Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ready to leave 2009 behind!

I think I speak for a number of dairy farmers that I know....we are all ready to leave 2009 behind! It's been a rough 12 months in the dairy industry. We started 2009 knowing that we would be facing low/unprofitable milk prices, but none of us could predict that those low prices would persist for as long as they did.

This year tested even the hardiest farmer, not only with prices, but also with weather. The weather was cool, the growing season was poor, the winter 2008-2009 was long, and the harvest of 2009 was even longer and muddier. The stress tested every one's spirits and wills. The resilient survived, but those who didn't make it weren't bad farmers....just in bad circumstances. And lessons were learned. At Orange Patch Dairy, we learned a few good lessons that I thought I would share as well as our goals for 2010:

Lessons Learned from 2009
  1. Always save for a rainy day-this was our saving grace this year. When times were good, we put away as much money as we could. That money helped pay bills that we didn't have enough cash flow to pay for.
  2. Take a Vacation. Taking a break from the stress of the farm has no value. Time off to be with family and friends is invaluable...we know this is true.
  3. Top notch care for our cows always comes first, no matter the cost! We worked the entire year making sure that we sacrificed nothing for the cows, but instead spent less on ourselves. Our cows' care always comes first on our dairy farm, they are loved greatly.
  4. Keep doing what you do best. We know we take good care of our cows-we worked all of 2009 to continue doing that, and making the best care even better.
  5. Breathe-find JOY in the small things. If we couldn't have financial success in 2009, we had small successes: a new born heifer calf, a healthy cow, a beautiful sunset, all of God's great blessings.

Goals for 2010

  1. Improve our cow facilities: We have comfortable barns now, but we know we can make improvements to make them better. Now that we will hopefully be producing milk for a profit we hope to return those profits to new renovations this year. I also hope to post those renovations on this blog.
  2. Continue to find JOY. How could we not take this goal from 2009 with us?!?!
  3. Continue to improve cow and calf health. There is always room for improvement here. I look forward to a day when we have facilities that will provide environments for our animals that prevent disease so we don't have to treat disease. Our barns are good but there's always room for more fans, better heating, more feed space, etc.
  4. Milk more cows. I don't want to milk more cows for more money but because I love all of my cows so much, I can't bear to part with them or their kids. We hope to milk about 110 cows the full year through. That's enough cows for me though, any others will need to be sent to good homes on other dairy farms.

All of these goals and aspirations we look to on a daily basis, helping us make good decisions working towards our goals. Orange Patch Dairy looks at 2009 as a learning experience, and at 2010 as an opportunity to do better. As they say in 4-H " To Make the Best Better"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Snow-magedon 2009-Dairy Farm Version III

Final video, with a walk through the calf huts. We take excellent care of our calves for they are the future of our herd. Their comfort is our top priority!

Snow-magedon 2009-Dairy Farm Version II

Video #2, making TMR (total mixed ration) for the cows on Christmas Day.

Snow-magedon 2009-Dairy Farm Version

Check it out! My 1st of 3 videos on our recent Christmas snow storm in Minnesota!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snow storm coming!


Looks like we have a monster of a snow storm coming our way. Sounds like we will receive snow between 12-20 inches over Christmas Eve/Christmas Day. While I love a good snow storm, it gets to be a lot of work on the farm. Today Jonathan and I were "battening down the hatches" trying to prep for the storm, so hopefully we can enjoy a little bit of Christmas with family if possible or with each other. On our list was:
  • Bedding in all of the cows
  • Bedding all of the calves
  • Sealing up the calf huts
  • Storing extra bedding for the heifers so we don't have to dig it out of the snow banks
  • Feeding all of the cows and heifers extra feed for extra energy to get through the snow
  • Fixing and sealing curtains on the milking barn
  • Hooking up the snow blower so we can make sure the milk truck can make it to our barn
  • Plugging in tractors so we can start them in the morning-to move snow just to milk cows
  • Moving cows that are close to calving, so we can watch them more closely and don't have to move them to the milking barn in a blizzard
  • Making snow fences to stop blowing snow from drifting in our feed bags

PLANNING, PLANNING, PLANNING....it's going to be a crazy couple of days at the farm! Wishing you and yours a Very Merry Christmas....and a safe one at that....here's hoping we can make it home from the farm to enjoy Christmas here instead of sleeping with the cows.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Snow Storm is coming....

The Weather Channel is telling me that there is a Christmas Snow Storm coming this week. The timing is terrible, but what can we do-arguing with Mother Nature never works in our favor. Christmas is hard with cows, mainly because we have to work twice as hard to get everything done so we can travel to our various parties. We have been blessed to live so close to most of our family, so we won't be traveling too far from home, but with a snow storm comes some extra chores and snow removal. I know it will look so lovely Christmas morning, but all I can think about right now it how much more work we will have. I am also thinking about all of the cookies and candies I have left to make and presents to wrap....tonight I finished some more sweet creations.....check out the recipe below, which uses REAL butter, from REAL cows! Yummy!

Shannon's Butter Toffee
1 cup Butter
1 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Water
1/2 cup Miniature Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup Almonds (slivered)
Mix butter, sugar and water together in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium heat for 13 minutes, stirring constantly. Liquid should read 300 degrees on a candy thermometer or make a brittle string when dropped in cool water. Pour quickly onto a cookie sheet and spread out. Sprinkle with chocolate and almonds. Cool for 2 hours and break into pieces. These makes great gifts, and are super easy!
Just an update on our calving season, since Thanksgiving we have welcomed 13 bulls calves and 12 heifer calves, including 2 set of twins....we are waiting for 5 others to have calves this week, and then we will have a couple days of reprieve until New Year's Day when we have 4 due on one day. So far so good! Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's a "Help Out" not a "Hand Out"

I have been reading a lot of comments floating around on the web regarding the announcement yesterday about the $290 million set to be distributed to dairy farmers from the government/FSA/USDA. I have some thoughts I would like to share.

First and foremost, this aid is just that...aid. To an industry that needs to fix it's pricing system so a year as dramatic as 2009 doesn't happen again. This is a "Help Out" not a "Hand Out". As dairy farmers, we provide a product that is necessary for life. You can live without a car, but you can't live without food. This money will be returned to our local and state economies through purchases for feed, fuel, and so many other materials we need.

I believe that as dairy farmers, if we work hard to produce a safe, wholesome product for consumers and ourselves, then we should be paid for it. I wish we didn't have to accept a payment from the government to pay our bills or just survive, but it's the reality of our situation. Today we received our milk check for our milk produced in November-we FINALLY received enough money to pay our monthly bills and put a little in the bank. I couldn't believe it-it's been almost 12 months since we actually produced milk "in the black". Did you have to go to work this year and pay admission? I did, every day for the last 12 months. I didn't really complain about it, I was more focused on giving the best possible care that I could to my cows-so we didn't lose as much money as we could have.

2009 was the "perfect storm". We had higher feed costs, higher fuel cost, and we had a recession taking away our customers...you, me, and citizens of the world. We hope with the help our government officials we can change how milk is priced and reduce the volatility in the markets. I believe that challenges like this bring out the best in dairy farmers, but in 2009, even the BEST farmer produced milk for a LOSS. Those of us that are left after this year, have repairs that NEED to be done since we put them off, we have broken equipment that NEEDS to be replaced, we have savings accounts that NEED to be refilled, we have bills that NEED to be paid, we have banks and lenders that NEED to be paid back, and we have families that could use a much needed vacation.

Jonathan and I plan to use our portion of this money to pay our bills. We hope that if we pull enough money out of our last remaining savings account and use this money that we can start 2010 with no bills due from 2009. I can't believe how hard 2009 was, but 2010, we hope can be better. We only ask for a fair price and for no more government dollars, but for now...we will take the help. Thank you US Tax payers....your dollars did go to a good place, and we will pay it back when we start to earn a salary once again!

Yevette and Friends...in the calf barn

Video of Yevette from early November. Check it out!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Late Night Ramblings

Here I am, up at 1:54 in the morning, listening to some rock music, working on e-mails. Why you ask would I be working on e-mails at 1 in the morning? Well, the answer is easy...we didn't get home from the farm until Midnight tonight.

