When one becomes a farmer, it's hard to imagine all of the breeding and pregnancy issues one is going to be dealing with. After all, ‘the birds and bees' is what makes the cycle of life work on the farm – especially for a farm like ours. Sheep are bred each year for lambs that we will raise for meat, for example. The ‘birds and the bees' have to do their thing in order for that to happen successfully.
Likewise, in order for a dairy cow to produce milk, she needs to produce a calf. The calf is then weaned from it's mother and the cow is milked continually until a few months before she is set to calve once again. Ideally, this happens on a yearly cycle. The cow is bred, pregnant for nine months, gives birth to a calf, is bred back three months later, and continues to be milked while pregnant. The cow will likely be dried up for the last three months of her pregnancy, which allows her body a time of rest before calving.
It's the circle of the milking life, baby.
Unfortunately, our dear dairy cow has been in the milking cycle for too long without getting bred. It's not that she CAN'T be bred, but as you are all aware, we've had a heck of a time gettin' her and a beau together – either in the bovine form or in the AI tech form. It's just been challenging where we're located to find what we need. Even though Hiro, a beautiful Dexter bull, spent part of the summer with us, Sally was still open at the end of it all. Part of that was my fault, as I didn't ensure she stood for him (she's never been naturally bred before) by tying her up. Secondly, they were only together for two heat cycles which just wasn't enough to settle – and that's normal.
That being said, Hiro is coming back in a few days and this time, I wanted to make sure I'd done everything in my power to get Sally bred. So I consulted with a friend of mine who also had struggles getting her dairy cow bred, for one reason or another.
(No one tells you this stuff before you have a cow, so I'm telling you now: getting a single, family, dairy cow bred is tough work man! Be prepared!)
This friend of mine (Hey Ashley!) went through all the same struggles that we'd gone through and ultimately, their cow's struggle to be bred back came down to nutrition. Because of the state of our nation's soil it's very common for our crops to be deficient in minerals and cows are extreeeeemly sensitive to mineral deficiencies. Because we're in the process of building our pasture irrigation system, Sally has been on hay (and small bits of leggy, poor pasture) since her arrival on the farm. We're in works to great a lush, green pasture environment for her grazing pleasure but in the meantime, she's been living off a grass hay/alfalfa hay that we get locally. And I'm not saying it's bad hay. I'm just sayin' I have no idea the state of the farmer's soils or what minerals he may or may not be lacking. If the soil is lacking, the hay is lacking. And if the hay is lacking, then Sally will be lacking. And if Sally is lacking, then… well… you can see where this is going.
I wanted to make sure she was in optimal condition for breeding. And so, we took a big financial leap, and ordered a loose 16-mineral supplement program through this company.
16 minerals for Sally to choose from. Cows are incredibly smart and will take what they need, and only as much as they need, when they need it. Essentially, it's like a mineral salad bar for Sally. Instead of flopping down a pre-made and rationed salt and mineral lick, we provide her with individual minerals that she can consume in her own time at her own free will. She instinctually knows what she needs.
16 Loose Minerals For Dairy Cattle Include:
– Vitamin A, D, & E Mix
Healthy Tissue Growth – Three very important vitamins in animal nutrition are A, D, and E. Vitamin A maintains the skin and the linings of the digestive, respiratory and reproductive tracts. Healthy tissues resist invasion by disease. Vitamin A is needed for normal sight and to prevent night blindness. Colostrum is high in Vitamin A. Vitamin D is the “Sunshine Vitamin.” It presents rickets and is essential for proper bone growth and consistent reproduction. It is linked importantly with calcium-phosphorus utilization. Vitamin E aids in absorbing and storage of Vitamin A. It is a part of enzyme and hormone systems. If you are having breed back or cleaning problems it could be a lack of available Vitamin A and/or Selenium.
– BCV Mix
BVC-Mix is a B-Vitamin complex blended with bacteria, kelp, and trace minerals, buffers and herbs for digestive aid. It also assists with Nerves and Stress
Bone Growth and Vigor – Calcium is necessary, along with phosphorus, for sturdy bones and teeth, and for maximum growth, gain and production. Calcium regulates how well tissue cells absorb nutrients and is vital in the blood gain and production. Calcium and phosphorus team up together in a ratio of approximately one or two parts calcium to one part phosphorus. Vitamin D is necessary for proper utilization of these minerals.
Iron and Copper work together to form hemoglobin in the blood. Deficiencies cause depraved appetites in cattle, anemia and calves born weak or dead. Problems Associated with a Lack of Copper Include: All Fungal Diseases, Anemia, Cow Pox, Diarrhea, Dermatitis, Failure to Breed, Foot Rot & Foot Abscesses, Herpes, Johne's Disease, Lowered Immune, Liver Fluke, Lump Jaw, Open Knees, Osteoporosis, Ring Worm, Staph Infections, Worms.
– Iodized Salt
Metabolism Regulation – Approximately half of the iodine in the body is located in the thyroid glands, which produce important hormones, such as thyroxin, which have a regulating affect on the body metabolism. Thyrotoxin, which contains 65% iodine, is also concerned in growth, development and reproductive process. Iodine deficiency causes birth of weak and deformed offspring which fail to survive, abortion, infertility and other reproductive problems. Severe iodine deficiency results in goiter or lumpy jaw.
