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What do Cows Eat? Everything to Know

What do Cows Eat? Everything to Know

Nov 10th 2023

Having cows on your farm or ranch is a great addition, but you need to know what their meals consist of before even thinking about getting them. It’s a lot more complex than just grass and water. This article will dive into what a cow’s diet is and how to give them the ideal balance of nutrients necessary for their well-being. Read on for more!

Understanding the Basics of Cow Diets

Cows can digest a lot of different food that humans can’t, so it’s important to make sure they have the right vegetation. They also have a four-chambered stomach that is designed to eat mostly grasses and other fibrous foods. Cows tend to eat 2% of their body weight in food each day, which can be up to 26 pounds of food. This is quite impressive!

Grasses and Legumes – Providing Key Nutrients to a Cow’s Diet

Obviously, one of the biggest foods cows eat grass, but it’s more important to their diet than one might think. Grass and any sort of legumes contain key vitamins and minerals that help with their digestion. It also helps cows feel like they’re full. Fresh grass can be their primary source of food, especially during warmer months, but you may have to save grass up for when winter rolls around.

Hay – The Essential Roughage for Cows

Hay is for horses…and cows! Hay is actually a dried grass, so it would make sense why cows love them so much. Hay can be a great food source for cows when it’s winter, and fresh grass isn’t necessarily available in open pastures. It’s also somewhat affordable, so make sure to stock up as much as you can in the warmer months to be prepared.

Grain Feeds – Offering High-Energy Foods for Cows

Another option you can give your cows is grains. Grass is most preferred as a food source, but if your animals need additional energy, grains are a great way to go for that and protein. Also, grain feeds can help increase milk production, so if you’re planning on having a dairy farm, grains may be a go-to food group for you.

Supplements and Treats – Enriching Your Cow’s Diet

Everyone deserves a treat or two, especially your animals. Cows love getting supplements and the occasional treat. They can have salt blocks, fruit snacks, and mineral mixes as part of a treat or special food snack. This can give them some content in that it differs from their traditional diet.

Water – Needed by All Livestock Species, Including Cows!

This should be a given, but giving your livestock water is essential! Cows can drink up to 4-5 gallons of water per day, and if your cows are lactating, they’ll need even more to help produce milk. Make sure you have a reliable irrigation system on your farm or ranch before you start thinking about adding cows because, without water, you can’t have any sort of animals.


In conclusion, cows have specific dietary needs that require a careful balance of various food sources. A diet primarily consisting of grasses, legumes, and hay provides the necessary fiber and nutrients for healthy digestion. Grain feeds offer the additional energy and protein required for optimal productivity, while supplements and treats enrich their diet with essential minerals and vitamins. And don’t forget Lone Star Western Decor has all the information you'd need on maintaining a western home and ranch life in one place!