Can Cows Eat Corn: Why, How, What Part, Interesting Facts

We find cows munching almost all the time of the day. Cows spend nearly 8 hours a day chewing their cuds in their nature. So, have you ever wondered what do they eat?

Corn is a common feed among beef cattle across the US. That being said, cows’ digestive system is not formed to intake lots of corn, as they mainly depend on grass as their primary source of food. Still, beef cows are fed with corn in order to increase their weight because corns are high in starch.

So, it would be interesting to delve deep into the reality behind cows eating corn and answer its queries. At the end of the article, we will be able to state whether cows actually should eat corn, and if yes, then why, how, and which part of it. 

Without much ado, let’s begin our journey!

Image Credit: Corn on the cob from Maxpixel

Can cows eat corn husks?

As we stated above, cows are often fed with corn, which is an excellent energy source. However, is it really safe for cows to eat corn husks? Let’s find out.

Cows can eat corn husks. Plant matter such as leaves, grass, hay, and crop leftovers, like corn husks, make up 90% of ruminants’ diet. However, it may be tough to digest corn husks; as a result, cows will eat corn grains, followed by the husks, leaves, and finally, the corn stalk. 

You would be intrigued to note that cows can eat food grains that are hard for humans to digest. 

Can cows eat corn cobs?

Image Credit: Corn cob from Maxpixel

Cows are ruminants, i.e., they have 4 stomachs. As a result, they can eat almost any forage, chew them again and again, and digest them to get energy.

Corn is grass from the plant perspective, and cows love to eat every part of this grain- from kernel to stalk. So if a cow stands in a field filled with standing corns, it will go straight for the cobs, eating them first and then the remainder of the plant. Cows can eat corn cobs as well as digest them.

Cobmeal is fed to dairy cows on many dairy farms. However, in most cases, after stripping the kernels off the corn, the left cob is fed to cows and other livestock. 

Can cows eat corn stalks?

Crop leftovers can be a feasible and cost-effective feeding option for cattle producers. 

That being said, cows can eat corn stalks. But as we have stated earlier, if the choice is left with the cows, they will consume stalk at last and the grain first. 

Can cows eat corn leaves?

Grazing cows on cornfield residue is something that can commonly be found across the US. With the view that corns can be given as food supplements, cows are left on cornfields to graze themselves.

Cows can eat and digest corn leaves. However, they will first choose to consume the most palatable parts of the plant. In other words, cows eat corn in ascending order of their nutrient content, and leaves stand at the lesser edible end. 

Can you feed cows just corn?

Farmers may feed supplementary feeds to cows on pastures that require more energy than grasses can provide.

Yes, a cow can be fed just corn. In fact, as we stated above, cows love to eat corns, and they will happily feed on kernels and cob before moving to the husks, leaves, and stalks. 

Can cows eat corn tortillas?

Image Credit: Tortillas by NatureFriend from Pixabay

So, although eating corns is not a part of cows’ natural diet, they can consume corns. But can cows eat tortillas that are made from corn?

It is surprising but true that cows can eat tortillas. In fact, many producers and farmers prefer to feed their ruminants with unmolded bread varieties, including tortillas, buns, cinnamon rolls, loaf bread, etc. The best part is that cows enjoy eating these foods. 

There are many good reasons to feed cows with tortillas, including:

  • Weight gain
  • Provide energy
  • Keeping cows warm on cold nights, etc. 

Why are cows fed corn?

Forage is good for cows in order to help their stomach continue to grow. However, farmers introduce corns and other grains to enhance cows’ digestible energy.

Therefore, feeding cows with corn is a way to provide them with the necessary digestible energy that is required to gain weight, develop, and reproduce. 

Is corn good for cows to eat?

Image Credit: Cattle eating corn silage by Peter Van den Bossche (CC BY-SA 2.0) from Wikimedia

The question that might linger around is should cows eat corn, or is corn suitable for ruminants?

We can say both- yes and no. Corn can be a good source of digestible energy for cows. But feeding cows 100% of these grains can upset their digestive system. Cows’ stomachs can digest both celluloses as well as starch. However, if they are fed with 100% starch, their gastrointestinal system can do in a complete shock.

Therefore, corns should not make up the entirety of a cow’s diet. Instead, it should be typically a blend of several feeds, prepared in the proper ratio to provide the cow with the necessary nutrients. 

How much corn can cows eat?

Cows diet essentially comprises plant-based matters, which include grass, plants, and grains.

A cow’s intake of corn as a supplement or finishing diet would depend on its age, physical stature, etc. For example, if a cow is hungry and left to graze a cornfield, it may keep grazing until it gets full. But if fed with hay or grass before, its corn intake would be less. So, assertively it cannot be stated how much corn a cow will eat at once. 

How much corn to feed a cow per day?

A cow’s diet should never be made of all-in-all corn. Instead, there should be a limited consumption of this grain on a daily basis.

According to Eric Bailey, the beef nutritionist at the University of Missouri Extension, one must limit corn consumption to a maximum of 6 pounds per cow per day. However, if one combines hay with corn, it is preferable to feed mature cows with 1 pound of whole-kernel maize for every 2 pounds of hay consumed. 

Bailey also stated that this limitation should primarily be followed during the winter months, as corns can easily replace the poor hay condition in the colder seasons. 

That being said, it is essential to manage the corn feed as per the age, health condition, and other factors related to cows. Also, since corns are high in starch, it is advisable to add protein supplements to cows’ diets, especially in the case of pregnant cows. 

How do you feed corn stalks to cattle?

Corn stalks are the last thing cows eat, especially when nothing else is left to feed on. However, grazing them on stalks can be cost-effective. 

It is better to feed your cow on drought-damaged cornfields, as it would ensure the consumption of a lower amount of nitrates while grazing. Also, feed cows with hay before leaving them on cornfields to graze and manage their grazing to prevent them from eating the corn plant’s lower part (6- 8 inches). 

What part of the corn plant do cows eat?

Corn can be an excellent food supplement to enhance the energy level in cows.

Cows will eat every part of a corn plant. However, they would mainly start with corn grains. In other words, cows will usually choose the highest section of the corn plant first and gradually acclimatize to any nitrates.

How to get cows to eat corn stalk bales?

Cows will work their way through a bale, eating the leaves and husks but not the stalks.

Therefore, you can get your cows to eat corn stalk bales by offering them processed bales. It is a practical approach to use corn crop waste for feed. Bales that have been processed might be fed as part of a total mixed diet or as a feed bunk.

Should cows eat corn?

Corns make great food supplements, energy feed, and cows love to eat corns. But the question that still lingers should cow eat corn?

We have started that feeding cows corn can be an excellent way to increase their weight, but too much corn can cause them health issues. So, corn itself will not cause any problem in cattle, is taken in a controlled way. 


Before wrapping up, we would like to state that corns are safe for cows. Although their stomach may find it challenging to digest corn kernels, this grain should harm the bovines. Nonetheless, you should always give a check to your cow’s corn intake. 

Too much corn can cause too many stomach issues!

It is better to offer cows a combination of hays, grass, and corn to maintain a balanced diet. 

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