the price paid for the animal is

    • I've read that our Iowa-first Presidential campaigns are a reason for the entrenched corn subsidies.

    • by tomhath (637240)
      Drug resistant E. coli evolved in response to drugs given to patients with E. coli infections. The association to livestock is tenuous at best, but the association to antibiotic usage in healthcare is very well documented.
  • by AuralityKev (1356747) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:21AM (#41438423)
    I insist we only use organic insulin for all of the newly diabetic cows! It's sustainable... or something.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by fakeid (242403)

      I insist we only use organic insulin for all of the newly diabetic cows! It's sustainable... or something.

      I'm sure Wilford Brimley will be along at any minute to help out our diabeetus-stricken cows.

  • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:22AM (#41438433) Homepage Journal

    Sounds like a great CJD transmission vector.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Whoever modded this as 'troll' is a moron who doesn't know what gelatin is, where it comes from, and what it is put into.

    • by Penurious Penguin (2687307) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:55AM (#41439011) Homepage Journal
      Yes, a vector indeed. Gummy worms comprising of gelatin, and gelatin comprising of bone and bone -- other than brain -- being the most common vector for rogue prions, you may have a point. What's undeniable, however, is that feeding gummy-worms to cows is cannibalism -- a diet that has been largely discouraged since it was discovered as a possible connection with BSE. Gelatin manufacturers claim to treat the gelatin in a manner which "minimizes" the risk of transmission, but I have always had serious doubts. I think Japan and Korea have doubts too, which is probably why they've banned US beef in the past, or still do.
  • Look for local farmers; produce and meat if you can find it. Do a side-by-side taste test and you'll see what I mean. The differences between "natural" farm products and industrial farm products are tangible. My boss has a small farm and the eggs are like night-and-day between the regular supermarket fair.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      My boss has a small farm and the eggs are like night-and-day between the regular supermarket fair.

      Have you tried this double blind?

      • by Fished (574624)
        I have. Bought some hamburger from the supermarket, and had some hamburger given to me by one of my parishioners (at the time I was a pastor.) Served them at a party, without telling anyone, and several people commented on how good the "plain" burgers were. Most said something like, "oh, this tastes like the beef I had as a child!"
      • by boristdog (133725)

        Many have studied this:
        http://www.motherearthnews.com/eggs.aspx [motherearthnews.com]

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        That might be hard to do, would have to blind fold the taster. The small farm eggs I have seen had bright orange yolks and being so fresh the yolk stood up and the white stayed very close to it when the egg was fried.

      • by Githaron (2462596)
        I haven't done a comparison with meat but eggs are fairly obvious. We used to have chickens and we would give away eggs to friends sometimes. We have had people afraid to eat them because the egg yokes were "too yellow". They also taste a lot better. Of course, I am sure freshness also affects the eggs. Home raised eggs are usually consumed closer to creation than commercial eggs.
  • Let Them Eat Cake (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lobiusmoop (305328)

    How come when something like 25,000 people die of malnutrition every day [poverty.com], food likely fit for human consumption is going to cattle? I bet it's all just a few days out of date too.

    • by LMariachi (86077) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:38AM (#41438717) Journal

      Gummi worms are fit for human consumption?

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      I know, it's a shame. Of course, we just need the millions of dollars to ship the food half-way around the world to the people who need it, and the refrigeration to keep it so it doesn't spoil in the process, all of which costs more than the damned food in the first place (not to mention using a vast amount of fossil fuels which will probably just make the problem worse in the long run). See, thats the problem: starvation doesn't happen because there isn't enough food in the world, it happens because there

    • by ddd0004 (1984672) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:53AM (#41438991)

      It's by far easier to get the food to the cows. Feeding most of those who die of malnutrition involves the following:

      1. Get together enough food.
      2. Send an armed force to overthrow the government or local warlord who is ruling the area where people are dying of malnutrition. If not, the ruling party will simply claim the food or stop the aid.
      3. Deliver the food
      4. Remain in the region indefinitely to keep the peace all the while the local region becomes more and more dissatisfied with the outside invaders and the casualties continue to mount.
      5. Eventually leave the region and watch the warlords / corrupt governments return or civil war breaks out.

      So in this case, feeding the cows gummy worms doesn't sound like that bad of a deal.

    • by Chemisor (97276)

      Cows pay for the food they eat by giving us meat and hides in exchange. How will those 25,000 people who die of malnutrition pay?

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Because there is no practical way to get this food to those people.

