Thursday, June 25, 2009

Taking a little break...

So apparently it's been almost 1 week since I last blogged. That was not intentional, but weather related. We cut our hay last Friday, and tried to chop it Saturday and Sunday, but Mother Nature had other ideas. Clouds moved in, heat moved in, sun disappeared, humidity appeared and so did the rain. Rain and humidity make for bad hay making :( As of right now, we have 120 acres of 130 acres of alfalfa chopped and in the silage bags. The remaining 10 acres are laying in the field and have been rained on 4 times already. We are hoping to get it done tomorrow.

Yevette is growing so well now!!! She's gaining weight like a champ. For a calf half the size of a normal calf...she's eating as much as a normal calf would!

Joey is now fully weaned. She is drinking water twice a day and eats calf starter-about 4-5 pounds each day.

It's late though, so off to bed I go...hay to make in the morning!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dedication...the word of the day.

Before I get to dedication, I would like everyone to know that Yevette is doing much better today! She was up and alert this morning, ready for her bottle. After drinking 2.5 pints of fresh cow's milk, she napped all day! It was so cute! And she's passing manure too! So we are going to keep her on antibiotics for the next few days. We know we are not out of the woods yet, but she's giving us positive signs!

We also started weaning Joey today. Weaning means that we are gradually allowing Joey to eat more dry feed and water instead of being dependent on milk for her food source. We start weaning by providing water in the morning instead of milk, and feed milk only at night for about 5-7 days. We closely monitor how well the calves adjust to water, and when they are ready we transition them to water for both feedings. So far Joey is taking to weaning just fine! She's eating lots of dry feed as well. We switch calves to water at about 45-60 days old. We do this for a couple of reasons: cost, convenience, and the most important reason: dry feed and water help to stimulate and rumen development. Dry grain and water stimulates the papillae in the rumen to grow and develop, therefore growing into a very healthy and efficient stomach to digest forages in the future. Milk is digested in the abomasum, therefore it does not help to develop the rumen. Anything we can do to make healthy future cows!

As for dedication...Dairy farmers are dedicated, more than most consumers would ever know. This week we celebrated our 4th Wedding Anniversary. Most married couples would have went out to for drinks, a romantic dinner, and a stroll by starlight, but not us. Don't get me wrong, we did have plans, plans for dinner and drinks anyways. BUT...the cows had other ideas. We worked hard all day. Even though we could take ALL day off for our anniversary we thought we would take the evening off after milking. We hurried through the tasks for the day and started our chores early in the evening. As hard as we worked to get ahead, the "farm" pushed us back twice as hard. It's frustrating some days, but dairy farmers often learn to deal with it. Dairy farmers' wives have a harder time dealing with it, including me. Even though I understand, it still doesn't change the fact that I am a woman and I like to have my special nights ;)

Nevertheless, we had 2 baby calves born that day. The sprinkler system for the cows was broke and needed to be fixed ASAP. One of the pulsators in the milking parlor was not working, so it needed to be fixed. AND because the weather was so hot and humid we needed to water the cattle and calves multiple times. After all of that it was too late to go on our date. Instead we finished up, headed home after 10pm, had a small supper, and went to bed-romantic huh?

When I was working at the local cooperative I worked with many dairy farmers. Some who had enough cows that they could afford to hire labor to handle the farm so they could go out with their families and wives. Others, who did not have enough cows to afford hiring labor, but still found a way by being flexible. Some dairy farmers have not ever gone on a vacations and others only leave the farm to go to town for parts and Sunday church-and they were proud of this! Dedication. Dedicated to their cows, not because it makes them money, but because they genuinely want the best for their cows. They don't walk away when a cow is calving or sick to be with their families, but tend to their cows first. Vacations take a back seat to making high quality feeds to make healthy cows and quality milk. Often dairy farmers make sacrafices, most of which go unknown to the consumer. So here's to you, Dairy Farmer! For your deidcation, putting your animals first, supporting your family and caring for your farm. You should be in the Webster next to the definition.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Update on Yevette...

Yevette has taken a turn for the worse. Often with preemies such as herself, certain body systems are not ready to take on the role of functioning body parts. Yevette has been struggling to pass manure, which tells us that she may not have a fully functioning digestive tract yet. Not being able to "poop" makes her uncomfortable, unthrifty, and tired. Most of today Yevette rested, waiting for bowel movement. This evening she was able to pass some manure, and even showed interest in drinking more milk. We hope that this is a good sign. She is just so small and fragile. As a little blessing, like all of our calves we hope she can pull through. She has been given some medication for any pain she may be feeling, as well as a slight laxative. We also administered an antibiotic in case she has an infection. Preemies often have compromised immune systems and since Yevette is running a slight temperature we thought we would be safe. When we pass through the calf barn, Yevette still lifts up her head and sees who is coming by. We stop and pet her, she yawns and drifts back to sleep. She did a lot of resting today. Please pray for our little blessing...I know we are.

