By: Becky Nava
It’s a common question that we get here on the farm: what does Fair Oaks Farms feed their cows?
What is TMR?
We feed our dairy cows TMR which stands for “total mixed ration”. I could get into the deep science behind this right now, but I’ll save that for a later time! For now, I will put it simply.
TMR or total mixed ration is a perfect combination of a cow’s favorite foods. When we think of a cow’s favorite meal, your memories might take you back to a road trip with your family. Remember driving down a backroad seeing a field of cows happily grazing on some grass and chewing their cud. At least one person in the car always points at said cows, yelling “look cows”!
Cows Have a Sweet Tooth
What we envision is that cows love grass.. what most of us don’t know is that, although that may be true, we have come to realize that cows love… MARSHMALLOWS.
Yes, you read that right, marshmallows! Cows have a sweet tooth just like many of us do. Like humans, they need a balanced diet to live a healthy, happy life. Although our girls would love to snack on sweets all day, we want to ensure they don’t eat too much sugar. This is why we bring in a nutritionist to help us create a moovelous meal!
Who’s Involved in the Feeding Process?
The nutritionist will work with our farmers to ensure that we feed our girls the right mixture of all the nutrients she requires in her diet. Now that we have become experts on her meal, we have farmers whose main duty throughout the day is to truly be a “chef”. These chefs may be a little different from the talented folks working in The Farmhouse Restaurant. The cows’ chefs create meals for our dairy cows and then the other team of farmers “waiters” will deliver their meals to the barn. Talk about room service!
Now let’s turn a spotlight on our chefs, I mean farmers. They have several types of feed that they measure out by weight. The farmer, also known as the mixer wagon operator, will scoop up the different ingredients and pour them into the “feed wagon” or “mixer wagon”. This wagon will weigh the feed and display it for the farmer to see on the outside of it. Inside of the wagon is mixers or blenders, quite like an item you’d find in a kitchen. Only on a much larger scale. The operators are very skilled, not only do they change the formula to the specific group of cows (i.e. dry cows, pregnant cows, or milking cows). They also do this very quickly in order to feed all 36,000 cows here at Fair Oaks Farms. Holy Cow!
I explained that a cow at Fair Oaks Farms will eat TMR. What does a cow at Fair Oaks Farms really eat though?! Where does it come from? How do you keep it fresh all year round? You are in luck, because I have these answers for you today.
What’s in TMR?
We produce wheat, oats, alfalfa, soybeans, corn shelled, and corn silage. Not only are we dairy farmers but we are also farmers who grow crops. These crops are what feeds all of our cows. You may be wondering what we do with all of these crops after harvest? Where do we put it all! We have procedures in place to ensure the food will stay fresh until it’s eaten.
With haylage and wheat feed, the farmers bag it and keep all of the air out so it will ferment. When the feed wagon operator uses the haylage and wheat it is always closed after use.
For the corn silage the farmers will cover the pile with plastic, held down with rings from recycled tires to keep all of the air out so it will ferment properly as well. This is how we keep it fresh and delicious for the cows here on the farm.
The Secret Recipe
Earlier I mentioned TMR or total mixed ration, here is our secret recipe.. shhhh.
• Corn Silage 34 lbs
• Haylage 8 lbs
• Alfalfa Hay 5 lbs
• Canola Meal 13 lbs
• Soybean Meal 4 lbs
• Protein Extract 2 lbs
• Wet Gluten meal 10 lbs
• Mineral Supplement 4 lbs
• High Moisture Corn 5 lbs
• Ground Corn 11 lbs
• Sugar 4 lbs
I know, I know, where are the marshmallows?
Learn more about our feeding and milking processes when you visit The Dairy Adventure. You might just see our girls chowing down!