When I think of feed for our dairy cows, I think of grass. Unlike cows in much colder climates, ours live in the paddocks all year round and pasture is the “bread and butter” of their diets. Really, apart from hay baled in the summer and fed out in the depths of winter, that’s all our cows used to eat when I was a kid.
Everything changed, though, when a vicious drought desiccated Australia in 1982/83. That year, a massive dust storm blanketed Melbourne, ensuring that even inner-city dwellers felt the searing fury of mother nature. Like their neighbours, Mum and Dad cut every expense they could, right down to cancelling their newspaper subscription.
In desperation, they turned to grain to supplement the cows’ diets. And never looked back. We’re lucky in Australia to have such great wheat growers practically on our doorsteps. With grain at reasonable prices, we are able to buffer our cows from mother nature’s tantrums, keeping our cows well-fed, no matter whether it rains too much or too little. It also means our cows are able to produce more milk from less land – something that’s increasingly important as the population continues to climb.
Just as I created a breakfast for Zoe with the right building blocks of protein, fibre and carbs this morning, we offer the cows fibre, starch, protein and energy in the form of hay, silage and GM-free grain to top up their grass. So yes, Australian dairy cows are still pasture-fed but, these days, their diet has just a little added variety.
9 thoughts on “What we feed our dairy cows”
These cows are very lucky to have you as owners. Can I be a cow at your place? Sounds like a bloody 5-star hotel! Haha.
Thanks Roz but, actually, we’re very average dairy farmers. I’m sure you could find very nice five-star Friesian-style accommodation closer to work and family. 😉
Sounds like a win/win situation for all!
Yes, it is. For the grain growers, the dairy farmers and the cows!
This is just a magnificent answer to a question you where asked on Twitter.
Australia is such a lucky country our cows can graze on pasture and as you say we have the ability to access high quality supplements of grains et al when our cows need them.
Australian farmers are resilient, we have shown that but we must continue to adapt to our changing resource base, the seasons and climate, the economy and our markets.
Thank Marian really enjoyed this post
You’re right, Lynne. Adaptability is the name of the game in farming!
Pingback: The Life of the Dairy Cow | The Milk Maid Marian
Pingback: The politics of Easter eggs | The Milk Maid Marian
Pingback: Mastitis, antibiotics and milk | The Milk Maid Marian