skittlesHere’s an example of how Nicole simply clicks on “share.” She doesn’t read anything. She doesn’t know anything. She doesn’t even care.

She pretends that she is a “homesteader.”  She is not. The whole thing is a joke and this shows it’s a joke.

I actually own and raise cattle.

Let me explain something about ruminants and their digestive systems.

Most people “know” that cows have “four stomachs.” They actually do not. They have four separate compartments in their digestive system, none of them called “stomach.”

Click image to link to source

What we’re interested in today is the first part, the rumen.

The rumen is huge.  Very, very large. It occupies a sizable portion of the cow’s body, as you can see in the drawing below. That big thing in the back is the rumen.

Click image to link to source

When a cow eats, everything goes to the rumen. It can hold something like nine 5-gallon buckets of grass at once.  A cow will eat like mad for about 45 minutes, drink about ten gallons of water and then go lie down and chew her cud for a long, long time, take a bit of a nap and then get up and do it again.

The rumen is essentially a compost bin.  It is filled with bazillions of bacteria.  They go to work immediately on the grass and hay she eats, breaking it down.  Once it has begun to ferment, she regurgitates a little of it, and chews it thoroughly, which helps the bacteria ferment it even more. She does this over and over again.

It’s sort of neat to watch a cow chew her cud. She spaces out.  On a nice sunny day, Frances will lie in the pasture, chewing away, staring at nothing and I’m sure having deep thoughts of some sort.

But it’s those bacteria I want to talk about.

Frances is a pure vegetarian. She eats grass and hay and some grain. That’s it.  However, she’s a big animal. She needs protein just like you do.  Imagine what would happen to you if you lived solely on bread.  How does Frances get the proper amount of protein?

She gets it from the bodies of the bacteria in her rumen.  They multiply in that dark warm wet place, break down the grasses (they quite literally eat the grasses) which makes them bio-available for Frances’ system, and then they die and she digests their bodies.  There are more than ten times more bacteria and other microscopic organisms in one drop of fluid from her rumen than there are people on earth.  Read that again.

So in reality, she’s not a vegetarian at all.  She only has two basic foods: grasses along with their seed pods (grain), and microbes.

What does this have to do with candy?

We ran into a situation earlier this winter. Every year, we buy hay from our next-door neighbor.  Our animals love that hay. One reason is that it is made up of almost identical grasses to the grass in our pasture. They don’t have to adjust those microbial populations to digest it.

It generally works out beautifully.

But making hay is tricky. Our neighbor is a pro, but even professionals can’t control weather.  And weather is everything in haymaking.  When his field last summer was at the optimal growth for making hay, the weather was not cooperative.  He couldn’t cut it.  We had to wait.  And as we waited, the grasses got taller and more mature.

He has a grass in his field called Johnson grass.  It’s related to corn, and even looks a lot like it.  Our cattle love the stuff. Our neighbor says it’s because Johnson grass is sweet like corn.

However, as grasses grow taller and get more mature, there is an increase in a substance called lignin in their cells.  Lignin is the stuff you and I cannot digest.  Lettuce, spinach, collard greens have very, very little lignin. The leaves are pliable, easily torn.

Grass, like what grows in your yard,  has leaves that are stiffer than lettuce. You can’t eat it.  Frances can. She can because she has a rumen, a compost bin where it can become broken down and fermented. There is more lignin in grass than there is in lettuce. She can eat that much lignin.

Johnson grass, when allowed to grow too long, gets even more lignin, and this summer, a lot of it in my neighbor’s pasture got too much lignin. We refer to it as “stemmy” hay.

By the way, a plant with a whole lot of lignin is called a tree, and the only creatures I know of that can eat that much lignin are termites and certain other insects.


But anyway, we ended up with stemmy hay.  There is good grass in there as well, but even that went too far. The hay, while good enough for our cattle, isn’t as good as last year’s hay was.  We notice that they are chowing through it more rapidly and discarding more because they can’t eat it.

However, we have plenty, so we weren’t worried about it.  But then, Frances’ milk supply went all to hell. She looked fine, she wasn’t losing weight, she acted fine.  She just wasn’t giving much milk.

