Catering to the Cows

What do cows eat? With increasing questions about what’s in our food, we went straight to an expert, Michigan dairy farmer Scott Ferry.

Why do you care about what you feed your cows?

What we feed our cows is important to us. Their health and well-being are our number one priority and that starts with their diet. As a father, I understand the importance of a healthy diet. I know three square meals are important to my children’s development, and the same concept applies to my cows. A balanced diet is paramount to my cows being healthy and producing high-quality milk.

How does your feed affect the quality of milk?

As with everything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. We care for our cows by caring for our land, ensuring that the crops that we’re growing for them are the best quality possible, are harvested at their peak, and then stored carefully.  Cows that have a high-quality diet receive the nutrition they need and are healthy cows, and healthy cows produce the highest-quality milk.

How much food does one cow eat per day?

It takes a lot of energy to produce milk, and we do everything we can to make sure our girls get what they need. A single cow will eat up to 100 pounds of food a day, and all of that is put to good use. We meet regularly with our animal nutritionist and work together to tailor the cows’ diet to ensure they’re getting the best nutrition possible. We treat our girls like they’re Olympic athletes. Accordingly, they get a better diet than most humans will ever eat.

Where do you get your feed?

We farm 1,500 acres of crops, from corn and soybeans to alfalfa and wheat to feed our cows. It’s like a salad when we’re all done. The corn, alfalfa and wheat are chopped up and combined with soybean meal and a mixture of minerals. The corn acts as a high-value starch, and alfalfa and soybean meal deliver protein, giving the cows the energy they need.

Are GMOs in the feed?

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are important to our industry. They allow us to grow more crops with higher yields using the same amount of land, water and other natural resources. All GMOs grown on our farm have gone through testing by the USDA, the EPA and the FDA, and their safety has been verified. Planting, growing, harvesting and storing crops is a lot of work, but it’s worth it to know that we’re providing quality nutrition for our animals. I would never feed something to my cows that would endanger their health or compromise the quality of their milk.