If the slow (or non) growing grasses hadn’t convinced us that the pasture season was over, the weather this week will. Rain, ice, wind, and cold temps put an abrupt end to the grass growing season. When the pasture is no longer available, we start using all the hay, silage, and small grains that we harvested over the summer.
Since we no longer can rely on the cows feeding themselves, we must bring the feed to them. Twice each day Tim or Jon mix what we call a TMR (total mixed ration). We use a large piece of equipment called a TMR mixer to mix a giant salad like meal for the cows. We then feed the salad in a large feeder wagon.
There is a lot of science that goes into mixing our “cow salad.” Each year after our hay and silage are harvested, we send samples of the feed to a dairy nutrition lab in St. Cloud, MN. The post office workers always laugh at us when we have to claim what is in the packages. At the lab, the nutritionist will test for vital nutrients, energy, and protein. When the results are returned we know exactly what is in the feed and if we need to supplement any nutrients. (This again reminds us that healthy soil makes healthy feed, for healthy animals).
Our cow salad consists of 60% ensiled legume/grass , 30% corn silage, 10% barley/minerals. Some of the minerals that we supplement with are: kelp, trace mineral salt and 2:1 calcium phosphorus mineral mix.
Our cows still have access to pasture, but there is very little or no nutrition left in the grasses. They will also have access to a sand bedded coverall building once the pigs leave tomorrow. We call this building “The Beach.” Our cows are free to choose if they want to be outside or inside. Unless it is negative degrees or windy, our cows prefer to be outside.
Feeding our cows in the fall and winter is a very important job. We need to make sure that all their nutritional needs are met.