Beer happy cattle

Iowa farmers lace fodder with out-of-date beer

Dec 23, 2004 - Cows in eastern Iowa prefer their feed spiked with beer. In fact, a dozen or so cattlemen say their cattle now hesitate to eat food prepared any other way.


This all began about a year ago when an official at Fleck Sales, a Cedar Rapids beer distributor, contacted Fisher's Feed and Fertilizer in Norway, a small town southeast of Cedar Rapids. The company asked if the feed business would like to get free beer which had outlived its shelf life, not for its workers but to mix in with its feed, said Jack Fisher, the feed company's owner.

Beer is commonly used in cattle feed in Japan and Canada. The animals' complex digestive system breaks down the alcohol in beer, turning it into food energy, animal nutritionists said.

Also, many small breweries make their spent grain - which does not contain alcohol - available to farmers willing to haul it away after its used in the brewing process.

Fisher took Fleck Sales up on its offer and now the beer is emptied into 5-gallon buckets. Those are taken to feedlots where the beer is given away.

Fisher laughed when asked if he and his friends ever test the free shipments. "We have to make sure it's safe for the cattle," he said.