FOOD! You are what you eat! Cows need lots of high quality food and water to produce high quality milk. At Mercer Vu Farms we go to great lengths to make sure that happens. Lets take a look...
It all starts out here in the fields. Most of our cows' feed is grown right here on the farm. Let's see what some of those crops are, how they are harvested, stored and ultimately fed to the cows...
Corn is a large part of a cow's diet. Corn is planted in the spring. Hopefully rain is abundant through the summer so in 110-120 days the corn is mature and ready for harvest.
In the fall a majority of our corn is chopped for silage. Corn silage is the whole plant chopped into small pieces. A forage harvester chops the corn and blows it onto trucks.
The trucks drive back to the farm and dump the silage off at the feed storage area.
A tractor with a bulldozer blade is used to push the silage up on a pile. The silage is spread out over thin layers and packed down.
The tractor and a vibratory roller are used to pack the silage tight, eliminating oxygen which allows the silage to ferment and store for long periods of time.
When the pile is done, it is covered with two types of plastic to keep air and moisture out. The pile is then covered with tires to keep the plastic from blowing around.
Cows eat corn grain as well. We let some of our corn go for high moisture corn. We use a combine to harvest the grain.
Trucks haul the corn back to the feed storage area where the corn is run through a grinder that pulverizes it into a fine powder. Just like silage it is pushed, packed and sealed with plastic for storage.
Another part of the cow's diet is alfalfa. Alfalfa grows back every year and we take off 5 cuttings per year. Alfalfa is planted every 3-4 years with a drill like this.
The alfalfa is mowed and laid flat. When it is time to harvest we use a merger to collect the alfalfa and put it on windrows.
The forage harvester collects the windrows and chops the alfalfa into small pieces. Just like corn silage, trucks haul the alfalfa to the feed storage area where it is pushed, packed and sealed for storage.
We bring many other ingredients in the make up a cow's diet. Cows are fascinating animals because of their unique stomachs. They can digest many ingredients that humans cannot. Many of these ingredients are waste from human food production. They are stored in these buildings called commodity sheds.
Here is one of those commodities. This is cottonseed. When cotton is ginned it has seed in it. The seed is a byproduct that has nutritional value to the cow.
Here is another product you are familiar with.. chocolate! Candy that is rejected for human consumption is ground up into a meal that is a great ingredient for a cow's diet.
We work with a nutritionist who tests all the feed ingredients to determine their nutritional value. We know what we expect the cows to milk, what fat and protein in her milk should be, what body condition we want them to be so the nutritionist uses a computer program to formulate a diet like this one. This ensures our cows have the best nutrition possible.
All of these ingredients are put together to make a total mixed rations (TMR). The blue machine in this picture is a TMR mixer. It has scales on it that weighs each ingredient as it is added...
The diets from the nutritionist are put into a program at the farm. This program tells our feeders how much of each ingredient to put into each batch. Through this program we calculate intakes per head, feed costs and inventories.
The TMR mixer has 3 big screws in it that turn and mix all of the feed together.
We use a wheel loader to scoop up the ingredients and add them to the mixer. There is a screen in the loader telling the feeder how much to add.
A tractor is on the mixer providing the power for it to run. When the batch is complete it is then used to drive the mixer to the barn.
The mixer and tractor run down the middle of the barn laying feed out in front of the cows. This is done several times a day... every day! Cows have big appetites. They will eat over 110 pounds of this feed per day! It all goes into producing milk!