Monday, July 25, 2016

Fodder for Dairy Cows

We all know how spring milk is the most coveted milk of all. That is because the young tender grass in that time of year makes great milk. Our question here at Carlton Farms was: Why can't we find a way to make milk of that quality all year round? We have rotated pastures, used a green-chop system, planted different varieties of grass.  All of those things worked to some extent and we still implement most of those practices. However, we still couldn't emulate that spring milk the way we wanted. 
About a year ago we started sprouting barley fodder to feed the cattle. You may ask "what is fodder?". Well I'm glad you did.  
If you have adopted the principles of a Weston A. Price inspired diet you will already know the benefits of soaking and sprouting seeds. To put it in a nutshell, soaking and sprouting increases protein and digestibility. So we are now doing this for our cows. 
We spread the seed on a flat tray and soak with water.  There is a mechanically controlled system that waters the seedbed every couple of hours for 7 days. On the seventh day the seedbed has grown into a 8-10 inch tall mat of grass (see picture above).  Right now we harvest 21 trays of fodder daily, which equals about 1000 pounds of young tender grass. Plans are to double the size of the system this year. To be clear the Fodder grass that the dairy cows receive is in addition to the pasture grass that they already have access to daily.  The fodder is simply a younger more nutritious grass to supplement the pasture. 
Currently our dairy cattle are grass fed as I described above, but they do receive a small amount of feed in the barn when they come in to be milked. Our hope is that by increasing the fodder production, we will eventually be able to go to provide for the demanding nutrient requirements of our dairy cows while feeding no grain.
Cross-Section of Fodder grown for Dairy Cows