It seems to be much easier to find local beef from 100% grass fed cows than it is to find local milk from 100% grass fed cows. Do others find this to be the case? I assume grain feeding has same negative health effects on cow and on milk as it does on beef? Is it harder raise a dairy cow on 100% grass? Does adding grain feeding greatly increase milk supply?
I've also heard that some farmers only give grain while the cow is being milked. I assume to keep them calm and in one place. Would this be enough to affect their health and their milk? And couldn't this be done just as effectively with hay instead of grain?
UPDATE: See response below linking to article about Sally Fallon's (WAPF) dairy farm. Great quote from Sally in the article:
“In all of our suggestions on dairy farming, we have allowed some grain to be given to dairy cows–up to 0.5% of body weight per day (we are giving about 0.2% of body weight, thus the cows are getting about two pounds of grain during milking).* There are two reasons for this. First is that in a natural setting, ruminants would be getting some grain in the seed heads of mature grasses. And second, dairy cows are more stressed than cows in the wild, producing more milk than a natural cow would–even low-production cows like our own. If we did not give the grain, the cows would be very very thin. By soaking in vinegar water, we make the grains very digestible for the cows.The vast majority of raw milk producers are giving some grain to their cows. Those who don’t are obliged to charge $12-13 per gallon in order for the farm to be economically viable.”
Speaking as a dairy farmer, there are two issues with 100% grassfed dairy.
First, that cow has been bred for decades to turn energy into milk. She will take it "off her back", which means she will turn her own fat and muscle into milk if she can't get enough energy in her diet. What you end up with is a thin cow who won't breed back and is more prone to other problems. Feed her a moderate amount of energy (grain) and she will turn that into milk and keep her body condition.
Second, without an energy source in her diet (grain), she will produce a poor amount of milk. Chances are high that it will be an unprofitable amount, meaning that I the dairy farmer will lose money and end up losing my farm.
I am aware of a handful of farmers in this country who choose to food no grain at all, and many of those are doing some sort of value added product which allows them to receive more money for their milk, compensating for the lost milk income. I would never stop feeding grain while selling commodity milk as I don't see the economics working.
Now, having said all of that....I have a value added product and am considering trying full grassfed. If it doesn't work, then I will go back to feeding a moderate amount of grain.
Hope this helps.
The key to grass-fed product is not that it is the sole source of nutrition. The problem with CAFO beef isn't the grain-feeding per se, but rather the total exclusion of grass/roughage from their diet. Roughage is where you get the desirable fatty acid profile from. You can feed grain and grass and have a very appropriate and natural fatty acid profile.
Consider modern cows and their production, up to 150 pounds of milk daily, somewhere around 40000 calories in that milk, that's an energy intensive process, needs not likely met by grass alone. Of course, you could sacrifice production for feeding grass. You're less likely to have CAFO feeding practices in dairy cattle, you can't feed subtheraputic antibiotics in dairy animals.
No. It is harder to find milk from grass fed cows because there are more REGULATIONS on selling it. At least here in NY. I have a dairy farm near me and they sell beef and cheese. (It is easier to sell the cheese from grass fed cows as long as it is aged 60 days first.)
I asked this question to a grass fed beef farmer. I can't vouch for its veracity but he told me that dairy cows produced much less milk when grass fed and the economics didn't make it worthwhile for him.
Yes, it is hard to get enough milk from 100% grass fed dairy cows. Even Sally Fallon (of the WAPF) gives her cows fermented grains at milking time. http://farmfoodblog.com/state-of-the-art-raw-milk-system-at-sally-fallon-morells-farm/
For all you out there. I raise grass fed beef, not to sell, but for my family. To all the people out there that think feeding grain does not make a difference. I find it makes a huge difference and i will never go back to grain fed beef as long as i have the option. My beef gets absolutely no grain, other than the seed in the grass itself. Just my opinion
I raise dairy goats and I never feed them grain. Trees and grazing and supplemental alfalfa only. Here's why. When you feed grain to dairy animals it destroys the omega-3 fatty acids and CLA in the milk. Even very small amounts of grain ruin it. Yes I could get twice as much milk if I grained, but if I wanted shitty milk I'd go to the supermarket and buy it. The whole reason I raise dairy goats is so I can control the quality completely, and that means zero grain.