That’s a big red flag.

The other cattle were fine, but the other cattle are all bulls. They are not working girls. She’s pregnant and lactating. It takes lots and lots of nourishment for her to make milk and grow a calf at the same time.  She simply could not physically eat enough of that less-than-perfect-quality hay to keep her milk supply up. She and the growing fetus come first. The milk supply dead last.

So we fixed the situation.

We bought a very large square bale of pure alfalfa hay. It’s 3′ X 3′ X 8′. It cost five times as much as the round bale pictured above. But even somebody who doesn’t know anything about hay can see the difference.

alfalfaThat’s only for Frances.  After milking, twice a day, she gets all she can eat in about 45 minutes (that’s long enough for her to fill her rumen and not long enough for her to bankrupt us).

But all that extra, rich, beautiful hay meant that she had to adjust all those microbes. The population had to rebound, morph, change.

And that is enhanced with sugar.

See? Sugar.  Candy.

In Frances’ case, molasses.

We started mixing molasses in her dairy ration (grain), about a cup twice a day, and we mix a similar amount in a four gallon bucket of water.

Her milk supply has tripled. We were able to buy another bull calf and in a week or so, we’ll be ready for yet another one.

Frances ingests the molasses, just like the cattle that farmer had ingests those Skittles. But it’s not to feed the cow. It’s to feed the microbes in her rumen.

The headline in Nicole’s linked article is silly.  The manufacturer isn’t in an “uncomfortable situation” at all.  I have no access to mountains of Skittles, so I use molasses which we buy at the feed store.  But if I had some Skittles I didn’t want to eat myself, I would not hesitate a second before feeding them to Frances. She would love them.

Her diary ration (grain) is carefully mixed at the feed mill, and it includes sugars, but it is mixed assuming that the cow is eating top-notch hay, and our cow wasn’t.  After a few weeks, we will be able to reduce the molasses she’s getting and finally discontinue it. For right now, though, I am not going to fix what isn’t broken.

It’s fine not to know all this. I didn’t know any of it until we started raising cattle. We learned by asking.  I was really pleased with this latest incident because when it happened, we knew exactly what was wrong. I called Jason (the dairy guy) and asked him and he concurred and even found us a good source for alfalfa.  And we have carefully monitored her progress to be sure she doesn’t need any supplemental vitamins, but so far, so good.

What is amazingly dumb is to just repeat nonsense and in doing so, pretend you have even the slightest idea about what you’re talking about.

#unschooling #youdontknowshit #whydoyoukeeprepeatingstupidstuff #checkyoursources




15 thoughts on “Candy”

  1. Yeah, I didn’t see any “public outcry” or “uncomfortable company statements” from any reputable source at all. I’m not clicking on her article because I don’t want to give them clicks, but I assume it’s one of those fear-mongering articles about how big ag is poisoning everyone with GMOs and this is why you all need to be stupidly self-sufficient and buy this guys supplements.
    Lots of “waste” from food production is fed to livestock. The pig I have in the freezer was fattened on brewery waste. Thank God for microbreweries! That’s some fine pork!
    Hell, Hershey’s feeds factory “waste” to their cows. The spent corn Products from ethanol production are also used in livestock feed.
    I learned a huge amount of information about this from studying permaculture and aquaponics. It’s incredible.

    Now, I’m going to go for a little drive. One of the ranchers down the road spent a serious amount of time plowing the snow out of his empty field along the road and piling it up against the north and west fence in huge snow berms. Yesterday I noticed all his pregnant Angus cattle are in the field, and they are definitely due. Best part of the year is all the new calves with the ear tags. I’m betting a few dropped last night.


  2. Sally, once again this is why I love your blog. I will never own cattle. Growing up my grandmother had a cow, her name was Penny. She was such a sweet cow. That was the closest I will ever come to owning a cow. Still though this was a fascinating read. Thank you.

    Maybe Nicole with read this and learn something. Hahahahaha!


  3. All Nicole saw was “the anti-media” and she shared. he is anti everything including her best interest and that of her children. She also seems greatly opposed to common sense.


