The wind was wicked outside; it blew the snow around and around drifting everywhere. But I was happily sitting by the cozy wood stove in my living room reading Forever in Blue by Ann Brashares. I knew that I needed to set down that good book and put on my wool mittens and head out the door, but for some reason I just did not feel like it. The cows needed food; they do not have a wood stove to keep them warm, so theyneed food to keep them warm.
Reluctantly I set the book down, bundled up and headed on out. On my way to the cow's winter quarters I had to walk backwards to keep the wind from blowing in my face. But as soon as I got just to the outside of their barn the wind stopped. My dad had stacked a big pile of straw bales to block the wind. Even though the temperature had not changed I already felt much warmer.
Twice a day my Dad or Harold feeds hay to the cows with the tractor. They attach a hay feeder behind the tractor, put some hay in the hay feeder and then drive along the edge of the cow building. The cow building has two parts to it: an inside with a roof and bedding and then an outside area. It's sort of like them having a house and then a back yard with a gate around the backyard. The tractor is driven right on the other side of the gate, (the neighbors' yard so to say) dumping the hay. The cows then stick their heads through the metal gates to eat the hay. But it is not quite close enough for them to reach so the reason I had to go out in the first place is to rake the hay closer to the gate. It's pretty fun to go down the line of cows as you push in the food.
On the way back to the house I was grateful to have the wind at my back! I noticed that the long line of heifers (young who have not had calves yet) were on their way back to their pasture, it looked really pretty as they all walked in a straight line through the snow. But I noticed there were mature cows in the group, why? Oh yeah! At this time of year we dry out the cows, slowly but gradually. Meaning we milk them less and less until we stop milking them. We only do this a couple cows at a time. We do this because in a month or more they will be giving birth and they need a break from milking. A break from milking gives their body time to gain extra nutrition and fat so they are ready for birth. It's just how a human mother takes a break from work before she gives birth as well. Anyway the reason they are put in the heifer group is for a change. Because when things change it helps for them to not give milk. As soon as the cow gives birth she will be back with the cow group and milking again!
Happy Valentines Day!
Your Farm Friend,
Farm Fact: The average U.S. dairy cow produces 22.5 quarts of milk each day. That?s about 16,000 glasses of milk per year?enough for about 40 people. One cow can give 200,000 glasses of milk in a lifetime.