It was a good day at the farm, but a long day. We have been working on a cow, Number 20, who has a mystery illness. She gave birth to twins 3 nights ago, and since then she has not been eating as much feed as we hoped that she would. We had the vet look at her yesterday but he couldn't find anything directly wrong with her, so we assume that it is a couple of different things. As a result we "treated" her twice today. She received a "soup" of yeast, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to help out her rumen-she drank this. And she got a couple liters of IV fluids. She isn't on antibiotics, because she is not sick from an infection but appears to have a digestive upset. Tonight, it was a night and day difference-she was eating everything in sight, so we hope we are over this hurdle.

We delivered 2 new bulls calves today, so we had to tend to the mothers and the boys. All are bedded in and well fed tonight. We also bedded in all of the heifers, dry cows, and milking cows. We had to fill hay feeders in the dry cow lot and the heifer lots. And then at the end of the night we had to head back to the dry cow lot, to look for cows calving-we have 3 that look to be giving birth before sunrise....which brings me to now-this is why I am up....I will be leaving shortly to drive out the farm and check on them. Making sure that in the case that they do calve tonight someone is there to help them and the new calves. I am hoping for no calves until morning-but Mother Nature always wins this argument. So, of to the farm I go, hopefully 3 news calves and 3 happy mothers will greet me =)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Another Saturday Night at the Farm

It's Sunday, and I am recovering from another Saturday night at the farm. It was a good day yesterday. We had nice weather, temperatures in the 30's and sunny. The snow melted, and the heifers played. We had 2 heifers calves born in the afternoon, and I had some time to head to town to start my Christmas shopping. I came home to do evening chores. On the last group of cows in the parlor I had a "bad event". I was prepping or cleaning the teats of a new fresh heifer in our barn. She's a little feisty and started to kick at me. But instead of hitting me she hit the mature cow next to her. The mature cow tolerated this kicking for a little while and then she couldn't take it any more, she fired back. The mature cow tried to hit the heifer but misfired and hit me, when I wasn't even looking.

I am fine, but as a result I have a very nice "hoof" shaped bruise on my forehead as well as 2, 4 inch long abrasions on my forehead and eye brow. I was a little shaken up. I did not fight back. Why would I? Contrary to some beliefs, we do not abuse our animals. It was not the cow's fault that she hit me, she was just trying to settle down the heifer next to her that still wasn't used to getting milked in the parlor. Sometime I think a helmet should be mandatory issue for milking cows, but most times the cows hardly ever fuss. We pride ourselves on having nice, calm cows. I work hard to play with the calves and heifers. Some night I can even play a game of "tag"---yes, tag with the cows. When they have to try something new, like milking, well they go back to their basic instincts-fight back as an animal-kick. It happens, very seldom do they hit us, but sometimes they do hit, BUT we NEVER hit back. The moment we hit back we teach them that we will hit them, teaching them pain. Peaceful cows are happy cows!-and they make a lot of milk too =)

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

The radio is blaring Christmas tunes, and the weather is agreeing with the season-we have snow, we have cold, and we have blowing. It's been hard to deal with this winter weather though, because it is so extreme. We have been dealing with temperatures much below zero, wind chills much below zero, winds over 30 mph, and 6 inches of snow. This weather has cause a few problems and challenges. With cold weather we have do to some extra things each day to continue to take good care of our cows.

Challenges:
  • Frozen pipes: Those pipes, with the right amount of wind will ALWAYS freeze! Water is a critical nutrient for cows and calves so we HAVE to thaw the pipes everyday, sometimes twice a day.
  • Snow removal: snow blows everywhere and gets into everything. We must push snow, shovel snow, and blow snow in order to just get into the barn to feed and milk the cows.
  • Moving: yes moving is so much harder now, with 4 plus layers of clothes on it get to be pretty cumbersome to walk around.
  • Starting Tractors: yeah, tractors really don't like to start in the winter-it's too cold and their fuel systems like to "gel" up.
  • Frozen manure: hot, fresh cow pies will freeze in an instant on the right day. Manure is so much harder to move when it is frozen-making clean up so much more difficult.

Extra Cold Weather Tasks:

  • Feeding the cows extra feed: cows need extra calories to stay warm during the winter months, just like we do. Long winter hair helps to keep cows warm, but heating from the inside out works for cows just like hot soup in people =)
  • Bedding the cows extra: Cows need extra bedding to stay dry and warm. Cows and calves like to "nest" in their bedding in the winter. Therefore we need to make sure that we supply LOTS of straw for everyone.
  • Feeding the calves extra milk: Calves need extra milk as well for extra calories, so even get a calf "jacket" or "blanket" to stay warm on those cold winter nights.
  • Baby Calf Watch: We have to keep an extra eye on the dry cows due soon to have their babies. Winter is not a great time to have a calf. Typically we would be enjoying temps about 25 right now, but thanks to this artic chill we have about 12 cows yet to calve before Christmas and they are all at risk for frost bite. We check on each of them at least 6 times each day, so that the moment that they start labor we can move them to a warm pen indoors to have their calf safely-we always do the best that we can for our cows and calves so a good start is critical!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why do you farm?

I went to a great speaker yesterday at the Midwest Dairy Expo. She inspired me to write this post. She posed a very thought provoking question to us in the audience.....

"Why do YOU farm?"

Hmm, I guarantee you that I don't farm because I enjoy working in the winter time. Today we had to wear over 4 layers of clothing just to go outside, shovel the snow before we could get into the barn, move the snow before we could get to the silage bags, and bed in everyone of the animals so they can stay warm and dry all day. Farming is hard. Not everyone can farm, but a number of smart people do farm. These farmers are smart enough that they could be excellent employees for any other company, but they run their own family business instead. When I left my job in January to come home and farm, I had 3 different jobs where I could work a 5 day week, making a sizable salary, but I chose to farm instead. Some would say that this would be an unwise choice, but it was the best choice for me-it just felt right.

I farm because I enjoy working with and in nature. I enjoy working with cows, one of the best creatures that God ever created. I enjoy the satisfaction of learning to do a new task, learning a new idea, starting a new project. I hope that some day that when Jon and I have children that we can use this farm to teach our kids how important life lessons like: respect for the environment, responsibility, strong work ethic, patience and passion. I farm, because at the end of the day I want be proud of the job that I did, the best possible job possible taking care of my cows and producing a tasty, wholesome, nutritious product for my family and yours.

Just so you know.....THAT'S WHY I FARM!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tour of the Calf Huts

A warm Novemeber day....wishing for those back again! Meet our 7 baby calves, which now is more like 17 baby calves....but I wouldn't trade them for the world!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another Minnesota Winter

Oh Geeze, looks like another Minnesota winter has arrived at the farm. We tried to hold it off as long as we could, but it turns out we ran out of time. Needless to say this wet fall has made for a major delay in our "to do list". We are still trying to finish up fall work and some fall work will have to go undone. But winter prep also was left behind.

These last 2 days we have been dealing with frozen hoses and water pipes. If we had enough time, we would have "winterized" these items, but we were busy doing "fall" things. As a result we spent at least 30 minutes these last 2 days thawing out the hoses and pipes to make sure that the cows and heifers have adequate water. The cold weather makes for difficult starts for all of the tractors. Some tractors, critical to our daily operations couldn't be started today. The cold weather makes everything twice as difficult, and that's not fun when we are calving many cows.

Today we welcomed 3 new calves! 2 heifers and a bull calf. All of them healthy and happy. Because of the cold weather we had to work fast to get the calves dry and warm. Once they are warm, filling their stomachs with warm milk from their mother's (colostrum) is very important. All of our calves drink at least 1 gallon of colostrum in the first hours of life. The cooler temps and weather also make life more stressful after birth, so we make sure that each calf is vaccinated for any possible disease and feed additional milk during the day to ensure that they have adequate calories to stay warm. For some calves that are struggling, we will cover them in a calf blanket and/or use a heat lamp to warm them. Making sure that their mothers are inside and protected from the elements is also important. Cold air and wind chills can cause skin on cow's teats to freeze and crack. The cold weather also stresses the mother, so we make sure the 2 months before the birth that they consume enough calories and protein to grow a healthy calf as well as care for her needs. Nevertheless, cold weather makes for extra work, but we love what we do. Just, grateful for insulated coveralls, heavy sweatshirts, and stocking caps!!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Small break in the calving...

