Friday, February 17, 2012

All in a Dairy Diet: Part 1

The first in a Series...

There are many aspects of our business that are important to focus on, and each of these aspects plays a vital role in the successful production of our final product, Milk. One aspect in particular, is the daily diet of a dairy cow. We touched briefly on this subject in an earlier post, and have decided to take the opportunity to go into a little more detail.

Just as is the case with women, cows do not begin producing milk until they've given birth. A woman who wishes to maintain her milk supply, must be sure to stick to a healthy diet in order to give her body the fuel it needs to keep her going and have enough left over to produce milk. An insufficient diet can result in a decrease in milk production and eventually the mother could stop lactating.
The same holds true for cows, an insufficient diet could result in the cessation of their lactation cycle and/or a decrease in her overall health. So, providing our cows with the proper nutrients, in a balanced form, to maintain their health and milk production is vital. 
According to Progressive Dairyman, and well known by dairy farmers, "dairy cows are creatures of habit and do best with a consistent schedule and composition of the diet." As dairy farmers, this means we can't just feed whatever we may happen to have on hand and expect our cows to eat it and be productive. We have to closely monitor the quality of the feeds we grow and store, as well as the quality of feeds that we purchase, while maintaing a consistant feeding schedule.
Maybe your child will sit at the table with a plate of peas, baked potato, steak and ice cream, and given the choice, go right for the dessert, leaving the peas for some other lost soul (Thankfully, this is not an issue we're faced with in our house!). Believe it or not, cows will also pick and chose what they will eat, if given the opportunity. In order to guarantee our cows are eating the right combination of the right ingredients, we mix their feed into a Total Mixed Ration (TMR). 
Total Mixed Ration (TMR)
The photo above is our TMR, a similar mix can be found on many dairy farms. We combine a predetermined, measured amount of each feedstuff into an auger mixer to evenly mix the feed before feeding it to our cows. This assures us that each bite a cow takes has everything in it that she needs.

Hay, silage, cottonseed, corn, almond hulls and other feedstuffs are mixed together to provide a balanced diet, based on the stage of her production and pregnancy. In order to insure we are taking the proper steps in providing a balanced diet for our cows, we maintain a close relationship with our Nutrition Specialist. He makes routine visits to our facility and is on hand to answer any questions we may have.

Follow along with our series and learn more about our nutrition program. We will highlight each of the feedstuffs that goes into our TMR and how our cows are fed.

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