So do cows eat three meals a day? What do they eat? Do they eat buffet style?
Cows are so blessed because they have the option to eat all day for as long as they want and as often as they want. That sounds like a dream come true to me! They do eat buffet style, they can walk up to the bunk eat their fill of nutritious food and walk back to their bed and rest once they are full!
If you are one of those people that hate when your food touches you are lucky to not be a cow! Cows food gets all mixed together to make a nice big total mixed ration, which is why farmers call the mix cows eat TMR. You could kind of say it is like a casserole, all of the delicious ingredients are combined to make one healthy meal! In order to get the feed completely mixed we use a feed mixer which mixes all the food into chew-able particles for the cows. It would be like putting our food in a processor and grinding it up.
On our farm we do not create the recipe for the TMR, we have an educated nutritionist that samples our feed and determines how much of each ingredient we need to make the TMR the best quality it can be. Since we are an organic farm all of our feed for the cows is certified organic, and we grow most of our crops to feed our cows but we still do buy in some of our feed. On the farm we have the groups of cows split up into pens. Not only do the pens help keep the cows organized, but it also helps us to feed each group the recommended diet so the cows are getting the exact nutrients that they need. Some of the groups that we feed we call high cow group (high milk production), pre-fresh group (prior to calving), low cow group (lower side of milk production), 1st lactation cows (First time having a calf), and Fresh cows (cows that recently calved) to give some examples. We group cows together based on similarities that they have with age and milk production. The cows’ diets do change depending on the year and the quality of feed from harvest. Since we are organic, the cows have to go out to the pasture and receive a minimum of 30% of their Dry Matter Intake from the grasses in the field but they still get fed the other nutrients that help give them energy and keep them healthy. Dry matter intake is the total pounds of all feed, without moisture, consumed by a dairy cow over a given period of time. The United State Department of Agriculture rules is stated on our Pennsylvania Organic Certified website, “Ruminant animals must graze pasture during the grazing season for their geographic region, which must be at least 120 days per year. Over the course of the grazing season, the animals must obtain an average of at least 30 percent dry matter intake by grazing.” For our feeders on the farm it is not a recipe that stays the same all year round. The recipe can change for several reasons; the seasons, the quality of feed, and if the cows react poorly to the feed are some of the examples.
Below is a recipe of exactly what we are feeding our organic low producing cows on this farm right now. The recipe stated below is based one cows nutritional needs and then that is multiplied by the number of cows in the pen to create the correct number of servings in the mixer truck.
This recipe is for our low cow group and will change throughout the year!
To find out more about organic certification visit our certified website by clicking on this link.