Have you ever considered everything a cow can do? Yes, when we pass them in the fields, they are often sunning or chewing on their cud. Milk lovers also know that cows produce the great-tasting milk used in our favorite dairy products. Yet cows provide so much more than that. You may be surprised to discover how much cows can contribute.
Cows are part of a circular economy. This means that cows create a system on farms that shares, reuses and recycles existing materials and products as long as possible, such as water and manure. To eliminate waste on the farm and create efficiency, dairy farmers have developed several methods to make the most of every commodity.
An example of this type of cycle is the process of feeding the cows. Dairy cows, which can weigh around 1,000 pounds depending on their breed, can eat up to 100 pounds of food per day. This need creates an opportunity for dairy farmers. Some dairy farmers allow their cows to graze on grass or provide them with alfalfa hay. Farmers may also choose to supplement their cows’ diets with mixed ration feeds including corn, soybeans, sorghum, and other grains to provide additional nutrients and fiber. But these ingredients must first be obtained.
Often, the crops that dairy farmers grow are used to feed the cows each day. To keep a steady supply across years of production, farmers must ensure that the soil’s health remains intact. One part of the solution is to rotate the type of crops grown on that field. This variety is also beneficial to the cows. Harvested ingredients like corn and hay are mixed to create a nutritious diet for the cows. The manure produced by cows is then used to fertilize the next round of crops grown, continuing the cycle.
Through this efficient system, consumers like us are able to enjoy dairy products each and every day. Discover more ways that cows and dairy farming contribute to the land and the community through our video series or visit our Sustainability and the Dairy Industry page for more information.