Have you ever wondered what goes into feeding dairy cows? It's a lot more than just giving them some hay and grain!
Hello my name is Merlin Ryks. I am an independent Dairy consultant who has the privilege of working with Appel Dairy with their Dairy’s nutrition. You may have heard that “happy cows are productive cows” and I believe that describes the Appel Dairy. They make a huge effort to keep their cattle as comfortable and as well fed as possible.
Most of the dairy's forage are grown on their own farm. These forages are harvested at the most optimum time to produce the most digestible feed possible. The grass silage for example that grows in this pacific northwest climate is some of the most digestible grass grown in the United States. Highly digestible feed, if fed correctly, promotes more productivity by the cow and less waste.
The milk cows are fed a “TMR” which means Total Mixed Ration. A TMR helps keep the cows diet in balance. It keep the cows from making unhealthy choices (eat too much carbohydrates, not enough fiber, maintaining their mineral intake, etc.). So the forages (grass silage, corn silage, and alfalfa hay), protein sources (canola, Soy Plus, etc.), carbohydrate sources (flaked corn and barley), fat sources (cottonseed, etc.), are mixed with minerals and vitamins in one big mix like a tossed salad. It is made this way to keep all the ingredients consistent and as balanced as possible and keep them from making unhealthy choices (just like us if we eat too many carbs, it is not good for us, it is not good for the cow either).
When I work with the Appel Dairy we test their feeds in a lab for nutrient content (CHO, protein, fiber, minerals, etc.) to help maintain the proper balance of nutrients going into the cow, so the cow herself stays healthy and the milk she produces is also full of nutrients. These lab nutrients analysis are quantified and placed into a computer balancing programs to get the right amount of feed and nutrients into the TMR which is available to the cow as a balanced meal when she wants to eat (day or night).
I hope this gives you a glimpse into the effort that the Appel family and it's crew does to keep its cattle healthy and to supply you with healthy dairy products in return. I believe they are great stewards and I am honored to work for them.
Growing up, I told my farmer friends, I would never marry a dairy farmer. Little did I know that God had other plans for me!