ane’s calf has dropped, her ribs are more prominent and she is getting more uncomfortable. In other Jane news, I planted her winter roots today. Parsnips, carrots, and mangels.
I feed roots to the milk cow as a winter supplement, in addition to a little grain. I haven’t replaced the grain totally, but adding five pounds of roots a day to the diet is helpful for the winter diet and gives the cow something fresh.
♥ How much to plant?
I figure about 20 weeks of root feeding at 5 pounds a day. 20 weeks x 7 = 140 days x 5 pounds = 700 pounds of roots. Look for extension service crop yields for your area for the crops you are thinking of planting. Row feet calculations are more helpful for the farmsteader than by the acre yield amounts. I expect at least 100 pounds minimum per 100 row feet of each of the crops I plant. Some yield more, but your mileage may vary. Depending on your soil, gardening ability, critter predation, and time you have to devote to this, it’s not a small undertaking to grow root crops for a large animal.
♥ What to plant?
I plant parsnips, carrots and mangels specifically for the milk cow, cows eat other vegetables of course, but these types of roots are sweet and don’t contribute to off-flavors in the milk. Feeds and Feeding by Morrison is a great book to have on hand, editions dated 1950 and earlier are the best for farmstead operations.
Here in the maritime Pacific Northwest I am able to store the roots in situ with just soil for mulch to protect from freezing. However the mangels are subject to freezing due to half the root being exposed above ground. For my situation mangels are the least desirable of the three root crops I plant for the cow. I don’t have time or the storage area to store that many extra roots for the winter, so that is something to take into consideration if you live in a colder climate.
I have a root chopper, but a knife works just fine. Good milk cows are scarcer than hen’s teeth, so I go to the extra trouble to make sure the cow doesn’t choke.
I dryland garden for the most part, so time is of the essence to get my seeds in the ground while I have good available moisture for germination and just before the rain. I need these plants established before we get our annual drought that lasts from July to September or October. Root crops are experts at digging deep for available moisture and do well with dryland gardening techniques. Non-irrigated plants also are more nutritious. (Same for pasture…)
To conserve moisture, I mark my rows as I go and cover the seed immediately. You can see the soil is dark and moist just below the surface. No special tools, required – a good rake, a good attitude and some seeds and you’re good to go.
Yesterday I planted a mix of homegrown seed and purchased seed. I’m still trialing parsnips, Jane doesn’t really care too much what I plant, but I am looking for varieties that yield well and grow easily. I’m not a big fan of parsnips myself, but they used to be a popular fodder crop on the Isles of Guernsey and Jersey and fell from favor because of the difficulty with harvesting. I like them for their deep-rooted tenacity, that means more minerals in the vegetable and a little hard pan abatement to boot, and they never freeze.
Parsnips: Turga, Half Long Guernsey, Harris Model.
Carrots: Red Cored Chantenay
Mangels: Golden Eckendorf, Colossal Long Red
So for the most part Jane’s garden is done, and I still had time to plant our potatoes. It’s still a little coolish to be planting any warm weather crops, and I’m still ahead of the game compared to my normal planting time. So it’s all good.