July in Arizona means corn harvest for our dairy farmers. Long days are spent harvesting hundreds of acres to prepare feed for the future.
Feeding cows year round takes a lot of planning. Considering that cows can eat over 100 pounds of food per day, it is important to have all the ingredients to make their meals (aka rations) available at the dairy.
The whole process starts in the spring:
Corn is planted in late February to early March with plans to harvest about 4 months later.
Farmers know the corn is ready when they break a cob in half and see a distinct 'starch line' (or milk line) starting up the kernels. It's important for the farmers to harvest the corn at the right time to make sure it's of the highest possible quality.
Unlike people, cows can eat the entire corn plant. During harvest, the entire plant is harvested and ground up.
Many truck loads of ground up corn plants will then fill a giant pit at the dairy. Once the pit is full, the piles are 'packed' down to get all the air out which helps with fermentation. The piles are covered with tarps and tires to keep air from getting in and spoiling the feed.
After 6 weeks the silage is ready to be fed to the cows but can be stored for 1-2 years under the tarps.
Corn silage is one of many nutritious ingredients that make up a dairy cow's diet. Thanks to herd nutritionists, each pen of cows gets a specific recipe for her needs. Feeding cows a healthy diet is one of many ways that dairy farmers take care of their animals.
See more photos and video of Arizona's corn harvest here: