I was wondering what would happen if instead of being fed hay cows would be let free and roam freely once they no longer produced milk.

I ask because I have seen pictures of cows in cold climates eat even when there was snow on the ground.

However, I don't think they could really eat anything if there were snow as I don't think they could push the snow away and eat what was beneath it.

  • 1
    why wouldn't cows be able to move snow? ... they are not stupid animals
    – jsotola
    Sep 15, 2023 at 23:12
  • What if the snow is high? Would grass, growing under snow, be fit to eat, or, would the grass, just decompose? Oct 20, 2023 at 21:29
  • do you live in an area where you get snow?
    – jsotola
    Oct 20, 2023 at 21:44
  • This page on pasture land in India might be interesting to you: pashudhanpraharee.com/… (There are no please DONATE banners showing starving cattle or children). Feb 9 at 10:00

3 Answers 3


Cattle are natural grazers and don't need to be fed hay if there is sufficient grass of the appropriate type growing. Often ranchers do supplement natural grass with minerals.

Similarly, bison are naturally grazers. They thrive on natural resources without any supplementation at all. In the USA, their extreme decrease in numbers was due to over-hunting by the colonials, intentional killing to hurt Native Americans, and the destruction of the bison's natural habitat.


This is the fate of many dairy cows that stop producing milk in India.

What happens is that they usually die some months after they're thrown out -- likely due to eating human waste, such as plastic.

  • 1
    Isn't it possible to put some turf around the cow milking area (or just extend the area), so that when they will produce no milk they will still have places where to roam and feed, and be well? Oct 22, 2023 at 10:05
  • 1
    Capitalism doesn't allow for ethical businesses to thrive en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_to_the_bottom Oct 22, 2023 at 13:00
  • Please, what is the source of your information? India has the most vegetarians of any country in the world. Slaughtering Cattle is illegal in 20 out of 28 states. Single use plastic bags and other items are illegal in India, It has one of the lowest per capita plastic waste ratios in the world. Feb 10 at 2:48

Animals Roaming Freely and Self-feeding

Back before barbed wire, cattle in the USA roamed freely and self fed. They were pretty good at it too.

Other animals that roam in the wild and survive include: Antelope, Bison, Boar, Hippo, Gazelle, Deer, Elk, Moose, Black Bear, Brown Bear, Polar Bear, Lions, Tigers, Water Buffalo, Elephants, Caribou, Coyotes, Wildebeest, Hyenas, Wolves, Chimpanzees, Mountain Goats, Big Horn Sheep, Fox, Horses, and many more.

If these animals can do it, good old American cattle can do it too.

It is true that all animals, (including humans), suffer and eventually die. Is the cows fate any worse than that of a parent who is put in a rest home and never visited?

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