Today we enjoyed a small break in the calving for the week. On Tuesday we had a plethora of calves born...one heifer calf, one set of twins (1 bull and 1 heifer) and one little heifer that didn't make it. We were really sad about the heifer that didn't make it. Her mother was in labor overnight, which is not good for us-we live 7 miles from the farm so we can't check on our cows as much as we would like to. Some farms have closed circuit camera and some have people hired to watch cows calving 24 hours a day, but since we are a small farm we have to rely on our own abilities to check on cows. We missed this cow calving at 2 or 3 am, and she was having problems, the calf was coming out backwards. When we found her calving at morning milking, we rushed to her aid, but it was too late for her little calf. As a woman, I think I always take these moments harder than Jonathan does, but often I do catch a small tear in his eyes as well. It's always heartbreaking to lose an animal on our farm, whether she's young or old, it's hard to watch. That is why we work so hard to make sure that all of our animals have the best care possible and we can't wait to move to the farm when the opportunity arises-to keep a better watch on our girls.

On a happier note, the calf barn is busting with 4 bulls, and 3 heifers, and I am waiting for 4 more cows to calve before Friday. I can't wait for more babies, even though it takes me double the time to do my calf chores every day twice a day, I love caring for the little ones. They are full of discovery and amazement and I think that's what makes the job so fun! Hopefully I have more pictures of little calves, and I hope we don't lose anymore of our blessings.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Calving Season has Begun!

Calving Season has begun at Orange Patch Dairy. I am so excited to be calving, it's my favorite season. When we purchased our herds of cows almost 5 years ago, we knew that each of the farmers that we bought from focused on calving heavily in the early winter months to allow for more time in the crop seasons. As a result, as the herd has grown, more and more animals are available for calving during the winter months. Last year we had about 30 head to calve between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day...this year we await the birth of 40 calves!

So far we have 3 bulls calves and one heifer calf. Obviously I am hoping for more heifer calves so I can keep them, but the bulls are great too-a live calf is the best kind, regardless of the gender! I did some counting this morning, and I have about 27 head to have calves in the coming 30 days!!!! That's insane, and about 7 cows due in the next 6 days. This afternoon I induced a cow that is 5 days over due. Being over due increases the chances of a large calf and a difficult birth, so instead of waiting for nature to take it's course, we give it a little "medical" push. I am certain that this cow will be fine and I look forward to seeing her in labor tomorrow afternoon (it usually takes about 24 hours to get the birthing process started).

Today I also delivered a bull calf by myself. This is no easy task. I noticed that the cow was in labor at noon and I moved her inside, where she could enjoy a pen to herself. In about 20 minutes she broke her water (placenta) and was pushing. 5 minutes later I checked on her only to find rear legs sticking out. Calves normally are delivered front legs first, that way their heads come out first and they have the chance to breathe before they umbilical cord breaks. So I rushed to the office to grab some gloves and a chain. Yes, we use chains to pulls calves. It's not painful to the cow or the calf, but instead allows us to have more leverage when trying to help a 1800 pound cow deliver a 120 pound calf. Calves that size can't be delivered by hand, no body I know is that strong. So, nevertheless, I put the chains on the rear feet, tied up a rope, and used my body weight to put some pressure on the chain. Every time that the cow pushed, I pulled....with a lot of teamwork and positive encouragement, we delivered in about 10 minutes a healthy baby bull, and momma cow was in great shape!! Had I not helped her out, she would have strained and struggled for a long time, wearing herself out-causing stress on the calf and more than likely the calf would have been born dead, if she would have been able to get him out-all in all a success! Our cow, Xebe is a great cow-so tame and easy to work with-I am so happy we had success! I am looking forward to the next 27 calves, and hoping that I don't have to "pull" everyone of them ;)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Things we are Thankful for...

Every year I try to sit down and reflect on the things that we (Jonathan and I) are most thankfull for in our lives and in the past year. So since I started blogging, I thought it would be a great idea to post our list:
  1. God: Thankful that we have a deep faith in God and that no matter what life brings our way, we can depend on him to help us through it. On a farm this may be a daily event, so faith in God is critical.
  2. Each other: It's especially nice to be able to depend on each other. When we have bad days and yell at each other, it's nice to know that we will always be able to make up and move on with life, with each other. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have Jon-he's been my best friend for almost 10 years already~!
  3. Family: we are so thankful that we have a family that loves us and supports us, and even though they can be a little annoying from time to time, we know that they are always there and in our corner.
  4. Our Farm: We are truly grateful to be able to live on a farm. What a great future we can provide out kids someday! A farm is an awesome place to see all of the wonders that our Lord can provide as well as a great school to teach some of life's best lessons.
  5. Our Cows: Yes, we sure are thankful for those darn cows! How could we not be thankful for them? With great love, we care for them and we know that the better job we do caring for our cows the greater their care for us. It's a priviledge to be blessed with the care of one of God's great creature....each with their own indearing personalitites.
  6. Fellow Farmers: Without the friendship of our neighbors and fellow farmers, some days would be unbearable. We are truly thankful for them and the good work that they do as well. As less than 2% of the nation's people are farmers, we know we are part of a small group of people that feed the world...we are thankful for their hard work and the food that they provide.
  7. Our Consumers: Thank you for your support of our products. Thank you for serving your kids 3 servings of Dairy each day to provide them their daily requirement of calcium. Thank you for enjoying cheese, milk and yogurt as nutritious snacks! We are very grateful for your support and hope to continue to supply you with safe, quality, wholesome products this coming year.
  8. Our Leaders: Without leaders, we could have no followers....thanks to those who are leaders in government, religion and in the ag community...your leadership is inspiration to the rest of us, working hard each day!

So many things to be thankful for! Make sure as you gather with your family and friends tomorrow to say a couple prayers for those who worked so hard this past year to help put food on your plate. It's not an easy job, but we do it every day to feed our consumers like you!

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving from Orange Patch Dairy!

Shannon and Jonathan

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Got my computer back!

After having my computer down for a couple days, needless to say I missed it. It's not that I missed having internet access to facebook as much as I missed having our computer for all of our farm needs. Agriculture is continuing to be a more technological industry. Technology makes life easier. On our dairy we use the Internet to research the daily activity on the milk market, weather reports, forage results, and new ideas. Jon often searches for new equipment for the farm online. I communicate with other farmers and industry people through e-mail, helping to share ideas and information. It's amazing how such a basic occupation depends so much on technology to make our jobs easier and more efficient.

I didn't even think about all of the excel spreadsheets I use to calculate farm stats and the financial programs that Jon runs to help our banker better understand our business.

It's amazing how a tool so small can do so many important tasks!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

BUSY, BUSY!

Just thought I would leave and let you know that I have not fallen off the face of the earth but instead found tons of jobs to do instead of posting. Rest assured that once I do return I will have LOTS of videos to share with you.

On Sunday night, at 1am we finished hauling out the cow barn. We hauled about 77 loads of manure on about 50 acres of land. We look forward to the great crop of corn this will hopefully yield for next year. On Tuesday we had Herd Health. Our vet came out and checked all of the cows, as usual. He had good news for us....12 cows pregnant and ready to calve in for June and July of next year! We hoped after that good news and finishing tilling in the manure that would have been able to go home that night early, but we found out a pump in our parlor was out of commission. We called the local serviceman (about 40 minutes away) to come and fix it, and after we got it figured out we finally started milking cows at 9pm (2 hours later than usual). We were so grateful to have a serviceman so close! We often try NOT to take our dairy infrastructure for granted-they do so much to make dairying less stressful for the rest of us. Needless to say, the cows were pretty mad at us, but we got them milked and made it up to them the next day by giving them extra treats in their feed.

Yesterday I was at South Dakota State University to speak to the freshmen class of Dairy Science students. It was a great experience to see another excellent group of students excited about the dairy industry and looking forward to a career in it.

Today we will be working on moving some dirt for a winter project and miscellaneous cleaning around the farm....needless to say there's never a dull day.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk

Please show your support for Chocolate Milk!!!! Chocolate milk is at risk of being removed from schools. Please help us make sure that all kids get all of the Calcium, Vitamin D, and Potassium that they need for strong bones and good health. Replacing sodas with chocolate milk is a great way to start a healthy habit for a healthy diet!

