Cows’ slow, large, and lumbering nature sometimes gives them the appearance of dull, monotonous, or lifeless, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Cows are very sociable, they even have best friends! Cows love treats and attention just as much as a dog or cat does.
Farmers take a lot of care to keep their cattle happy, and there are plenty of unusual treats that cows love, we’ll be taking a look at some of them in this article.
Grass? GRASS? Cows spend most of their lives in fields full of grass, so it’s not obvious why grass would be a treat for them, but there’s a simple answer…
Cows trample, flatten, and eat all the grass in a field surprisingly quickly, depleting the quality of the remaining grass for grazing.
If you’ve walked in the country you might have noticed cows sticking their heads out beyond their fence to get at the fresh, long grass on the outside of their fields.
A freshly picked clump of long grass is very appealing to a cow in a trampled pasture! Many cows will come over to the fence for you to take your fresh grass offering.
Farmers often give their cows hay to top up their diet. They love it!
The most common hay is made from the Alfalfa plant, because it’s fast growing and nutrient dense, maximizing the number of cattle who can graze on any given acreage.
Farmers usually hang the hay from hay nets, which are large nets that the hay sticks out of, so the cows can reach up and grab some whenever they want.
3. Cattle Cubes
Cattle cubes are small chunks of dried and compressed plant materials. Interestingly, they are usually not cubes at all but cylindrical, due to how they are created with an extruding machine.
Cattle cubes are made from various plant materials, usually byproducts from the agricultural industry plus a protein supplement which helps them grow large and stay healthy.
4. Salt Lick
Salt licks are extremely common in the equestrian world, but they are equally loved by cows, goats, and even guinea pigs!
Also known as salt blocks, mineral blocks, or mineral licks, salt licks are packed full of vital nutrients and minerals that can be hard to come by in the pasture and help keep the cows happy and healthy.
5. Fruit or Vegetables
Cows are herbivores, and although they eat mostly grass, in the wild they would forage for root vegetables or fallen fruits like apples quite happily.
Cows’ stomachs and teeth are specifically designed for chewing and extracting all the nutrients they need from energy-poor sources like grass, but they will not pass up on a tasty carrot or apple.
Fruit & Veg That are Suitable For Cows:
- Leafy greens like cabbage
- Sugar Beets
Source: Michigan State University, Dept. of Animal Science
Important tip:If the cows are not yours, never feed them anything except grass without the farmer’s approval. Many local farmers will leave alfalfa cubes or similar cattle treats nearby for people to feed the cows.
6. Cow Brush
Cows love being brushed. If you ever see cows out on a hillside you’ll notice them rubbing up against trees or hedges to scratch their backs and necks.
Many farmers noticed this behavior and realized that cows in flat fields had no way to scratch themselves if they wanted to.
Thankfully, some creative farmers invented a genius contraption that cows love: The Cow Brush!
Cow brushes are large, heavy duty brushes that are placed in fields and barns to let the cows rub up against them to brush themselves. Some cow brushes are static, while others are mechanical and rotate.
Cow brushes have a huge list of benefits apart from just being enriching for the cows. Cow brushes can help improve circulation, prevent skin conditions, fend off flies or other pests, keep them clean, and help prevent mastitis, a common injury in dairy cows.
7. Alfalfa Cubes
Alfalfa is the plant from which most hay is made, so cows already know and love the taste of it.
Alfalfa cubes are small, compressed cubes of alfalfa plant material, sometimes supplemented with protein or salts to make them more nutritious and tasty for the cows.
8. Oats, Corn, or other Grains
Some cows have their diets topped up with nutrient-dense grains over the winter, to help them through the months when the temperature is too cold for grass to grow.
9. A Pet Behind the Ears
Cows are sociable creatures who can form strong bonds with humans. Cows are friendly and inquisitive and love to be petted, especially behind their ears where they have a high density of nerve endings.
Be sure to avoid their eyes since they can be sensitive just like humans, and check out our full guide to petting cows here.
Should You Feed Treats To Cows?
While cows certainly love treats, it’s important to remember that farmed cows are often on very strict diets, and may be taking other dietary supplements already.
You should only feed treats to cows if you have the farmer’s permission first, in case they are on a specific diet, or they have allergies you don’t know about.
Are There Any Treats That Are Bad For Cows?
There are plenty of things you could give cows that wouldn’t be good for them.
Cows’ stomachs are specially designed to extract protein from grass and foliage, so feeding them meat would wreak havoc with their digestive system.
In addition, many treats are not specifically bad for the cows, but are bad for the farm. Some cows are grass-fed to enhance the quality of the meat, and feeding them fatty oats or other grains would create undesirable fat in the meat.
There are lots of great treats for cows, both edible treats like salt licks and alfalfa cubes, and physical treats like cattle brushes and being petted behind the ears!
If you are lucky enough to live on a farm or homestead and have your own cattle, try out some of these treats for yourself to keep your cattle happy and healthy.
Make sure to get the farmer’s permission before feeding anything to cows that don’t belong to you.