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Can Cows Eat Oranges?

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Cows adore fruits and adding them to their diet is an effective way to provide the nutrients needed for growth.

Oranges, for instance, are superfruits best known for their health-boosting benefits to the human body, but humans are not the only ones who can benefit from these nutrient-packed fruits.

Can cows eat oranges?

Oranges are a safe and healthy treat for cows when eaten in moderation. These citrus fruits are rich in the key vitamins and nutrients required for the growth and development of cows. What’s more, cows can safely consume all the parts of an orange, including the flesh, peels, and seeds.

Fresh whole and sliced orange fruits with leaves on wooden crate

Here is everything you need to know about feeding oranges to your cows. 

Are Oranges Good for Cows?

Oranges are among the common fruits fed to cows to complement their dry feed and enhance their diet. Oranges are also a great way to provide your cows with roughage to support gut health.

Oranges contain about 54% soluble sugars that lend energy to cows for their day-to-day activities.

Cows also gain vital trace elements from eating oranges. Their bodies require trace elements in small quantities and a lack of them can be detrimental to your livestock’s health, sometimes even resulting in death.

Oranges are also beneficial for milk production. They contain proteins that give the milk a higher nutritional profile.

A recent study also found that cows that regularly eat oranges have a higher milk yield. According to the study, Friesian cows that were fed an orange-induced diet had a higher milk yield of 1.1 – 3.9 pounds per day.

As you can see, owners can feed oranges to their cows to meet their nutrient requirements for growth, production, reproduction, and energy.

But like other sweet treats, oranges contain small amounts of amino acids and shouldn’t be your cows’ primary feed.

As a result, farmers should pair oranges with complementary feeds to ensure the cows gain the necessary nutrients for growth.

Otherwise, your cows risk developing rumen complications, especially when the amount of oranges served is higher than the complementary feed.

Fresh oranges fruit on white wooden table

That said, here are the nutritional values of feeding oranges to your herd:

Vitamin CSupports the structural integrity of cells and protects them from damage. Boosts the cow’s immune system to help them fight diseases. Acts as a powerful antioxidant to help cows fight radicals that cause inflammation.
Soluble fiberEncourages the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. It also helps keep the cow’s colon healthy to ensure its stool is regular and consistent.
CalciumSupports the development of skeletal tissues and keeps muscles strong. Cows need 4 – 10 times more calcium in the transition period to develop a calf, produce colostrum, and induce milk production.
PotassiumBoosts milk production in dairy cows. It also improves their immune function and reproductive performance. 
IronA crucial element for grazing and non-grazing cattle. Helps with weight gain and hemoglobin formation, and improves immunity.
ProteinHelps with body maintenance and milk production.
PhosphorousPromotes teeth and bone formation. Improves the fertility and calving rates in cows and the growth rate in calves.
Woman feeding two brown cows on a farm

How to Serve Oranges to Cows

As we have already established, oranges have numerous health benefits for cows as they do for humans.

For example, the nutritional composition of oranges has been found to increase weight gain in cows that eat oranges compared to those on a strict grain diet.

Essentially, oranges improve feed conversion efficiency in cows, which aids in their weight gain. This is thanks to the presence of essential oils in oranges which protect proteins from being degraded in the rumen.

As essential as they may be, it is vital to practice restraint when feeding oranges to your cows to avoid harming them.

A mature dairy cow consumes about 120 pounds of feed in a day, and their daily orange intake should not be more than 10% of their diet, which is 12 pounds.

Exceeding this recommended amount isn’t advisable because limonene in the oranges can impede feed intake, thus negatively affecting the growth of your cows.

Top view of peeled and whole oranges on gray background

Peeled or Unpeeled

The next time you’re serving up oranges to your cows, consider leaving the peels on.

Besides acquiring vitamins and fiber from orange peels, cows also get an anti-microbial boost from the essential oils present in the peels.

Orange peels contain d-limonene, which is a powerful anti-microbial agent used in cleaning products.

A cow’s gut is full of microbes, orange peels are a great way to get rid of them.

Can Cows Eat Orange Seeds?

Like the peels, orange seeds are also safe for cows to eat. Cows have been enjoying orange seeds with the orange flesh without any serious issues. Therefore, don’t stress about not removing the seeds.

How to Prep Oranges for Your Cows

Now that we’ve established that all parts of the orange are safe, how should you prepare them for your cows?

Hands of woman washing ripe orange under faucet in kitchen sink

Here’s how to prep and serve oranges to cows:

  • Wash them – Wash your oranges thoroughly before feeding them to your cows to get rid of dirt and pesticide residue on the peels. If you’re not growing oranges on your farm, ensure you buy organic oranges to reduce the risk of contamination.
  • Don’t peel them – Unpeeled oranges are healthier and more nutritious. Cows also love the peels, so there’s no need to remove them.
  • Serve them whole – Cows can easily break down an orange so there’s no need to chop them into smaller pieces. After all, a cow can consume up to 12 pounds of oranges in a day and chopping oranges for several cows is tedious.
  • Incorporate them into dry feed – Add oranges to your cow’s dry feed in a ratio of 1:10 to enhance their diet.  

Final Thoughts

Oranges are a healthy treat for cows when eaten in moderation. Giving your cows oranges provides them with essential nutrients for growth and improves their gut health.

Luckily, they are readily available and affordable enough to complement your herd’s daily feed from time to time.