Please sign the Petition for Chocolate Milk! Join the Moo-vement! See the link below to sign.
http://www.raiseyourhand4milk.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Post #100! This day didn't go as planned :(

So this is my 100th post on my blog! I can't hardly believe that I made that many posts already, but I promise this one to be interesting....all about my day, another Monday that went unplanned.

The PLAN was to work on making bedding today, haul out manure, and make headway on our fall activities. INSTEAD....we had all sorts of chaos, good chaos, but chaos nonetheless. The morning began with breeding a heifer at the neighbor's farm. This took an extra 30 minutes out of our day, and meant we started milking later than expected, even though we got out of bed extra early. When we arrived at the farm we learned that the milking system wasn't working correctly so Jonathan started to work on that, while I hopped on the 4-wheeler to dry through the dry cow lot. We had a cow that was due to calve about 3 days ago. I went looking for the cow and found her, and she appeared to have calved, but there was no calf to be found. I started looking around the lot in a frantic. The calf was no where to be found, until I saw 2 little ears sticking out of the mud, wiggle. That darn new born calf had wondered her way out of the dry cow lot, where she could be with her mother and out into a big, deep mud puddle. She was fine and healthy, just very dirty! Oh dear calf! I loaded her up into the wheelbarrow and pushed her into the calf barn. Then we started her a warm bath. At first she didn't like it too much, but once she figured out that I was cleaning off all of that mud, she REALLY loved it! She was so cute. I dried her off and she was a lovely black calf. I hurried up and off to the barn to help finish milking. Now chores were about 2 hours later than planned. Jonathan and I hustled through feeding chores and ate a quick lunch. I headed off to haul manure from the heifer pens and Jonathan went into the fields to make corn straw stacks. After loading the manure spreader with my first load, I pulled out of the pen and through the open gate, slowly making sure the heifers didn't run out of the gate. I turned to look forward for a couple seconds and by the time I turned around I found that the heifers had pushed the open gate into the manure spreader and the gate got caught under the wheel of the manure spreader.....the gate was completely twisted and mangled!!!!! OH NO!!!!! I called Jon to come and rescue me! We fixed the fence and wasted another hour of our day. The sun was setting so I ran off to haul one last load of manure and Jonathan went back into the field. Wouldn't you know it, but Jonathan had a problem too! He broke the stack maker, and it needed to be fixed as well. Oofta! it's been one of those days! Just hoping that tomorrow is a better day ;) Either way we got the cows cared for, milked and we got to enjoy some AMAZING Fall Weather! So even though it didn't go as planned it still went well!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Soybeans done and bedding started

Soybeans were combined last night. So the custom combiner came in at about 5 pm and finished up late last night. We didn't have too many acres of beans this year, since we had lots of corn and alfalfa for cow feed. Jonathan got the stack maker up and running yesterday. He went out yesterday afternoon and made corn stacks...I have video to be posted soon.

This week, thanks to the great forecast we are hoping to make all the bedding we will need for the cows this year. We are also hoping to haul out all of the manure, work it in, and be finished for the year! Phew! Getting tired just thinking about it! haha! I'll keep you up to date as we finish our Fall Projects!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Finally started the corn!

Well, my father in law finally started the corn. Even though it is not dry enough, we are taking it out of the field. We have to. We will have to pay more to dry the corn this year, but if we leave it in the field any longer we will be risking snow, winter, and wildlife: all that will destroy the corn. We hope that this nice warm weather lasts! Please God we need it to last!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ohioans give 'thumbs down' to HSUS   Dairy Herd Management Magazine - Industry News

Ohioans give 'thumbs down' to HSUS Dairy Herd Management Magazine - Industry News

It's awesome that consumers voted with farmers on this issue. I am excited to see a similar proposal for Minnesota. Why not have people who understand agriculture make laws for agriculture? Makes sense to me!

Vt. slaughterhouse had been cited before   Dairy Herd Management Magazine - Industry News

Vt. slaughterhouse had been cited before Dairy Herd Management Magazine - Industry News

Excellent article in response to the video released by HSUS. I do believe that it is irresponsible of the USDA to continue to allow a plant like this to operate. As a unified front, we need to as an industry make a stand against mishandling of all animals in the livestock industry.

Weather is becoming Mentally Frustrating

This weather is becoming mentally frustrating. Yesterday it rained, again....just enough to stop field work and reverse any drying that happened in the fields this weekend. Today the sun was supposed to come out, but we enjoyed a cloudy, cool morning with damp heavy air. This air also didn't allow anything to dry, and when the sun did come out it was 2 hours from sunset. No drying happened today.

We are hoping to get into the fields tomorrow, working to haul some more liquid manure out of the milking barn pit. Once we finish this task, we will pull the pump out of the pit and take it to the neighbor's place to be repaired before we need it again. Once we finish that job we look forward to cleaning out calf huts and hauling that manure and bedding out to the field on Friday. 60 degrees in the forecast for Friday and Saturday makes me hopeful that we can FINALLY hit the corn and soybeans. Once those our out we can start making some much needed bedded for the cows and heifers and haul out our pack manure (7 months worth of manure and bedding from about 160 cows). Stay tuned, I hope to have some videos of all of this action~!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Minn. farmers donate 36,000 pounds of cheese

Minn. farmers donate 36,000 pounds of cheese

How great it is to see farmers giving back even though, we, ourselves are facing tough times. Helping to feed the hungry is the least that we can do! Yeah for Minnesota!!!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Corn Silage Season 09Part4

Check out, the last video of our series from September....chopping the last of our corn silage. We finished in 5 days, with plenty of rain delays to make over 2500 tons of corn silage for our 180 cows and 190 heifers for the coming year off of about 85 acres of corn! It was a GOOD year, especially considering that we had a cool dry season.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rain....Again...yuck!

So it's raining again, looks like a blog post from a few weeks ago, actually it's been raining for the last 3 weeks! It could stop any day now for about 3 weeks to finish all of our fall activities. Today, I left the farm to do some tasks, pay some bills and get groceries for next week. Jonathan stayed at home and took care of the cows.

After milking and feeding this morning we moved 2 dry cows out of the formerly dry lot-now muddy lot-to get treated for apparent mud-induced foot injuries. One of the cows has a small rock imbedded in her hoof, much like humans that get ingrown toe nails, and the other has a small infection from the mud in between her toes. We cleaned and treated each cow. While they were technically not "lame" they were showing tenderness on those feet, therefore we act quickly so a small problem that's easy to fix doesn't become a HUGE problem that's hard to treat. I left after treating these cows and Jonathan continued his work. Since it rained, all of the dry cows and heifers needed fresh/dry bedding. He also bedded in the calves in the huts. Keeping our cows and calves dry is very important to keeping them healthy. So the battle continues tomorrow....more mud, but hopefully less rain =)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rain again...

Yep, it's definitely raining again. Looks like we could get over an half an inch. We enjoyed about 3.5 days of almost perfect weather. Local farmers were able to get into the fields and start harvesting their soybeans and corn. Some tillage has also started. We are still unable to harvest our corn, since it is too wet and the cost of drying it is too high. We are waiting for the custom harvester to come and combine our soybeans, so we found other activities to do....MANURE removal.

My father-in-law and brother-in-law worked on moving our manure from the calf/heifer barn this morning. I worked on hauling out liquid manure from the cow barn and Jonathan worked on cleaning up the dry cows and heifer lots. All in all, a LOT of fertilizer was moved to the fields today. We will work this fertilizer into the soils to make an awesome bed for next year's crops. A "Fall Cleaning" of manure. We were very excited about the dry weather, sad about the rain today and tomorrow, but looking forward to the forecast for next week....cool and DRY.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Confessions of a Milk-a-holic

This is a confession of a true Milk-a-holic...me =)

I have been reading a few articles on the web about lactose intolerance and how prevalent or not prevalent it is in the world population. Some state that drinking milk into adulthood is unnatural, that humans should stop drinking milk after infantcy. All of the different opinions make the truth very confusing, but I can honestly say that I am not lactose intolerant. If anything, I am a TRUE Milk-a-holic!

