by Trudy Kelly Forsythe
Would you like fries with that? Turns out, even cows will say yes to that question.
Celebrating 25 years in business in August, Kasko Cattle Company is a cattle feeding and farming business in Lethbridge, Alberta, that feeds just over 40,000 head of cattle annually. Generally, that feed is silage and grain, but sometimes the cattle get a special treat, like french fries.
Kasko Cattle Company owner Ryan Kasko says they got into the potato business in 2010 when they purchased a feedlot near Taber that had been utilizing french fries and other potato by-products from a local plant. The inherited arrangement saw the feedlot take the peelings and any french fries or other potato products the processor couldn’t use and feed them to their cattle.
While potatoes only make up a small part of the cattle’s ration – between 10 and 15 per cent – Ryan estimates they still divert thousands of tonnes of potato waste from the landfill each year, making it a win for the environment as well.
A diverse diet
Potatoes aren’t the only products people eat that Kasko Cattle Company feeds to their cattle. They have had a similar arrangement with the local sugar beet factory when it wasn’t able to process all its beets.
“There’s various feedlots that were able to use those beets, chop them up and feed them to the cattle,” says Ryan, adding that while Kasko Cattle Company has only been doing this for the past 12 years, he believes having the sugar beet factory so near helped grow the local cattle feeding business.
“I would say the cattle feeding business started in part because there was sugar beet factories close by,” says Ryan, explaining that back in the old days people would feed sugar beet pulp because of access to a product that would help grow cattle and that was relatively cost effective. “We’re not doing anything special; feeding by-products is quite common in the livestock sector.”
“There’s all kinds of people doing this,” he says, adding they, as well as other feedlots, are also feeding distillers grains while others feed apples, carrots and grapes.
Of course, nutrition for the cattle is always a top priority and, no matter what they feed them, the key is to have a nutritionist involved to ensure the cattle receive a balanced ration.
“It’s a win-win for us and the processing plants because they have product that’s not good for humans but the cattle can turn it into high-quality protein,” says Ryan. “It’s a cost-effective way of feeding our cattle, but it also reduces food waste and saves money because to put it into a landfill would be very expensive.”