In case any family milk cow owners are curious, I have stopped feeding my girls grain. I believe it encourages the internal climate that parasites like, contributes to difficulty in conceiving, and other random health problems that should not normally happen. Not to mention corn and soy being highly toxic to the system and leading causes of allergies.
Instead, here's what I'm feeding each cow this winter:
1/2 bale of hay a day or as needed
2 flakes (or big bin stuffed full) of high-quality alfalfa (tested at 23% protein)
Molasses (1 C. a day)
Kelp (free choice or 1/2 C. a day), rotated every couple weeks with other herbs like raspberry leaf, chamomile, red clover, stinging nettle.
Raw apple cider vinegar - added to their water at 2-3 C. a day
This means they give less milk - a small price to pay for the comfort of knowing the milk is more nutritious, and the cows more likely to stay healthy.
I'm still not sure about using so much alfalfa in their diets, as the legume family tends to mimic estrogen, and may harm their systems in large quantities, but they seem to be doing well on it right now. It's only a short-term solution: my long-term goal for these animals is fresh, green growing grasses and seasonal milking only April-November, supplementing hay in winter. When the grasses start growing in April, I'm going to see if they do all right on just grazing, as they will not be giving milk anymore and just maintaining weight for their growing calves.
What fun my brothers and I had today - we stocked the barn with the final 2 ton each of hay and alfalfa for our four-stomached critters. They watched us intently all the while, ears quizzical and comical :) Meanwhile we argued about the best way to stack bales, laughed while four of us crammed into the cab of my dad's truck or rode in the back, and I got practice dodging hay bales thrown at me (I'll let y'all wonder at that one ;) ).
I'm digging holes in preparation for more orchard trees next spring, and my cover crops of winter rye and white clover show a green haze on the garden and orchard. Five heavy-duty garden beds have been duly tucked in various nooks and crannies around the place, and I'm almost finished filling them with hay/cow manure, leaves, phosphate, calcium, molasses, kelp, copper and iron. If they compost well in time for spring planting, I'll plant hundreds of asparagus and rhubarb plants grown from seed, and inter-crop kale, beets, lettuce, etc..
Half the garden is neatly buried in a thick blanket of leaves to lie fallow next year - its' year of Jubilee. The upper field is scattered with leaf mounds and a great big compost pile... quite a sight, I can assure you. Ah well, practical over aesthetic, I always say! Next spring I'll spread it over the existing sod, scatter a few grass/clover seeds if needed, and experiment with MI grazing and pastured poultry (or Cow Choppers and Chicken Tractors, if you prefer).
Still there is compost to be flipped, piles of strawy manure in the fields to be spread, sheds to continually be mucked, vines/trees to be trimmed, more mulch to be spread where the chickens have destroyed my earlier handiwork ;), and learning to check a cow for pregnancy (that should be intensely fun... anyone care to join me in exploring the inner workings of a bovine?).
Yep, my family tells me staunchly that I was either born in the wrong century, or that they brought home the wrong baby from the hospital, I'm such an odd soul. Isn't that encouraging?
An early Christmas season greeting to y'all! I hope you are doing well.