CGND | Our Pasture View | January 2021

Maria Bichler

Maria Bichler is a wife, young mother of three and owner of Bichler Simmentals in Linton, N.D. She works from home as a journalist alongside her husband, Doug, as they manage their family’s 100-year-old farm and ranching operation.

Your New Year’s resolution is to be healthy: eat a little better, move a little more, focus on mental health. So, when you wake up Jan. 1, you reluctantly put down the cinnamon roll and start the fixings of a smoothie.

What would you say if I told you we feed a smoothie of sorts to our cattle every day of the non-grazing season?

In North Dakota, our climate is conducive to grazing from May (depending on the year) to as late as November. During that time, our cattle are housed on various pastures comprised of native prairie grasses and all with access to ample water. Cattle thrive in this environment. They enjoy it; we do too.

But, during those other months of the year, our cattle once again call the ranch home, and they rely on us to feed them every day – no matter the temperature, the snowfall. So, you can find Doug feeding cattle using two tractors and a vertical feed mixer (think Ninja blender) which ensures every bite is a consistent mix of ingredients. Just how big is this mixer? Doug is preparing feed loads anywhere from 2.5 to 5 tons. 

We do not, however, call this cow chow or a super smoothie. All the ingredients are carefully formulated by our nutritionist to create a total mixed ration. The ration ingredients are grown and purchased. We raise corn for silage, oat, alfalfa, millet and triticale. We purchase whole kernel corn, a liquid mineral mix, beet pulp or beet tailings and distillers grain, a corn by-product from ethanol production. Bred heifers are fed different than the cows who are fed different from the bulls. Every animals’ age in development and main health goal is factored into the ration they receive. In fact, I’m positive our cattle eat a more well-rounded diet than my family does. They are served a perfect blend of protein, fiber, calories and vitamins and minerals which is available to them at any given moment.

Why do we do this? Because cattle, like humans, perform their best and stay the healthiest when they eat correctly. I could venture into the science of a bovine’s rumen and three other “stomachs” (yes, cattle have one stomach with four compartments), but we’ll save that for a rainy day. 

Here’s to 2021, where hopefully you and our cattle continue to be well-fed. 

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