Ask us: Why do you keep your cows in the barn?
Welcome to "Ask us" -- a series of posts designed to answer some of our most frequently asked questions. It took over an hour to get to the nearest dairy farm from the house I grew up in. While the local nursery had a few goats and the occasionally pig, animal agricultural was very distant from where I grew up. My life has changed significantly in the last decade and I now boast skills like being able to milk a cow, drive a tractor, and bottle feed a calf. When I go home to visit, I get asked some really interesting questions. I thought I would take a crack at answering some of those questions here
Why do you keep your cows in the barn?
Our cows spend their time in the barn and on pasture. While some farms make it work having their cows outside all year round and others make it work having their cows inside all year long, we choose a hybrid.
We like the control that having our cows in the barn allows us. We know exactly what our cows eat, how much they sleep, and if they are exhibiting any strange behaviors. We have built our barns so that the conditions inside approximate pasture as closely as possible and so that our cows are as comfortable as possible. Our cows spend the majority of their time in the barn lounging around on the cushy pack, munching away on carefully prepared meals, and napping.
We also like to have our animals outside because the forage is functionally free. Instead of going through the tedious process of cutting, baling, and storing the grass for our cows to eat at a later date, we simply send the cows outside and have them eat to their hearts content. No tractors involved. Pasture is not without its difficulties though. There is uncertainty in what the cows eat and how to best meet their nutritional needs, the walk to the top of the hill is long, and there is always the rogue groundhog hole, broken fence, or wayward hunter to worry about.