This past week has been a great reminder as to why cattle can't always be outside on pasture all year round in Ohio. With the cloudy days, the rains, and oh yeah the SNOW...the pasture is not ready for the heavy grazing that cattle provide. This is why we have to supplement with grain during the winter months.
This Wednesday's blog post is about the process of how we make our cattle feed right here on the farm to supplement the hay bales to nourish the cattle during the winter months. It all starts with some seeds. We plant certified organic corn seed each spring in a few fields on our farm. With some sunshine, a little rain(usually much more than a little), and a lot of prayers, the corn matures and is ready to harvest in late Fall. When the weather permits, the corn is harvested using our corn-picker pulling a hopper wagon. You may see the neighbors with massive semi-trucks hauling to local co-ops. However, we harvest the entire ear of corn, still on the cob. The corn-picker simply rips the corn(and sometimes the husk) off the stalk and shoots it out into the trailing hopper wagon. When the wagon is full, it is pulled to the corn crib where it is aligned with a grain elevator. The corn is carefully dropped out of the wagon and pulled up above the barn, where it drops down through an opening and falls to the wooden floor. We usually fill both sides of the crib each fall. The crib is utilized for numerous reasons. Initially, in the past times, farmers did not shell the corn and store it in grain bins or sell it immediately. It was often air-dried in cribs with wooden floors and wire meshed sides. This is a natural way to dry the corn, without the use of expensive propane or natural gas. It also keeps more nutritional content in the corn. The cob of the corn is also utilized when it is ground up, and thus there is less waste involved. The corn settles in the crib and waits there until it is needed for winter feeding.
Next, the process of grinding (preparing) the feed begins. We have a New Holland feed grinder that is kind of like a giant kitchen mixer. We shovel in lots of corn along with some of our certified organic oats(These are raised similarly to corn but harvested with the combine and then stored in a bin until needed). Together they are blended and mixed in the grinder. Next, David drives the tractor and grinder to the cattle barn, where an auger is extended that can dump into bags, a trough, or a storage bin. It empties over a few minutes and the cattle are instantly happy.
Grain alone can not nourish a cow. Actually, our cows are fed at a ratio of about 3/4 hay and 1/4 grain. Each day multiple round bales of hay are rolled in with the cows. These round bales are made during the summer when we cut hay, let it dry, rake it into rows, and then bale it up. These bales are lined up and ready to be used when needed. Additionally, we supplement our cattle with red salt blocks. These salt blocks are the only thing consumed by our cattle that is not raised on our farm. They are certified organic, and shipped from Minnesota. They contain over 90 trace minerals that are essential for helping our cattle live healthy, happy lives. We are proud of the way we raise our cattle, and wanted to post this to give all of our customers an inside look at what exactly it means to be "Organic-fed Beef". Take a look at the pictures and captions to see this process in-depth.