A milk cow is a foster mother of Land? What?


By George Mueller, 01/06/16

Every school child studying history and geography (They still do study them, do they not?) learned how our early settlers in the south grew tobacco or cotton till the soil was worn out and then moved on to new soil. Every school child also learned that the milk cow was the “foster mother of the human race”, supplying “nature’s most nearly perfect food”: MILK! I would like to suggest that the milk cow is also the foster mother of our most precious resource: LAND! Please hear me out.

At Willow Bend Farm, our soils are getting richer and more valuable each year. Instead of mining the soil and adding expensive chemical fertilizer each year, we are adding rich cow manure.  The manure is full of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, many necessary minor nutrients and trace minerals, necessary for plant growth. Cow manure is rich and the DEC (Dept. of Environmental Conservation) limits how much manure we can apply. If we apply too much, the manure rich nutrients could be washed away and form algae in our precious Finger Lakes. We must follow strict guidelines for our manure application. The cow is certainly the “nurse mother of our land.”

George Washington was a good farmer and his advice was rotate your crops. Our cows need large quantities of corn silage and alfalfa hay silage. We have an eight year rotation,:  four years of corn using the nutrients from the soil, and four years of alfalfa putting nitrogen and other nutrients back in the soil. Rotating between corn and alfalfa is an ideal cropping plan. Alfalfa is the perfect companion crop with corn to build up soil fertility and soil structure. We are blessed that protein rich alfalfa, that is such a benefit to our land, is in great demand by our cows at Willow Bend. This is another way our cows help build the fertility of our soils.

Another way the cow helps us build up the soil is related to the planting of a cover crop immediately after our corn harvest. Then, after the oats, wheat, or rye cover crop is growing nicely, we add liquid cow manure by pumping it into a long hose and then injecting it into the ground.  This  cover crop sucks up the nutrients, turns dark green, and grow rapidly. By doing this, we are tying up the nutrients from the manure to be released next summer when the cover crop is rotting in the soil. The growing plant then can fully use the nutrients being released.

So.……. as you can see, the milk cow is truly the nurse mother of our soil, as well as our people.     Instead of lowering the fertility and crop yields of our soil each year, thanks to the cow, our soil is getting more fertile and productive. Blessed is the farm with dairy cows, including ours!