FEEDING LIVESTOCK - Cattle, Sheep, Swine, Horses


Feeding potatoes to cattle
Figure 1. Cattle feeding on potatoes, a nutrient-dense crop and excellent source of carbohydrates, digestible proteins and essential amino acids.

Potatoes are high in rapidly digestible starch (70 percent of the dry matter); cattle should be gradually introduced to a potato diet. Free-choice feeding is not recommended. Potatoes should be introduced into their ration with increasing amounts over a two- to three-week period. Start at 3-4 pounds per day, and gradually increase to 10-15 pounds per day for calves, 25 pounds per day for yearlings, and 35-40 pounds per day for 1100-pound cows (Lambert, 1957). Up to half of cattle’s dry matter ration may be potatoes. Since cooked potatoes may be less palatable to cattle, they should be processed raw. In research by Wilson (1950), daily intake of potatoes by cattle was 50 to 75 pounds per head when mixed with straw and a protein supplement. Daily weight gain was equivalent to a chopped alfalfa-ground ear corn mix.

Adding potato to a ration may lower the cost per pound gained, depending on the relative costs of potatoes delivered to the bunk versus other available feeds. Costs of storing and processing potatoes also need to be considered.

One method of pricing potatoes is on an energy dry matter basis.
For example:

>> corn @ $71.40/ton ($2/bu) divided by 0.85 (part DM) = $84/ton DM
>> potato @ $15/ton ($0.75/cwt) divided by 0.2 (part DM) = $75/ton DM.

A final decision on whether to feed potatoes should be based on the cost per unit of energy. Multiply the cost of the corn ($84/ton dry matter) by the ratio of NEg of potato to corn (60/70, Table II) equals $72/ton potato dry matter. Multiplying this value times the dry matter in potatoes (20 percent) shows potatoes are worth $14.40 per ton compared to corn at $2 per bushel. In other words, on an energy basis without factoring in shipping and processing, potatoes at $0.72 per hundredweight are equivalent to corn at $2 per bushel.


For finishing lambs, use one to two pounds potatoes per day with alfalfa hay and grain; for ewes up to lambing, use 2-2.5 pounds per day with alfalfa hay increasing to 4 pounds per day after lambing (Lambert, 1957). Cooking potatoes for feed does not add value and may reduce palatability. Because potatoes are very palatable, lambs may overeat, potentially causing acidosis. This can result in lambs going off feed or possibly dying. Therefore, potatoes should be introduced gradually to diets.


Because swine are single-stomach animals, potatoes should be cooked or dried before feeding. (Potatoes also should be cooked before feeding to poultry.) One cooking tip is to lay steam pipes on the floor of a dump truck, load with potatoes, cover with a tarp, and connect pipes to a steam outlet for 30 min (Wilson, 1950). Raw potatoes have one-half to two-thirds the value of boiled potatoes for swine. One hundred pounds of potatoes replaces about thirty pounds of mixed grain.


Caution should be taken in feeding potatoes to horses. Three to five pounds per day may be acceptable.


  • Lambert, W.V. 1957. Potatoes for livestock. University of Nebraska Cooperative EC244.
  • Wilson, J. 1950. How to feed those low-grade spuds. Root Crops 5:37.
  • Figure 1. Cattle feeding on potatoes, a nutrient-dense crop and excellent source of carbohydrates, digestible proteins and essential amino acids.

Using Potato as Livestock Feed