Friday, July 31, 2009

Pictures from the farm...

I decided to lighten up the blog with some pictures from my hobby, the thing that I do to de-stress during the day--gardening! Oh how I love my flowers! So check it out!
Pretty pansies in the garden looking into the yard at the heifer facilities.

Bubble bees often pay us a visit at the farm. I am trying to capture a picture of my butterflies, but they move so much faster :)

I waited 2 years to see this Tiger Lilly bloom, and let me tell you, it was worth it! So gorgeous!

Heifers at sunset at the farm...the orange sky was so awesome in person!

My landscaping project with my flowers at early July. The steel tanks are the milk tanks that we store our milk in and cool it. I will update with more pictures as the flowers fill in the garden!

Thursday, July 30, 2009


It's been a dry few weeks at Orange Patch Dairy! We haven't seen anything over 1/2 inch of rain for the past 4.5 weeks. We are currently 8 inches behind in our annual rainfall. In the last 4.5 weeks we had one shower which dropped 0.02 of an inch. Needless to say its been very dry. Tonight it has been raining softly for the last few hours. While it isn't the inches of rain that we need, it does buy us time. Without this rain we will would have needed to start chopping corn next week before it was completely dry. Our corn doesn't even have grain on it, some hasn't even put on tassels since it was so dry. We will continue to pray for more we can have at decent crop of corn. So much is out of our control on a farm, so often we depend on a higher power-thank you God for the gentle rain, please send us more, for a healthy, bountiful harvest.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Change of Plans...

Oh those cows-they are always changing our plans! Tonight we thought we would head out to the farm early and finish chores early so we could "hit the hay" early, but those darn cows had different plans. When we got to the farm...we found a cow who had calved this afternoon. She was laying on her side, and appeared to have been laying there for quite some time. Since we were both busy with other activities today, we could not be at the farm to keep an eye on her. Normally cows will have calves with no problems, but this cow had some problems. She was suffering from calving paralysis. Calving paralysis is when a nerve in the back of a cow's spine gets pinched during the calving process. Pressure from calving causes the nerve to be "pinched off" and stops the brain's ability to control that part of the body. This cow was unable to move her rear legs and as a result rolled herself onto her side-and she couldn't get up.

We immediately rushed to her aid! She received intravenous fluids and some pain killers to help reduce the inflammation pinching of her spine. We used the loader tractor and a lift to move her out of the dry cow pen and into a shady corner of the grove. We gave her some water and feed, as well as sprinkled her with some cold water to help cool her down. After we finished chores at 10:30pm tonight we went back to the grove to check on her. While she still hasn't stood up, she looked more comfortable. She also ate and drank-both excellent signs!

Now to the issue of her calf...that tricky little heifer, which we have named "Hanska" was running around in the heifer pen all day, and found herself a corner next to the cucumber patch to sleep. It was so cute, but I was searching for her for over 30 minutes! We also returned to the barn after milking to feed her colostrum. She drank a gallon and wanted so much more, but that will wait until tomorrow morning.

While feeding heifers we also found another heifer that was ready to breed, so we also had to catch her and artificially inseminate her. We chose to use AI, because it is safer than owning a bulls which can kill people, and it is cheaper than feeding a bull on farm.

Phew! I am getting tired just thinking about all of the stuff we did tonight! So off to bed I's another long day tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

WI Dairy Continues Growth despite Low Milk Prices

Check it out! A WI dairy wins its right to expand their farm. While I don't think 8000 cows would be a good fit for myself, I do think its great to see another farm expanding, making safe wholesome milk for consumers, while providing jobs and working to protect their environment.

At 12 jobs per cow....that's 96,000 jobs from one farm alone! HOLY! Now that's a Stimulus Package!

God's Blessings...

It's truly inspirational on a farm some days. While we didn't receive the rain that we needed yet this week, we continue to pray and hold hope that the rain will come and the crops will be saved. This hope gives us optimism for another day, another chance, and this hope gives us the power to get through anything. Hope is our greatest power.

God's blessings are all around us on a dairy farm. The birth of a new calf is a blessing. A bright sunrise is a blessing, as well as a gorgeous sunset. The smells of fresh cut alfalfa, new rainfall, freshly dug soil, and yes even cow manure are all blessings. How often in life we take for granted the simple things, the things that really matter. I have always believed that farming, especially dairy farming is one of the few occupations that helps to bring you closer to God. In dairy farming, so much is out of our control, but is instead, random and natural. We hope in God...that if he led us to it he can lead us through it.

On January 2nd, 2009 I put my hope and faith in God. I walked away from my full time job in town...a job that I loved and a job that allowed me to work with some really great join my husband. I worked for 4 years as a dairy nutritionist (I balanced and formulated diets for cows in my customers' herds-making sure that all of their dietary needs were met). I loved my job. I loved working with local dairy farmers who also loved their jobs and inspired me to do better for them.

