As the leaves start to turn and weekends are filled with fall sports, dairy farmers in Tennessee are turning on their choppers and headed to the fields for harvest.
Did you know that most dairy farmers grow the food that their dairy cows eat? Plants such as hay (grasses like rye or timothy), corn, oats and soybeans are grown by farmers and harvested each year in late summer and early fall. This harvest is prepared and stored to be used as the feed given to dairy cows for the next year.
Many farmers give their dairy cows a feed known as TMR, or Total Mixed Ration. This is a unique mix of corn silage, hay, grain and supplements that is perfectly balanced for a cow’s nutrient needs. In the last thirty years, dairy farmers have utilized the whole stalk of corn to make corn silage.
When you see farmers on big tractors this autumn, they are on choppers. The chopper takes the whole corn stalk and chops it into small pieces. Those pieces are blown into a dump truck and transported to the farm. The feed is then placed in large pits and packed down with additional tractors and finally covered with plastic. The feed then ferments before it is used in the TMR.
This autumn, if you are driving in a rural area and see a tractor on the road, please, slow down and give the farmer time to get to the field. Don’t try to pass the tractor unless the farmer moves to the side of the road. This will help ensure your safety and the safety of the farmer – and allow the farmer to harvest the food for a herd of hungry dairy cows, that will turn that feed into delicious and nutritious milk!