I know that’s a strange title for a blog.
Image courtesy of National Geographic.
But, I’ve been thinking about all of the work happening around our place and I was thinking that our jobs as farmers would be considerably easier if cows could gather their own food for the winter, you know … like squirrels.
While cows aren’t squirrels, sometimes I feel like one. It’s up to my family to harvest, protect and distribute the cows’ winter food supply.
Here’s how we’ve been preparing –
In the past few weeks we’ve been chopping silage, putting up the last cutting of hay and corn harvest is just beginning around these parts.
As you very well know, cows graze on grass. They need this grass, or forage, to keep their rumen (one piece of their four part stomachs) going strong. But in the winter … the grass is often dormant and/or covered in snow.
The cows still need to keep their stomachs fully functional, so we must provide this forage in other forms such as hay or silage. Silage is usually made from corn or sorghum plants, where the entire green plant is harvested and cut into small pieces. This silage is then put in a silo, silage piles covered in plastic or silage bags (long plastic, sealed tubes). It must undergo a fermentation process before it can be fed. For more information on silage, visit -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silage.
Image courtesy of Kansas Ag Network.
After the cows have eaten down the grass in the pasture and the temperature drops, we will begin feeding them big, round bales of hay and a precise amount of silage every day. Together these two feed stuffs (along with minerals we supply to them free choice) will provide enough energy and protein to keep the cows happy and healthy throughout the winter.
The corn we didn’t chop for silage will be allowed to dry a little longer in the field, before our favorite farmer harvests it with his big red combine. We then feed the corn to the cattle in the feedlot, to help them get to the “finished” stage/weight and ready for the butcher.
Sometimes, we even bale the corn stalks after we harvest the corn. These bales are then laid out for the cows in the pasture. It helps them stay warm in the frigid winter temps too.
For today, the cows are enjoying the sunshine and delightful temperatures. Little do they know, we’re working like squirrels to make sure they are properly cared for in the coming months … when the weather won’t likely be as pleasant!