Tools of the Trade: Dairy Nutritionists

Hello all! Hope everything in whatever part of the world you are in is well! Did anyone watch the solar eclipse yesterday? Get any good pictures? Feel free to comment and share below!


Today’s post got inspired by Pinterest (yes, that black time-consuming hole has me by it’s talons!). On a list of blog topic ideas, there was one about what’s in your purse. So, I thought to myself, how can I translate that into agriculture! It dawned on me to discuss what would be in a dairy nutritionist’s “purse” (or toolbox for the men =) ). Some you might find suprising!

  1. Ziploc bags. To put feed and forage samples to send to a forage testing laboratory like mine!
  2. Rubber Overshoes. These large, rubber “shoes” go over top of the nutritionist’s shoes to help in biosecurity on dairy farms. More on that to follow with some other items on our list. The nutritionist will put them on at his/her vehicle and take them off after the visit around the dairy.
  3. A small bucket. This is to add water and a solution to to disinfect those rubber shoes – typically the nutritionist will clean the rubber shoes when they take them off after their visit.
  4. Disinfectant. This is important as it kills the bacteria on the rubber shoes in preparation for the next farm. That way, the nutritionist isn’t tracking potentially disease causing bacteria from one farm to another on his/her overshoes.
  5. Notebook/Pen. To write down observations of the cows, make a list, do inventories, etc.
  6. Laptop. Nutritionists have a special software on their computers that use the nutritional values a forage laboratory (like mine) give them for the feeds and forages they sample. The software enters all of these into complex algorithms and such to help the nutritionists come up with a  combination of different feeds and forages to get the most nutritional value for the lovely bovine ladies!
  7. Hay probe. This is an instrument used to pull a proper hay sample. It is important to get the most representative sample to test, or else it could skew results. Parts of a hay bale are more nutrient dense than others.
  8. Moisture monitoring device. These give a quick estimate of the amount of moisture versus dry matter. This is important because the nutritionist gives the farmer a paper that says the amount in pounds of each feed ingredient to mix for the cows’ ration, based on numbers the software give out – these are either on an “as is basis” (dry matter + moisture) or a “dry matter basis” (dry matter only). This matters because a pound of a wetter corn silage would have different nutrient concentrations versus a pound of a drier corn silage because there is a difference in how much moisture is making up that pound of feed. More moisture would equate to a lower concentration of dry matter that has all of the nutrients in it.
  9. TMR Particle Separator. Penn State has developed the one most widely used. Its a series of pans that have holes in the bottom like a strainer – the holes get smaller as you go down the stack. The TMR (total mixed ration) is placed in and shaken for a set amount of time (hey, free arm workout!) and the amount of particles in each pan is used to determine how particle size is affecting the digestibility of the TMR. Cows like a certain particle length to be able to digest their meals properly – and this helps the nutritionist make sure they are getting the right particle length!
  10. Coffee. Lots. Days travelling from farm to farm can be long and very tiresome. Just like most, nutritionists enjoy a cup o’ joe to start the day off right, and maybe as a pick-me-up in the middle of the day!

Until next time,

❤ Meg


Picky Eaters….Cows Can Be Too!

Hey all!

HAPPY SPRING! Finally. I’m ready for the joys of spring, even the mud. I’m no winter gal.

What are your favorite spring and (upcoming) summer foods? I love romaine hearts on the grill with a special dressing! Yay for Pinterest finds! Speaking of,  let’s jump right onto today’s topic.

Dairy cattle get a TMR. Sounds fancy, but it stands for Total Mixed Ration, and, as the name suggests, it is a mixture of feedstuffs to make their breakfast/lunch/dinner. Meaning, they eat like all you who mix your food together on your plate – those of the philosophy that “it all gets mixed together in the end anyway.” I’m not in that camp, I’m in the keep-everything-strictly-separate group. But, I digress. We can argue that later.


