If you’ve recently cut your field and have grass clippings all over the place, you’re probably wondering if cows can eat grass clippings.
When it comes to disposing of grass clippings, you ideally have two options —turn them into compost or let cows munch on them.
But the big question is are grass clippings good for cows and if so, what nutritional value if any do they provide for livestock?
Can Cows Eat Grass Clippings?
Cows and horses eat grass so it’s only right to believe that grass clippings are good for cows. But wait, not so fast because grass clippings can actually be harmful to cows and other livestock.
Before allowing cows to graze on grass, it’s important to understand the four stages of grass as an edible material.
- Live grass
- Freshly cut grass
- Drying (fermenting) grass
- Dried grass
Cows have different tolerances for each of the four stages of grass so it’s important to know when it’s safe to feed grass clippings and when to avoid it.
Cows can nibble on large amounts of grass clippings. However, a quick change takes place once the grass is mowed. Since grass is roughly 85 percent water, it begins fermenting within hours, especially in humid environments.
Grass clippings don’t take long to ferment when piled or put in a good ol’ black trash bag. The process of fermentation doesn’t stop there but continues in the cow’s gut, making them ill.
But that’s not all, a dense pile of grass clippings can also incur a deadly case of botulism, which to explain briefly is food poisoning caused by a bacterium, owing to the lack of oxygen.
What Grass Clippings Can Cows Eat?
It’s safe to feed cows grass clippings as long as they are offered immediately when they’ve completely dried or before fermentation begins.
Adding to this, small to moderate amounts of grass clippings are okay because they contain a large amount of carbohydrates compared to other livestock food., which is one of the reasons cows and horses love them so much.
Grass in essence contains three types of sugars —glucose, fructose, and fructans. While glucose and fructose are digestible sugars, fructans are not digested in the cow’s stomach and intestines, so when large amounts pass through the hindgut, they can make the cow sick.
Different animals have different reactions to grass clippings where some can eat them and others should never be fed them.
For example, horses eat grass clippings without chewing them, which causes an increase of starch/sugar in the hindgut.
Cows can safely consume grass clippings as long as it is done before fermentation and decomposition begin, which is approximately 8 hours after mowing.
In fact, cows will avoid grass clippings during fermentation due to the lack of sugars. A company — BioPac’r has recently launched a landscape waste compactor that converted grass clippings in silage for feeding cattle.
How to Make Grass Clipping Safe for Cows?
You can buy the BioPac’r machine to make cattle-safe grass clippings through a process called ensiling. The landscape waste compactor converts grass clippings into cow feed-grade silage.
It is fitted with a high-torque electric motor and is compact enough to slide into the bed of your pickup, flatbed, or trailer, making it easy to transport.
The motor of the compactor is powered by two deep-cycle batteries, which can be recharged with an optional solar panel. However, the compactor does take 28 days to make grass clipping silage.
How to Make Silage Out of Grass Clippings at Home?
If you’re ready to put in the work, you can make silage in the comfort of your home, that is without any high-end machines. This method is especially great if you aren’t looking to make silage on a large scale.
- Grab a Ziploc bag and remove the oxygen from it.
- Put the grass clippings in the Ziploc bag and let them rest for 3 weeks.
- Make sure the bag is free of holes or damage that exposes it to the outside air.
- Remove the grass clippings after 3 weeks and feed them to the cows.
- Silage doesn’t smell pretty but will have a sour, rancid smell, but cows love it.
Do Cows Get Enough Nutrients from Eating Grass Clippings?
Grass clippings aren’t the most nutritious food for cows. They retain a few nutrients and water from grass clippings depending on when you feed them.
Some types of grass such as sugary bermuda grass offer more nutritional value than other types of grass. The best way to enhance the nutritional value of grass clippings for cows is by converting them into silage.
In terms of numbers, silage boasts an approximately 18.5 percent protein content. And protein is a vital nutrient for growth, health, reproduction, and lactation in cattle.
Is it Safe for Cows to Eat Grass Clippings?
Grass silage converted into silage is safe for cows to eat. But another aspect to consider is the pesticides you may have applied on your turf, which may be toxic to cows. Adding to this, the grass clippings must be from weed-free lawns, because most weeds have an undesirable taste and cows will not consume them.
Can Cows Eat Wet Grass?
Wet grass contains 25 percent less organic matter hence is hard for cows to consume. I would refrain from feeding cows wet grass.
Can Sheep Eat Grass Clippings?
Sheep can eat both dry and fresh grass clippings. They even eat silage produced from grass clippings.
Cows can eat grass clippings as long as they are converted into silage first. You can make silage at home in small quantities or invest in an industrial-grade silage machine for large-scale production.
However, I would refrain from feeding grass clippings that have been in contact with pesticides or have weeds in them. This type of grass clippings can affect the long-term health of cows so it’s best to steer clear of them.
I’m Bryan Livingstone, a farmer with 21 years of experience, and I founded FarmingHandbook.com to share the wisdom I’ve gathered. Inspired by my own handbook, this site is your ultimate guide to all things farming. Read More!