Slower than Molasses
n an ongoing effort to keep energy in Jane’s feeding regimen, I have been adding molasses to her feed. It’s pretty easy to get on the grass fed only bandwagon and then realize that you’re not feeding your dairy cow what it needs to stay out of a negative energy balance. Couple that with the way the feed industry has changed. I used to buy wet COB, which is flaked corn, rolled oats and rolled barley mixed with molasses. It’s kind of the old standby sweet feed if you had a horse or didn’t want to feed a high-octane ration to your cows. Until recently wet COB was sticky, and then the way molasses was distributed changed, now molasses is diluted so it can be sprayed on the grain and then the mix is dried. A lot of molasses now comes from sugar beets which may be a GMO issue for some. Anyway, suffice it to say the plain Jane wet COB is now a different feed, it smells funny and sour and isn’t sticky, it’s just brown grain with the look of a tea soaked doily.
Feed is the number one issue if you have cows. Cows can also be one of the most economical animals to have on a farm, IF, you have pasture. Cattle do a great job converting grass into meat and milk. Jane gets 95% of her food from here, either by grazing, or eating garden vegetables, and hay we make. The other 5% is made up of some eastern Oregon hay* and dry COB with added molasses. I’m not a purist, I am a husbandist, so what I mean is that if I determine my cow needs grain or better hay than I can grow, then I will purchase said things. In a different time I wouldn’t worry about GMO alfalfa, corn, or sugar beets, but that is the world we live in. I want to produce milk here for my family and I may have to sacrifice some of my ideals to do it.
As far as ideals go I had bad luck with feed grade molasses last summer, so I switched to human grade for Jane. It’s funny too, what is human grade now is what feed grade used to be like 40 years ago. My, how the food supply has changed. I was buying 5 gallon buckets of Blackstrap molasses from Azure, but the extra iron in Blackstrap was not necessarily a good thing since we have high iron soils. I have since switched to buying molasses by the gallon from a restaurant supply house, it works out to be the same price and it’s much easier to handle and I have fewer worries about throwing her mineral balance out with the regular molasses. However, pouring molasses from a 5 gallon bucket or 1 gallon jug in August is one thing, doing that chore in winter is another It’s also pretty easy with the glug method to get too much. I’m sure Jane wouldn’t mind a bit, but it’s a pretty expensive additive so I try to be somewhat frugal with it. So, as summer turned to fall, I started diluting the molasses with hot water. As with all ideals, you usually find something has to give, preparing Jane’s grain on a cold morning or evening with cold molasses was just too frustrating for me. I know, get a life MOH! But a frustrated milker has no business in the barn, so here we go again, trade-off. Do I continue to be pissed off every time I milk or do I change what I am doing so I’m not pissed off? I would rather give Jane a little diluted molasses if it makes the whole process of getting milk to the house a little easier, than trying to mix dry grain with stiff molasses.
As for the diluting process, I find that using wide mouth canning jars work the best. I know how much I am giving her by eyeballing the jar and they are easy to carry to the barn and store on the shelf near her feed. I’m using a 3 cup molasses to 1 cup water ratio which is working perfectly. If I use boiling water and stir immediately the molasses stays diluted and doesn’t separate. It’s much easier to mix with the feed this way, and the jars clean easily. Sigh, it makes chores so much easier, even though I have more jars and lids to keep track of and wash, it’s worth it.
*for readers who aren’t familiar with the Pacific Northwest, there is a dry side and a wet side to Oregon and Washington, I live on the wet side and making hay is different than on the dry side. Expensive irrigated, very high quality hay is grown on the east side and shipped all over. It’s pretty rich, but very good dairy hay and makes a great condiment for Jane along with our own grass hay.