Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kids Ask, I Tell...

After last week's preschool tour, I thought I would take this week before we start cutting hay to reflect on their questions, and how I responded to them.  I think even adults wonder about some of the things that they asked, and frankly...if you want to know, JUST ASK US!  I am more than willing to share with you why we do what we do, instead of having false assumptions made about our farm...so here we go....first up!

1. Do your cows go outside?
Seems like a simple question, since we were in a barn at the time when this was asked.  Our milking cows do NOT go outside.  They enjoy life inside our barn with a roof, sidewalls with curtains for natural light and ventilation, and fans and sprinklers for summer heat.  We house our cows inside for a number of reasons, but the main one is that we are protecting them from the environment outside.  Inside our barn they are protected from rain, snow, sun, heat, cold, wind, etc...and they are protected from predators (coyotes are most numerous in our area).  We also have them inside so they stay out of mud.  Those silly cows sure do love their mud!  I can't believe how much mud they make and play in when they are outside.  Mud=dirty, and dirty=increased chance of mastitis (which is painful for the cow and our pocket book-clean cows are healthy cows!). 

We have a pack barn which is basically a big bedded pen, allowing all cows plenty of walking room each day.  They get exercise by walking to and from the parlor, up to the bunk for feed and water and mainly from running around with their herd mates during the day-playing!  Yep! You got it!  Cows play!  You should see them play, it makes Jon and I laugh so often during the day!  I love watching them just have a blast!

Our dry cows DO GO OUTSIDE.  They enjoy a 2 month vacation outside before they have their next calf.  Here they have one job, to eat and relax.  One of the moms on our tour last week thought that sounded nice, since she was expecting a baby in a couple of months ;)  In this pen we strive to keep them clean, but darn it if those cows don't find a mud hole every once in awhile, especially in the summer after a cool rain.  We hope to someday move these cows indoors to also protect them from the weather, but for now they are doing just fine.

2. How come your cows walk in poop?
This one was a great question!  Ever watch a herd of cows walk home from the pasture?  The follow the same path over and over again, until its dirt (hence the term "cow paths").  When it rains this turns to mud, but there is also "poop" there.  Cows poop all of the time.  Cows will poop when they get up to eat, when they lay down, when they leave the parlor, when they come into the parlor, and when they are scared.  We work hard to prevent the last condition-walking through the barn peacefully is a requirement, but with 20+ kids laughing and screaming at the cows...well, let's just say they were scared/nervous.  One very astute child suggested that we take the cows outside the barn, onto the grass and let them poop outside and then bring them back into the barn.  Just like a dog!  What an observation!  BUT....those cows would poop on the way out and on the way back, still making a mess and making a mess of our front lawn.  Unfortunately we have not potty trained our cows, but if someone ever figures out a way to do it I know many dairy farmers that would be interested.  Our cows walk on alleys that are made with concrete.  The cows have grip on these to prevent them from slipping.  We scape these alleys everyday-twice a day to prevent the "poop" from getting too deep.  It's a job that we do when the cows are in the parlor waiting to be milked.  Some farmers have machines that automatically scrape the alleys during the day while the cows are in the barn, but we do not have a system like that.  The "poop" is scraped into a holding pit which is pumped out every few weeks, and hauled to our fields.  Scraping "poop" is critical to making sure that our cows stay clean-the cleaner the cows are, the healthier they are, and we improve the overall quality of the milk that they produce! 

Awesome questions!!!! More to come later this week!!!


  1. Funny. I see cows outside all the time, getting healthy, fresh air. They seem to do fine.

  2. Our milk cows live in green pastures twenty four seven and get all the grass they want to eat in the summer and all the hay they want to eat in the winter. They are in the sun if they choose to be and under shade trees if they choose that as well. Not only are our cows healthy, they are happy cows, too!

  3. So, do you cut grass for them to eat? Not very fresh. Loss of vitamins.

  4. I live in Washington State and just finished a book, Barns of Snohomish County. The book honors and highlights 12 dairy farming properties much of which are sadly not in operation anymore.

    Thank you for your hard work and God bless!

  5. Rachel Barner: Thank you so much for your support! It's great to know that our profession and way of life are appreciated!

    Debbie: That's awesome that you are able to graze your cows~you are right, your cows were also happy! We considered grazing when we started farming 5 yrs ago. I didn't mean to sound as though grazing is wrong, it's just not a management style that would have worked for our farm, our region and our climate. I grew up on a farm where we grazed our cows in the summer months for a few hours each day, and fed silage and grains the rest of the day. It worked, but on the hot days those cows would all crowd into a mud hole, and if there wasn't one in the yard, they would make one under the nearest shade trees. We had the hardest time keeping our SCC low during those months and found that we were able to keep our cows healthier by housing them inside with fans and sprinklers. Indoor housing is just a method of raising our cows that has worked well for us.

    Anonymous: I assure you that our cows have plenty of fresh air! On warm spring/summer days like today we have 16 ft openning on our barn which allows the MN winds to blow through easily, and when they don't blow we have fans to help out. The sun shines in, allowing the cows to rest in either shade or sun. Please know that whether cows are outdoors or indoors, each environment is managed by qualified dairy farmers who are working to always keep their cows healthy and safe.

    Regarding grass and vitamins, fresh or stored, grass, alfalfa, and corn are all great sources of vitamins and minerals. Our cows are fed mostly forages (because they are ruminants) so we want only the best for our cows.


I write this blog to share my passion for my cows and farming, please be respectful of that. I reserve the right to delete those comments which portray hate, call names, and are out right disrespectful. If you have an honest question, I will respond, to explain what we do on our farm, why we do it and how we do it. Please read with an open mind. My time to blog is short, as most of our days are spent caring for our beloved cows. Thank you!