Tag Archives: cow nutrition

Dairy cows: The Olympians of Oregon Milk

Dairy cows as Olympians? You’ve probably never thought of dairy cows as athletes, but there are many similarities.

Dairy cows eat like champions every day. Their bodies work hard to provide nutritious, high-quality milk. Like Olympians who train hard every day, cows they need to fuel themselves with healthy food choices.

Their personal chefs (aka Oregon dairy farmers) provide nutritious and delicious meals for them by working with animal nutritionists to create balanced meals that contain the right amount of protein, energy, fiber, vitamins and minerals for the cow to maintain optimum health.

A balanced meal for cows contains:

  • Corn Silage: the entire corn plant that is chopped and fermented
  • Haylage: grass that is chopped and fermented
  • Hay: a dried grass or legume, often cut and baled
  • Cotton Seed: a by-product of cotton production that is left after the soft cotton is harvested for clothing
  • Distillers Grain: a by-product that is a dried mash produced after the sugar and starch are used in ethanol and fermented beverage production
  • Soybean Meal: a by-product of soybean oil production, sometimes pelleted for animal feed use

Some of these foods would have been sent to the landfill if cows didn’t eat them.

In fact, 75% of a dairy cow’s diet contains items humans can’t eat.

Cows bodies expend a lot of calories creating milk, so they don’t need to go out for a run or long walk like we do. Cows do need rest though, so they lie down about 12-14 hours a day!

Farmers use a version of Fitbit to track how active cows are to ensure they stay healthy and fit. It usually goes on the cow’s ear (as in the photo above) or around their neck or ankle. Dairy farmers can also use a type of technology to measure the cows’ food intake. If the cow isn’t eating the proper nutrients, the farmer is flagged to take the cow’s temperature and do an overall checkup.

Just like elite athletes, cows only receive treatment for specific illnesses.

Specifically, antibiotics are only used if a cow has a diagnosed infection and other treatments have not worked. The milk produced while the cow is receiving antibiotics is discarded. And just like athletes, a cow’s milk is tested for presence of drugs and other substances that should not be present! The milk is prevented from going into the milk supply and cannot be bottled for consumption.

Holstein (left) and Jersey (right) cows are the most common dairy cows in Oregon and produce a lot of milk. And they do this without being treated with hormones. Oregon dairy farmers care for their animals every day of the year. They are so good at taking care of their mooing athletes that the cows naturally produce our favorite 13 essential nutrients in a powerhouse drink: MILK!

Cow’s milk is safe and nutritious no matter what fat content level you prefer to enjoy as an athlete or to serve your family.

So, the next time you go to the grocery store, visit the dairy cooler! And remember the elite athletic team across the state of Oregon that provide nutritious dairy foods for you naturally each day!

Working through the weather

When sleet or snow approaches, farmers make sure the herd has a clean and dry place to rest. Thanks to their thick skin, hair and natural insulation, cows actually prefer temperatures between 40 and 65 degrees. As long as they’re well fed and have dry bedding, cows don’t mind the cold and will stay warm and comfortable outside or in their barns. Calves are given extra straw bedding and calf jackets to keep them warm and cozy in their hutches.

Farmers also increase the amount of their feed along with the vitamins and minerals. This supplements the extra energy that cows are expending in keeping their body temperatures up. Farmers make sure that food is available 24/7 to make sure they are well-fed.

Wind chill has the same effect on cows that it does on people. Creating wind breaks with hay bales or earthen berms helps to protect their herds from harsh winds during the winter. Wooded areas also provide shelter from the wind. Farmers also monitor the temperature inside their barns and close the sides if needed.

In Oregon, where winters are usually mild, cows typically stay comfortable year-round. When a cold snap appears, farmers and animal care teams are ready to spring into action to take care of their herds.

In 2018, when temperatures hovered around zero and high winds created large drifts of snow, the animal care team at Threemile Canyon Farms worked hard, aided by the warmth of winter hats from ODNC, to take care of the 30,000+ milking cows on their farm.