  4. When Nicole reads this she will pirposefully seek out any obscure and unscientific information she can locate to attempt to portray Sally as foolish, because Sally has been deemed a troll so nothing she has to say carries any weight with Nicole. That is logic in Naugerland. It doesnt matter if someone know more yhan you about a subject, if they disagree with you then they are the enemy.


  5. When Nicole reads this she will pirposefully seek out any obscure and unscientific information

    She’ll have a hard time of it. There is no unscientific information in what I wrote. 🙂 I know about cow digestion.


  6. Not unscientific in your response. Unscientific sources on the net.

    Pirposefully? Dear Lawd I need to spellcheck before I click post ??


  7. Thank you for teaching me something I was unlikely to learn in my daily life. Shared this with my very confused family. They were more confused last night while listening to the radio show, after I mentioned that Francis was probably my favorite cow, even though I hadn’t met her nor do I know any other cows.
    I have a idealistic picture of life with Francis, and that’s ok because I will not be “homesteading” ever. I suck with animals and plants.


  8. Well, of course there are cows that are fed chocolate! Where do you think chocolate milk comes from? I may be a city guy, but even I know that.

    Seriously, this was very interesting and informative. The Skittles on the highway made the news where I live, and I had no idea why they would be fed to cows. Now I know. Thank you.


  9. My grandparents had a cow named Jezebel. She was also a sweet cow and provided milk and butter and buttermilk for the best biscuits I ever ate, all the humans and the twenty or so barn cats.
    I had no idea all this went on, but I loved the milk.
    I took me a long time to get used to homogenized milk.
    You write the bestest stuff.?


  10. I love these posts. You quite font of wisdom to us city slickers, Sally. It’s actually really interesting to read all the information you give concerning cows and their stomachs, chickens and how many to keep, swapping pork for lamb with Al etc. There must be a brilliant community around the area, so many people with so much knowledge to share, if only you are civil and prepared to accept the advice and work, which unfortunately counts the Nauglers out.
    Imagine, what their property could have been like (although it seems a little rocky) if they’d made friends with locals who have machinery, knowhow, and advice to share for some beer, or produce in return. Such a waste, and a shame for their kids, who would have absorbed that practical advice like little sponges. Terribly sad.
    The Naugler parents make me think of this old proverb:
    For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
    For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
    For want of a horse the rider was lost.
    For want of a rider the message was lost.
    For want of a message the battle was lost.
    For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
    And all for the want of a horseshoe nail

    All the promise they and their land held was gone, all because they overlooked basic human, neighbourly decency, and now it’s far, far too late.


  11. @Myopia: Yes…if they’d actually been down-and-outers willing to learn and work hard instead of grifters wanting to grift, then even at their current economic level they could by now have a cluster of snug little polewood cabins (if your trees are small, build small) with white food storage buckets outside to catch the rain and metal buckets inside to hold bricks heated over an outdoor fire while they saved up to put stoves in every building. They could still have a fishpond, with fish in it. A garden with soil built up from compost and free manure (because surely somebody in the area provides free-if-you-haul-it-yourself manure) with an automatic watering system made from junk for the thirstiest plants. A shaduf at the edge of the pond for getting more crop-water out as needed without so much strain on a person’s back. Half-buried “root cellars” made from trash cans, for storing root vegetables that don’t require you to buy canning equipment and thus would probably form their main harvest. Jars full of dry beans–another big harvest item for people with no cash in that climate. Chickens fed partly out of the garden, with eggs even. An actual humanure system–yes, permits would be an issue if anybody found out, but I’m talking about desperation and no money here–used to feed trees on part of the land that had been set aside as a woodlot. Neatly split and stacked woodpiles.

    I mean, their lives would still suck, but if one single issue were different–if Mr. Naugler didn’t work under authority not because he didn’t wanna but because he couldn’t–then their ever-present phones could have been used to get all of the information and most of the supplies needed for the above scenario, for free.

    I repost this pretty frequently, partly because it’s still shocking, and partly because as I stumble over things other down-and-outers have done in similar circumstances the list just keeps getting longer.


  12. Thanks to my crappy public school I actually learned about a cow’s digestive tract, so that blog brought back memories. Thanks Sally! It’s always a pleasure to find a new entry here.


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