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Supplements our dairy cows get for the best possible health and nutrition

written by

Marie Reedell

posted on

June 14, 2024

Cow-Dairy-Supplements.jpg

Miller's has always advertised our cow dairy as "100% grass fed". It's true. For food, the cows eat pasture (or dry pasture) only... and never grain.

But it's probably more accurate to say "100% grass fed +". This is because, in addition to pasture, the cows get a few supplements for optimal health... and therefore the best possible nutrition in the yummy food they make for us.

This is similar to you taking a magnesium supplement since our depleted soils don't provide enough in our food, drinking red raspberry leaf tea to strengthen your reproductive system, or reaching for Nux Vomica homeopathic at the first sign of tummy troubles.

I've had lengthy conversations with our farmers and supplement providers. And now, I'm breaking the avalanche of info down into easily digestible info for you (yes, the pun was intended).

What Supplements Our Dairy Cows Get & Why

Each supplement has a different purpose. On a whole, the supplements give our cows good health all around, including preventing disease, keeping good body condition, maintaining reproductive health, and so much more. Here's info on each supplement.

1- Organic Molasses

Molasses is naturally rich in antioxidants, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin B6. But, the main reason it's given to our cows is to help them digest any fiber in the pasture.

Our molasses is certified organic, made from sugar cane grown in South America. It does NOT contain any apple cider vinegar or additives. It's 100% molasses, just like molasses you would buy for yourself. 

Each cow is given about 2.5 cups of molasses per day. It's poured on top of the energy pellets.

2- A Blend of Minerals

Nowadays soils are so depleted, and that's why fortified foods and supplements are so commonplace. Although we put a lot of energy into maintaining good soil and naturally regenerating it year after year, they may be small imbalances.

Giving minerals keeps up excellent body condition and overall good health. Reproduction is better. Basically, everything is better in animals with the right balance and amount of minerals.

Our minerals are simply ground up rocks. They include phosphorous, calcium, selenium, magnesium, zinc, sulfur, potassium, etc.

Our forage (fresh and dry pasture) is tested regularly. Then, based on those results, a mineral blend is specially mixed for our cows. For example, let's say the forage was slightly low is phosphorous. Then, the mineral blend would have added phosphorous. Since they have slightly different needs, there's one blend for dairy cows and one for heifers (which are dairy cows that haven't given birth yet).

The cows are given about 1/2 pound of minerals per day. If milking, the amount correlates to how much milk a cow is making. The more milk she makes, the more minerals she gets. That's because making milk is hard work, and the cow likely needs an extra boost. 

3- Homeopathic Remedies

We give our cows homeopathic remedies to both prevent and treat disease. To be clear, illness is rare in our herds since we put so much energy into maintaining their health naturally. And, we never give vaccines, antibiotics, or any kind of drugs. 

Our homeopathic remedies come from Hahnemann Labs and Washington Homeopathic Products. Both companies have been around since the 1800s. All of the products we buy from them are labeled for humans, not animals. In fact, you may have the same remedies in your homeopathic collection at home!

Here are some examples of homeopathic remedies the cows may receive:

  • Pulsatilla - This is for a big range of things. It gives cows a stronger heat, so it's good to give before conceiving. It's given preventatively after a cow freshens (gives birth) to help clean them out and discharge everything. It also helps with mastitis. Pulsatilla is also known as "pus-atilla", because it cleans out puss.
  • Sepia - This is given for fertility. If there’s a cow that doesn’t want to settle, we give sepia. And most times that works. It's not a guarantee but a big help. 
  • Belladonna - This is given if a cow has a fever.
  • Ferrum Phos - This is given for a cough or respiratory infection. 

The remedies come as little white pills. The farmers dissolve them in water, and the cows drink it. Different amounts are given to each cow, depending on her needs. And sometimes one works for one cow and not another. Our farmers pay close attention to each cow so they can make adjustments as needed.

4- Energy Pellets (Simply Alfalfa + Flaxseed Oil)

Cows get a lot of protein from forage... but not a lot of energy. Just a little flaxseed oil can go a long way. It helps keep the cows healthy. We can see this visibly with firmer manure. 

Since the farmers didn't want to simply pour oil over hay, they worked with a natural feed supplier to make some natural alfalfa pellets just for Miller's. It's just ground up alfalfa (which we often grow in our pastures) along with organic flaxseed oil. 

This is a very low percent of their diet. Each cow is given up to 1.5 pounds of energy pellets per day. If a cow produces a lot of milk, a little less is given. If a cow is having trouble producing milk, a little more is given.

Omega 6/3 Ratio Should be Optimal at 1:1

We pay attention to the details, and that includes the omega 6/3 ratio. Humans should consume a 1:1-4:1 omega 6/3 ratio. But, the conventional American diet is currently providing a 20:1 ratio (thanks corn and soy... but mostly corn). And that can result in a host of diseases including chronic inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, asthma, depression, fatigue, etc. 

The good news is that truly grass fed dairy naturally has a 1:1 ratio, which is optimal. When selecting supplements for our cows, we keep this in mind. We want to provide our animals and customers with the best health.

For example, we could have chosen sunflower oil for the energy pellet, but sunflower oil has a 40:1 omega 6/3 ratio. That would have put everything out of balance. Instead, we went with flaxseed oil, which has a 1:4 ratio. The 1:4 ratio of flaxseed oil combined with the 3:1 ratio of molasses brings us about a 1:1 ratio in our feed. 

We are Above & Beyond the Grassfed Certification

Basically all dairy cows everywhere get a supplement of some sort. Do you know what the grassfed certification requires? We're NOT certified, but it's an important comparison.

The American Grassfed Association (AGA) is the most popular grassfed certification in the US. When you buy grass-fed milk in the store, it's likely allowed to be labeled like that because they have this particular certification. 

The AGA's certification allows all the supplements we feed, including molasses, minerals, alfalfa, and flaxseed oil. Plus, a lot more, too.

The AGA's certification requires cows to never be fed grain or cereal grain (including corn, soy, wheat, oats, sunflower meal, etc). But... pseudo-grains are allowed (including peas, lentils, buckwheat, canola, etc) grown to maturity and fed as the grain/seed only. And they may also be fed in manufactured cubes and pellets. 

The amount of supplemental feed of pseudo-grains can be up to 25% of the total daily intake (or 0.625% of body weight). I mean, wow. That's a lot of food other than pasture!

What do you think about supplements? Do you personally take any? Are you ok with our dairy cows getting some?

I'd love to hear from you. Comment below.

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