Chocolate. Mmmmm! The only connection I ever made between chocolate and a dairy farm is the milk that is used to make the chocolate. Then I learned that some dairy farms are using chocolate to feed their cows. Sweet! And it’s not just a special treat for Valentine’s, Easter, Halloween or the like. The cows get chocolate ALL. YEAR. LONG. Bet it doesn’t even affect their waistlines. Lucky girls!
Garrett and Libby Eiholzer and their partners at Ivy Lakes Dairy, and Taylor Clifford of Locust Spring Farm, dished about the sweet concoction they use in caring for their cows in our Q & A... we'll get to that in a minute. First let's take a look at the different mixes we're talking about...
This is the mix of ground chocolate used at Ivy Lakes Dairy.
This is a mix of ground chocolate and bakery goods used by Locust Springs Farm. It looks almost like a chocolate-colored corn meal.
All together now!
Each farm’s individual ‘sweetener’ is then mixed into a cow’s regular food (called Total Mixed Ration or TMR) that is given to the animals as part of a balanced diet. At Ivy Lakes Dairy, this is what the combination of the ground up chocolate/bakery waste + the cow’s regular food looks like...
Using these bakery items and chocolate for feed keeps them from going into landfills. This is just one of the many ways farmers are instilling good environmental stewardship practices.
Now the Q & A ...
Q: What exactly is the chocolate given to cows?
A: Libby: Our feed has bakery waste (stale cookies, bagels, bread, etc.) and chocolate (imperfect candy from Hershey's). These are chopped up and mixed with other ingredients to make a grain pre-mix, in order to help provide the correct amount of starch, sugar and fat to the cow's diet.
Q: Does their food smell like actual chocolate or baked goods?
A: Taylor: Yes! Last winter we had a batch that must have had peppermint patties or something similar in it as the entire barn smelled like peppermint when we were feeding it. The cows really enjoyed that!
Q: How often do cows get to eat the chocolate mix?
A: Libby: Year-round! It's one of the ways that cows are such great recyclers - they can eat and get nutrients out of things that would otherwise be thrown away.
Our cows get 120 pounds of total mixed ration a day…17 pounds of that is grain, and half a percent of that is the bakery/chocolate waste, so really, they get only about .08 of a pound!
Q: How did the cows react to the chocolate/bakery mix… Do they have a sweet tooth?
A: Taylor: The cows enjoy feeding time, but some of them went really nuts for the bakery meal. I think that just like people, some cows enjoy sweeter things than others – we have a few that will eat baked goods we make for ourselves out of our hands!
Q: Were you ever tempted to taste it yourself?
A: Libby: Yes. Sometimes there are some pieces of chocolate that stand out, but they’re very small, like pebble-sized. Garrett eats the Reese’s Pieces (his personal favorite candy!) when he can find them.
Life without chocolate... NOOOOOOOO!
There’s always room for chocolate (in moderation, of course). Even on dairy farms. Ivy Lakes and Locust Spring work with a nutritionist to ensure their cows are getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy and comfortable. And on these farms, that means making sure the ladies get a smidge of chocolate every day.
American Dairy Association North East is one of 19 state and regional promotion organizations working under the umbrella of the United Dairy Industry Association. It is the local affiliate of the National Dairy Council®, which has been conducting nutrition education and nutrition research programs since 1915. For more information, visit www.americandairy.com.