Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.
On Saturday, March 25, Mississippi State University Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences hosted an event open to the public, “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.” This event walked consumers through the Mississippi State University Dairy Farm to different stations that were each focused on a different aspect of farming and geared to help inform the public and answer any questions that they may have had about the industry. At our station, “All the Feeds for All their Needs,” we spoke to visitors about what is fed to livestock, why it is fed to them, and how it is processed. We also helped to clear up some confusion on the popular concern that low quality feedstuff is fed to livestock and causes several health issues.
The day started out rainy and stormy, but luckily the weather did not keep the crowd away. We had to be relocated inside, but this actually worked to our benefit because it provided an additional visual for visitors to see the feed combination we were talking about actually being fed to the cattle. Our station had two parts and the first was focused on specifically discussing the parts of the feed given to the dairy cattle on the Mississippi State University farm. We discussed differences in corn silage and alfalfa baleage, both nutritionally and in how they are made. We also discussed the prebatch given as a supplement to help complete the dairy diet nutritionally which often led to the discussion of the use of byproducts as feed and how feedstuff can vary regionally based upon what nutrients are available at the lowest cost.
Discussions led to our belief that a common misconception is in vocabulary used by the farmer to speak to the public. It appeared that what most people were concerned about was that feed fed to the cattle was of “cheap” quality and not just the lowest cost. We had to explain to several people that when farmers feed their livestock the cheapest source of nutrients, the nutrients themselves are not inferior and provide adequate nutrition for the animals’ needs. This probably has to do with the advertising of human food that claims that the more expensive food is the better food.
Our second station consisted of a table set up to allow our younger audience to have a hands on experience of how silage is made. We used Easter grass and containers to allow to children to fill their “silos” with grass so that they could feed the cows. Overall, we think the experience was a good one, it was neat to help interact and educate the public on what is actually fed to livestock and help to settle any concerns they may have had about information given to them from variable sources.
Photos courtesy of: Office of Agricultural Communications, MSU Extension Service