Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sunday Surprise!

Lately we have been running our own personal baby calf nursery at Orange Patch Dairy. As of this morning we have delivered 4 sets of twins in a row!!! 5 sets of twins for the year and we know of a 6th set of twins coming in the middle of April! We usually have a couple of sets of twins in the spring but this has been the first time in 4 years that there have been so many in a row. As a result the calf barn is bustling with hungry infants and the milking barn is filled with mother cows that need special attention. We have had 3 sets of twins where both calves were heifers (females), 1 set where both calves were bulls (males) and one set where the calves were mixed-one male one female. Below is a picture of one of the sets of heifer/heifer twins...Pixi and Pippi. They were in the calf barn for a couple days, staying warm and waiting for a clean calf hut to stay in. They didn't mind the time to chill out and get to know each other ;)

Pixi is the whiter calf on the left, Pippi is on the right...different colors but still twins, and they act like it too!-daughters of Precious, born 3-19-00

Sunday's are usually a busy morning for us....try to finish chores quickly so we can make it to late mass, go out to eat afterwards and enjoy a Sunday afternoon nap! I love my Sunday naps! BUT....this Sunday we had a SURPRISE! When we got to the farm in the morning, there was a calf in the dry cow yard! Much to our surprise Cow 57 calved and had a little heifer running free. 57's calf, now called Alex was a very tall and very happy calf! After moving her to the calf barn and moving her mother to the milk barn...we were running a little late. We had to rearrange our schedule and settle for some Subway after early mass and then back to the farm. Below are some pictures of Alex and her mom....both of which are doing VERY well!

Alex, sleeping in her clean bedding, after a HUGE first feeding of colostrum. She drank over 13 pints of milk! She had quite an appetite!

Cow 57, in the milking barn, enjoying some fresh TMR (total mixed ration)! She also has quite an appetite! She milked over 40 pounds during her first milking, so we had more than enough milk for her calf, and chose to freeze some for future calves who's mothers may not make as much milk...see picture below:

Our freezer full of frozen colostrum, to be thawed at a later date for calves who's mothers didn't make enough milk for them, or in the case of all of these twins....a little extra for the second calf!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

You Tube Video of Interest....Thank you Mike Rowe!

I LOVE the Discovery Channel's show "Dirty Jobs"! I love the fact that Mike Rowe is willing and able to try just about everything....and has done an exceptionally good job of working jobs in agriculture and portraying them in a positive light. The link below is a speech that Mike did regarding labor, hard work, work ethic, and his job. I would like to highlight 2 of his points, points that I feel are critical when thinking about animal agriculture.

First and foremost, as a dairy farmer I know first hand the amount of hard work and determination it takes to do this job. It's NOT easy, it's NOT clean, we DON'T get weekends off and we DON'T get vacations easily. 365 days a year, 24 hours a day we are responsible for the animals in our care. A neighbor of ours, who milks cows still at the age of 75, told us that "God has blessed us with these animals, they are in our care, it is our responsibility to care for them". Even though our jobs are hard, physically and mentally...we love it! How could we not love the chance to be with animals every single day, working in nature....God's greatest gifts to us! Mike talks about the people who work picking up road kill...whistling while they work. Their jobs have purpose, and so do ours...providing a safe, wholesome, nutritious product for American families!

The second point that Mike makes, which is also important to point out....is that he was wrong. He was wrong to think that he knew about raising and castrating lambs. BUT after listening and learning from the farmer that he was working with...."walking one day in his shoes" Mike learned that he was wrong. And the fact that Mike is willing to ponder about how many other times he might have been wrong before is a profound action...how many times have YOU been wrong about US??? Ask yourself, "Do I REALLY understand what it is like to be in their shoes?" Because the truth is, unless you are willing to come to our farms, and walk just one day in our shoes, you will never know what it is like to be a dairy farmer, and the love we have for our jobs!

So please...check this out....it's 20 minutes of time well spent! And thanks for your support!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Flooding in MN

Thanks to our quick spring thaw and the extra rainfall we are observing some spring flooding on the Minesota River and north in the Red River Valley...please pray for those in these areas that they and their families will be protected.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mud Season!

Been silent, but not hibernating...It's been some crazy days at the farm lately. Thanks to our lovely Minnesota climate we are enjoying above normal temperatures in combination with crazy winds (gusts up to 40 mph) and a variety of rain and thunderstorms. Spring usually comes with a vengeance in our state, but with dairy cows the weather makes daily chores more challenging. Rain with the warm temps have thawed out most of the frost in our soils (frozen soils) and have given us "Mud Season".

Mud season is usually from March til mid-April. Mud season means that it is difficult if not impossible to haul manure to the fields. It is also more challenging to keep cattle yards clean, and cattle clean....cows like to play in the mud like little kids :) It's also not too fun to walk through a muddy pasture with your boots on and lose one of them...stuck in the mud. But, with these showers and thunderstorms, and yes even the snow fore casted for the end of the week, we look forward to spring and planting season.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I know I haven't blogged in awhile, it's been crazy at the farm, especially since the weather is warm and the fields are drying. I just can't hold it in any longer though!!!! Today we delivered TWIN HEIFER CALVES!!!! While twins are rare, twin heifer calves are even more rare. Typically a cow that is pregnant with twins often delivers a bull/heifer set of twins.

Jonathan and I were working on helping our cow "Precious" to deliver her first calf. After we got her 1st calf out we noticed she was a smaller calf for a large 3 year old cow. Jonathan said to me "Hmm...we should check for twins". I washed my arm up and went in for a feel...sure thing! There were another set of feet coming our way. We got our equipment ready to go for baby number 2. She also was an easy delivery....and Precious loves them both. Stay tuned for pictures soon.....and these calves are also yet to be named...but it should start with a "P" since their mother's name is Precious and they have an older sister "Priceless" I am always open for new ideas :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bull calf progress...

