if you don't want to feed grain, you almost certainly have to move your cow to fresh grass every single day. She will need to eat a LOT of grass, and it will need to be very high quality. If you move pastures less often, your milk production will oscillate on a curve that has the same period as your period of occupation (if your cow stays for 1 week, highest production on day 1, getting lower every day until day 7.) You also might want to milk only once a day. If you don't manage your pasture and animals very well, its easy for your animals to lose a lot of weight if they don't eat grain. I'd recommend starting with feeding a few pounds of grain at first, then weaning her off, looking carefully at body condition.
having researched quite a bit, perhaps that is a goal i can aspire to, of course i plan to rotate every day, but the pasture i am moving to is not of top quality.
I have read that some varieties such as randal lineback or milking shorthorn can make good milk on less quality grass.
I will have to buy grain for the first few years... though on the property there are lots of hawthorn, crabapple and honey locust... how much could those help?
Emerson White wrote:
A cow on grain will deliver more milk, but a cow on grass will give enough milk for a whole family (and maybe enough for a little cheese too) so I don;t know why you would want to feed it grain, if you aren't going to be selling milk.
You CAN change your cow's diet. Just do it gradually -- and if there are few legumes in the pasture you are providing (oat hay has very little calcium in it), then you definitely need to add alfalfa hay. Give one-fourth of her hay as alfalfa the first two days, then half for two or three days, then three fourths, then finally the whole hay ration. Right now, if she's only one month from calving, the calf is building bone at an immense rate -- they grow a huge amount the last couple of months -- and she's pulling calcium from her own body to feed that growth. She needs a calcium reserve in her body before she freshens. The hypocalcemia that I mentioned is also called milk fever, and Jerseys are known for being more prone to milk fever than the other breeds, so this is definitely something I would pay a great deal of attention to!
Emile Spore wrote:
oh, goats won't eat clover? oh crap what do i do, that's half of what mine eat!
Goats will eat most plants, they ignore a lot of stuff if there is something else they like better.
It takes a while, but my goats have wiped out patches of poke weed, which is supposed to be poisonous to them. They just take a bite here and there every time they walk past it, but eventually it kills the plant.
I feel that Mr. Emerson may be right about the majority of non holstein cows, but I think that they need a gradual weaning off grain, perhaps a year or so, but they may never be able to do well in the cold north, without some kind of carb supplements, without extensive breeding.