CORTLAND, N.Y. — On grazing dairies across the state, cows are celebrating the return to summer pastures. The short days of the long winter are over. Every morning and evening after milking, they return to their pastures where the buffet is always open. The fresh pastures they consume are so different from the monotonous stored feed diets of the winter months. When cows eat living grasses, the vitamins are still present and higher in Omega 3 fatty acids. This is why many farmers who graze their cows call spring pastures “Dr. Green”, because the health and vitality of the animals are improved by their diet. These benefits of fresh pasture are lost when it is cut and stored to feed cows in confinement. The health benefits are passed along to those of us who consume dairy products derived from grazing cows. For more information on the human benefits of consuming meat and milk from grazing animals, go to Penn State’s fact sheet on CLA’s and Omega 3’s; https://extension.psu.edu/conjugated-linoleic-acid-cla-in-animal-production-and-human-health
There is also the social, physical, and economic benefit to animals returning to pastures. It’s true they haven’t been able to measure happiness in animals, but anyone who watches cows go out to pasture in the spring knows what happy cows look like. In studies I have done here in New York, data collected showed pasture animals get three times the walking exercise of their confined herd mates. Other work done at Cornell has shown that grazing dairies may produce less milk per animal, but the lowered cost of producing that milk more than off sets the lower production on similar sized dairies.
As we celebrate another Dairy Month here in Central New York, remember the cows you see outside grazing are celebrating too.
The friendly cow all red and white
I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
To eat with apple-tart.
She wanders lowing here and there,
And yet she cannot stray,
All in the pleasant open air,
The pleasant light of day
By Robert Lewis Stevenson
For questions, contact Fay Benson, Small Farms Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Fay Benson, Small Farms Specialist
South Central New York Dairy & Field Crops Team
Cornell Cooperative Extension
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