We spend a good part of the spring hauling manure, and our kids are quick to clarify that it is in fact “cow poop”, which is apparently a lot more fun to say for 2 and 4 year old boys. For my purposes here, though, I’m going to stick with “manure”. Manure is kind of a funny thing. It’s something that has to be carefully managed. It has to be stored properly to not run off into waterways, but also stored away from livestock for their health and safety. It has to be hauled on fields at the right time and in the right quantities to safely provide nutrients for crops, and it has to be worked into the ground to prevent excessive runoff, but when it’s well managed manure also has immense benefits to the soil and the crops planted in that soil, and it’s a very valuable resource.
After I fawned over the cute calves, and fell in love with that guy I married, the first real passion I found on our dairy farm was genetics. A decade … Continue reading Why Do Dairy Farmers Use Artificial Insemination?
This week we closed the books on another silage harvest. David spent two weeks getting the chopper and trucks ready and finally made the first round with the chopper, and the engine caught fire. This could be the start of a really terrible story, but thankfully, it’s not.
As a farmer, it’s hard to not draw comparisons between our animals’ veterinary care and our family’s medical care. Just like we take our kids to well-child visits and keep up with their vaccinations, we practice prevenative care with our cows, too. This week was full of opportunities to do just that.
Previous editions of Bovine Basics cover proper cattle terminology and breeds of cows (specifically those at our farm). Another thing we talk with our kids about a lot is what the cows eat, but I’ve covered that in previous posts. The last thing the boys are already learning is cow anatomy. We pay a lot of attention to our cows’ form. How their body is put together actually has a pretty big influence on their health, including their milk production.
When most people think of a cow, they probably picture that Chic-Fil-A Holstein. The irony is that while many Holsteins do enter the beef supply, they are not considered a beef breed. Cattle come in countless different breeds with two primary purposes. There are dairy breeds focusing on efficient milk production, beef breeds focusing on efficient beef production, and dual purpose breeds which feature characteristics of both beef and dairy breeds.
Society as a whole has decided to call all cattle/bovines cows, and that alone has made it harder for farmers to have conversations about what we do because it almost creates a language barrier. In order to talk to consumers, we also end up calling most of our animals cows, but it can be a struggle because when we’re here at home, or at an industry event, they’re definitely not all cows.
We’ve been feeding the milk cows a TMR for many years. Until last fall, it was fairly complex, including a specially formulated multi-ingredient commercial blend. Last summer we made a decision to simplify the ration to include only corn and corn silage we raise, alfalfa hay we were purchasing from a neighbor, dried distillers grains (DDGs) and soybean meal. Now market conditions have led us to add a little complexity.
About a month ago, David and I did something we’ve never done before. We took the day off and went to a cattle sale – and we actually bought something! … Continue reading Jersey Girls
Last Saturday as a calf took its first breath there were cheers and big smiles among a small crowd welcoming her to the world. A couple of women driving by … Continue reading Farmers are People