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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care                                                 April 2004


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Hi Folks,

            We already have the pastures greening up early this year, although we could use some more sun and warmth to really get things going. I’d like to talk about pasture oriented topics since 75% of my farmers practice management intensive grazing to one degree or another. First of all, I plan to help interested individuals measure actual quantities of grazing materials in their paddocks by way of a simple pasture meter stick that I was given by New York State extension grazing personnel. It is so important to know how much your cows are actually being offered out on pasture in terms of dry matter so you can better balance their rations to keep them in top health and body condition for milk production and reproduction. In addition, I would advise that graziers take samples of their paddocks and have them analyzed to see what the actual nutrient content is. Using the wet chemistry method is preferred by most grazing nutrition consultants - like at Agri-Analysis in Bird-In-Hand.

            Even if you only have a 10 acre area to put your cows on, consider dividing it up into 1 acre paddocks and rotate your cows through these areas throughout the growing season. Near the end of May consider planting 2 acres of brown mid-rib sorghum sudan grass for the usual hot and dry time of July into August. I doubt we will have as wet a year as last year when sorghum sudan wasn’t as vital for providing fresh vegetation as feed, so plan on drilling some in when the soil is good and warm.

            For farmers considering grazing only recently, I can predict fairly securely that cow health is improved during the grazing season compared to cows kept inside all the time. Why? - mainly due to the fresh vegetation, but also due to the exercise. The exercise is very beneficial to fresh cows that haven’t cleaned properly by allowing their lymphatic system to better drain away problematic substances. A study I conducted as a summer project in Holland while in veterinary school showed that there were significantly (p<.05) less inflammatory conditions (all kinds) in cows on farms that practiced intensive grazing versus cows kept inside and fed diets with high amounts of ensiled feeds and grains.

            Granted, cows that are intensively grazed do not make as much milk in general, but the feed costs are much less. A study that was conducted last year by Tim Fritz and Beth Grove (both former Extension agents) in regards to comparing the costs and income of different farming systems among Plain farmers showed that the most profitable were grazing farms that achieved a herd average of 21,000 - which is the average production for the 1900 dairy farms across Lancaster County. This is an obtainable goal - if one is feeding their cows correctly - both out on the pasture and in the barn. The comparison study did not look at the economics of organic production, which may allow for a bit lower production while maintaining the best profitability levels. I would highly recommend that anyone grazing should be consulting with one of the nutritionists who understand grazing systems and agree with the philosophy of grazing in general. Please listen to what they are recommending so your cows will be healthy while also providing the healthiest possible milk to the consumers.

            The topic of conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs) is an important one, since CLAs are a known and proven anti-carcinogen (cancer fighter). And it happens that grazing cows (and all grazing ruminants for that matter) have higher levels of CLAs. Exact levels need to be determined by the farmer by getting the milk tested. There are also other beneficial short-chain and long-chain fatty acids in milk - as well as some medium chain and trans fatty acids (the bad fatty acids which can increase low-density lipoproteins). It all depends on how much and what the cows are being fed.

            In one study from Australia (Stockdale, et.al. Influence of pasture and concentrates in the diet of grazing dairy cows on the fatty acid composition of milk.  Journal of Dairy Science (2003) 70 267-276), the effect of daily pasture intake, where no concentrates were fed, on the concentration of CLA in milk fat showed that CLA content increased as pasture intake increased. At pasture intake of 1.5 kg DM/cow/100 kg live weight, there was 1.0 g CLA /100 g milk fat, while at a pasture intake of 4.5 kg DM/cow/100 kg live weight yielded 1.8 g CLA /100 g milk fat. The researchers found that, in general, the CLA concentration in the milk fat of grazing cows may be two to five times that of cows fed TMR.

            The cis -9- trans -11 form of CLA is the most common form that is present in milk and is an intermediate of biohydrogenation of linoleic acid by the rumen bacterium, Butyrivibrio fibrisolvens. Changes in the substrate supply (the different feeds taken in - such as different pasture species of grasses or alfalfa, different hays and concentrates) and the extent of biohydrogenation in the rumen affect the supply of intermediates and end-products of biohydrogenation, which will affect CLA concentration in ruminant products. Since bacteria change the cis - 11 of linoleic acid (C18:2) to the trans-11 of CLA in the rumen, concentrations depend on both the levels of linoleic acid in the feed and the retention time of feed in the rumen. As pasture intake increases, the retention time of feed in the rumen decreases. This may reduce the extent of biohydrogenation, which would result in higher concentrations of CLAs. In other words, complete biohydrogenation when linoleic acid remains in the rumen too long will decrease end product CLA content.

            Stockdale sums up his study in this way: “The results suggest that feeding cows plenty of good quality pasture with minimal quantities of cereal grain-based concentrates will result in milk with the healthiest fatty acid profiles.”    Note the words “good quality” pasture and “minimal” quantities of grain based concentrates (not specified exactly how much) give milk with the healthiest fatty acids.  Basically this implies that grazing cows in normal body condition are healthiest and will yield the healthiest milk for consumers.

            So - is it wise to know what the quality and quantity of pasture your grazing cows are consuming? The answer should be self-evident.

            In regards to feeding cows for CLAs, I am in the planning stage of sponsoring a talk by Peter Moate, who is from Australia has been involved with grazing research “down under” for 20 years. He now works at New Bolton Center (the vet school) and is beginning PhD research in the fatty acid composition of milk. He is highly knowledgeable how to feed grazing cows and the resulting components of milk in cows fed this way. Arden Landis has offered to have the meeting at his farm. The date is not yet set, but probably will be in the third week of April (week of April 19th). I’ll send out a flyer shortly with details.




Arden Landis has for sale the mineral barrels with solar panel that will also spray animals with fly repellent (whatever kind) while out on pasture. It is called The Protector. Call him for at 717-529-0155 for more details.


Elam M. Fisher (801 N. Little Britain Rd, Quarryville, 17566) has 8 heifer calves for sale, all Holstein-Jersey mix between 6 months to 1 year old.


Aaron Zook (of Amos G. Zook) has a sprayer for rent. It has a 57 foot book and raises up 8 feet. Rent at $2/acre. Aaron Zook, Zooks Lane, Leola. 717-656-2469.

For Bovinity Health, information on functional alternatives to antibiotics see:

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