The Cardboard Has an Odd Taste This Year

By Robert Seay, U of A Division of Agriculture

First posted on 12-09-2008

The cardboard has an odd taste this year

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Bless her heart, but Aunt Sally was not endowed with great cooking skills. A fact which provided Dad plenty of opportunity to pick on her, often saying, “Sally, you need to change the brand of cardboard in your biscuit recipe! They’re a little tough.”

That was decades ago and times change as noted by present day ads promoting the need to increase dietary fiber levels. Perhaps Aunt Sally was born a century too soon.

Just as ads promote increased human dietary fiber, animals have a daily requirement as well. While cardboard could be a fiber source, animals prefer something a little more practical. However, after watching cows chew the cardboard box off a molasses-based feed block, I’ve decided that, with a little sweetener, they will eat the stuff.

This is no surprise to livestock producers who have witnessed horses, pigs and other animals gnaw away at boards and tree bark. While the habit may have been induced by boredom, it often begins when daily feed or forage fiber is limited. Any animal that will chew on a board shouldn’t turn up its nose at a cardboard box!

Foolishness aside, forage analysis can now provide the potential to tell us more about fiber quality. Forages with the highest level of digestible fiber will also rank at the top for supplying energy, which is the key to separating the good, bad and ugly as far as feed value is concerned.

The winter feeding period always provides the tale-of-the-tape because energy requirements peak under cold, wet and windy conditions. In this respect, it doesn’t matter if we’re feeding dogs, cows, goats or people, the body simply needs a higher dose of energy to stay warm and active, produce milk and maintain all other body functions.

With the holiday season at the doorstep, people boost energy levels by eating an abundance of high calorie foods, leading to the next concern of burning it off. In regards to animals, when digestible fiber level in their diet is unknown or inadequate, they can quickly fall victims to an energy deficit.

When that occurs, check barn doors, tree trunks, or the supply of cardboard boxes for symptoms suggesting low, or poor quality dietary fiber. Aunt Sally’s biscuits are no longer available. Til’ next week!