Cows have to learn to graze, but they learn fast

You can lead a cow to pasture, but you can’t make her graze. Grazing is a learned skill, says CALS dairy scientist David Combs in a new podcast.

Whether grazing is a learned skill is an important question for deciding how to approach grazing research, Combs explains. Basically, it’s a question of whether research conducted with cows taken out of confinement and put on pasture will yield the same results as cows that were raised in grazing herd. Some graziers question whether findings from research on cows taken from confinement are applicable to commerical grazing operations. To find out, Combs compared the grazing behavior and performance of cows from confinement to pasture with that of cows raised in a grazing setting.

“Basically what we found was, there clearly is a learning curve,” he tells CALS communcation specialist Sevie Kenyon in the podcast, published on the CALS News page.  Cows that had never seen a blade of grass performed differently when put on pasture than cows that had been exposed to grass as growing animals. But it’s not a steep learning curve.

“By the end of the first week on pasture, milk production was essentially the same,” Combs says.