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Category: History and Breeds

Of the advantages of soiling milch cows--that is, feeding exclusively in
the barn--there are yet many conflicting opinions. As to its economy of
land and feed there can be no question, it being generally admitted that
a given number of animals may be abundantly fed on a less space; nor is
there much question as to the increased quantity of milk yielded in
stall feeding. Its economy, in this country, turns rather upon the cost
of labor and time; and the question raised by the dairyman is, whether
it will pay--whether its advantages are sufficient to balance the extra
expense of cutting and feeding, over and above cropping on the pasture.
The importance of this subject has been strongly impressed upon the
attention of farmers in many sections of the country, by a growing
conviction that something must be done to improve the pastures, or that
they must be abandoned altogether.

Thousands of acres of neglected pasture-land in the older States are so
poor and worn out that from four to eight acres furnish but a miserable
subsistence for a good-sized cow. No animal can flourish under such
circumstances. The labor and exertion of feeding are too great, to say
nothing of the vastly inferior quality of the grasses in such pastures,
compared with those on more recently seeded lands. True economy would
dictate that such pastures should either be allowed to run to wood, or
be devoted to sheep-walks, or ploughed and improved. Cows, to be able to
yield well, must have plenty of food of a sweet and nutritious quality;
and, unless they find it, they wander over a large space, if at liberty,
and thus deprive themselves of rest.

If a farmer or dairyman unfortunately owns such pastures, there can be
no question that, as a matter of real economy, he had better resort to
the soiling system for his milch cows; by which means he will largely
increase his annual supply of good manure, and thus have the means of
improving, and bringing his land to a higher state of cultivation. A
very successful instance of this management occurs in the report of the
visiting committee of an agricultural society in Massachusetts, in which
they say: "We have now in mind a farmer in this county who keeps seven
or eight cows in the stable through the summer, and feeds them on green
fodder, chiefly Indian corn. We asked him his reasons for it. His answer
was: 1. That he gets more milk than he can by any other method. 2. That
he gets more manure, especially liquid manure. 3. That he saves it all,
by keeping a supply of mud or mould under the stable, to be taken out
and renewed as often as necessary. 4. That it is less troublesome than
to drive his cows to pasture; that they are less vexed by flies, and
have equally good health. 5. That his mowing land is every year growing
more productive, without the expense of artificial manure.--He estimates
that on an acre of good land twenty tons of green fodder may be raised.
That which is dried is cut fine, and mixed with meal or shorts, and fed
with profit. He believes that a reduced and worn-out farm--supposing the
land to be naturally good--could be brought into prime order in five
years, without any extra outlay of money for manure, by the use of green
fodder in connection with the raising and keeping of pigs; not
fattening them, but selling at the age of four or five months." He
keeps most of his land in grass, improving its quality and
productiveness by means of top-dressing, and putting money in his
pocket--which is, after all, the true test both for theory and practice.

Another practical case on this point is that of a gentleman in the same
State who had four cows, but not a rod of land on which to pasture them.
They were, therefore, never out of the barn--or, at least, not out of
the yard--and were fed with grass, regularly mown for them; with green
Indian corn and fodder, which had been sown broadcast for the purpose;
and with about three pints of meal a day. Their produce in butter was
kept for thirteen weeks. Two of them were but two years old, having
calved the same spring. All the milk of one of them was taken by her
calf for six weeks out of the thirteen, and some of the milk of the
other was taken for family use, the quantity of which was not measured.
These heifers could not, therefore, be estimated as equal to more than
one cow in full milk. And yet from these cows no less than three hundred
and eighty-nine pounds of butter were made in the thirteen weeks.
Another pound would have made an average of thirty pounds a week for the
whole time.

It appears from these and other similar instances of soiling, or
stall-feeding in summer on green crops cut for the purpose, that the
largely increased quantity of the yield fully compensates for the
slightly deteriorated quality. And not only is the quantity yielded by
each cow increased, but the same extent of land, under the same culture,
will carry double or treble the number of ordinary pastures, and keep
them in better condition. There is also a saving of manure. But with us
the economy of soiling is the exception, and not the rule.

In adopting this system of feeding, regularity is required as much as in
any other, and a proper variety of food. A succession of green crops
should be provided, as near as convenient to the stable. The first will
naturally be winter rye, in the Northern States, as that shoots up with
great luxuriance. Winter rape would probably be an exceedingly valuable
addition to the plants usually cultivated for soiling in this country,
in sections where it would withstand the severity of the winter.
Cabbages, kept in the cellar or pit, and transplanted early, will also
come in here to advantage, and clover will very soon follow them; oats,
millet, and green Indian-corn, as the season advances; and, a little
later still, perhaps, the Chinese sugar-cane, which should not be cut
till headed out. These plants, in addition to other cultivated grasses,
will furnish an unfailing succession of succulent and tender fodder;
while the addition of a little Indian, linseed, or cotton-seed meal will
be found economical.

In the vicinity of large towns and cities, where the object is too often
to feed for the largest quantity, without reference to quality, an
article known as distillers' swill, or still-slop, is extensively used.
This, if properly fed in limited quantities, in combination with other
and more bulky food, may be a valuable article for the dairyman; but, if
given--as it too often is--without the addition of other kinds of food,
it soon affects the health and constitution of the animals fed on it.
This swill contains a considerable quantity of water, some nitrogenous
compounds, and some inorganic matter in the shape of phosphates and
alkaline salts found in the different kinds of grain of which it is made
up, as Indian corn, wheat, barley, rye, and the like. Where this forms
the principal food of milch cows, the milk is of a very poor
quality--blue in color, and requiring the addition of coloring
substances to make it saleable. It contains, often, less than one per
cent. of butter, and seldom over one and three-tenths or one and a half
per cent.--while good, saleable milk should contain from three to five
per cent. It will not coagulate, it is said, in less than five or six
hours; while good milk will invariably coagulate in an hour or less,
under the same conditions. Its effect on the system of young children
is, therefore, very destructive, causing diseases of various kinds, and,
if continued, death.

So pernicious have been the consequences resulting from the use of this
"swill-milk," as it is called, in the largest city of this country, that
the Legislature of the State of New York, at a recent session (1861-2),
interfered in behalf of the community by making the sale of the article
a penal offence.

Next: Culture Of Grasses For Fodder

Previous: Feeding And Management

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