Agriculturae Conspectus Scientificus, Vol 78, No 3 (2013)

Food Security and Dairy Cow Feeding: The Necessity for a Paradigm Shift

Wilhelm KNAUS

Pages: 149-152


Previously, cattle were fed almost exclusively feeds that were unsuitable for human consumption. The availability of cheap fossil energy for the production of mineral fertilizers and pesticides, the cultivation of land and long-distance shipping of crops has made it possible and even profitable to feed even ruminants enormous amounts of grain and pulses. As a result, highly intensive animal production systems have emerged.
Grain and pulses, however, are potentially edible for humans. This means that these supposedly highly efficient animal production systems contribute to the increasing competition for arable land for crops. In dairy farming, to attain lactation of 10,000 kg/year and beyond, the amount of concentrates in the ration has to be maximized. Most of these concentrates are grain and pulse products.
This kind of dairy cow feeding is not only contradictory to the evolutionary adaptation of cattle, which allows these animals to be able to digest fibrous plant substrate, but has also resulted in an increasingly unfavorable food balance (i.e. animal-derived food per unit of feed input potentially edible to humans). The potential of ruminants to efficiently convert forages from grasslands, pastures, and fiber-rich by-products from the processing of plant-derived foods into milk and meat will soon be of great significance, because arable land is becoming scarce and the demand for human food is growing. The use of highly productive arable land to produce animal feed results in a net loss for the potential global food supply.


dairy cow; grain feeding; food security; competition; edible

Full Text: PDF