Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake


On the eve of the French Revolution when peasants were rioting due to the lack of bread, Marie Antoinette supposedly said, "Let them eat cake." While we know Marie Antoinette never actually said those words, it seemed to be a fitting quote for our cattle's diet.

How does a callous remark like "Let them eat cake" fit into our cattle's nutrition? Well, our cows and calves are never rioting because they are out of bread, although they do get a little boisterous when the feed truck comes into the pen or pasture. It isn't bread they want. They really do want cake, and that's what we feed them.

Yes. You read that right. We feed our cattle cake, but they don't get German chocolate, strawberry or vanilla. Their cake isn't tiered, and it definitely isn't frosted. In fact, their cake doesn't resemble cake at all, besides sharing the same name.

Cake for cattle does not equal cake for humans.
I'll be honest: when I first started dating Royce and he mentioned the "cake feeder," I thought I hadn't heard him correctly. "Cake" was not a word I was familiar with when referencing cattle feed. Of course, I wasn't overly familiar with beef cattle anyway, but I knew my mom fed "cubes" to her cows so surely Royce had meant the "cube feeder." This happened a couple more times until I finally asked him what he was talking about. Nonchalantly, he replied, "It is the feeder for the cake." Thanks for that super detailed explanation, dear, but I still have no clue what "cake" is. "You don't know what cake is?! You know, the cubes you feed cows?" Ohhhhh! Now I've got it.

That being said, don't feel bad if the first thought that crossed your mind was of a cow eating a three-tiered wedding cake. My mind might have been the same place at first. Now, I can successfully summon the correct images when someone references feeding cake. Victory!

Cattle cake comes in many formulations with different ingredients and varying protein levels. Every beef producer chooses a ration that works best for his or her operation. On our farm, we are currently feeding a 20% Range ration that is largely corn-based. Depending on what we are trying to do with our cattle (add weight or maintain), we can choose to feed a different formulation of cake. 

When we first start feeding the calves cake, they don't necessarily know how to eat it at first, but they pick up on it quickly. Cattle love cake, and within a day or two, they come running when the pickup with the cake feeder drives up. It is much like my two dogs when I ask them if they are hungry. Of course they are hungry - even if they just ate! 

This is the 22nd post (posted on the 25th day of November) of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!

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