For the most part, cows enjoy eating grass, grain, hay, corn and other forage. Occasionally, to the surprise of their owners, cows will chew on wood and even eat the bark off trees.
Farmers sometimes discover that their cows are chewing fence posts or barn wood. They may even catch them eating the bark off trees. There a few main reasons why cows begin chewing on wood around your farm or eating tree bark.
Cows need several vital minerals to keep their bodies functioning properly. Just like humans, cows will crave certain foods or substances when they are running low on important nutrients.
Phosphorous and sodium deficiencies will both cause cows to crave wood. Cows will chew on or even eat wood on your property as well as tree bark to try and get both nutrients.
You may not believe it, but cows can get bored! Cows can become bored due to confinement in small areas and not having much area to roam on. One of the most noticeable indications of boredom is chewing on wood.
Cows can become lonely from a lack of companionship. Cows are by nature herd animals which means they are happiest when they are with other cows or livestock.
If they are lonely, they may act out in certain ways including chewing on wood and eating bark.
Can Wood or Bark Hurt Cows?
Most wood and bark is not harmful to cows, but sometimes it can be dangerous depending on the type of wood. Treated wood as well as painted wood can be dangerous for cows in large quantities.
Some paint and stain can be dangerous to livestock including cows. Wood that is treated with certain chemicals including chromated copper arsenate or CCA can be toxic for cows.
How to Prevent Cows From Eating Wood and Bark
While it may seem impossible, there are a few ways to prevent your cows from eating the wood and bark on your farm.
Free Choice Salt
A lack of sodium can often be the cause of wood chewing and eating bark. To prevent or correct a sodium deficiency, you should provide a free choice salt block for your cows.
Cows need to consume salt daily to maintain a safe level of sodium in their bodies. It is one mineral that they will only consume as much as their body needs.
You should put the salt block near their water source as it will make them thirsty.
Free Choice Minerals
Phosphorus deficiencies can also lead to wood cravings in cattle. To combat this, always provide your cows with a free choice mineral.
This will allow them to consume the minerals as needed and will correct any phosphorus deficiency. If that is the cause of their wood and bark obsession, it should be resolved.
Get Them a Companion
Loneliness is another common cause of cows chewing on wood or eating the bark off trees. Cows are herd animals by nature and enjoy the company of other animals.
If you have a cow that is by itself, consider getting them one or more companions to keep them company. Often, this can be a simple fix to the problem, and it will make your cow much less anxious.
Build a Larger Enclosure
Cows that are contained in a small area will often become bored and will start to eat wood or bark as a response. Cows naturally enjoy grazing and roaming about their pastures as they eat.
If your wood-chewing cow is in a stall, small pen, or small paddock, consider creating a larger area for them to live in. Sometimes a simple change of scenery could do the trick!
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