Ever since I was a young child, milk has played an important part of my life. Yes, I was raised on a dairy farm, but milk was ALSO an important part of my diet. I knew at a young age how great milk was for my body! After many adventures as a kid, I can honestly say I NEVER had a broken bone, even though I had plenty of injuries. I had milk and cereal before school, milk and cheese at school, and milk and ice cream at home for supper. We used to drink raw whole milk(averaging 3.5-4% fat) at home, from the cows. I don't endorse that practice now, not because it was unsafe, but because pasteurized milk is MORE safe. Nevertheless...I drank milk everyday, and not a small 8 ounce glass, but a big glass, 10 ounces or more each time, at least 3 times a day.

Now as an adult, I find that my body tells me when I haven't had milk. Some people are addicted to caffeine or pop, but I am ADDICTED to MILK! Yes, I sure am! If I don't start my day with milk, I am groggy by noon. If I don't have milk for lunch/dinner, I am craving it by the afternoon. If I don't have milk for supper, I NEED a LARGE glass for a snack before bed! It's crazy but after I have that glass of milk I feel so much better. I often enjoy milk with snacks, but cheese and crackers, yogurts, and yogurt smoothies are some of my favorite "other" snacks.

Our bodies need calcium, and if we listen to our bodies we will fill that need. I read an astonishing/shocking statistic the other day: ONLY 5% of girls and 25% of boys, ages 9-13 get their daily requirement of calcium that they need! How terrible! Kids develop life habits at this age, and by not including milk/dairy in their diets they will surely have issues with osteoporosis and other bone diseases in their futures. How terrible! I can't imagine how awful this truly is. So, please if you have children, make sure that they have 3 servings of dairy each day to fulfill their daily need of Calcium, as well as: Vitamin A & D, Phosphorous, Protein, and Magnesium. Serving sizes are small: 8 ounces of milk, 3 ounces of cheese, or 8 ounces of yogurt. Please, just do it for your kids-they deserve a healthy future with healthy habits! Thanks!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kids not getting enough Calcium in their diets

YEAH! They got something right! Shocking that only 5% of girls and 25% of boys between the ages of 9-13 get the daily calcium that they need! Please feed your children low fat dairy products for strong bones and teeth!-try yogurt, yogurt smoothies,... flavored milks, and low fat cheeses for awesome snacks for kids! 3-A-Day all the way! Read More

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sleepy Eye FFA Dairy Juding Team brings home 3rd!!!!

Sleepy Eye FFA Dairy Judging Team 2009
Back Row: Advisor Mary Hoffmann, Assistant Advisor Ben Seifert
Front Row: Angela Sellner, Laura Rosenhammer, Shawn Suess, Chris Seifert

I have AWESOME news tonight! This afternoon, while we were trudging through the mud to feed the dry cows, my father in law came rushing out to the silage bag pad in my mother in law's van...he was so excited! I knew it was good news from the National FFA Convention...and I was right. Steve came to tell us that the Dairy Judging team, which had my youngest sister and Jonathan's little brother (my brother in law) on it....had won 3RD PLACE!!!!! They are the 3rd best dairy judging team in the NATION! To add to our excitement, we found out that Laura placed 3rd overall as an individual, Angela placed 7th, and Chris placed 13th!!!!! These young adults have been working with each other since they were in grade school. They have been judging in 4-H for years, won at the National 4-H Judging contest, earned a trip to Europe-did well there, and now won this contest!

I am so excited for these youth, all 4 active in the dairy industry, each in their own way. They have such bright futures in no matter what they might do. It's amazing to have watched these youth grow and develop into such wonderful young adults in the "vehicle" of the dairy industry. Often children from dairy farms talk about the qualities and traits that they learned from their families and from working on their dairy farms. After watching these kids grow up, I can honestly say that they also learned and lived those qualities. Qualities of leadership, responsibility, respect, determination, honesty, hard work ethic, teamwork, and so many more! Congratulations Laura, Angie, Chris and Shawn! Your hard work and determination has paid off!!!! Congrats for a JOB WELL DONE!!!!!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mike Rowe - Interview at the 2009 National FFA Convention

Excellent interview with Mike Rowe about agriculture and his speech at the 2009 National FFA Convention!!!!

Mike Rowe speaks at the National FFA Convention

Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs (on the Discovery Channel) spoke at the National FFA Convention this week. How inspiring for those FFA-ers to see and hear Mike Rowe, a man who knows about Dirty Jobs! His speech is awesome...please check this link out and scroll down to the Mike Rowe photo, it's about 35 minutes of audio but WELL worth the listen!!!!

P.S. Sending positive thoughts to the Sleepy Eye FFA who competed today, representing Minnesota, in the Dairy Judging Competition! Hoping for good news tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

And the rain continues....

God has blessed us with a handful of dry days this past weekend and early week, however the radar is showing a line of rain/thunderstorms looming to the west and closing in. It's be a difficult growing season this year. We started the spring with cool wet conditions. This summer was also cool, but dry and this fall is also cool and WET! We are definitely making up for the dry summer with all of the rain we are receiving right now. This wet weather is preventing us from getting into the field and bringing in the harvest. Our corn and soybeans are all too wet to combine. We would like our corn to be at least below 20% moisture, but right now it is 31-37% moisture. Without sun and warm temperatures, the drying process is becoming more difficult.

In addition to slowing harvest, we are also postponing some critical fall activities. After combining our soybeans and corn, we return to the fields to harvest the foliage from those plants. We bale the dry soybean plants into round bales for bedding for our heifers. We bale the remaining soybean plants in small square bales to be chopped in the calf barn-making for happy, comfy, dry calves =) We chop the dry corn plants and make them into large stacks. We will take scoops of this bedding to bed in our dry cows and feed some of our heifers and dry cows. Cows love to chew on dry corn stalks! Actually cows like to chew on a lot of things.

After we harvest the bedding we spread manure, lots of manure. Manure from cows, dry cows, heifers and calves. We need to make sure we have clean animals for the winter. Also fall is the best time of the year for manure application. We reduce compaction by hauling in the fall compared to the spring. We are also able to incorporate the manure into the soil through fall tillage (plowing, digging) thereby saving the valuable nutrients in the manure to be used by the 2010 crop! Hauling manure is critical to keeping the cows clean and dry but also critical for our crops. Manure saves us money. If we capture all of the nutrients and organic matter available in manure we are able to save the cost of commercial fertilizer that we would have used. Another added benefit is that manure is great for making good soil! Because manure is natural-worms and soil microbes LOVE manure!

When we finish manure hauling...then we have to do fall tillage. Tillage means plowing some fields (using an implement that flips the soil over so the soil surface is underground). We also dig some other fields with an implement called a DMI. The DMI leaves the soil surface on the top, but digs deep into the soil breaking up compaction, making the soil soft for the spring.

So, Dear God...please make the rain stop, at least until the harvest in is, and we have so much to do before snow season!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Herd Health Day

We have been busy at Orange Patch Dairy today. We welcomed yet another bull calf to our farm. We have been birthing about 2 bulls calves to every 1 heifer calf. These calves will end up at our neighbor's farm where they will be raised to be beef animals. We had to move the new mother to the new barn as well. After taking care of baby and mother, we had our monthly scheduled visit with our herd vet.

We call this day "Herd Health Day". Our vet worked today to do post-calving check ups on all of the cows that have had babies (calves) in the last month. We had 15 cows to check. We had an awesome result, as all cows are of excellent health. These cows were also vaccinated for various cow-diseases, much like how we vaccinate humans for human diseases. We also did pregnancy checks for those cows that we bred 35 days ago. We checked 7 cows and 4 of them were pregnant. The remaining 3 that are not pregnant will be watched in the coming weeks for estrus (heat) and bred again. Try, try again...we want all of our cows to have calves and continue their lactations. After checking over the cows we moved to the calf barn.

Here we vaccinated our calves with a vaccine that is similar to what the cows got, for the same disease. We work hard to give booster vaccines to all animals on our farm to make sure that our cows are healthy and not sick. Sick cows reduce milk production which reduces our income, but it also costs money to buy drugs to treat them, therefore it is ALWAYS in our BEST interests to have HEALTHY cows! In fact today at the age of 4.5 months, we vaccinated Joey, the calf from our spring day care visits.

