Parenthood and Dairy Farming
Having a child opens your eyes to so many things. Everything is so new and exciting to them. For me, it’s like seeing a whole new world when I’m with our daughter, Amelia. Parenthood has been my greatest blessing and has most certainly changed the way I look at the world, and it has especially affected the way we do things on our farm.
I have a new understanding and appreciation for the maternity process, one I didn’t have when we first moved back to the farm. After watching my wife go through pregnancy, I was inspired to take a closer look at the process our cows go through before, during and after birth. Over the last few months, I’ve turned my focus to making sure our cows and calves are as comfortable as possible throughout their pregnancy (for those of you who have been pregnant before, you can probably understand the scope of this task). I’ve always taken pride in caring for our animals, and we are constantly looking for ways to improve the overall quality of care we give our ladies. One of the improvements we made recently was to add on to our maternity barn. We gave our cows more room to calve, and, in addition to fresh, soft straw bedding, we added supersized freestalls with sand bedding to accommodate their larger size. This way, our cows can choose what’s most comfortable for them.
In addition to enlarging the maternity pen, we’ve also let our dry cows out on pasture. A dry cow is a cow that is pregnant and not giving milk. She rests for a few months before having her calf. We separate our dry cows from our milking cows so we can keep track of their progress, and give them the attention they deserve. I like to think of our dry-lot (where the dry cows live) as an all-inclusive resort. They can eat, sleep, drink and move around in a barn that is scientifically designed to maximize their comfort. We decided to take it one step further, and opened up one of our pastures for them. Now, they can choose to walk outside and dine on alfalfa, or stay in the shade of the barn and eat a diet that’s balanced by a nutritionist. By doing this, we’ve been able to help improve the movement of the cows, and make their time as expectant mothers as comfortable and relaxed as possible, which, as all moms know, is priceless.