Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Jon Wilcox, a dairy nutritionist from Faribault, gave a demonstration on what cows eat at Saturday’s on the farm event near Claremont.

What do cows eat and how much?

Nutritionist educates public during breakfast event on Steele County dairy farm

Dairy cows eat about 102 pounds of wet feed every day. 

That’s one of the more interesting facts people walked away with after touring a Steele County dairy operation as part of last Saturday’s Breakfast on the Farm event. More than 900 people attended the dairy month promotion at Clover Glen Farms located near Claremont.

Jon Wilcox, a dairy nutritionist from Faribault, gave a demonstration on what cows eat. Cows eat a combination of hay, corn silage, soybean meal and other bi-products, according to Wilcox. 

Feeding cows is more complex than just having a farmer “throw some hay over the side of a fence,” Wilcox said. 

Once a cow eats, the food is stored in the rumen, which Wilcox compares to a large barrel. “A cow’s rumen is like a big 50-gallon tank,” he said. “It’s like a cement mixer where it keeps turning and churning around.”

As a nutritionist for Clover Glen Farms, Wilcox is constantly monitoring different records to make sure the cows are producing a high amount of milk and components. Whatever Wilcox is doing seems to be working. Clover Glen is one of he top herds in the county and its Swiss herd is the third highest in the entire state, according to Jon Klejeski, one of the owners of Clover Glen. In addition to Swiss, Clover Glen also has Holsteins. There are 71 milking cows on the farm. 

Klejeski said his herd produces up to 85 pounds of milk each day, well above the state average. A normal dairy herd produces around 65 pounds, Wilcox noted. 

Besides good nutrition, the production of milk depends largely on environment. “They are very comfortable out here and that’s not always the case,” Wilcox said of Clover Glen’s cows. “It takes people who are hard working and dedicated to milk cows,” he added.

Keeping the cows comfortable has been a major goal for Glenn Johnson, who farms with Klejeski. There is no pasture available for Clover Glen’s cows so they are kept inside at all times. The barn features flooring made up of five inches of ground up tires and soft pads. 

“It’s squishy to your feet,” Johnson explained. “It’s softer than laying in the grass.”

Cows, Johnson said, spend as long as 18 hours each day lying down. “They need a comfortable place to live,” he said. “If that cow is not happy, she is not going to milk,” he added.

Johnson hopes people realize that animal care is of utmost importance to dairy farmers. “We want people to know that we are taking good care of the animals,” he said. “They’re a part of our family.”

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