Alfalfa hay can’t be thrown to the animals and free choice forage doesn’t have to mean free choice alfalfa. We set 1/4 bale alfalfa in the morning in a clean hay rack and keep an eye on the cows as they eat. Then when that’s finished, we give them a full bale of fescue grass to eat as much as they like. Another 1/4 bale is fed in the evening after milking. They can eat it in the dark.
Never fill a hay rack or the cows will just throw it all over the place. Also, make sure to drive a few rods down to hold a hay ring in place. No use having a hay ring if the cows toss it all over the place.
To determine how much hay to give your cows realize that they should eat a MINIMUM of 10 lbs per day if they’re a 1000 lb. cow–yes, that’s a formula: 1% of the cow’s bodyweight in hay each day. Ideally, they’ll eat more than that, but that excess is for the sake of roughage, not nutrients. 20 lbs. of a good alfalfa mix can provide almost all of the cow’s daily needs. If you add grains to that, even less alfalfa is needed. What you should do depends on the price you pay for grains and hay. We buy hay by the tractor-trailer load (alfalfa/orchardgrass mix for $6.99/bale), so it’s as cheap as any grain we could buy. You could pay $10-$11+ per bale here in NC, which would make grains cheaper. You’d have to crunch those numbers for your own farm.
We aim to provide our milking cows with 3 lbs. of protein per day, non-milking cows with 1.5lbs. We feed them up to 20 lbs of alfalfa hay and then 5 lbs. Of corn/soy meal mix at each milking. Non-milkers get fed just 2lbs in the evening. That mix is 3:1 corn to soy meal. Soy meal is expensive, but it’s 44% protein, wo a 3:1 mix makes a mix with 20% crude protein that’s highly digestible. I have experimented with less grain and the milk supply diminished rapidly in 1 day. Some will recommend less grain, but I say you reap what you sow. If the cow is getting too much grain, it’s manure will be soft and light-colored. Therefore, low milk is a sign that feed is too little, sloppy poop is a sign it’s too much.
I created an excel worksheet that allows me to punch in any ingredients I want and it will tell me how much of what the cows need and what it costs per day to feed them that ration. Maybe I’ll share that some day.
WM via BlackBerry.