17 April 2023

What do cows and bulls eat?

By Killian

What do cows and bulls eat?

Cows are herbivorous animals that eat a variety of plants. They mainly eat grass, but they can also consume other types of plant matter, such as roots and even tubers. The bulls, which is how the males are known, follow exactly the same diet. In a single day, a cow or bull can eat 10% of its body weight.

Cows and bulls, whose scientific name is bos taurus, are animals that are commonly known as bovine cattle because they belong to the bovidae family. Unfortunately, they are some of the most exploited animals in the food industry, slaughtered for meat, skin, and milk, but also highly exploited for other uses. They are large and heavy animals, of which various breeds have been produced that can weigh up to a ton. Faced with these large weights and dimensions that characterize bovids, have you ever wondered how much they eat per day? Continue reading this AnimalWised article and find out what do cows and bulls eat, how much do they eat and much more..

Are cows and bulls herbivorous or omnivorous?

cows and bulls they are herbivorous animals that they feed exclusively on plant sources, something that may seem curious considering their large sizes. However, it is very common to observe large animals, such as elephants, that have a plant-based diet.

The feeding process for cows is quite complex, since a single cow or bull can consume several kilos of grass per day. First, the animal twists the grass on its tongue so that it can then be cut with its lower teeth and begins a long journey through its digestive system to obtain the nutrients. these bovids they are ruminant animalscharacterized by having a stomach divided into four chambers called rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. Thus, the digestive process of cows and bulls is as follows:

  1. Plants crushed by teeth pass into the rumenwhere they mix with a variety of bacteria that aid in their decomposition.
  2. Then the food goes to the reticlewhere it continues to decompose and forms the food bolus, which is regurgitated into the mouth to be further crushed.
  3. The food is then swallowed again and passes to the omasum and abomasumwhere digestive enzymes end up breaking it down and absorbing the nutrients.

In addition, cows also have a small intestine, large intestine, cecum, and colon, which are involved in completing the digestive process to absorb all the nutrients, minerals, and water that provide proper nutrition. In the same way, fecal substances are stored as a product of digestion and will be excreted.

What do baby cows eat?

cows and bulls they are mammalian animalstherefore, the pups they feed on their mother’s milk. In fact, lactating cows are one of the most used to obtain milk for human consumption, although in recent years this idea has been questioned because, in short, we would be consuming the milk of another species, something that does not normally occur in nature. .

In this sense, calves or steers (which is what the young cows are called), at birth, consume their mother’s milk, which is essential to drink during the first hours because it contains colostrum, a substance that provides the newborn cow immunity to certain diseases. In addition, colostrum is also rich in minerals and proteins that nourish small cows. Naturally a calf is suckled up to 6 months of age.

In the wild, a baby cow or bull would eat grasses or other plants starting at 2-3 months, when its stomach is initially ready to start processing these foods. These first solids also help finish the intestinal maturation process.

What do cows and bulls eat?  - What do baby cows eat?

What do adult cows eat?

the cows eat leaves, grasses, stems, other herbaceous plants, roots and tubers. As long as they are in open fields, these are the foods they opt for when available. The complex digestive system of cows allows them to obtain all the nutrients that these animals need, which are extracted as the food goes through the entire digestion process, which starts from the moment they begin to chew the vegetable matter until it reaches the intestine. thin, where the nutritive components are mainly absorbed.

What do farm cows eat?

We already know that cows are animals that have been heavily domesticated, found worldwide on farms or farms where they are often not in contact with the soil and vegetation, so they are fed with a series of preparations that replace natural food. that these animals take directly from the ground.

In this way, the cows (and also the bulls) on the farm, at birth, they are allowed to be nursed by their mothers or, if she is not there, they are given frozen colostrum that has been reserved for these cases. Approximately three days later, the baby cow is separated from its mother and a diet based on dairy concentrates is started, which is offered for about two or three months. Then they start feeding with grass or hay, but they are also given another type of growth concentrate for up to six months. Subsequently, efforts are made to offer sufficient pastures and mineral salt supplements, but if vegetation is not available, the foods and plants that farm cows eat are:

  • cabbages.
  • turnips.
  • Alfalfa.
  • Oatmeal.
  • Hay.
  • industrial concentrates.

In general, the above describes the feeding of these farm cattle, however, there are specific aspects about the specificity of food in cases such as sick animals, which do not grow as expected, the amount of weight or muscle mass. On the other hand, depending on the destination that the animal will have and the use that it is going to give, that is, depending on whether it is for meat consumption or milk production, adjustments are made in food.

When the cow is pregnant, its diet is also adapted, regardless of whether it has remained in this state naturally or artificially, since it is also very common to artificially fertilize these animals to obtain offspring and use them for human benefit.

What do cows and bulls eat?  - What do adult cows eat?

What do bulls eat?

The diet of bulls in the wild and in captivity is exactly the same as that of cows. Thus, in nature, bulls eat mostly grass fields and meadows, but they can also consume other plants, roots and tubers.

On the other hand, bulls bred in captivity may suffer alterations in their diet depending on the use that is going to be given to the animal.

How much does a cow eat a day?

Now that you know what cows eat, you may be wondering how many pounds of feed a single cow eats per day. Cows and bulls eat large amounts of vegetable matter per day or from concentrates that replace natural feed. However, the amounts vary according to the age of these animals. For example, steers that start to receive solid concentrates are given about 100 grams per day, an amount that is increased until they eat around 2 kg per day.

When these animals grow and their stomachs are developed, the consumption of fresh or dried plant material, such as hay, is offered freely. In general, a cow or a bull can eat around the 10% of your weight per day. In this way, a 750 kg animal could eat about 75 kg of plant food in a single day.

We can also mention that there are some parameters regarding the amounts of vegetable protein. For example, a pregnant cow should have 14% raw protein in its feed, exclusively vegetable. Dairy cows should consume more fresh, high-quality grasses, while steers, when they start eating plant matter, it is recommended that it be high in fiber to stimulate the digestive system.

If you want to read more articles similar to What do cows and bulls eat?we recommend that you enter our section on balanced diets.


  • Lanuza, F. (2006). Calf rearing and dairy replacements. Available at: http://nutriciondebovinos.com.ar/MD_upload/nutriciondebovinos_com_ar/Archivos/RESTRICCI%C3%93N.pdf
  • Ng, J. (2001). bos taurus. Animal Diversity Web. Available at: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Bos_taurus/