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What makes a bed "fit for a cow"?

Posted 12/13/2017 3:57pm by Kinley Coulter.

     December!  Winter has arrived at Coulter Farms with a vengeance.  The next two nights are forecast to have low temperatures in the teens… Brrrr!  Who doesn’t appreciate a warm soft bed on a cold winter’s night?  Here at the farm, nothing feels quite as nice as tumbling, exhausted,  into a soft, warm, cozy bed after a long day’s work… Aaaahhhh… what could be better?!  

 
     Would it surprise you to know that animals appreciate a soft, warm, dry bed too?  Maybe you never thought about how to make a bed 'fit for a cow.'
 
     It all starts in a Certified Organic corn field where the ear-corn has been picked and removed and nothing remains but the corn stalks and leaves.  We are required to use only Certified organic bedding for our dairy cows, beef cows and sheep because bored animals can occasionally eat bedding (I know, ‘Yuck!’ Right?  But bored animals, like bored people, can do all kinds of senseless things… ).
 
     We won’t  (and according to organic protocols, mayn’t) use bedding that has been grown from GMO laden seed, or sprayed with toxic herbicides,  or soaked with poisonous pesticides to bed our animals.  As an aside...did you know that the Google says that the suffix ‘cide’ means ‘something that promotes or causes death'…. from the same root word as ‘cadaver’ (or corpse)… why would farmers need things that are engineered to end life to grow food that is meant to preserve life? Just asking…   
 
     Anyway, If it ever made you grumpy to pay a premium for organic food… even I, the organic farmer feel your pain.  The organic bedding we use for our ruminants costs double what conventional bedding costs.  We can live with it...it’s a small price to pay for a clean, healthy animal bed.  How would you like it if your sheets and pillow were sprayed with toxic poison?  Sweet dreams?!
 
     The corn stalks are chopped up with a brush-hog, dried in the bright, fall sunshine and raked into long puffy, fluffy rows with a hay rake… then, along comes the hay baler.  The sleepy round-baler thought its work was done at the end of the hay season; but, Surprise, wake up Mr. Baler!  It gets rousted back to ‘active duty’ even as the occasional snow-flakes are dancing wildly in the stiff November wind.
 
     In no time at all, a half ton of soft dry corn stalks and leaves are rolled into a tight, compact round bale and neatly tied up like a Christmas gift with a thin plastic webbing called ’net wrap.'  Now you know our recipe to transform corn-field refuse into valuable corn-fodder bedding (don’t tell anyone our secret).
 
      The fodder bales don’t get to hang-out in the field long… a chilly fall rain is always threatening.  So, out comes the skid loader and the clunky (but mighty) bale truck and trailer.  In no time at 150 fodder bales have been gathered… 
 
and loaded…
 
and transported to the barn...
 
and unloaded…
 
 and tucked into the anxiously waiting hay barn.
 
     Our amazing story of ‘a bed fit for a cow’ continues in the dairy cows’ loafing pen.  We use a highly advanced but sublimely primitive system of bedding our animals that is known as a ‘bedding pack’.  To make a long story short, carbonaceous fiber (read: corn fodder) is continuously composting underneath the cows’ hooves as the nitrogen and moisture in the manure reacts with the bedding, to both produce heat (cozy warm bed) and consume moisture (cozy dry bed) AND… that’s not even the whole story. That’s right… there’s even more marvels happening beneath our cows as they sleep…
  
     This bedding pack is fantastically ALIVE!  Microbial composting produces the most incredible, biologically active, symbiotic community of bacteria and yeasts deep  within the bedding pack.... Nothing less than priceless and precious organic ‘rocket fuel’ for the Organic Farmer’s fields.   Compost will powerfully activate our soils as we spread it next spring to produce next year’s hay and pasture crop.
 
     I sometimes feel a little sorry for conventional farmers that have to rely on pathetic, synthetic, chemical fertilizers.  But... I'm not sorry enough to share any compost with them.  I wouldn’t sell a single  scoop of my super duper ultra-miracle compost for a million dollars!  (Well, all right… you can have just one tiny scoop for a million dollars, just this once.  :) )  
 
     Here is what it looks like when approximately five trillion dollars worth of compost have been spread on 10 acres of Certified Organic pasture.  When the first gentle rain soaks the compost into the hungry soil…compost microbes ignite the soil fertility to produce vast oceans of resplendent green pasture. 
 
 
 
 
     So, today we see Jason and Jacob carefully unrolling corn fodder to refresh the Jersey cow bedding pack, while the little girls supervise.  Later, they will head over to the beef cows and the sheep to make their fresh beds as well.  You can witness the transformation the bedding pack from soiled…
 
 
 to spotless…
 
 
     The first thing the cows do when we finish bedding them is…. lay down.  After a long day of producing 100% Grassfed Certified Organic Milk, nothing feels better than stretching out on the warm fluffy fodder… Aaaahhh!  
 
 
     Sometimes the cheerfulness of the cows on clean bedding is palpable… even visible… Here we caught the cow on the right nuzzling her sleeping herd-mate…Cows don’t have ‘smile’ muscles in their muzzles, but this is how they smile...
 
 
     I’m thankful for the many blessings in my life.  Not the least among those is that I get to sleep in a 'people bed' at the farm house instead of a 'cow bed' in the barn.   But!  If I had to sleep in a cow bed, I would pick to sleep in a cow bed at Coulter Farms on a warm, cozy, dry, organic fodder bedding pack.  We feel, strongly, that our milk, beef and lamb are far more than just the product of stuffing animal food in the mouth end of an animal and harvesting milk and meat.  We believe that the nutrient density and healthiness of what our animals produce is impacted by a vast array of seemingly ‘insignificant’ details in the farming process… that turn out to be significant, after all...even reaching down to what they sleep on at night.  Truly, a bedding pack is a ‘bed fit for a cow.'