Monday, September 6, 2010

Dairy Farming 101 - Part 2 Keeping the ladies happy...

There’s something you should know about cows. They are food driven animals!  Dogs want to be fussed over and cats want to be treated like royalty. But cows? Just feed them. A lot, and on time…

The specifics of the cows’ feeding program differs from farm to farm, so don’t get excited if this isn’t how your neighbor does it…but this info will be helpful for you to know when you come over to do the feeding next time we need a night off ! (thanks for offering!)

First off…I need to add one item to Dairy Farming 101 – Part 1…

Someone reminded me that I forgot to include Hummies – a PA Dutch term for young calves.  We usually called them this when I was a girl…how could I forget this one?!

Water – cows drink between 23-50 gallons of water each day

Hay – alfalfa is mowed and left to dry; then raked into windrows, baled into small manageable bales, and stored in the hay mow (usually in the upstairs of the barn). This process takes about 3 days from cutting to the mow.  Rain really throw a wrench into this process...that's one reason why you hear farmers talking so much about the weather, and why their ears are glued to the weather radios all summer long!

Balage – alfalfa is mowed and left to partially dry. It is then baled and wrapped in airtight plastic. We bale it into round bales…these are the marshmallows you see lined up along the edge of the field. After the balage has cured for a few weeks, it is fed to the cows. They love this stuff!

Haylage – the same as balage, except instead of baling and wrapping, it is chopped and blown into the silo.

Corn Silage – the entire corn stalk is chopped and stored in the silo. Excess silage is often stored in an ag bag – that white worm that you see sitting out in the field. In the winter, after our silos are emptier we transfer the silage in the ag bag to the silo

Cob Chop– dried ears of corn, ground to a fine texture by a hammer mill. Minerals and molasses are often added.

Toasted Corn – shelled corn, dried and toasted (smells a little bit like peanut butter when the bin is first filled)

Toasted Beans – soybeans, dried and toasted (they’re actually quite tasty!)

Pellets  or Top Dress– a nutritional supplement that looks like overgrown rabbit food! This is the only feed that we regularly buy for our cows. All the rest is grown on the farm.

Calf Starter and Calf Grower – special feed that we buy for feeding young calves; usually several different types of grain flavored with lots of molasses…it gets them used to eating solid food…kind of like giving kids candy!

Silo Unloader – the machine inside the silo that throws silage down the chute via augers and into the cart so that you don’t have to climb up and fork it down by hand!

*Now that you know a little bit about keeping them happy...and are likely bored to tears, let me know what you'd be interested in "learning' in Dairy Farming 101 - Part 3!

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