So, along with a TMR comes your picky eatin’ gals. And these gals will just eat the bits they like. Like when you were a kid and would slip those nasty green beans to the pooch begging under the table and tell your ma you did, in fact, eat all of your dinner. Some of our bovine friends are just the same way. This has a really fancy name….sorting.  So if you ever hear of any agriculturalist talk about cows “sorting” they’re really talking about the picky eaters in the barn.

Now, it’s not as detrimental in humans, but when cows don’t eat everything they are supposed to, it can cause some health issues and issues for them to produce the milk they should.  TMRs are put together so that each “ingredient”, or feedstuff, has it’s purpose, whether that be for energy/fat, protein, or fiber. That way, these gals have a nice, balanced diet! So, if they’re being picky, and eating only certain things, they can be missing majorly in one of these nutrient departments.

There actually have been a lot of studies done on this, and some of what can lead to sorting is dry matter content (too wet, too dry), the particle size of all the feed stuffs (think if all of your food was cut to about the same size), and number of meals they get each day (some farmers will deliver fresh feed to the gals 3-4 times a day, some 2 times a day). Some discovered that cows will even sort based on their mood and how they feel that day!


Well, speaking of, time for me to find my evening TMR. I hope you all are getting a chance to experience some wonderful spring weather! Let me know in the comment below what kind of eater you are and some of your favorite seasonal dishes!


Until next time,

< Meg

Morning Milking Musings: Somewhere On A Beach…..

As we are buried under like half a foot of snow and more to come until tomorrow afternoon in addition to the start of temperatures under 30 degrees, I’m dreaming of those hot summer days where I was sweating through my shirt wishing for cooler ones.  During the dog days of summer I’m always reminding myself the sweat and scorching sun is what I’ll be wishing for on days like today. I’m always right.

So what’s the perfect day outside you dream of? Laying out on a beautiful beach drinking a margarita? That’s the group I’m part of! Are you part of the group that thrives on a chilly winter’s day out on the slopes followed by an evening with your hands wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate curled up by the fire?

What do you think a cow’s perfect day outside consists of? On a farm, most milk cows hang out all day inside a barn in order to be able to lay down peacefully and comfortably, in addition to their feed not more than a walk a few feet away.  However, sometimes different groups of non-milking cows or younger cows (a post on the different groups will be written later – be on the lookout!) hang out at least partially outside.  So is their perfect day a balmy 70 degrees Farenheit? No, remember cows have a body full of hair, so that would be like wearing a heavier coat all the time.  That would be a bit too toasty. So is it a cool 25 degrees Farenheit?   Also no, just like us, cows get cold and can use a lot of energy to stay warm, energy that therefore is not there to be used to make milk.  Just like when you feel drained of energy after spending time outside.

So what is the perfect temperature for our bovine friends? 50 – 60 degrees Farenheit.


There’s your bovine fact of the day! Stay warm and stay safe!

❤ Meg

I Make Sure Cows Eat Better Than We Do!

Hey All!

I hope you all are enjoying this warm weather.  I know it’s been a scorcher the past week here in Ohio, but at the same time I’m so glad for some warm weather.  It does make it a challenge to keep all of the horses and cows cool, and even people too.  I don’t have AC in my truck and the central air is broken and will take some major $$$$ to fix in the house.  So blegh.  But you can’t help but smile seeing all of the sunshine, fields being planted, and flowers blooming!

I’m so excited to announce that I am now an independent consultant with Agri-Nutrition Consulting – I am now starting my journey as a dairy nutritionist!

So yes, dairy farmers have nutritionists for their cows.  And it’s exactly what it sounds like – someone comes to the farm and makes sure the cows are looking healthy and eating well, and they build the recipe the cows’ diets.  Can you imagine what it would be like if you had someone making sure you ate exactly what you needed to each meal to be in the healthiest shape!? To some of you it may sound bad, but it sure would take the worry and struggle out of eating healthy and you wouldn’t have to regret eating that extra cookie!

It’s really not simple to be a dairy nutritionist.  I’ve spent countless hours reading through material and on phone calls with specialists in the company to be taught the ropes.  I’ve also already been to Wisconsin twice in a matter of 6 weeks.  And I am no where to being close to being done training.  It will most likely be ongoing for the foreseeable future.

