The grass is always greener…

SINCE MY last (and first) post we harvested our second cut of grass for the growing season at the farm, so I thought I’d chat a bit about that (if you require heart medication to function, please consume it at this point since the lines that follow will otherwise cause a cardiac event).

As your front lawn can tell you, grass is truly amazing. Compared to other vegetation it can take a considerable amount of abuse and continue to grow. It can germinate at cool temperatures, be harvested continually (as you might with your lawnmower on a weekly basis), be flooded under water or deprived of water for months, burned, trampled, and even tilled, and still flourish.

Cows figured this out a long time ago. You and I cannot digest it (trust me, I’ve tried) but cows are uniquely equipped to do so. Their complex digestive structure includes four stomachs and a regurgitating process which breaks down what we can’t: cellulose. Cellulose is the most abundant organic compound on earth and it holds tons of good energy. They are able to break it down (with the help of special bacteria) and convert it into energy. This is great for us, because one of the byproducts of this process is milk!

This special relationship between cows and grass makes farmers respect the need for a healthy grass supply. This is why a farmer is willing to work through the night to ensure a quality harvest, driven to beat the weather or get the perfect moisture content in the grass. Hours upon hours are spent leveling, plowing, disking, planting, fertilizing, aerating, mowing, conditioning, harvesting, baling, stacking, and ensiling. A slight miscalculation can mean several months of poor quality food for the cows. This affects cow health, milk yield, and even reproduction.

On our farm we have approximately 25 acres of perennial grass fields. Last week, we harvested about 55 round bales of grass which we ensiled into plastic. This amounts to about 110 days of grass for our girls. You might notice them sometimes when you drive by our grass fields and see the white ‘marshmallows’ in the fields. This protects them from exposure to oxygen (preventing rot and mold) and allows the grass to ferment as an aid in digestion for the cows.