When given high-quality feed, cows generally consume from 2.2 to 2.5 percent of their body weight per day or around 11 to 12.5 pounds of food per day for a 500-pound cow. Feed quality, percentage of body fat, frame size and whether or not a cow is lactating can affect the amount of food a cow takes in.
For example, if being fed low-quality feed, cows will consume considerably less food —just 1.8 percent to 2 percent of their body weight. When given average-quality feed, that percentage goes up slightly to 2 percent to 2.2 percent of body weight.
The weather can also affect food intake. Cows may eat up to 30 percent more in cold temperatures or very hot or humid conditions. In snowy or muddy conditions, the intake of food may fall off by as much as 15 percent.