Yevette-our 25# calf!!!! Born 6-15-09

Yevette, next to her mother Yasmine. Yasmine was sick with pneumonia when we dried her off last month. We treated her with antibiotics and she was better until last week when the rainy weather made her pneumonia flair up again. The stress from being sick again, forced her to calve early, 33 days early. It is amazing that we have a live calf, even if she's only 25 pounds!!!

Yevette, after her bath courtesy of her mother Yasmine My husband Jonathan with holding up Yevette next to our other calf "System" who is 3 days older than her and over twice her size.
Yevette, is knee high at 2 days old!

So darn cute!...she's so adorable, everyone stops to pet her when they walk by.

Yevette on the back of the 4-wheeler in the pasture, just before we brought her to the calf barn.

We take our care of our girls very seriously. Our care is concern with animal welfare, and their well being. Having a live calf of this size is a miracle of it's own, but also a testament to the care a dairy farm can offer an animal in need. Had this calf been born in the wild, she would have died and her mother would be dying. Thanks to modern agriculture and vetrinarian practices we can work to cure her mother Yasmine as well as take good care of our new premie. Yevette was vaccinated upon arrival as well as given a shot of steriods to help her underdeveloped lungs develop faster. Within hours of birth she was holding her head up and making noise. She wanted to get up and run but her premature legs just couldn't hold her yet. By today she could stand by herslef, but only with help from a human. She is amazingly able to drink 4 pints of milk each day, even though our average 100# calves will drink almost 2 gallons of milk each day. We call her our little miracle, and hope for her long life here are Orange Patch Dairy...she'll be so spoiled in the coming years!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hoof Trimming 2009

Yesterday and today we trimmed cow hooves. Cow hooves are made of a material much like your finger nails. Their feet are soft and fragile, therefore proper trimming and care as well as a good environment are all critical to healthy feet. This trimming today and yesterday, would be referred to as a maitence trim. We mainly had cows with longer toes that needed to be shortened. We trim hooves 2 times every year, usually once in the spring/summer and once in the fall/winter. Cows are not used to the new equipment in the pen, therefore you will see some of the cows jumping a little when loading the trimming chute, but rest assured that these animals are not in any pain at any time during this process. Healthy feet are critical to the cow's ability to walk. Walking is critical to the cow's ability to eat, sleep and milk, therefore keeping cow feet healthy is very important. It was a long day but we trimmed 87 cows in one day and finished with the remaining 7 cows today. Thanks Brian and Rob for a job well done!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Herd Health Day

Today was our scheduled Herd Health Day, at the farm. Every 4 weeks our veterinarian comes for his scheduled visit. We usually have a list of animals that need to see the vet. These animals are 99% of the time not sick, but just getting "physicals".

The first group of cows that the vet checked today were the post-calving cows (cows that have calved since the last herd health). These cows are palpated (checked rectally) to make sure that they are free of infection (which can occur during calving) and inflammation (swelling left over from calving). I would say that 90% of the time our cows get a clean bill of health. For those 10% that might have some infection a treatment protocol is put into place. We like to avoid using antibiotics when at all possible, to make sure that we aren't wasting milk (antibiotic treated cows need to have their milk dumped) but for severe cases of infection we do need to use antibiotics. For mild/minor infections we can use non-antibiotic antimicrobial to clean out the infection, keeping the cow in good health. Today we had 100% of the 10 post calving cows free of infection! At this time we also vaccinate for contagious diseases and give a vitamin injection to boost the cows immune system. Healthy cows, especially healthy post calving cows are critical to good quality milk production.

