Taking the oil out of my milk
In our quest for independence from the food grid we try to include our animal husbandry as well. We raise grassfed beef, but we also keep a family cow. A dairy cow is a horse of a different color nutrition and production wise. I do have to feed some grain and buy in some different hay to add to what we raise here on the farm to maintain Della in optimum condition. Optimum condition to me does not mean high production, but enough milk for her calf and for us without shorting anyone, while maintaining health.
I only had to look back in history a little ways to get away from grain. Roots. Root crops for fodder is a practice brought to the United States with Northern European immigrants. Cool climates not conducive to growing grain are perfect for various root crops for fodder. I live in a climate like that. Getting corn to ripen here is not the easiest thing to do. Root crops? No problem. Storing grain or green chop? Ugghhh. Storing roots? Easy.
Now I am not advocating everyone do this, I am just throwing this out there because many people want to get out from under Big Oil’s thumb. Not to mention I want to know what I am eating and feeding to my family. Grain shipped from ? Who knows these days. And if you’re able to grow your own grain and don’t care how much fuel your buying or pig iron you are supporting that’s fine with me. This is just what I am doing. I can’t get all the grain out of our operation since I am still eating poultry and pork but certainly I should make every effort to not feed very much to my milk cow, a true ruminant.
When raising roots for your cow don’t expect the pound for pound analysis to be the same as grains. It sounds wonderful when you’re reading a popular homesteading magazine and someone writes an article stating how pounds per acre mangels will produce compared to corn grown on the same plot. But the difference is the dry matter of each crop. For instance 3 tons of mangels are equivalent to 1 ton of good corn silage. So at first glance roots do not seem worth it at all. Most tomes concerning feeds continually state that growing roots is not economical, but they are written for large operations. Growing root crops requires careful soil preparation and some hand work. Corn or other grains are thought to be a little easier to grow if you are farming. Always read between the lines. The information is there. Look for animal husbandry books written before the 1950’s. Agriculture as we know it is actually quite young in the scheme of things. People were cropping and fattening animals long before tractors with air conditioned cabs came along. And they weren’t growing acres of grain to do it. I want to strike a happy medium if I can. To get out of work and never touch a bale or weed a crop by hand is not my goal.
With that in mind, I have been looking for a root chopper. Luckily a friend had one I could borrow. I have been chopping Della’s roots with knife, but I wanted to try a manufactured chopper just to see if it made the job easier or was like a some kitchen tools. You know – the cleanup takes more time than just wiping the knife… .
So first order of business, dig the roots. Well, actually the first order of business is grow the roots, but you know what I mean.
Next try out the root chopper.
Well, I have to say the root chopper worked great! The dogs were a pain, though. It took a while to get a video without barking and leaping dogs. Once they realized though that the chopper was not killing me and they could sneak a morsel, they quieted down and stayed out of the way of the crank. The real crank, not me 😉
A chopper this size would have been made for a small farmstead that was feeding more than one animal. It makes short work of those roots. I only feed Della 5 pounds of chopped roots per day, and that only takes about a minute to chop. With the knife about 5 minutes.
Some small roots do go through without chopping so I check each batch before feeding so I don’t choke my cow. I always feed a mix of roots too, since each is different nutritionally. This winter because Della is dry, I have added rutabagas to the regular menu of carrots, parsnips and beets. Brassicas are a no-no during lactation unless you want cole flavored milk.
Della can utilize the blems and we can cream the crop. I am posting some root uses in the kitchen over at Simple-Green-Frugal Co-op today.