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Earth Idle Science

Sweet Times For Cows As Gummy Worms Replace Corn Feed 432

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 @12:17PM (#41438329) Homepage 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 Kenja ( 541830 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:18PM (#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.
  • Let Them Eat Cake (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lobiusmoop ( 305328 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:26PM (#41438525) Homepage

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 I bet it's all just a few days out of date too.

  • by Byrel ( 1991884 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:31PM (#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.

  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:09PM (#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?

  • Re:Cows eat Grass (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:20PM (#41439429) Journal

    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.

    You're neglecting what it does to my taste buds and the pleasure center of my brain. Again, false economy.

    If you like to eat it, add it to things, like stir-fry or stew,

    I like stirfry and stew, but they are no substitute for a medium rare New York strip stake grilled over hot coals.

  • Your an idiot (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:26PM (#41439533) Journal

    Water is the constraint, not land. There is plenty of land available but no water to make it grow anything. What is needed to feed the world is agriculture that uses as little water as possible so arid conditions can be used for sustainable farming.

    Farming corn only makes sense if fresh water was available in infinite supply and land was in short supply. Sadly the reverse is true.

    Look up "dessert". Or do you think the dust bowl was an issue because the seasonal land didn't appear? No, it is the lack of water that causes problems. Not the lack of land.

    Next time you watch starvation in Africa, take a hard look. What is missing? Water or land?

    No doubt you vote for Romney, you sound like that type.

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

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:37PM (#41439703) Homepage

    The structures [] that allow cows to eat a wide diet [] 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.

  • by jburroug ( 45317 ) <slashdot@a[ ] ['cer' in gap]> on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:42PM (#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.


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

    by Aranykai ( 1053846 ) <slgonser@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:45PM (#41439837)

    If you ever drive through East Bumblefuck Texas, you would be shocked just how much building there is going on. /Texan who lives just outside East Bumblefuck Texas.

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

    by englishknnigits ( 1568303 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:50PM (#41439931)
    I'm not sure about your colon but it won't clog up your arteries. Vegetarian and other high carb diets actual result in higher levels of LDL cholesterol, particularly small dense (aka very bad) LDL cholesterol, and VLDL cholesterol. Look up Stanford's "A TO Z: A Comparative Weight Loss Study." All of the biomarkers for health and longevity were the same or better for people on the Atkins diet than all the other diets. That being said, throwing in lots of leafy greens and other vegetables would make it even better. So, you actually aren't far off except you can/should eat more meat than 1.5 cubic inches of the stuff a day. Fish would be better but beef isn't bad, especially if it's grass fed.
  • Re:Cows eat Grass (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @02:04PM (#41440101) Homepage Journal
    I largely agree with you, but in recent altering my life a bit, especially with regards to eating.

    I've done a coupe of 30 day juice fasts this year (inspired by Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead documentary)....and I must say, what it did for me...was it got me to enjoying vegetables and fruits more...the basic flavors.

    I'm now exploring ways (I love to cook) to make my diet more plant based, but satisfying and fun to cook and eat. So far, it is working out.

    I'd not be able to stay on a strict diet, if I didn't enjoy it...the 'pleasure' as you mentioned. While it is hard to beat a good chunk of med-rare, prime grade NY Strip....I'm reserving it more and more, as a 'treat' type dish. I'm going more quality over quantity as I get a bit older.

    I'm finding good prime grade steaks...and those go for about $23/lb, I'm not chowing on those daily...but every couple weeks as a fun weekend treat? Sure!!

    I mean, I just bought a brand new 'bandera' style offset smoker....I recently bought a pro-level Hobart meat slicer, I'm not going vegetarian.

    But I am looking at moving more towards that way if I can be successful in making the food fun to eat. I'm getting to the age in my life where I need to find balance...because in the next year or two, I'll be setting the course for the quantity and quality of the 2nd half of my life...I want it to be as long as possible, and I want to be in condition to enjoy every day of it I can, as much as I do now.

    And, I think that means looking at nutritional habits. So, figuring to start now to explore ways to make healthy eating something I WANT to do.

    Don't get me wrong, I like to eat a 16" pizza in one sitting, and then go knock out half a bottle of good single malt scotch...and you know, on occasion, I still may do that from time to time.

    But it has to be the outlier and not the general rule for long, healthy life.

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

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @02:36PM (#41440571) Homepage Journal

    These and other references were brought to my attention at a time I had recently recovered from, yet another Streptococcus throat infection, where I could scarcely swallow for three days. I decided to give up beef, chicken, pork and rely only on fish caught in the lakes or ocean. Over a period of two years I did notice the severity of respiratory infections decline and when I did take antibiotics they actually worked. Though anecdotal, I did recall antibiotics had little to no effect before I changed my diet. Eventually a dairy allergy would remove all cheese, yoghurt, milk from my diet and I find the period from initial detection of a respiratory infection to recovery to be down to less than a week, where I once would suffer these occurances for up to two weeks. I believe there is merit to these studies, particularly regarding the constant presence of low levels of antibiotics in the body creating a breeding ground for resistant strains (which are on the rise) and leaving my immune system impared to some degree, as all antibiotics are toxins which target certain organisms, but also have a degree of collateral damage (killing non-bacterial cells.)

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @03:09PM (#41441087)

    So far the free market has not done that. I doubt it ever will, the free market tends to prefer cheap and fast over good. When we had a free market in medicine we had snake oil being sold.

    The lowest information actors will be sacrificed over and over, and not for the gain of the rest of society, but for the gain of the wealthiest few.

  • Re:Cows eat Grass (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 24, 2012 @03:15PM (#41441175)

    eating the plant, is different in a nutritional sense than eating the seed.

    Cows evolved to eat the actual plant, not the seed... There was a study that showed if you feed a cow corn it will develop various bacterial issues, involving e-coli. The solution was to give them grass for 10% of their feeding cycle... so you would feed them corn to fatten them up and then feed them grasses for the last 10% before they go to the slaughter house.

  • Re:Cows eat Grass (Score:3, Interesting)

    by curiousJan ( 2528280 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @03:37PM (#41441433)

    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 corn.

  • Re:Cows eat Grass (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Byrel ( 1991884 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @04:25PM (#41442229)

    Errr... Does that mean when people are talking about grass-fed beef, they really could mean corn-fed? Grass has more than one meaning, depending on scope. OBVIOUSLY I was not speaking of all plants which could be called grasses biologically, but was instead using it in the colloquial sense. In which corn is not grass at all.

    All semantic nitpicking aside, corn is a C4 plant, grass is a C3. Major difference in efficiency. Of course, sugarcane is even more efficient, but it's a bit hard to grow around here.

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