Can Cows Eat Bread?

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In today’s carb-fearing world, it seems unlikely that cattle owners would feed bread to their cows. While bread may be the enemy for many popular diets, it is a popular staple on many cattle farms across the country. It may seem shocking, but it is true!

3 cows in the farm

Can cows eat bread?

Cows can eat bread and most of them love it! Many cattle owners feed bread to their cows to supplement their regular diets. Bread provides energy and extra calories for cows, without causing insulin-related issues. Weight gain is often the goal, so there is no fear of carbs among the herd.

Droughts and seasonal changes cause grass and hay supplies to diminish, leading to higher food costs across the board. Feeding bread to cattle is a low-cost solution for many farmers to help add some much-needed extra calories to their herd’s diet.

There are some special precautions all cattle owners should take before feeding any bread to their cattle.

Is Bread Healthy for Cattle?

Bread is healthy for cattle because their bodies process it much differently than ours do.

Thanks to their ruminant digestive system, cows can more easily process the starches and sugars in bread. In moderation, bread is considered healthy for cows overall. (source)

sliced bread on top

Can Cows Eat Moldy Bread?

Cows can eat bread with a little mold on it, but most farmers would tell you it is not worth the possible cost.

Small amounts of moldy bread should not hurt a cow, but the mold can cause digestive upset in large amounts. There is really no need to feed moldy bread to a cow if it can be avoided.

Can Bread Kill a Cow?

If fed in moderation to healthy cows, bread should never be the direct cause of a cow’s death.

If fed in large amounts at one time, bread can be dangerous for a cow.

Too much bread can cause bloat, a gaseous buildup in a cow’s body that can be fatal if left untreated.

How Much Bread Can Cows Eat?

Cows will eat a lot of bread at one time, often past the point of being full. Bread should always be fed to cows in moderation and only in addition to the regular diet.

Cow inside cage waiting to eat

Forages like grass and hay should continue to make up the main portion of their diets. Too much bread can prevent cows from eating their normal forage.    

Can Cows Eat Any Kind of Bread?

Yes! Cows can eat any kind of unmolded bread. Most bakeries will give out a variety of breads including loaf bread, buns, cinnamon rolls, wheat bread, white bread, pitas, tortillas, snack cakes, English muffins, regular muffins, and more. Cows can eat all of that including other types as well. They really seem to enjoy the variety of options.

Can Cows Eat Stale Bread?

Cows can and will eat stale bread. Bread purchased from a bakery will more than likely be stale bread and that is fine! Cows are not picky, and they almost always love the bread given to them, even if it is a little stale.

Can Cows Eat Raw Bread Dough?

bread dough

Although cows can eat a variety of bread and bread-based products, it is not safe to feed them raw bread dough. It can ferment before they consume it, which can result in possible alcohol-poisoning in cows, an illness that can be deadly. All bread fed to cows must be fully cooked and cannot have ever been introduced to any water or stored in excess heat. (source)

Where Should I Store My Cow’s Bread?

Bread should be stored in a cool, safe place on the farm, out of the rain and heat. Water or excess heat can cause bread to ferment, something that is not safe for a cow’s stomach. Many farmers use food-grade barrels with lids or empty grain bins to store their bread inside enclosed barns or feed rooms. Cows should never have free access to stored bread.

Reasons to Feed Bread to Cows

There are several great reasons to feed bread to cows. Here are just a few of the most common ones.  

1. Weight Gain

Cattle owners feed bread to their cows mainly because it is a cost-effective way to add weight to their cows, especially when hay quality is low. Bread helps to put weight on cows that are on the thinner side and supports weight maintenance in healthy cows.

2. Warmth on Cold Nights

Consumed bread converts to energy for cows, keeping them warm on cold nights if fed at dark or in the evenings. Their digestive system will work throughout the night to digest the bread, allowing their bodies to continue making extra heat in colder weather

3. Make Friendlier Cows

cow waiting to be fed

Feeding bread to cows also is a great way to make cows extra friendly and easier to handle. Once they get use to eating bread, they will often come right up to you because cows are extremely food motivated! Eventually, you will be able to move them easier and call them up with just the sight of bread.

4. Use Bread to Catch Cattle

Catching loose cows is easier as well if you can simply show them some bread and get them to come back into the fence. Sometimes, a cow or herd of cows will follow you while you hold up some bread on the back of a truck or four-wheeler. Many farmers have caught their cows using just a pack of loaf bread as bait!

5. Recycle Leftover Bread

Feeding stale bread to cows is a great way to recycle leftover bread in your own house as well as that of family and friends. Instead of throwing it out, cattle farmers can use it on their farms. This way the bread is not wasted, and the cows are happy, a win-win situation for all involved.

What Other Farm Animals Can Eat Bread?

Pigs and chickens are the only other farm animals that can safely eat and process bread.

Horses, donkeys, goats, and sheep should not be fed bread as their bodies are not able to process bread effectively.

Cow and Chickens in the Farm

In small quantities (like a piece of your sandwich crust) it should be fine. Use caution with larger quantities though as it can cause gastric upset or even death in these animals, especially if eaten in large quantities.  

Where Can I Find Bread for Cows?

Bakeries across the country regularly produce excess bread and what does not sell in the stores by the expiration date is often discarded. Sometimes the discarded bread can be delivered directly to a farm, but many farmers must drive to the bakery’s public storefront to pick it up.

You can ask your local bakery if they have any animal bread for sale but be ready to be added to a waiting list in certain locations.

What is Animal Bread?

Animal bread refers to the close-to or out-of-date bread that is being removed by bakeries.

It is the bread is no longer legally suitable to be sold to the public for human consumption. It can, however, be sold directly to farmers to feed animals like cows, chickens and pigs.

Old bread can be feed to animals

How Much Does Animal Bread Cost?

It depends on the area and the specific bakery, but many places sell animal bread at an extremely discounted rate.

Sometimes it can be as cheap as $10 to $20 per truck bed load. This is a great deal for most farmers compared to the price of grain, which is often at least $10 per bag.

Final Thoughts

Cows can eat bread and it is good for them! While it is not as healthy as vegetables or fruit, bread helps to keep cattle fat, happy and warm during the colder months when hay and grass is scarce! It does not change the taste or quality of the beef and it helps keep food costs down. It also does not hurt to be able to catch a cow with a loaf of bread, if possible, is much safer than chasing them down the road!

April Lee

I have a love for all things farmhouse design. I am currently working on designing a custom built farmhouse from the ground up. While the actual build is a few years out, I am using this blog as a place to consolidate all of my research and design ideas. I hope that you find the information here helpful so that you too can have the farmhouse of your dreams! Remember, you don't need a farmhouse to implement farmhouse design in any space.