food and water…

…on the farm…

food is essential…

Nature provides both food and water, but seasonal variations do of course come into play. Not much fresh grass available on pastures during the winter here in Southern Norway, so we have to compensate in order to run a proper dairy farm.

We have feed stations where we serve the cows conserved grass during the cold season. Feed stations are fixed or mobile platforms – most with a roof, for easy access to silage, hay, straw and consentrates.

Our feed stations are all home made, as we haven't found anything on the market that suits our need at a reasonable price. A typical mobile food station is built in wood, using 2×4in on top of an old car trailer frame.

Mobile feed stations can follow the cows on pasture, which makes them fill a double role as both feed and seed stations. The cows waste some seed while eating, and trample it into the soil around the feed station. Lots of seed also goes throught the cow's digestive system, and ends up on the ground. This simplifies regeneration of pastures without the use of machines, and we may throw in some extra seed for good measure.

Mobile stations have their fixed places on more solid ground during really wet periods, as there's a limit to how much of a mudhole we want to turn our pastures into.

Minor feeding and/or seeding needs are often solved by feeding directly on the ground.

There are no exact “switch dates” between grazing and feeding seasons. Cows need a steady supply of food, and grass growth depends as much on local weather conditions as on season.

We usually have 2 - 3 months overlapping of feeding and grazing in the spring and in the autumn, where we balanse the amount of conserved food brought out to feed stations, with the amount of grass available on the pastures. Indoor feeding during milking time, completes the continuous feed-adjustment.

demo: don't click here

plenty of water…

The farm has natural water resources in the form of two small, partly channeled, creeks. These are the only steady water sources outside the barn for the cows during the winter.

A network of waterposts is in use during the warm seasons. Waterposts varies from simple plastic containers that can hold 50 liters, to old bathtubs that hold 4 - 5 times that much. These are all supplied through 12mm (½in) pipes running over most of the farm, connected to the water system in the barn.

This network of waterposts assures good water near by all pastures, regardless of how we divide up and fence off areas for grazing during spring and summer months.

By having water near by the cows go to the waterposts individually and quite often, and then return to graze some more. This keeps the herd together and the uptake of grass high in a designated area.

They'll often wait until they're really thirsty before visiting more distant water sources, and then go as a group. Once there and filled up on water, they may simply not bother to go all the way back to graze for quite a while. This leads to less efficient grazing, and unnecessary and unwanted trampling and grazing in other areas.

Availability, quality and quantity of water is of course essential on a dairy farm, as a cow needs from 50 to well over 100 liters of good water a day. The amount consumed depends on temperature, type of food, and milk production.

Quality matters, as our cows tend to cross the creek to get to the nearest waterpost on the other side. The waterposts get their water from a 70 meter (230ft) deep borehole into the bedrock – same as we use for our own household. Quality is near perfect on all measurable parameters, all year round, and it arrives at a quite stable temperature at the waterposts – ideal as refreshment on a warm summers day.

complete menu…

Our dairy cows get food concentrates in amounts adjusted to actual production, and all – from week year old calves and up – get some. The concentrates used are mostly based on corn (barley etc.) produced in Norway, which is a quality lower than what's used for human consumption.

Food concentrates used in Norwegian farming are fine-tuned mixtures with pretty fixed energy levels. Minerals and vitamins are also added, in balance with the needs of different animals and the complete menu on a farm. We have a whole range of concentrates to choose from to match seasonal changes and production.

We also use waste from corn production, both in the form of concentrates/pellets and as straw bales from the fields. Corn waste pellets are fine-tuned mixtures – a kind of lower-energy concentrates. Our cows love these corn waste pellets, and tend to protest quite loudly if they don't get their share.

Straw bales are partly used as bedding for calves, and as additional food for calves and cows. Most straw bales we receive from farms in the area are mixed with grass, so we add some to the ordinary grass silage in feed stations in the overlapping phase between pure grazing and pure feeding. Straw are well suited for adding structure to the juicy but low-structured grass in early spring and late summer, and the cows know how much they need of the stuff.

Cows need access to enough food of varying types, and they're usually good at making choices for themselves. We balanse the menu somewhat depending on season, and pay attention to the indicators regular quality-controls of our main product, the milk, give us. Excess energy in the food-ration gets wasted – the cow can't process it properly. Too little energy in the ration is of course no good either, as a cow can only eat so much in a day.

A cow's appetite and choice of food-type while in for milking, are good indicators for the amount and type of additional feed needed. A cow's condition and level of production are of course also important indicators. Individual differences are additional, and very important, factors.

Since we have two breeds of cows, NRF and Jersey / NRF mixes, we also have to take differences between and variations within these breeds into account. NRF cows tend to get fat more easily than the Jersey dominated cows, and fat cows tend to have more problems than well balanced cows. Putting a single cow on diet isn't easy since they all have the same access to pastures and food stations, so we have to keep close watch and adjust what we can over time – all the time.

Competition on pastures and around food stations adds another variable to feeding. A low ranking cow can get less than her fair share out there, and we have to compensate for this while they're in for milking. Jealousy is not an unknown phenomena amongst cows either – creating moody cows, so all cows must be happy with their share.

Who said feeding cows should be easy…

sincerely  georg; sign

Hageland 29.oct.2007
last rev: 05.des.2007

food and water…

A few tons of food concentrates in the form of pellets, arrives at the farm at irregular intervals.
— Georg

Two to three bales of silage, at around 750kg each, are consumed each week during the cold season.
— Georg

Waterposts come in all shapes and sizes, and old bathtubs are particularly well suited.
— Georg