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!!!