Can I feed Hay only to Dairy cow?

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by Judith, Jan 22, 2011.

  1. Judith

    Judith Well-Known Member

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    OK first off I know that sounds rediculas. I have worked on Dairies for the past 3 years. We always feed TMR rations. I would like to bring my Jersey home from the farm. I have 6 acres for her but almost no pasture. I would like to put in round bales (top quality alfalfa) give her minerals and that's it. Is she going to have a healthy calf if I do this? i imagine her milk yeild will drop substantially but that is OK. I'm so brainwashed by TMR that i'm worried to do this. ( no laughing I know cows eat grass......) The farmer i work for thinks she will be dead in no time without all the grain, silage etc.... Opinions please :)
     
  2. matt_man

    matt_man Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I think you won't be able to just cut her grain out cold turkey. It would take a couple years to get her able to maintain body condition without all the feed, in my experience.

    We got a jersey cow several years ago and although she was not at a dairy when we bought her, they were feeding her high amounts of grain. She did originally come from a dairy.

    She was very thin when we got her and would never really hold much weight unless she was dry. We feed grain but very little and practice rotational grazing on our pastures with hay during the winter. This is the first year that she has not looked ghastly thin while heavily milking. It has taken her almost 4 years to acclimate to our grazing system and still hold a good weight.

    Despite her thinness she has always bred back on the first AI attempt for the past 4 years. She will be 9 years old in June and is due with her 8th calf in August.
     

  3. Callieslamb

    Callieslamb Well-Known Member

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    I would be concerned about all afalfa hay due to a jersey's tendency to get milk fever. You might try grass/alfala mix hay. I think you can do it- google 'grass fed dairies' but like Matt-man(rachel) says - it will take time to switch her over. If you find she isn't holding her condition well on just hay, there are other things you can feed her - like beet pulp. All you can do it give it a try. I am not sure how you will get her in the barn.... I feed my cow 3-5 lbs of grain at each milking so she will like me. LOL!!!!
     
  4. sammyd

    sammyd Well-Known Member

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    We feed nothing but pasture and hay with a touch of grain.
    There is a point when you need to take a really good hard look at your animals and decide if they are in good enough shape to go without any grain.
    If you stay seasonal and don't milk them through the cold winter months you may be able to do it.
    We decided to milk through the winter since there is a premium for the milk and we went from just a third of a scoop of grain to get them in the parlor to 2 full scoops per swing. This amount is spread out for 8 or so cows which works out to around 4 pounds per animal a day.
    They look better and seem to have a bit more "pep". Once the weather warms up and the grass comes on they will go back to just the treat.

    While it's not totally grain free it's about as close as I would ever care to get.


    http://script-host.com/self/parlor/outside4.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2011
  5. Judith

    Judith Well-Known Member

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    4-5 pound of grain a day isnt too bad. I was just worried about all the other stuff. Corn and grass silage that liquid stuff they get poured on all of the mix in the wagon etc. My boss is convinced that a commercial dairy jersey could never be off the TMR.... There is very good alf grass mixed hay here as well.
     
  6. springvalley

    springvalley Family Jersey Dairy Supporter

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    We milk all jerseys and our cows came from a farm that was a total mix herd. We bought them when dry, and put them on a good grass hay when we got them home. They were not use to eating anything in the barn, as they had a walk thru parlor. We feed grain during the winter, and amount depends on the cow, older thin cows get more grain, younger fleshier cows get less. And as callie has said, and I preach all the time is to never feed alfalfa hay during dry period. I have milked most of my life and I feel this works very well. We also don`t feed silage of anykind, mostly because my silos to big, and the bags are so expensive. Don`t ever let anybody tell you, you can`t do something. If they try that with me I prove that I can. Good Luck. > Marc
     
  7. sammyd

    sammyd Well-Known Member

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    We have put up a few rows of round baleage when the weather was uncooperative.
    I have looked at the idea of making barley baleage when it's headed out (which is later than normal) for the energy instead of the protein.
     
  8. linn

    linn Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We have never been able to get much milk in the winter unless our cows had good hay and some grain. I have read of others not feeding grain so some cows must do OK. If it was summer and your cow was on lush grass, then she would probably give milk on a grass only diet, but ours always needed grain along with their hay diet.
     
  9. cathleenc

    cathleenc Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I have a whole one cow, my only cow ever, so take my experience tempered by all those above this post with zillions time more experience.....

    I feed 2 qts organic grain each feeding with alfalfa hay (about 80 lbs/day) and another 15 lbs really great grass hay day. Last year we had fabulous alfalfa and she looked much better - this year the alfalfa is marginal and she looks good but not as good.

    I also bring her whatever kitchen waste I can - squash/pumpkins that we never got to and froze, cut into chunks, vegie waste that still looks decent but not 'salad' quality.

    I tried her on only 2 qts of grain total per day and she just got a little too thin for me - I feel better about being her caretaker when she looks well cared for.

    I got her from a small commercial organic dairy where her grain consumption was much!! higher. She transitioned over to us just fine.
     
  10. Callieslamb

    Callieslamb Well-Known Member

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    I want to add to my comments - it might depend on how cold your winters are. You don't say where you are so that's one thing to add. I think it would be easier to grass-only in a warmer climate than I have.

    I also have 1 cow only. Last year, I had a heifer and a steer and thought the large round bales - just fed all at once - didn't work for me. It was almost like it went bad before they could eat all of it or something. I don't mean moldy - I have a nice feeder that keeps the hay very protected. But after a week - they didn't eat it. I feed small squares now and like it much better.
     
  11. springvalley

    springvalley Family Jersey Dairy Supporter

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    callie makes a good point, the warmer climate you have the better it is for a grass fed dairy. here in the cold midwest, it is very hard to pasture alone, as winters are to cold to allow you to milk year round without grain a supplement. Some farms dry up cattle in the winter, so they don`t use up so much energy. > Thanks Marc
     
  12. sammyd

    sammyd Well-Known Member

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    that's the biggest reason we feed the higher amounts of grain in the winter.
    Yes, digestion and even lactation create heat in cows but that will only get you so far then you're using the cows bodily resources to keep warm.
    I read a study once that had -17F as the point where that happens. Easy to reach up here.
     
  13. oregon woodsmok

    oregon woodsmok Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Top quality alfalfa should be about 16% protein and plenty of calcium. I suggest that you give her some barley in her grain ration because it has phosphorus to balance out that calcium/phosphorus ratio.

    If it is cold, add some corn because corn is high calorie, so it is good for producing body heat.

    Naturally, you intend to feed trace mineral block and selenium block, if your area is deficient in selenium. I am not assuming you hadn't already planned on it, I'm just mentioning for the beginners who come around to read.

    No dairy cattle here, but my beef cattle kept fat as pigs on winter pasture with a bit of mixed grain and good alfalfa hay. Your dairy cow will need more of the alfalfa and grain, because she will be working harder, but quality alfalfa will sure keep a cow in excellent condition. My buddy with a commercial Jersey dairy fed alfalfa and grain to her cows, plus pasture for nibbles. She had excellent production and milk fat from her cows.
     
  14. Judith

    Judith Well-Known Member

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    I'm in Northern BC. So it gets might cold here! And summer is blazing hot. So looks like I will feeding quite a bit of grain.

    Edited to add. Our alfalfa is exceptional here. Grass hays are also very good quality. They really know how to make hay here!
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2011
  15. arcticow

    arcticow Well-Known Member

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    I will second the quality of hay there, fed some in AK. But yes, grainwill be necessary.