Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pellet Feeding in Pastures
It’s a brisk and breezy today on the ranch.  Temperatures fell well into the 30’s overnight and this morning there’s a stiff north wind blowing down the spine of Florida.

People often ask me how the cows fare in weather like this.  The cold itself doesn’t really bother them greatly, but they don’t like a lot of wind.  Who can blame them?

Our cows lounge more on days like this one, and don’t spend enough time grazing.  Like many of us, they prefer to keep their heads down and keep a low profile when its windy.   We worry about their nutrition intake during cold weather periods like this, so on a day like this we often supplement their diet of pastureland grasses.

One of the ways we do this is through feed pellets.  Feed pellets contain protein and carbohydrates mainly obtained through grains and sugars which help with a cow’s energy needs.   

 Pellets work well on the Florida ranch where we don’t battle snow, because we can take them out directly to the field to feed the cattle.  This way we don’t have to use bunk feeders and/or corral the cattle.   

The pellets come in large 50 pound feed bags similar to dog food.  The trick is to get the feed out of the bags and into the bellies of our cows. 

Large ranches have specialized machines which can be pulled behind either a truck or tractor.  The equipment drops pellets in a straight row making it easy for the cows to find them without fighting each other for feed in the field.  This works well and is fast, just one of many tasks performed at ranches each day.  

Smaller ranches make pellet feeding more of a game.  Here’s how we do it.

We load up the back bed of a pick-up truck with a good number of feed bags, while someone standing in the bed makes sure each bag is standing straight up and is fully opened. 

With a driver in the cab, feed bags in the bed, and the feeding person(s) sitting on an open tailgate, we head out into the fields with lots of bags full of goodies.
Now cows love pellets, and the fragrance of grain and molasses travels far.   

In no time flat the herd is bellowing loudly and in a full run, heading straight for the folks on the tailgate. 

There’s a science to laying the feed pellets in open fields. 

The driver of the truck has to maintain a speed that’s fast enough to keep his passengers away from long cow tongues and cow horns, but slow enough that they don’t fall off the open tailgate.  He also had to miss any bull holes, sink holes, or sleeping baby calves sometimes found in a field while keeping an eye on his feeders in the rearview mirror! 

I’m usually a feeder, one of those trying to stay safely on the back of the pick-up.  If you’re dropping pellets, you aim to make straight feed lines and not food piles, while all the while trying to avoid ant hills and field manure.

At this point the cows are still running after the truck.  Some will stop and eat a few, but in a “grass is always greener somewhere else” state of mind, they keep on at full speed chasing the vehicle.

When the feeder finishes the contents of one bag, it’s important to hustle onto the next one or the cows won’t stop and eat at all.  Cattle seem to recognize if you’re a slowpoke and you end up with a cow face in your lap. 

So as a feeder, while you’re finessing the feed drop, you’re also juggling the next 50-pound bag.  As you can imagine, there is an insane amount of hooting, hollering, giggling and outright laughter happening during our pellet feed drops. 

So this is how I spent my early Sunday morning today…throwing feed bags, staying clear of marauding cattle and braving the cold northern temperatures. 

I’m going to enjoy that fresh cup of coffee.

- Sanne Collins
   From the Ranch in Florida


What’s Been Keeping Me Busy Lately

Love Those Wide Open Spaces is a blog designed to follow my daily life as a freelance writer and rancher.  It’s a life full of constant change and a wide scope of interests.

Freelance writing, by its definition, requires the ability to write on a variety of subjects, to juggle many assignments during the times of plenty, and to fill the void when checks are slow.   That said, I’m always writing.

Much of my work is done for others such as corporations, websites, or articles penned under another’s name.  I’ve sold the rights to these works, so they can’t be shared. 

However, many of my projects are available under my own name and can be read right here on the web.    

 You can click on either the site or the story below to see them.

Check out what’s been keeping me busy lately!


No comments:

Post a Comment