I am proud to announce that our bull calf (still unnamed) has graduated from drinking his milk replacer (powdered dry milk mixed with warm water) from a bottle to drinking his milk from a pail! This is a big step for a calf! he's growing well and will soon be ready to move to his new home. Our bull calves are sold to our neighbors at about 1-2 weeks old to be raised for beef. Our neighbors are retired dairy farmers. They like to have a few steers (older male cattle) around, keeping them busy with chores just like when they used to have cows, so they call us to buy bulls calves when they have some room. It's a nice arrangement, and we know they will be taken care of.

Dairy Princess Activities...

Another activity that I do a LOT of work with is the County Dairy Princess Program. Once upon a time, a long 8 years ago, I was also a County Dairy Princess, and then a finalist for Princess Kay of the Milky Way (Minnesota State Dairy Princess). During this experience I had my head carved in a 90# block of butter! Yes butter! It was an amazing time, but the greater moments came visiting at the Minnesota State Fair with the many different consumers stopping at the Moo Booth and Butter Carving Booth. I had so much fun, I couldn't give it up. So...I started out helping train girls to be better dairy princesses, and then after a couple of years took the position of County Dairy Princess Coordinator. It has been a blast! I love working with youth who are excited about the dairy industry! This past weekend I spent a lot of time working on scheduling promotions for the coming months and brain storming new ideas for June Dairy Month. Below are some pictures from our Dairy Princess Coronation from this past January.
2009 Princesses Valerie and Angela
Me and my sister-Dairy Princess Angela!

The dairy princesses with the dairy ambassadors
(girls from dairy farms or work on farms from 9th to 11th grade)
It's a pleasure to work with such great young women, excited about the dairy industry.
Feel free to check out a couple videos from that night.....

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's a boy! or...bull!

Meet Montgomery. Montgomery is a heifer (female) calf on our farm. She thought it would be fun to say "hi" this morning when I was feeding her and her other herdmates. Since the cold weather is subsiding, the calves get more lively, they like spring also!

She, like all of our other calves is raised in this calf hut for the first 2 months of her life. This hut is a plastic dome, which can be cleaned and disinfected between calves. We treat our calves like newborn babies, keeping them in sanitary environments, giving them a good start.

Giving calves a good start is critical to a healthy lifetime. That good start actually begins with good care of our cows (the mom's). Last night we were taking care of one of those mom's. We stayed up all night with a cow who was delivering her calf. We started to see signs of her labor at about 10pm. Cow's have no sense of time ;) We checked on her every 2 hours, taking naps in between check ups. Each time she was a little bit closer to delivery. At 3:30am cow #97 delivered a beautiful baby boy (bull)! While a heifer is prefered on a dairy farm, a live bull calf is also a blessing. Mom was given lots of warm water to drink, and time with her bull calf to lick him off and help him walk for the first time. Shortly there after. our baby boy was moved to one of these huts. He was given lots of clean dry bedding (soybean and wheat straw). He was also given a vaccine to prevent any "childhood" diseases that he might get and he was given over a gallon of colostrum, or "first milk" from his mother. After a big feeding, he was ready for a long nap.

Each of our calves get this love and care everytime one is gifted to us. New born baby calves give us hope for a new born Spring!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Winter fun!


We have to deal with winter just like this as well. Thanks to today's winter storm, chores took an extra 3 hours. Cows like to "bundle up" just like humans when it's cold outside. Cows eat more feed when its cold, to help stay warm. We add more bedding to help the cows "nest" to stay warm, much like human add another layer of clothes or sleep with extra blankets. We had to add extra bedding to the calf huts as well. Calves get an extra feeding of milk to give them extra energy, also helping them to stay warm. Needless to say I am sure that the cows, calves and humans at Orange Patch Dairy are more than ready for spring to come!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

More about us....

I posted a picture of our pack barn a few days ago. Let me tell you about our pack barn. Cows can be housed in many different type of housing. Cows can be put in tie stalls: stalls where cows have their own personal stall, with their own feed and water. Cows can live in free stall barns: barns where there are a bunch of stalls where cows can choose where they will lay down each time they want to lay down. And then cows can live in loose housing barns, such as our pack barn. Our pack barn allows cows to lay down wherever they choose to lay down in a large open pen. Each cow as about 80 square feet per cow of laying space. In our pack barn we use a variety of different bedding types, depending on cost and availability. We used to use saw dust (left over wood pieces from a cabinet factory) to bed our cows, but due to the down turn in the housing market, saw dust got to be too expensive and less available. As of January we started using a new source of bedding: wheat starw dust. A local company makes a particle board for homes out of wheat straw, the "fines"-tiny particles from the process, are brought to our farm for bedding. We even have tried using sunflower seed hulls. We bed our cows once every 1-2 weeks. Each day we till our pack barn to work up the clean bedding and remove any cow manure. The cows are very comfortable, much like lying on the beach. As you can see in the photo above, cows like the environment and so do we ;)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Trying out blogging for the first time....

So here we go, on another adventure in technology! I am excited to enter the blogging world, and tell anyone interested about dairy farming and our busy hectic lives. A little about ourselves first: My husband Jonathan and I were married in 2005. That very same year we finished construction of our dairy barn and starting milking cows. At that time we had about 75 cows, but now 4 years later we have grown to about 100 cows. We milk Holsteins, which are the black and white cows. We milk 2 times a day in a double 12 parlor. Our milking parlor holds 24 cows at one time. Milking our cows take about an hour and a half. I am open to any questions to anyone who might be interested in what I have to say ;)

Thanks for bearing with my first time out!