The second group of cows checked are the post breeding cows. These cows were bred 35 days or more ago. We use artificial insemination to breed all of our cows. We do not use a bull, for safety reasons-bulls are unpredictable and dangerous at times. Bulls don't fit into our goals for our farm. Artificial insemination allows us to use lots of different bulls from various companies, increasing our genetic advancements. Cows that were checked today are also rectally palpated to determine if they are pregnant or not. Our vet is well trained in this practice. This method does not hurt the cow, in fact it is a short process and she hardly knows anything happened to her. We also have the ability to ultrasound cows as well. We did not ultrasound cows today, but in the past we have to determine the sex/gender of the calf, determine if there are multiple calves, and determine conception date. Ultra sounding cows is much like ultra sounding humans-the images even look similar. Today we checked 16 cows, 11 cows were confirmed pregnant, 4 cows were open (not pregnant) and one was pregnant but might be losing her calf. The 4 cows that were not pregnant will be put back on the "Cows to breed" list. Some we will watch for natural heats, others we will synchronize breed. When we synch cows, we use 3 shots of hormones. These hormones are safe and do not transfer into the milk. Cows, just like humans have cystic ovaries or even have ovaries that become static or annovular. These shots help to bring the cow back into her cycle, just like doctors prescribe for women who have similar problems. Thankfully, we only have to give shots to 3 of the 4 cows...I hate giving shots to the cows.

Getting cows pregnant after calving is important because it means that we can keep the cow in the herd, she will give us another calf, and she will milk for another year. In the wild cows would also naturally calve once a year, so we are NOT forcing our cows to be calf factories, but following their natural cycles.

The last thing on the list for Herd Health today was pulling blood samples. We are part of a volunteer program which tests for and certifies for Johne's Disease. We have been certified Level 2 Johne's free for the last 4 years. Today's task was pulling blood samples on 30 random cows in our herd to be tested. If any come back positive then we will have to pull fecal samples from the positive cows. Some cows come back false positive, hence the fecal test (more expensive but more reliable for determining false positives). The blood sample is pretty painless. We like to make sure that we are doing a good job maintaining good bio security practices, keeping cows healthy, and keeping our milk safe. Be assured that EVERY DAY we are working for you the consumers, producing the safest healthiest product possible for you, your families, and our own families. Tmorrow we look forward to hoof trimming! Happy June Dairy Month!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Let it Rain, Let it Rain, Let it Rain!

Oh Thank you Lord! IT RAINED!

After a few dry weeks the June landscape was starting to look more like a dry August landscape. The alfalfa was struggling to recover from first cutting, which means our second cutting of alfalfa may be smaller or even later than expected. Thankfully, not a moment too soon, we had rain. It rained Friday through Monday (today) morning. We enjoyed a 2 inch soaker, and as a result it has turned the landscape back into a wonderful shade of green. Even though the cattle yards are muddy we are very grateful for the gift of rain.

Often times people living in town only miss the rain when they have to water the lawn, we miss the rain when we watch the crops under stress, watch the ground/soil develop cracks, and watch the top soil blow in the wind. 2 inches of rain was the best thing that could have ever happened to us! It's a true blessing and a reminder that we are always dependent on God for all that we need.

We have also been busy working on June Dairy Month preparations. The local County Dairy Princesses have been working hard already in these few first days...making visits to local grocery stores, preschools/day cares and libraries. It's been a lot of fun and very exciting!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Busy, busy, busy...

It's been awhile since I posted any info, and there's a good reason for that. It's graduation time for my little sister....well youngest sister. She's not little any more. She graduated on the 31st, but we have been working to prep for her party/reception all week. Clean at Mom's house as well as lots of baking and cooking! Nothing like delicious homemade food for a great party. Dairy/beef/pork products were plentiful...shredded beef for sandwiches, as well as ham. We had potato salad, ham/cucumber salad, and an awesome pineapple salad with cream cheese. We have punch with sherbet in it, as well as ice cream and cake...yummy! So every evening, when I would normally post on my blog I was baking instead. It was all worth it, so Congrats Angie on making it through high school and starting the next chapter of your life!---South Dakota State University!

Quick update on the farm...Joey is doing wonderfully! She's growing well. In about 2 weeks we will start weaning her from milk replacer and over to water full time, as her only liquid and calf starter as her food source. She's an active calf and we love to have her around. I am hoping to record some video of her this coming week. Other than that we are grateful for some much needed rain. We are well over 4 inches of rain, behind where we should be for the year. Today we received .75 inches, and the crops already look SO MUCH BETTER! Thanks God for the blessing of this rain...with more coming tomorrow I say thanks ahead of time...gentle rains are more than we could ask for.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Celebrating June Dairy Month!!!

Just thought I would put a reminder out there to everyone, to celebrate June Dairy Month!

What a great month, to honor the hard work that dairy farmers do, producing a safe wholesome product while working to protect their environments and caring for their cows.

Not only do we work on our farms but we also live here, Dairy farming is our way of life.

Please enjoy a glass of milk, slice of cheese, cup of yogurt, or even a cone of your favorite ice cream, and help me celebrate the greatest month of the year....June Dairy Month!!!!