After vaccinating the calves we did follow up checks on animals that had surgery in the last few weeks. All in all, it was a great day on the farm-with healthy and happy cows on Orange Patch Dairy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Larry King Show Response

Tonight I watched Larry King's show. I usually don't watch Larry's show, I am just not an interested fan, but a friend told me tonight I had better tune in, so I did....the topic tonight, the meat industry and whether or not meat is safe to have in our diets.

Hmm, interesting....the debate was interesting and frustrating at the same time.

My response: YES! Meat is part of a balanced diet! Beef, pork, poultry, eggs and fish all provide vital nutrients that are critical to a healthy body. Meat products in the USA are safe. Just remember to cook your meats to the correct temperature and prepare properly. Also remember it's not okay to eat meat in excess, but of course in appropriate sizes and in moderation-perhaps 2-3 meals a day including some lean cuts of meats. I hope the general public also believes this fact.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hormones... The facts may surprise you!

Hmm...Interesting, that salad you might eat has more hormones in it than the steak you will have for a main course...interesting! Past the beef please!!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The joys of dairy farming!

Today was one of those days, where you REALLY have to LOVE your job. It was a day where you really have to ENJOY the JOYS OF DAIRY FARMING....

This morning we dried off 5 cows (time for them to go on a 2 month vacation before they have their next calf). After that we noticed a cow that we gave medication to induce labor had finally started labor. After carefully observing her for a couple hours we decided to intervene, but not before we chased the cow out of the mud holes in the dry cow yard twice. We helped pull the calf, a bull calf, and momma cow was doing so well! After taking care of calf and cow, we moved on to a cow that had gotten herself stuck in the mud. Well, actually she was playing with another cow and it got a little rough. #55 fell down into a thick muddy hole, and couldn't get back out. We rushed to her rescue, using the skid loader to move the mud out the way and lift her out of the mud. Success! #55 was out of the mud, but she was also in shock. SO....we gave her some calcium for muscle tone, dextrose (sugar) for some quick energy, and some pain medication in case she hurt her leg....but one that was safe for her and the calf that she is carrying. We finished that up and got to chase a heifer that needed to be bred through another mud hole in the heifer yard! Seems like all of the cows were looking for those darn mud holes today! We got Lucy into the barn for breeding. We use artificial insemination for breeding, because it is safer for cows and people to NOT use a bull. Plus we get to use genetics from around the world on our farm to improve our cows. We bred Lucy.....next, move fresh cow (cow that calved) to the milking barn....and of course she found the mud on the way to the barn.....yikes! Next we found another cow in the dry cow yard that had an infection in her foot....she got a cut and thanks to all of the mud, she now had an infection....so we moved her to the barn to get a shot of Penicillin.

Sure sounds like we were treating a lot of cows, but we were merely working around the environment that Mother Nature provided us this week. 4.5 inches of rain and cool/cold weather makes for some muddy conditions outside. Cows are unfortunately not smart enough to stay out of said mud, therefore we tend to have cows that get into trouble. We are definitely looking forward to the day that we can put all of the cows inside a barn during the muddy seasons! Once we have the money you can bet that we will be putting up a barn ASAP! In the meantime we are working to keep the cows as dry as possible...

Oh yeah did I mention that Minnesota Winter is here! It's snowing outside as I type this! I can't believe it! 6 months of winter in this darn state! I am beginning to question Global Warming especially since I remember when it was 70 degrees in November just a few short years ago. Oh well, dealing with the cards we are dealt, and enjoying the JOYS OF DAIRY FARMING!

Friday, October 9, 2009

CornSilage 09 Part3

Corn silage chopping during the day with rain coming fast! We were chopping about 45 ton an hour, and the guys were sidewinding loads of silage to help speed up the day. Check it out!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

World Dairy Expo Summary

World Dairy Expo was a blast! I am finally taking the time to sit and write about our trip last Tuesday September 29th, 2009, but I have a good excuse....my brother got married this past weekend. We were busy helping with the groom's dinner, the wedding and the clean up. Oh yeah, did I mention that the wedding was almost 3 hours away from home, so we had to hire some very qualified individuals to milk and care for our cows while we were gone (thanks to them for the great job that they did!).

Back to Dairy Expo....what a great trip! Too bad we couldn't stay longer than a day, but it was well worth the 10 hours of driving there and back! Jon and I left on Tuesday morning at 5 am, and arrived on the Expo grounds at 10:30am. We decided to divide and conquer. Jonathan had some booths he wanted to visit and I was on my way to speak at a seminar given by DMI. It was a great seminar filled with other dairy farmers ready and willing to tell their stories. What an up lifting place to be! The excitement of dairy farmers to tell their stories to consumers is truly contagious!!! Thanks!

After an uplifting seminar I met up with Jon for lunch and some more booths! Oh how many great people we saw, dairy farmers and industry people alike. Oh how many great cows we saw!-all well taken care of, sleeping better than the farmers there to show them. Oh how many new technologies we saw. There are some great technologies coming onto the market right now-new choppers, better fuel efficiency equipment, robots for milking cows, robots for pushing up feed, etc....see some of the pictures below of what we saw...








Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shame on YOU PETA!!!!

Apparently PETA can't stop attacking hard working dairy farmers here in the USA. PETA recently released a video that showed dairy cows in deplorable conditions. I can honestly say that cows at OUR FARM are NOT treated like this. We care very deeply for our animals both for personal and economic reasons. Happy cows, are profitable cows on a dairy farm, therefore cows on the PETA video are not producing to the maximum of their ability, nor are they living long productive lives. This is just an example of ONE Bad Apple which PETA is amplifying to represent an entire industry. If you don't believe me....well, stop at your local dairy farms for a visit and ask a few questions. If you do, you will learn VERY quickly how much dairy farmers actually care for their animals.

Please listen to this great video from another advocate for agriculture.

Shame on YOU PETA~! For picking on hard working dairy farmers :(

Monday, September 28, 2009

World Dairy Expo bound!!!

Tomorrow (Tuesday) we are headed off to World Dairy Expo in Madison Wisconsin. I am so excited !!! Dairy Expo is a great place to meet with old friends, fellow industry leaders, and make new friends. This year I am attending the opening day to be an active member of a seminar about using Social Media to deliver the great messages about the Dairy Industry. I am truly honored to have been asked to share my thoughts. I am hoping to take some cool pictures and video to post in the coming days as well as more corn silage videos.

Also great news from the farm, our bull calf streak (7 bulls in a row) has been broken! Today we successfully delivered a set of twin heifers!!!! So cute, Kasota and Kimble are a lot of fun to feed twice a day and play with =)

Off to bed, so I can road trip tomorrow!!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Corn Silage Season Part 2



A little night time action at the farm. This video was taken on September 7th, 2009 (Day 1). We finished opening the fields and wanted to get a head start on the long and hectic week ahead. The key to making good silage is to make it quickly as possible at a consistent moisture. Consistent moisture helps to make quality forage which feeds our cows who make safe, wholesome, nutritious milk for you the consumer =) Please enjoy our little video of night time silage chopping at Orange Patch Dairy!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Corn Silage Video Part Posted!

Finally I got at least the first video posted from corn silage season! We started chopping on September 7th, 2009 and finished on Monday September 14th, 2009. We worked 6 days and made 8, 250 foot long bags of forage.....equal to about 2500 tons of silage for the cows for the coming year!!! Once the forage is made we store it in bags for at least 3 months to make sure the feed is completely fermented. This video is from the 7th, when the neighbor came over to "open" our fields. He drove his self propelled chopper (a forage chopper that has an engine attached to it instead of chopped like ours which needs a tractor to pull it) through our fields chopping end rows and making "roads" through to make sure that we do not run our precious crop of corn down. Check it out!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Appreciation for Rural Minnesota Culture

It's been a little while since I last blogged, but I have a good excuse. I was in Central Minnesota for the weekend, attending my future sister in law's bachelorette party as well as learning to appreciate the simple things of rural Minnesota. My future sister in law Erin is from a small town southwest of Little Falls Minnesota. This lovely town of Sobieski has all of the necessities of a rural community: church, co-op creamery, a couple handfuls of homes, even more farms, local restaurant, every one's favorite bar, no stop lights and no stop signs. It was filled with great people, all with an agricultural background (lived on a farm, lives on a farm or raised on a farm). I had a blast meeting all of the "locals" as well as learning more about their Polish roots.

