Thursday, March 20, 2014

What Do Cows Eat?

This morning while mom and I were out feeding cubes to our commercial cattle, it dawned on me that some people might be interested in seeing just exactly what cows eat!

Disclaimer: this is just on our dairy, of course, not all dairies feed the exact same thing (it's very similar in some aspects). A dairy in New York and a dairy in Texas feed two different rations to best benefit their cows in their specific environment.

So, here's how it all started. Mom and I feed "range cubes" or basically protein packed, nutritious cubes to cows that are out on pasture - primarily our beef cows. These cows live on spacious pastures and are supplemented with hay. They are not calving, nor are they in "stressful" months (too hot or too cold), therefore, they do not need full-time feed; range cubes are just an additive because we love our cows!

These girls are pigs! Most of these registered Brangus are old show heifers and are used to a life of luxury, they're pretty gentle and find the need to RUN and bump into you if you don't get the cubes out of the bag quick enough. Refer to these cows as the "upper class snobs" they think they're better than all the other cows. Yes, yes, I know, cows have personalities.

Run Mom run! Even the babies think they need some too...

This is our trusty hound dog, Sally. She opted to stay in the gator on this pasture!

Sally eats Purina dog chow for large case you were wondering.

Here's a couple more pictures of our commercial cows chowing down on some grubbage. You can refer to these cows as "old faithfuls". They produce calves year after year and are just happy living life in a big pasture.

Now, for what the dairy cows eat! We have over 1,200 head of dairy cows, and they get fed every day, twice a day, so we mix our own feed for them.

It all starts with home-grown silage....also known as corn and corn stalks chopped up into teeny tiny bits. Our silage pit is the size of a football field, and well, you can see how tall it is.

So, we scoop out a couple truck loads of silage into a mixing wagon, which is basically like a giant mixing bowl attached to a tractor, then add in extra vitamins and ingredients depending on what group of cows it is going to - reference prior blog, first calf heifers vs milk cows.

This is our commodity barn. It's nice and dry to keep the ingredients from getting wet. Here's a couple additives we will mix into the rations to help with health and wellness in our cows.

And last but not least, hay. Growing up on a farm, climbing on top of hay bales was probably one of the first sports learned - is it in the olympics yet?. I'm pretty sure my parents kept my brother and I occupied for hours by putting us on top of the hay bales and telling us "count these bales". Now that I'm older and know we have a computer in tractors that actually counts the bales, I'm certain it was an evil plot to keep my parents entertained when Connor or I would mess up around bale 200 and have to start over.

First you get a running start, jump, and then crawl like a cheetah to the top of the bale.

This "old timer" had to try a few times before finally succeeding, ignore my "winning" face.

Hay, hay, hay for days!

This is how you count bales:

And that's a wrap! In conclusion: remember, dairy farmers have special nutritionist that formulate special diets for each cow. Dairy farmers are honored to uphold the commitment of a healthy product.

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