Tillamook County dairy farmer, Derrick Josi, spoke about a number of ways that farmers prepare their cows for cold weather.

At Poland Dairy, the family worked around the clock when winter weather descended on their farm in 2018.  As snow fell thick on their farm, two calves were born. Dairy farmer Deanna Poland remarked on facing challenges during this time, “…it’s what we love and it’s our passion- in good times and bad times!”

Oregon farmers care about their animals, and they know that paying special attention to their cows, whether it’s snowy or sunny, helps them to create a healthy herd.

RELATED LINKS:

HEALTHY ANIMALS, HEALTHY MILK: THE COWS COME FIRST

ON THE FARM

IN THE LOOP ON SUSTAINABILITY: THREEMILE CANYON FARMS

Get Connected with Dairy Educational Opportunities Online

In light of distance learning, spring field trips have been cancelled, and all education has moved online. But, you can still visit a farm—virtually of course. Check out these links to see Oregon dairy producers (and friends) doing what they do best- making delicious dairy products for your fridge. 


In this video, Oregon Dairy Princess Ambassador Jaime connects us with Darleen from Abiqua Acres: Mann’s Guernsey Dairy in Marion County shows you their beautiful Guernsey dairy cows who are milked by robots! The camera even gets a kiss from the cow named Darleen. 

Also in Marion County is Oregon 1st Alternate Dairy Princess Ambassador, Taysha, who will give you a tour of her family’s dairy. Explore cattle feed, maternity pens and feeding calves with a special appearance from the cutest barn cat. 

Next, travel to Harrold’s Dairy in Lane County to visit with Bobbi, a fourth generation dairy farmer who is introducing her dairy to 8th grade students at Coburg Community Charter School through AgLink’s Adopt a Farmer Program

You can find more educational videos for your virtual classroom on the Oregon Dairy Women’s Facebook page, where Oregon’s Dairy Princess Ambassador, Jaime, and First Alternate Dairy Princess Ambassador, Taysha, will teach you about all dairy cow breeds and cow nutrition, milk from farm to table, MyPlate nutrition, and so much more in this four part series.

You can view virtual tours for all grade levels from Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom, including a look into Rickreall Dairy’s automated calf barn, and a lesson for Jr. High students on cow nutrition

And, for more educational resources highlighting dairies across the U.S., check out Discovery Education’s new STEM curriculum.

Related Links:

Stay Home, Stay Healthy

Stay Healthy with Anthony Newman

Oregon Dairy Women Classroom Resources

Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom

Discovery Education: Caring for Cows & Nourishing Communities

Food for Thought: Would You Eat What Cows Eat?

“Why do we give food to cows that could be used to feed people?”

Through this new video we produced with Oregon dairy farmer Derrick Josi (aka TDF Honest Farming), we’re answering this relatively common question by serving up a full helping of facts about what cows eat.

We’re always working to address confusion and misconceptions about dairy. With more than 400,000 views and counting, the video has started some beneficial and enlightening conversations on social media about food byproducts, ruminant digestion, animal nutrition, crop rotation, marginal agricultural land and more.

If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the video, and you’ll see it provides some good food for thought.

Much of cow feed is actually comprised of byproducts from producing food for humans. We can’t digest some of the food that ruminants like cows can. They upcycle feed that might otherwise go to waste, and they turn it into milk, which makes the dairy products that we enjoy.

Additionally, much of the land where cows are located is not ideal or even viable for other crops. “Two thirds of the world’s agricultural land is marginal, which means it cannot be used to grow crops because the soil is not sufficient or there’s not enough water,” says Dr. Frank Mitloehner, Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis. “We have to use that land for ruminant livestock, because it’s the only way to use it.”

Watch for upcoming videos addressing some other questions and misconceptions about dairy. If you’d like us to tackle one of your questions, just let us know!


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