All dairy farms, even though they may look vastly different, strive for the same common goals: Having healthy and happy animals, making safe milk, caring for the environment, providing food for everyone to enjoy and promoting a safe workplace for employees. One type of dairy farm is a rotational grazing dairy farm, which is the type I grew up on and am most familiar with.
Things on a rotational grazing dairy farm run differently than on other farms; each farm is unique like each family is unique. On our family farm we have around 200 acres of pasture, which is sectioned off into smaller areas for the cows to graze at different times during the day. The younger animals also spend as much time as possible on pasture. Every day I am lucky to see our cows right from our house windows.
When our cows come into the barn to be milked twice a day, they get a TMR (total mixed ration) which is a complete meal with all the nutrients they need to make milk, in addition to the grass they graze on all day. We also have barns with sand stalls where the cows can comfortably lay down. During the winter months, the younger animals are in barns and we feed them a TMR.
A grazing dairy farm has different tasks compared to farms that have their cows housed year-round in freestall barns. One type of farm isn’t better than the other — they are just different. Some days I spend more time on a quad, or four-wheeler, checking fence and cattle than I spend on my feet. Regular visits and calls from our neighbors are cause for alarm, as it usually means the cows are out again. At the end of each day, my family’s goals are the same as our dairy peers: To raise healthy cows who give us high-quality milk.
Miriam Cook will be a senior in the fall of 2018 at Pewamo-Westphalia High School. She lives and works on her family’s grazing dairy farm year-round. Her passion for agriculture started with the family farm and has expanded through her involvement in 4-H and FFA. Not only does she have a strong passion for dairy, but she loves to work with her Nigerian dwarf goats, horses, steers, ducks and, at times, pigs. She hopes to continue to gain knowledge on all things agriculture through an agriculture degree in college. With her increased knowledge, she plans to continue to teach others and maybe one day come back to the family farm to help feed the population. Miriam is participating in the Michigan Dairy Ambassador program.