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What Does Jane Eat?

March 21, 2014
Jane Butterfield - 4 months

Jane Butterfield – 4 months

Sweet baby Jane is no longer a baby, she’s a full grown milk cow almost done with her second lactation, and she has the appetite to match.

At nine months into her lactation and five months bred, per day she is eating at least a bale of our grass hay (45 pounds +), four pounds of rolled barley, six pounds of assorted chopped roots, 1/2 cup of molasses, 2 teaspoons of probiotic, and free choice minerals.  Her grain and root amount is fixed, but I keep her feed bunk full of hay for night, and put hay out in the pasture for her by day.  During the grazing season she won’t eat hay, but I do offer grain when she is milking.

For our farm, ruminants really fit our 90/10 rule well, making them a good fit for our locale.  Sustainability for small farms depends on not buying in feed.  Or at least only a small percentage, otherwise we are just like the big guys we so love to complain about.  Our farm community has died out here, there are no more feed stores, all the big farms have been chopped up and subdivided, and get good hay?  Hard to do without animals on the land.  Hay is more than just grass, and with cows it’s hard to offer them the proper minerals when you’re skewing them by bringing in the bulk of their diet from another farm.  When the term terroir finally trickles down to the food world from the wine industry we will see some real sustainability in our small farms.  Until then, we’re just trading big for little as if little or small is a guarantee of anything other than small.  Or in other words like Wes Jackson said ” you need to meet the expectation of the land.”  Once we start to make inroads of meeting the land’s expectation we will see some progress.

our hay - as local as it gets.

our hay – as local as it gets.



The Goldilocks effect - Just Right

The Goldilocks effect – Just Right

Besides general condition of the cow – smooth hair, clean tail and bright-eyed demeanor, you can look at cow pies to see if you’re feeding enough the right feedstuffs and have them in balance.  It may seem pretty odd to the uninitiated but if you have cows, you need to spend the same amount of time observing what comes out the back as much as what goes in the front.  Taking photos isn’t necessary unless of course, you want a record of how different types of feed affect a cow’s manure.

Right now the grass is greening up a bit, and Jane is getting some spring tonic to go along with her hay.  The early spring grass is as bad nutrition-wise as the fall green-up.  Woefully out of balance and washed out, it isn’t much more than a green smoothie for a cow.  So we are still feeding sunlight harvested last year in the form of hay to keep her evened out.  By watching her manure I can monitor how well I am balancing her feed.  With dairy cows you walk a fine line keeping condition while producing milk.  I have been able to put a little weight on her this winter, but she is a fairly persistent producer – still at 3 1/2 gallons per day now nine months in, and on farmstead fare.  Soon it will be time to dry her up and then walk the other fine line of over-conditioning in the dry period.  Too fat is just as bad as too thin for a full-blood dairy cow at freshening time.  Stay tuned to see how Jane does.

What's for dinner Sniff Test - I smell, carrots, molasses, barley, parsnips and vinegar?

What’s for dinner Sniff Test – I smell, carrots, molasses, barley, parsnips and vinegar?

Thanks Janie <3

Thanks Janie ❤


I’ll weed carrots and buck bales for you ’til the cows come home.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    March 21, 2014 11:01 am

    Did I miss somethng here with Jane? Did she calf already or still waiting or?? When you said she was in her 2nd lactation and that you would be drying her off soon…does that mean there was a calf in between those two events? I’m confused! But then I saw 5 months bred! Now I’m really confused!

    • March 21, 2014 11:05 am

      She’s had two calves, Blake in ’12 and Dickie in 13′ and she’s bred now to calve in July ’14. I was a little late to the party getting her bred, like 6 weeks late. A cow is usually bred to have a calf every year, which means they have a baby, get bred between 45 – 90 days, and milk until their current calf on the ground is about 9 months old. So lactating while pregnant is normal for a cow, and some people I know 😉

  2. March 21, 2014 11:14 am

    matron is my idol.

  3. Emily Summer permalink
    March 21, 2014 1:55 pm

    We need more folks like you. Keep up the good work.

  4. Chris permalink
    March 21, 2014 2:37 pm

    Ah Ha! Then I didn’t miss anything…I knew about the first two calves! Ah, then we won’t get too excited till sometime in July then! Good, my birthday month! 🙂

  5. dkswife permalink
    March 22, 2014 2:46 am

    She is adorable 🙂

  6. March 23, 2014 1:22 pm

    Jane is such a beauty, you can tell she was raised with love. Jan

  7. March 23, 2014 2:03 pm

    Awww, Jane was the sweetest little heifer ever. She seems like such a nice cow to have around. I can’t imagine ever being without a special cow friend again.

  8. March 23, 2014 4:47 pm

    I can’t get over her size. I have these little toy jerseys and then I see Jane. Geez. Look at the size of her head!

    That notion of home-grown hay is rock solid. I’m going to have to convert away from alfalfa fields so I can rotate fields cut for hay. It will take time.

  9. March 23, 2014 5:19 pm

    I love how you love Jane 🙂

  10. Bee permalink
    March 24, 2014 1:44 pm

    Maybelle will freshen in early May — I can’t wait to have real milk again! Everybody around here is preggers except the women (thank God and menopause!) and the sow, who is going in with the boar either this week or next, depending on when we get to it. We’ll have an Angus/Jersey, an Angus and an Angus/Belfair (Belfairs are a Jersey/Dexter cross), assuming all goes well. Then there’s the broodmare. The first couple of weeks in May will be a little busy in the maternity department. The ewes already did their thing, so we have five of the little beggars — all boys, when this was the year we really wanted a couple of girls, since we’re getting a new ram. Ah, well…

    Nita, is anyone in your area having trouble with the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus? I haven’t heard of any in our country, yet, but it’s two counties away. We’re isolated enough I’m hoping it won’t be an issue by the time we have new piglets, and it should be hot and dry, which will help.

  11. Trish permalink
    March 24, 2014 1:45 pm

    What a beauty! I love not just cow photos, but your photos, which reflect your strong love for your animals and the land. You keep her spotless too- it is really lovely to see.

  12. Kate permalink
    March 24, 2014 11:11 pm

    What’s her probiotic? I want to get away from a premix dairy ration and make my own…

  13. March 29, 2014 9:57 am

    Thanks for sharing! My dream is to have a cow, which is pretty impossible where I live, but one day maybe it will happen.
    Jane is beautiful, and the cute cow nose close up definitely made my day a bit better.

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