      If you could get it there without it rotting or being stolen by warlords and governments maybe it would help.

      You would also have to buy it at the same or higher prices than the ranchers pay.

    • Because the problem of starvation isnt one that can be solved by just dumping food near to those who need it?

      Im pretty sure we've tried that and continue to try it (north korea, anyone?) and it just doesnt work.

    • We already make many times over enough food to feed all hungry people in the entire world. World production of food is about enough to feed 11 billion people well, almost twice the number of people on the planet.

  • by Byrel (1991884) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:31AM (#41438613)

    I grew up on a small farm with free-range chickens. Chickens are omnivores. They aren't quite as good at digesting weird things as ruminants, but they come pretty close. Consider that both are quite well adapted for eating grass. It's tough to get much in the way of nutrition out of grass, but they both manage it. In fact, their digestive systems bear some similarities. While a ruminant will puke up there food to reprocess it in their mouth, the chickens have a gizzard for a pre-stomach. The gizzard is full of rocks, and has a strong band of muscles around it which grinds the food apart before it ever gets to their stomach.

    Furthermore, we fed our chickens scraps. You have to, as the summary points out, be careful with nutrition. Chickens will gorge themselves on moldy bread, cookies, etc. instead of proper food if you give them a chance. But if you're careful to not feed them too much junk at a time it can be quite economical, and the chickens love it. We used to get rejected hamburger buns and feed it to them. There's nothing quite so amusing as tossing a single bun into the air, and watching all the chickens scattered across a couple acres come barreling up to you, flapping and squawking.

    This isn't new, and it isn't really news. I'm sure it happens more now, as the designed food gets more expensive, but it's an old practice.

  • I like how some comments in the article follow this logic : eew! a cow turns gummy worms into beef and we eat the beef! but -I- am ok eating gummy worms that my body turns into me...

    /scratches head/

  • by jspoon (585173) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:34AM (#41438657)
    Just don't tell them where the gelatin came from.
  • I used to keep pigs, and supplemented their feed with week-old-bread from the food bank. My brother used to feed his cattle chicken litter (after composting it) during drought years. Farmers have been doing this sort of thing since there have been farmers.
  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:09PM (#41439253)

    They should raise buckwheat on some of their pasturage, and encourage the corn growers to do so too.

    Buckwheat has a bulk starch content of approximately 70%, bulk protein (including lysine, making it more complete than corn) of about 18%, and a fair amount of vegetable fats.

    Its real claim to fame is that it goes from germination to harvest in a little over 2 months, and thrives on poorer soils. It prefers cool weather, and usualy produces about 30bu/acre.

    It also improves soil nutrient availability to other crops planted later.

    If it doesn't freeze in the corn belt again this year, like it didn't last year, it would be a good crop to attempt, as it could easily offset feed costs, and avoid "graining" their cattle on refuse gummybears.

    On a side note... remember that post from last month about the complex system theorist predicting food riots?

    • Please stop with these great ideas.

      Wall Street needs chaos and using Buckwheat as a winter crop to feed cows will not provide the chaos.

      And a hungry workforce is a cheap workforce.

  • by El Fantasmo (1057616) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:36PM (#41439685)

    Buffalo/bison are the long term answer. They are the natural grazers of the US and Canadian plains. They don't stay in one place to eat all the food and starve since they can't survive in the snow well and they're massive. It's estimated that the pre-columbian bison population was between 30 and 60 million head, while the current us cattle population is just under 100 million. Historic bison ranges don't mesh well with current agribusiness. But, corporate animal farms and McDonald's can't make DESIRED profits being environmentally responsibly. We shouldn't have Asian and European cow breeds/hybrids as significant meat sources in the US. If only we weren't interested in starving the remaining Native Americans and making buffalo rugs and coats in the 1800s, this may be less of a problem.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:46PM (#41439863) Journal
    Down the road, Joules Unlimited [jouleunlimited.com] will produce most, if not all of our ethanol. And all without a subsidy. Why? Because they use our SEWAGE to create ethanol AND diesel at a cheaper cost. In fact, they claim to produce ethanol at less than $1.28/gal and diesel at less than $50 BBLE.

    And to make matters interesting, they are scaling up. They have multiple foreign investors who want to spread this around the world.
  • by gtirloni (1531285) on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:28PM (#41440457)
    FTFA: "Anything that keeps the feed costs down." Anything == no limits, no common sense. Last time I checked they were feeding dead cows' bones to cows and it brought us the mad cow disease.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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