Proper Growth & Nerve Response Factors Affecting Vitamin A Consumption –Potassium is required by the animal body for normal nutrition and is linked with calcium and phosphorus in bone building processes. Its presence affects feed efficiency by aiding rumen bacterial growth and proper cell pressure for nutrient utilization. Muscle and nerves need potassium for proper maintenance.
Bone and Blood Development – Magnesium improves calcium and phosphorus metabolism and calcification of bone. Magnesium is needed by the body in relatively small amounts but is very important to life. About 70% of the magnesium in the body is in the bone, combined with calcium and phosphorus. Muscle contains more magnesium than calcium. Magnesium is present in the blood, organs and tissue fluids of the body. Conditions induced by a deficiency of magnesium (w/Calcium) include Grass Tetany, Milk Fever, Mastitis, Acetonemia, Arthritis, Founder Warts, Soft Teeth, Bent/Deformed Bones and Nervous Behavior.
Growth and Reproduction – Phosphorus and calcium together make up 75% of the total amount of minerals in the bodies of farm animals, 90% of the minerals in the skeleton and half of the minerals in milk. Phosphorus is especially important as more bodily functions are tied to it than to any other nutrient. Besides building strong bones and teeth, it is an important part of many proteins, including the casein in milk. Phosphorus regulates enzyme activity and helps maintain vital pressure balances between cells. If a cow is starved of phosphorus, she is very unlikely to bear a calf. Phosphorus is the only mineral known to significantly affect the eating quality of beef.
Protein Formation – Sulfer is necessary for the life of animals, for it is an essential part of most proteins. A deficiency limits non-protein nitrogen utilization. Sulfur aids in production of healthy hair coats and in hoof and horn development. Cattle that are sulfur deficient may have lice, ticks or other exterior parasites. They will not digest their feed properly as lack of sulfur interferes with the action of the amino acids, especially cysteine and methionine. Growing animals will not progress as well as they should if sulfur is missing. Sulfur is also needed by the calf in utero in the last two months of pregnancy.
– Trace Minerals/Selenium
Immune System Health – Trace Elements: Catalyst and Enzyme Systems – Trace elements iron, copper, cobalt, zinc and manganese are minor but essential minerals in live stock nutrition. Need for trace element supplementation has increased in recent years due to the gradual depletion of minerals in farm soils. Manganese affects the metabolism of calcium and carbohydrates. Cobalt is needed to enable Rumen bacteria to synthesize Vitamin B12. Cobalt deficiency causes loss of appetite, weakness and anemia. Deficiency further decreases fertility and milk production. Selenium is essential for Vitamin E metabolism. Iron(along with Copper) is essential to form hemoglobin in the blood.
Zinc helps to increase gains through good feed efficiency. Deficiency causes poor growth, weak legs, skin lesions. Zinc also helps build a healthier immune system. Lack of Zinc causes reproduction and cleaning problems.
– Selenium Top Choice Mix
The Buffer Plus is very successful in counteracting low rumen pH and increases utilization of protein. The combination of sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium make this a very valuable additive to the ration. A dose of enzyme is added to facilitate bacterial growth in the rumen. One ounce per head per day of Buffer Plus will provide the same buffering as 4-6 ounces of sodium bicarbonate, plus it will produce a remarkable increase in the rumen ‘bug’ crop
– Redmond Salt
– MOP Organic Mix
– G.R.P. Mix
Everything a dairy cow could ask for and more. What a treat!
In order to feed the supplements to Sally, we had to design a mineral feeder that we could put in the only shelter we've got for her – our milking parlor. Stuart designed a simple feeder that utilized a 2×4, some serious bolts, and these little buckets (which may need to be replaced with stronger buckets in the future… pending how badly she messes with them). Each bucket holds a separate mineral and is clearly marked so that we can document which minerals she's taking and how much of them she's eating. This way, as we need to replace them, we can just purchase the minerals we need.
It was pretty simple to construct them, once we figured out the best way to do it. Though it wasn't without it's hazards. Sorry honey:
After that, we bolted them to the walls, low enough that she couldn't scratch her shoulders on them or put the weight of her head onto the bucket. Cows have a tendency to mess around with things in their pen. So far so good – I'm crossing my fingers that she leaves them alone. Stinker.
Ironically, dairy cows can also have a very hard time getting bred if they're too fat – which is often the case with family cows. Because we only have one to care for, people tend to over feed their cows and grow them into obese ‘ol ladies that really have a hard time ovulating. I've even had a few people email me to tell me I needed to put more fat on Sally Belle.
Sally's overall condition seems to be at a great stage for breeding. Because dairy cows put all their extra calories into producing milk, it's very common for them to have that ‘skinny' look when really, it's just how they're built. We're not fattening cattle for slaughter here people – and a family cow isn't supposed to look the same as a steer ready for harvest.
Thus far, she's really taken to the buffer mix, phosphorus, iodine, and BCV mix. Girlfriend must have been deficient in somethin'. I'm happy to see her partaking of the goodies.
Only time will tell if a mineral deficiency was causing any sort of reproduction problems with Sally. Like I said before, it's common for cows to take a few cycles to settle with a bull and it could have just been the case that she didn't have enough time with her man (after all, their cycles are about 21 days long, only 24 hours of which they're in standing heat for). Still, I'm glad to know that Sally has all of the important minerals and vitamins that she needs to be healthy for many years to come.
We love this cow. It's our privilege and duty to care for her.
I think these loose minerals are a great step in the right direction.