Monday, September 5, 2011

So what's an Animal Unit???

This awesome cow is actually 1.4 Animal Units!
Read more on how we determine how many
animal units we have on our farm!

  As of recently Jon and I have been working diligently on our farm project.  As part of that project we are also renewing our conditional use permit for our dairy.  A conditional use permit is issued to livestock farms in our county to allow them to have and raise livestock on their property.  Yes, livestock is not a right, it is a privilege.  As part of this process, Jon has been making many visits with the area neighbors to discuss the changes we want to make to our farm and how they might affect the neighbors.  All of our changes are for the good of our neighbors, our farm, and most of all for the well being of our cows.  Also part of the process includes a listing in area newpapers of our application for this permit...and that's where the controversy lies.  We are currently over our previous permit of 299 animal units.  We are applying for a permit for 840 animal units, which is actually for 100+ more cows than we have now, but we are planning for the future, 5 or 10 years down the road.  This number of 840 has a lot of people talking!  So let's start at the beginning....

Wikipedia defines an animal unit (AU) as "a standardized measure of animals used for various agricultural purposes.A 1,000-pound beef cow is the standard measure of an animal unit. The dry matter forage requirement of one animal unit is 26 pounds per day. Animal unit equivalents (AUE) are calculated for various other animals."  At 840 animals, we are calculating each cow to be 1.4 animals units!  That's right, those cows are the largest AUE possible!  Even horses are only 1.3 AUE and beef cattle are only 1 AUE!  Now, if we have 2 herds of cows, one with about 100 and the other with 200...than at my calculation, we have 420 AUE in just the lactating cows!  Now figure that a cow has 1 calf each year, and half of those are usually bull calves, which are sold.....and we are talking at least another 300 head of heifers and calves...also to be included in the final AUE count.  Now, adding calves and heifers, we are almost to 650 AUE.  The extra 200 AUE accounts for any additional cows we add in the years to come.  To see the worksheet we used to do our math, check this out!

Seems scary at first to see such large numbers, but if you take some time to really analyze what these numbers actually stand for, it makes perfect sense!  Hopefully this clears the air on what an "animal unit" actually is!

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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!