Wednesday, October 10, 2012

News and necropsy

It's been a stressful week around here ...

First of all, a cow died.  We asked the vet to do a necropsy that night to find out why.  It had hemorrhagic bowel syndrome, also known as bloody gut.  Sounds terrible, doesn't it?  Yesterday morning Kris raced to a town to buy medicine to hopefully prevent any other cows from getting it.

We're also doing the fifth cutting of alfalfa this week.  It's really hard to plan for cutting alfalfa when it's cold, windy, rain is predicted ... I mean, it's fall!  But the alfalfa is ready to cut and you can never have too much feed.


My friend today said that she heard 1) that farmers were feeding their cattle candy and 2) that farmers could get emails telling them when a cow was fertile.

I'm part of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and a few days ago they were encouraging people to explain to Americans the effect the drought has had on farmers.  When I read it I thought - that's funny ... everyone knows about the drought.  But not so!

The article "Cash-Strapped Farmers Feed Candy to Cows" explains it well:

"Feeding candy to cows has become a more popular practice in tandem with the rising price of corn, which has doubled since 2009, fueled by government-subsidized demand for ethanol and this year's drought. Thrifty and resourceful farmers are tapping into the obscure market for cast-off food ingredients. Cut-rate byproducts of dubious value for human consumption seem to make fine fodder for cows. While corn goes for about $315 a ton, ice-cream sprinkles can be had for as little as $160 a ton.

"As the price of corn has climbed, farmers either sold off their pigs and cattle, or they found alternative feeds," said Mike Yoder, a dairy farmer in Middlebury, Ind. He feeds his 400 cows bits of candy, hot chocolate mix, crumbled cookies, breakfast cereal, trail mix, dried cranberries, orange peelings and ice cream sprinkles, which are blended into more traditional forms of feed, like hay.

The farmer said that he goes over the feed menu every couple of weeks with a livestock nutritionist who advised him to cap the candy at 3% of a cow's diet."

We've had a feed ration with ground up cereal added before.

But really, the point of it is, people feed their cattle according to nutritionists.  The unusable human food is ground up and added to a grain mix.  It's not like their feeders are full of candy canes.

And, to give you some perspective, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this was the most severe and extensive drought in 25 years.  So, farmers are really feeding their cattle what they can, when they can, in order to not go out of business.   


As for the texting fertility information, there's this article: "Swiss Dairy Cows Send Text When They Are In Heat".

I can see why people would think this was amusing, since they so infrequently get texts saying, "508 is in heat!"   But I live in a world where I'm aware that our neighbors' robot milker automatically calls their phone when something goes wrong.  But the technology for determining when cows are in heat has been there a long time. 

I well remember growing up when we had a TV in my house that showed the cattle in the barn.  My mom would look at it and take note of which ones were in heat.  We've been on farms where the cows wear temperature monitors that transmit their fertility information every time they go in to be milked.  On our farm, we use natural service bulls, so they have their own ways of telling which cows are in heat.  They don't need a text message.  They seem to have their own way of telling each other, probably something like "OMG! 508 is in heat!" 


LIsa said...

Hi Carla,
Sorry to hear you lost you cow. Wow, thanks for clarifying the article on farmers feeding their cattle candy and cookies. I look forward to the dairy tour this Thursday!

Carla said...

Thanks, Lisa! I look forward to meeting you!