Good quality hay is like bread. Dairy cows love it for its balance of fibre, energy and protein. This winter, you cannot buy good quality hay for less than a king’s ransom, if you can buy it at all. So, with none to be had, we’ve been forced to get creative, introducing three different delicacies for the cows.
At first, I wondered if the cows would ever eat this stuff. The smell is nice but almond hulls look like a mix of sawdust and fine wood chips.
Each cow gets an average of 5kg of the hulls each day but, judging by the way they wolf it down, I reckon they want more!
Trying to push the cows past a heap of almond hulls is like trying to push back the tide. Run one side of the ring and they’re already attacking the side you just left. Not because they’re starving, either. The cows are getting lashings and lashings of energy and nutrient-rich food – they just love the stuff!
Straw for scratch fibre
Although the almond hulls are fibrous, the cows need long fibre to wake-up their complex digestive systems, so they’re getting a couple of bales of straw as well (though they like to use it as a luxurious mattress, it seems).
Goo for the good bugs
Also new to our cows is a special brew delivered in fancy red tubs. A mixture of molasses, non-animal protein and minerals, the goo is not really for the cows. It’s for the bugs that digest their food in one of those four stomach chambers called the rumen. The idea is that the “goo for good bugs” turns them into super-bugs that can release the maximum value from everything the cow eats.
It’s a sweet-and-sour mix designed to stop the cows gorging themselves on the goo but they still seem to enjoy a generous swig on the way in and out of the dairy!
Grain for breakfast and dinner
The cows continue to enjoy two sittings of corn, barley, wheat and minerals each day during milking.
Most important of all – juicy, juicy grass
Despite all the other stuff on the menu this winter, nothing is more important to our cows than grass.
Are they missing their hay? I think not.