I visited the local bar for the party, but ended up having an awesome conversation with the area farmers about their crops, the harvest, and their livestock. On Sunday I had the privilege of attending their church bazaar. Dinner was an AMAZINGLY delicious meal of chicken, real potatoes, Polish sausage, and haluski. Dessert was the best darn piece of pie I have had in a long time. Here you could see the values of a rural community. The value of hard work to put on a great event for a good cause. The value of community and social connections with your neighbors. The value of family and friends. The value of agriculture. Agriculture is a bond that binds all in rural communities in Minnesota. Here in Sobieski most were from farms and some work in other agriculture related jobs. It was truly awesome to wittiness people working together for a good cause, laughing and working hard.

Coming soon....the videos from corn silage season!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rain delay AGAIN!

Oh Dear! Apparently God would like us to take the weekend off to attend a family wedding instead of finishing corn silage. Today we received almost an inch of rain today---much needed for the alfalfa that we just planted but as of today we only have 6 of 8 bags of silage finished. We were hoping to make headway yesterday but found that we had a broken shaft and pulley on our silage chopper, so we had to stop, order parts and wait for them to arrive this morning. We replaced the broken parts and started chopping at noon, only to be rained out of the field again. We need to make 2 more bags of silage, but they will have to wait until Monday, when the fields will finally be dry enough to go back in with our heavy equipment.

So instead of finishing chopping, we will be taking the weekend off to go to a cousin's wedding near Rochester MN. We are super excited to see family that we haven't seen in months! We are also excited to sleep in...since we will be spending the night, and we have some great friends hired to milk while we are away. We only hope that everything goes well for those whom we leave behind with our cows....I had a speech with the girls to make sure that they don't cause any trouble for us =) See ya on Monday!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rain delay...

Darn rain shower...poured .3 of an inch on us tonight, just as we were starting to really get going on chopping for the day. We have 3.75 bags of sialge done and we need a total of 8 bags of silage....so we have a LOT of work to do in a short period of time. We need to make 2 bags of silage each day for the next 2 days so we can go to a wedding this weekend. God willing we will get it done...so we pray.....the corn is too wet to chop so we must wait for it to dry. Hopefully tomorrow we can start early to make up for this RAIN DELAY.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Celebrations!

As you venture off to your Labor Day celebrations tomorrow, we at Orange Patch Dairy will begin the process we know and love as "Corn Silage Season". Yes, it is time, the corn is dried down enough to be chopped, hauled home, and packed into large 250 foot plastic bags. These bags will store enough feed for all of our cows, heifers, and calves for the coming year. Corn silage is the primary feed in our cow rations, as it makes up about 35% of the total diet (50 pounds per cow each day). We will be making about 2200-2400 ton of corn silage this year, and we hope to finish it by the weekend (5 days start to finish). Therefore I might not be blogging in the coming days but I hope to be gathering some great pictures and video from the farm to show and tell about silage season. But I do have some thoughts on Labor Day I wanted to share....

Dairy farming is a hard labor filled job, but ask any dairy farmer and they would tell you how much they love their jobs. It's a dairy farmer's passion and drive for what they do that helps them through tough years like this year. It is their love of their job, cows, and nature that helps to get them through each day and forces them to wake up each morning only to repeat it over again. Right now we aren't getting paid to milk cows, but in fact we are paying an admission fee to go to work each day. How would you feel if your boss was standing at the door each morning collecting a fee to enter and do your job? It wouldn't feel too good, but for a dairy farmer, there are so many other "gifts" of the job to make it worth while. I wake up each morning looking forward to the next baby calf, the next gain in milk production, a pretty sunrise, fresh cut hay, the next new surprise. It's honestly fun to know that even if the the daily tasks are the same, the days are still filled with a variety of surprises, some better than others. My father, who also dairy farms, often stated "Well I am at least doing this for exercise"...referencing milking cows during low milk prices. I have been doing dairy farming for exercise for a few months now, but I am still not complaining. So as you enjoy your Labor Day, honoring that we all have the ability to work, please think about the people responsible for the food on your table....the farmers, the employees, the processors....they all work hard to ensure that you have safe, wholesome foods for you and your families. It a labor of love....so please make sure that we are not working in vain and enjoy all the great dairy products, meats, vegetables and fruits that you can.

Happy Labor Day!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Case of the Moldy Hay

As mentioned in some earlier posts we struggled with some issues with sick cows and heifers. We had some cows ill with toxic mastitis and we had a heifer die tragically from a hemorrhage in her intestines all within the same week. As dairy farmers often have to work as investigators, searching to solve a problem for the good of our animals. We have had experiences such as this over the last few years and we have learned from each of these experiences. With the pack barn that we run we allow the cows to sleep on bedding mixed with manure solids-it's clean dry and comfortable, better than the pasture-think Tempurpedic mattresses. As the manure break downs bacteria move in. As long as the cows are healthy and their immune systems are running at full force, the bacteria is harmless....BUT if the cows are under ANY stress these bacteria can now become harmful.

And that's where the investigation starts. Jonathan and I knew immediately that these 3 sick cows meant that something was wrong, and we knew that the only thing that we changed in the past week was the new alfalfa hay that we purchased to feed the cows and heifers. We remembered that in the past we had hay that had mold in it and made the cows sick, very sick, and we caught the mold when it was too late. I am glad to report that we learned from our previous mistakes and immediately stopped feeding that purchased hay to the cows and found some different hay from a neighbor to feed. Almost immediately the cows that were sick got better and the Somatic Cell Count that was rising, came down. These signs told us that it was in fact the hay, so we had it tested for mold. Our local feed representative came out to the farm and pulled cores from the bales and sent them to a lab for testing. After culturing the hay samples for mold we received the results that we expected....the hay was positive for mold, a mold that is very dangerous for cows....Aspergillus. Aspergillus is known to produce a mycotoxin that hinders immune systems, causes internal hemorrhaging, and other bad things.

So you ask yourself, how did the hay get moldy? Well, it's quite easy, alfalfa is cut, dried and baled, but this pile of hay was cut and not allowed to dry to a low enough moisture level to be baled. It was baled, which compressed the wet alfalfa next to each other and allowed an environment perfect for mold to grow. The mold is very small, almost unseen to the human eye, but we did notice it's signature white fuzz on a couple bales after the fact. Thankfully we removed the hay from the cows diets before it could make more of them sick. The importance of HIGH QUALITY feed for cows cannot be stressed enough. The better quality the feed for cows, the better the cows' overall health and production. We work tirelessly to make high quality haylage and corn silage for our cows at Orange Patch Dairy, and we try to buy clean dry hay. The hay grower that we purchased this hay from was not aware that his hay was moldy-and frankly it did look very green and dry, inside the bales it was a different story. After calling our grower, he will move the hay back home to be destroyed and he will refund us the money that we paid.

As a result the cows at Orange Patch Dairy are doing MUCH better, happy healthy, and producing!!!! Yet another example of how dairy farmers continue to look out for the best for their cows....Happy cows are producing cows!

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's a girl!!!

I am proud to report that the baby calf that I was patiently waiting for last night was born successfully this morning at 7:13 am....and it's a heifer (girl). Unfortunately I was too tired this morning to make it to milking early to check on our cow 301. Fortunately though, my father in law was up and willing to help 301 out. She was trying to deliver a breached baby calf. Much like a human mother giving birth to a breached baby....my father in law had to manually maneuver the calf into the right position. Once in the right position it was time to help 301 out. My father in law and brother in law Chris worked quickly to hook up the OB chains to the rear feet that were coming out. Typically a calf would be coming out front feet and head first but this calf was backwards, and needed help if it was going to survive. If a calf comes rear feet first the risk of it not breathing is great...as the umbilical cord breaks in the birth canal cutting off oxygen to the calf until the head passes though-speed is of the essence at this point. Once the OB chain was hooked on, a series of gentle pulls helped 301's contractions get the little heifer out. Hence arrived 301's calf Judson! Judson is doing well and we greatly thank Steve and Chris for coming to 301's aid!!! It's awesome to have people around the farm all of the time that can catch animals in trouble and help them ASAP!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mother in waiting...

