Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vitamins, minerals, and ... soy hulls

The nutritionist came over to talk with Kris today.

Most dairy farms have a nutritionist. Our nutritionist works for the feed company where we buy our feed, though there are also independent ones who do it as a paid service. They all went to school for it – like majored in animal science. (Did you know any nutritionists in school? I only knew the people kind.)

A nutritionist helps balance the feed ration by taking samples of the silages, analyzing them, and recommending additional supplements – like vitamins, minerals, additional sources of protein like soybean meal or fiber like soy hulls - to maximize milk production. Soy hulls! Sounds delicious.

There’s a whole science and field of study that spells out the ideal levels of digestibility, energy, and protein for optimum cattle performance. They work with the numbers on the feedstuffs, plug it into a computer program, and determine the best diet that balances cost and milk production.

They talked mainly about putting together a ration for the dry cows. (Dry cows means they’re not being milked. This means that for about a month and a half before they have a calf, we don’t milk them, so their bodies can concentrate on having a calf.)

Kris wants to make sure they’re getting the best nutrition for when they’re not being milked. If you feed them too much corn silage when they’re not giving milk, then all the extra energy and fiber goes to make them too fat. So you want to give them enough to nourish them and the growing calf, but not so much that they get too big. (Hence the insult fat cow?)

There’s a game called ‘Would You Rather’. One time we were playing and it asked would you rather have your own free personal chef, massage therapist, or chauffer. Everyone chose personal chef, and we all went on and on about how great it would be to have someone in the kitchen serving you up exactly what you wanted.

I hope the cows see it the same way. More like a professional chef, less like pregnant Weight Watchers.

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