The ghosts and goblins of Halloween have scattered. We're back to Standard Time. Santa’s already made his debut in stores even before we’ve had the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving. And there's the shift from all things pumpkin spice to eggnog and peppermint. A sure sign of the holiday season in full swing. Only dairy cows seem impervious to it all. Their taste for pumpkin is just awakening as the leftover pumpkins from the pumpkin patches make their way into cows' feed.
From Pumpkin Patch to Dairy Farm
Tim's Pumpkin Patch in Marietta, New York, hauls the remaining pumpkins from its 65-acre patch to nearby Maple Lane Farms Dairy for the delectable delight of the farm's more than 1,000 dairy cows.
“We put the leftover pumpkins in silage trucks and bring them up to our bunk silo,” said Erica Leubner, who co-owns Tim’s Pumpkin Patch with her husband, Tim, and their three daughters. “They get scooped up with the payloader and put into the mixer-wagon with the rest of their mixed feed.”
In addition to owning and operating Tim’s Pumpkin Patch, Tim also runs Maple Lane Farms Dairy with his brother and sister.
“Most people do not realize that dairy farming is our main profession and that the pumpkin business was a side business that grew,” said Erica. “Everyone asks, ‘What do you do with all of the pumpkins that do not sell?’ This is my perfect opportunity to tell them about our dairy farm and how we feed pumpkins to our cows.”
Cows and pumpkins - the perfect pairing.
Believe it or not, cows and pumpkins are a perfect pairing on multiple levels.
Because cows have four stomachs, it gives them the ability to digest foods – like leftover pumpkins – that people cannot, ensuring that an entire patch of pumpkins won’t go to waste at the end of the season. It’s one of the many reasons cows are considered the “ultimate recyclers.”
In turn, the pumpkins provide many benefits to the cows and dairy farmers. Pumpkins are included in the cows’ feed, which also consists of corn silage, haylage and various grains. The pumpkins serve as a good supplemental protein and energy source. Because of those nutritional benefits, the addition of pumpkins also helps to increase the cows’ milk production.
Daughter Claudia Leubner says the cows can't seem to get enough of the seasonal blend.
“One day Tim decided that he was going to start feeding pumpkins to the cows, and they devoured them,” said Erica. “The cows notice the difference in taste of the freshly chopped pumpkin. They crave it, they eat more of it.”
If you thought pumpkin was a year-round additive to the cows’ feed, it isn’t. Just like it is for the millions of Americans who have a short window to consume pumpkin spice everything, the cows’ pumpkin spice feed is also only available for a limited time.
Here's another favorite food that ends up in cows feed... can you guess what it is?
American Dairy Association North East is one of 16 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.