As I am typing this right now, I have enjoyed about 1.5 hours of being inside our home. Today we had 4 calves born from 3 cows and as of right now I am waiting for the delivery of calf number 5 for the day. Mother cow was starting to calve at about 11:30pm tonight. As a result I am staying up to head out and check on her. I am closely monitoring her progress to make sure that she has a safe and successful delivery for both mother and calf. This particular cow was given medication yesterday which has worked to help induce her labor and delivery. Much like in humans, if a cow goes too far her due date the risks of a difficult delivery steadily increase. This cow is 12 days past her due date, which isn't too uncommon with the sire of her calf, but we would rather be safe than sorry. She was given medication yesterday morning, with the hopes that she would have calved this morning, but she decided that she is waiting until tomorrow morning instead...so I wait, hoping for an easy care free delivery from a great cow! Out I go to see how she's doing.....

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Waiting for paint to dry...

Well maybe we aren't waiting for paint to dry, but it's pretty darn close! That corn that we thought was dry enough to chop this week is actually not dry enough...too wet instead. Corn silage is put into bags at our farm, and the corn has to be dry enough to get the bagger machine to push the silage into the bag. A normal corn plant is about 75% moisture, but once it reaches maturity the plant starts to lose moisture and dry down. The ideal moisture for chopping into the bagger is 68% moisture, maximum. We chop corn for a range of 65-68%. Last night's samples tested out at 69% moisture. Then we re sampled the corn today only to find out that one of the fields is at about 72% moisture. NOW....we have to wait for the corn to dry down. We can't start until the wettest field is at the right moisture. Usually corn dries down at 0.5% each day in warm weather, but since we are having the 7th coolest summer ever this year it may take longer. As of right now we are thinking that we might not start chopping until Monday, but that means we can enjoy the Labor Day weekend....a bachelor party, hag and stag party, and a family picnic----all things I would rather do than chop....save that for the weekdays ;)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Corn Silage coming fast!!!!

I thought I would have time on Sunday to post BUT we are looking at chopping corn silage very soon!!!! As a result we have a LOT of prep work to do. This weekend we worked on hooking up the chopper, greasing, lubing, airing up tires, etc. We need to make 8 silage bags of corn, each 250ft. long, holding about 375 ton or 750,000 pounds of silage. That silage will feed about 200 cows for an entire year at our farm. Making it correctly is critical for us to make good milk for the coming year. So if I am missing I am sorry I am busy working on silage, and I will have a full report once we complete the job, hopefully in about 1 week.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

56th Princess Kay of the Milky Way Crowned!

I am super excited to write this post, but I will give you a little bit of background before I dive into the "juice" of this post...







MN State Fair 2002: Myself, Princess Kay of the Milky Way Sarah Olson, Karin Norling-fellow finalist.
















Me, in the rotating butter carving booth at the Dairy Building(formerly the Empire Commons). Linda Christensen carving my butterhead-she did a great job!






Back in the summer of 2002 I was selected to be a finalist for the Princess Kay of the Milky Way competition in Minnesota. Each year Minnesota county dairy princesses (sometimes over 100 of them) compete to be selected to be one of the 12 lucky girls to run for Princess Kay. As a finalist for Princess Kay, we were honored to have our profile carved in a 90 pound block of butter at the Great Minnesota Get-together...the Minnesota State Fair! My 90 pound butter head was amazing. After storing it for a few months I pulled it out of the freezer and "murdered it"...by cutting it up and giving it away to those were so important to me and helped me on my journey of life. What a great way to say "Thanks"!

The greatest part about being a finalist for me was not the butterhead (although a great conversation starter) it was the chance to connect with the many thousands of people that pass through the Minnesota State Fair every year! It was the experience of showing youth from the Twin Cities how to milk a cow which continues to drive me to work for dairy promotion. The realization how far removed the average consumer is from where their food comes from drives the passion in me to write this blog, post articles and talk to consumers of all ages. The dairy princess program in Minnesota is a highly developed program, which trains and develops interested girls ages 18-24 to be advocates for dairy farmers-the ultimate honor and the way to give back. The year that I ran for Princess Kay, I was not selected, but instead the honor went to a very professional and poised young woman that deserved that honor....Sarah Olson.

Now for the story of the night....Sarah Olson's youngest sister was running for Princess Kay of the Milky Way tonight. Each year, this night before the start of the State Fair, I always get excited! The memories of that exciting night come back and the pride in the girls that do the hard work for the dairy farmers of this state brings a smile to my face. Sarah's sister Elizabeth was chosen for Princess Kay, making her family proud, (her other sister Lana was also a finalist in 2005) and making Princess Kay History....the first time that 2 sisters from the same family have held the honor of Princess Kay of the Milky Way! As a dairy farmer of Minnesota, I can confidently say that I am proud to have Elizabeth representing me to the consumers of this state! I know she will do an excellent job during her next year!


Congratulations Elizabeth and to her proud family!!!!!


For media coverage of the night see the following:





For more info about Dairy Events at the State Fair....come visit the Moo Booth, Dairy Barn, or the Dairy Building.

Tornado Videos Posted!

I finally got around to editing my tornado videos from our dairy on August 19th, 2009. It was definitely more amazing to watch in person, but the videos give you the idea of how scary the storm was. After taking a nap I was pretty groggy and had no idea we were even in a tornado warning. I was kinda scared at first but once we got to the farm it was powerful to watch. It was insane watching the clouds swirl around. So feel free to check out my link....it's the amazing power of nature.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pics from the County Fair Dairy Show 2009

Kelsey in the Auction ring, she will be using the procedes from local businesses to help pay for her college education.

Bethany was all smiles for the Auction as well, it was a great way to show off Lacey her awesome calf!


Even Val was smiling, for a job well done! Ollie, her cow, is a red and white Holstein cow.


Angela, very focused on the judge....showing her yearling to her very best-good work Terri!


Adam clipping and grooming, final touches for the show.



Chris in the show ring with his yearling.



Such small guy, with a big calf...but a mellow well behaved calf, a good pet even~!


Early morning (some up before 4 am) working on clipping the udder for the judge, so he can see the udder of the cow looking it's very best!



Winter calf class, where all three animals are judged and place. Calves and cows are judged on their style, shape, size, frame, and abillity to produce milk, be productive, and live long healthy lives. Cows with good feet, legs, udders, and frames will live long lives...hence why dairy farmers breed for these traits. Long lives=lots of milk.
4-H offers kids the ability to show animals like this. How great of experience this can be for kids! At least 1/3 of the kids at our fair are leasing their aniamls from local farms. These kids haven't lived on a farm like the others, but lived in town and wanted to learn more about dairy cattle. 4-H showing teaches youth how to care for animals properly, animal welfare, responsibility, work ethic, and other great traits. I was in 4-H for 10 years, 10 great years and now I give back to an organization that gave me so much!


















Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tornado Warning

I was hoping to sit down tonight and post some pictures on this blog about the fair last week, but instead those plans got railroaded! Tonight at about 6:15pm we had a tornado warning issued for this county. It was a scary time, funnels were in the sky, rotating and twisting. I have some awesome video of this, but I left my camera at the farm in the fury of the storm. We received some much needed rain with this storm-over 3 inches!!!-it's a God send! And we are happy to report that no serious damage occurred thanks to this storm. Apparently we are scheduled to see some more storms tomorrow, and for the first time since this spring I can report that we have MUD in the cattle yards! I am not going to complain about it though, since we needed this precious rain so much! It's nice to see green grass again, as well as the hay field, which we cut and chopped yesterday already greening back up for a 5th cutting of hay in 4 weeks. So please bear with me, I should be able to post some pictures tomorrow---as long as we don't have another scary storm!

Also, just to let you know...cow number 73 has made a full recovery!!!! She has increased her daily milk production, almost back to the level she was before the mastitis....and she is doing very well physically!!! We are still dumping her milk down the drain, since she is still on antibiotics, and we will continue to dump the milk until the residues clear her system. We now know how she got toxic mastitis...and I will talk about that in another post, as it is a long story.