March 2, 2018
I know most of you in the western Dakotas are familiar with cow cake. For those of you that are neophytes in the cattle industry, I will try to explain.
Cows, much like humans, require a certain amount of protein to survive. The protein can come from grass, grain, hay, or wherever. They can graze for protein, or eat it out of a hay feeder or feed bunk. As you drive across ranch country you will see many yards surrounded by big tires. These are placed there to feed chopped hay or silage into. And they make a wonderful breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Years ago, someone discovered if you take grain by-products, that aren’t worth a lot, grind those products up, add a little molasses and sugar beet pulp, you can make a pellet that is highly palatable (means they like it), highly digestible (means they don’t poop it all out), and can provide minerals and protein needed to supplement a mama cow. And it is quite profitable. Hence cow cake.
Now some have taken it a step farther. Rather than feed a cow a couple of pounds of cake a day, you can put it in a tub and let the cow feed herself. She will just lick that tub for a while each day and get the supplement she needs. I guess it works. Have you ever tried to eat ice cream that is frozen so hard that you break your best butcher knife off when trying to make a grandson an ice cream cone? Think of trying to lick a couple pounds of cow cake off a tub when it is thirty degrees below zero and a brisk wind.
Ranchers and farmers are an innovative bunch. They will try to figure out a way to cut down on labor, be it their own or hired. They will design gates that open when you drive up so you don’t have to get out. Or design something you can go over a fence with on a four-wheeler without having to open and close a gate. So years ago someone took a hopper off an old combine and made a cake feeder. He could yell at those cows, gather them up, open a slide and the cake would trickle out at the desired speed.
Then someone came up with a better way. A feeder you could drive along, punch in how many cows you were feeding, how much you wanted to feed, and this machine would put out the desired ration for each cow. A nice neat pile at a time. You’ve seen them on four-wheel drive pickups parked by the local café when chores are done.
Well, now I am to the gist of this story. I met a rancher at church (just saying) last week. We were talking about feeding cows. That is what ranchers talk about. And he said he made a cake feeder out of an old dishwasher! I couldn’t visualize this. So I asked how he did it?
He replied, “I gave my wife a scoop shovel”!
That is hard. That is really hard.