Cows have a 4 compartment stomach, so each ingredients needs to provide them with the nutrients needed to first, maintain basic body functions and grow a calf, and second, to make milk! It’s very tricky because each nutrient usually functions the best within a certain range, and some nutrients inversely affect others.  It’s all a careful balance, like a teeter totter!


Next time I would like to go over body condition scoring, basically if a cow is too skinny or too fat – obviously something I will be looking at a lot as a nutritionist!

Soak up some sun!

❤ Meg

Real Life Farming – What A Dump!

Hey All!

I hope your holiday season is merry and bright! I encourage you to get out in your communities and go to Christmas parades, craft shows, and light displays.  There’s alot of beauty to take in during this time of year!

Among the things at the top of Walmart list for the dairy farm I work at is something you might not expect: red duct tape.

What’s the red duct tape for? The cows that have been treated with antibiotics or other medications, and, for food supply safety, this is the indicator that the cow’s milk cannot be milked into the bulk tank until the withdrawal time is up.  Dairy farms may have different ways to indicate cows that are being treated, the red duct tape is just how the farm I work at personally does this.

Why is this so important? Because it ensures food safety.  Let me tell you a little story from a few weeks ago.

A group of  cows got out of their pen during the day at the dairy.  A cow that had the red band had accidentally gotten into the herd of milk cows.  She got brought into the milking parlor with a group and we attached the milkers as per usual.  A few minutes into the milking of that group and there is a loud shout from my boss.  None of the 3 of us had paid attention and attached the milker to the cow with the red band – thus, her milk was being put into the bulk tank.

There was a flurry of motion as the milkers were shut off and the spigot was opened on the tank to let some milk out, and much frantic discussion as to what was going to be done.  Why? Because if the milk in the tank was tested to be above a certain of level of antibiotics/medication, the WHOLE tank would have to be dumped.  This folks, means that is literally money down the drain for this family.  This is why your milk is safe – because if the milk does not meet regulations, it gets discarded and the families that rely on that milk check for their living lose their money.  Dairy families have blood, sweat, heart, and tears into their farms.  If the farm does not make a profit, the family loses their means of living.  It was heartbreaking to watch.

The family I work for had to take a sample of milk from the tank and take it to their cooperative representative that very night to have the milk tested.  Luckily, the milk passed and all was well.


I hope for everyone’s well being this holiday season and take a second to remember the dairy families that put their money and livelihoods on the line for your morning glass of milk is safe and healthy.


With love,



A Dairy Good Job

Hey All!

I hope the transition from summer to fall saw all of you well. I know in my area, it has been quite rainy and dreary the past few days.  I’ve had a big change in my life recently – I quit my job at Hord Livestock and moved back to my hometown in Northeast Ohio.  I now hold a position at a family dairy farm as  herdsman.

I am excited for this new opportunity in a new industry, thrilled to learn as much as I can to build a satisfying professional career.  I view my current position as a learning experience to build on in the future.

I left my position at Hord Livestock because it simply wasn’t the kind of work I wanted to do or build a career out of.  The company is wonderful, the people I worked with were wonderful, and yet the job duties and the position itself would not, in my mind, lead me to a career of passion and satisfaction.  I could not find my passion in what I was doing.

Now, on the dairy farm, I look forward to going to work every day, and being at work relaxes me and brings me joy.  That is the most important thing.  You know you have found the right industry and the right job when you look forward to going to work and being there.  I believe there are so many people that go to a job every day and dread it, and hate every second. As much time we spend each day, and over our lifetimes, working, why not enjoy it? The majority of lives are spent working, it’s a sad truth that most people spend that time unhappy.

Now, I look forward to a lifelong career in the dairy industry, and continuing to rise up to the challenge of new and more advanced positions as the time comes.  For now, I will enjoy being greeted by the moos of calves and the kind eyes of the cows being milked.

I encourage everyone to find their true calling and find a career that can allow them to be passionate and excited on that morning commute to the workday.

Until next time!

❤ Meg