How Dairy Farmers Make the Most of Cow Feed

Pete Gelber of Barrington Dairies in Montezuma, GA, knows a thing or two about cows. Growing up in New York, he spent plenty of time on dairy farms with the cows.  

“A cow is a wonder of nature.” 

Cows are incredible in our opinion. Dairy cows produce gallons of milk each day for consumers like us to enjoy in everything from a glass of milk to a delicious meal for the family. That’s more than enough reason to applaud their role in the food system, but there is even more to celebrate. Another way cows show their amazing skills is by how they eat. 

As ruminate animals, cows spend part of their day chewing their feed. Cows chew on average about 50 times a minute. When cows eat, the food spends hours in a cycle of being chewed, digested, and chewed again. This process provides amazing opportunities to farmers like Gelber. 

Gelber includes corn silage and Brewers grain in the feed on Barrington Dairies. Brewers grain is a beer byproduct, but cows can use it to make delicious milk. When beer is made from rye, oats, wheat, or barley, a cow is likely chewing on the grain. The grain is one of several byproducts of other industries that cows eat, which is good news for us humans.  

Gelber says it best: “A cow is a tremendous recycling machine.” We cannot eat the soybeans and canola remnants used for cooking oil, Brewers grain, almond hulls, leftover cottonseed, or citrus pulp from juice production. Instead of these byproducts becoming waste, cows use them as feed to produce milk. Due to their four-chambered stomachs, cows can break down these products. 

“A high-producing cow—a well-managed cow that is comfortable–she will make almost twice as much milk on a little more than half as much feed.” 

To learn more about dairy farming in the Southeast, check out our Dairy Farming section or follow along on social media as we highlight local farmers like Pete Gelber. 

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