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Good Pasture Techniques = Good Milk Production

Thank you to Anna Williams, an Organic Valley farmer, for this blog on good pasture techniques. Anna's farm is 3 Sisters' Farm in Truxton, NY.

Shade, water, paddock size, traveling time, pest control, pasture quality, etc. These are all factors to making your cow’s summer either pleasant or painful. The ideal temperature for a dairy cow is between 60 to 70 degrees. Let face it, our summers get much higher than 70F, and a cow can’t strip down into a bikini and jump in the pool to keep cool and happy. The top three techniques to help your cows keep up with their good milk production are: paddock size, water, and pest control.

The size of a paddock depends on many variables: number of animals, grass height, weather conditions, paddock rest period. The paddock has to support every animal that is on it with feed (Dry Matter), space for them to lay down, and leave enough grass behind for it to grow back. Many pasture techniques are tied into the paddock size. The best rule of thumb? The taller the grass the less space, and the shorter the grass the more space is required for the animals.

87% of milk is water. That is quite a lot of water that the cow’s body demands. A cow drinks a bathtub of water a day, but that is on a cow’s best day. On a 95-degree day, with a high humidity, blazing sun, no clouds - everyone needs more water. When a cow is on pasture she uses water for two main reasons: Milk production and to keep cool. It is important to make sure that there is an adequate water supply, for all the animals in the paddock while they are out, especially if there is no shade in the paddock. Clean, fresh cool water can do a lot for a cow that is stressed by the heat.

The final technique that contributes to good pasture is pest control. When it is hot and sticky, and manure is nearby it is sure you will find flies. Flies of any kind are disease carrying, biting, irritating insects.  Cows can do very little to rid themselves of these pests. Pest control all depends on the farmer. Fly tape, insect sprays or a fly vacuum are just a couple of the ways that we as farmers can defend our girls against these pesky pests. The most important part on pest control is to keep up with the method you choose, before the pests get ahead of you.   

To keep your cows happy on pasture, make sure you have: adequate paddock size, enough clean, cool water, and pest control.  

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