Did you know that a significant amount of the food you eat has byproducts associated with it? A byproducts is something that is produced in order to provide a useful primary product. Many of these byproducts can be utilized in some way by other industries, while others cannot.
One of the biggest users of agricultural byproducts in the Central Valley is the Dairy Industry. Every day cattle are consuming the byproducts from what goes into your shopping cart. It’s one of the best ways that the dairy industry is able to stay sustainable and economical.
Almond Hulls are the highest volume byproduct we feed on our family dairy. They are are the outer most layer that grows around the almond you eat, and they are a great source of digestible fiber. Almond hulls are typically fed in the place of corn silage, and they would be basically useless if they couldn’t be fed to cattle.
Wheat straw is what’s left over after the grain has been harvested to make your bread. We feed wheat straw as a fiber based filler in order to keep a balanced ration. Wheat straw would have to be worked into the soil or burned if it couldn’t be fed to cattle.
Canola pellets are an amazing source of protein. They are what’s left over after the canola has been pressed to make cooking oil. Canola pellets are actually fairly expensive, yet they have basically no uses other than cattle feed.
Cotton seed remains in abundance after the cotton has been harvested, and it would be quite a headache for the farmer if it all was left in the field to germinate the next season. Yet milk cows love it, and it too has become a rather valuable feed in the cattle world.
We feed a lot of corn byproducts, but an interesting one is corn gluten. It’s the leftovers after making high fructose corn syrup, but it still has a lot of energy left over that the cattle can utilize.
A final example is bakery. Bakery is ground up donuts and bread that’s gone stale or been mishandled. It’s no longer suitable for human consumption, but that doesn’t mean it has to go to the landfill. It’s perfectly safe to feed to cattle, and it’s an affordable ingredient to help make a balanced ration.
All these byproducts and many more get mixed together with the alfalfa hay, corn silage, and grain corn to make what we call TMR. TMR stands for Total Mixed Ration, and you should think of it as casserole for cows. The byproducts listed above play a significant role in reducing the environmental footprint of your glass of milk. If it were not for dairy cattle, then most of these products would have no other uses. They would rot in a landfill, or have to be composted and spread back onto the fields. Instead they are able to be converted into one of the healthiest products on earth! That’s something to think about as you drink your glass of milk with dinner this evening…
Thanks for reading! Your dairy products are made here.
Jason Mast is a fourth generation farmer born and raised in the Central Valley. He is a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo graduate with a degree in Agriculture Science, and currently works alongside his father and brother to manage their dairy in Denair, CA.