BUT....we (Jonathan and I) decided it was time for a change....a change to help me pursue my real dream job in life-dairy farmer. Some wives of dairy farmers assume the position of wife of dairy farmer but more and more wives are now assuming the role of "partner" or even "primary operator". I became "partner". We make every decision together and we manage and care for our cows together each day. Being able to work with my spouse everyday as professionals is also a great blessing. We have put our hope in God that we made the right decisions, even if we are experiencing the worst milk prices in our short farming career. We just enjoy the simple things-like having dinner and supper together each day, kisses in the milking parlor, and laughing at a great joke while wrapping up chores. Striving for the same goals as husband and wife and professional partners makes for some exciting moments in life. Today was a day to appreciate this blessing from God!

I think that is awesome! Our 160 cow dairy farm produces 1920 jobs off-the -farm and in town!!!
These jobs are at banks, lumber yards, hardware stores, feed mills, trucking companies, agronomy centers, supply companies, veterinary centers, contracting companies, carpenters, plumbers, milking equipment companies, implement dealers, and many more!!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

3rd Cutting of Hay Done!

Ah the joys of Minnesota weather! When we cut 1st cutting of alfalfa in May-it was 97 degrees and 50 mph winds. Our June, 2nd cutting took us 7 days between rain showers/thunderstorms and 80 degree humidity. This 3rd cutting of alfalfa that we finished last night was harvested in 60 degree weather-cool and day, much like October should be. It's been a roller coaster of weather this summer. We are currently 7 inches behind on our annual rain fall-which the crops are really starting to show. It's been cool and dry so the corn isn't "burning up" too quickly but if we don't get rain this week it will be the end of some of our corn-it's just been too dry for too long.

Nevertheless, we finished our 3rd cutting of alfalfa-all 130 acres which yielded only 85% of what it should have. It took us about 2 days to start and finish-thanks to the help of a good friend who came over to help drive tractor and lots of family. One of the joys of working on a farm is that family is usually able to help during big projects like this. Working with family is fun and trying all at the same time. Now we begin praying for rain-lots of it, with a little bit of God's help.

We got our milk check for June's milk today. As dairy farmers we are paid twice per month. Our creamery pays us every month of the 17th (for the month previous-June) and the 25th (advance check for July). Our take home price for milk was $10.68/one hundred pounds of milk. This milk price would equate to about 93 cents per gallon of milk. This price is not enough to pay all of our bills, but it does pay some. We also receive a monthly MILC (Milk Income Loss Contract) payment from the government. This check also doesn't help to meet our monthly bills, but it does help. We would prefer to not collect money from the government, but help is appreciated at a time like this. We try to capitalize on some premiums/bonuses from the creamery. We get paid extra money if we can increase our butterfat and protein levels. We also get increased premiums for high quality milk (lower somatic cell count or less infections/white blood cells). Therefore, we are doing are best to get any premiums we can---healthy cows are profitable cows!

Today was a good day for a nap-even if it was finally summer outside again. We went to church, out to eat, and home for sleep. It was awesome! It's been a couple of long nights working to get hay done.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Meet Brown County Dairy Princess Angela-my little sister :)

Meet Brown County Dairy Princess Angela Sellner. She's my youngest sister. We are so proud of her and the good work that she does! Check it out!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Phew! Made it through the weekend!

It was another crazy weekend at Orange Patch Dairy...we went to Comfrey Days Street Dance on Friday night. We stayed up WAY too late, but we saw so many friends we couldn't bring ourselves to leave early. As a result we got a much needed and overdue nap this afternoon. it was only for a couple hours but was still good!

This week is going to be another event packed week. We will be starting out the week on Monday drying off dry cows. We have 2 cows out of our herd of 90 that are ready for their 60 day vacation in the dry lot. They will not be milked for the next 60 days, but instead be able to relax comfortably outside and grow their baby calves. When we dry off cows, we use an antibiotic not to treat infections but prevent any infections they could pick up during their vacation. Based on our somatic cell count our fresh cows almost always freshen without infection-a key to safe wholesome milk and healthy cows. We also treat our cows with an wax teat sealant which helps to keep out bacteria until the cow forms her own teat end plug of natural proteins.

On Tuesday we will be doing our monthly herd health appointment. Hopefully I will be able to take some pictures from the day.

The rest of the week we will be working on getting ready for our 3rd cutting of alfalfa hay. It will be another hectic week of greasing machinery, doing maintenance of the silage wagons, sharpening the chopper knives, and getting the bagger ready to rock. All of this prep is critical to making sure that get start and finish chopping in the least amount of time possible. It makes great feed and happy farmers :)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

When and If....

When and If we make money someday dairy farming...please don't be mad at us.
When and If we make a living on a farm we love...please don't begrudge us.
When and If we produce a safe and wholesome product for a profit...please don't grumble at us.
When and If all of our hard work, tears, sweat and blood finally pays off...please don't curse us.

Right now we are experiencing our WORST year ever as dairy farmers. While we have only been farming for a little over 4 years, this has been hands down the worst year. We are paying more for expenses (feed, fuel, fertilizer, vet, etc.) than we ever had, as well as coping with the lowest milk prices in years. For ourselves, we were smart and saved up a small "insurance fund" for the rough spots. But the rough spots are lasting longer than any of us ever expected. We look forward to $15 milk, when we are getting paid $10 for every 100 pounds of milk. It's not that $15 will make us money, but that $15 will at least pay the bills. We would prefer $17-18 instead-but that seems like a distant dream now. We are not begging for government intervention or massive milk supply contraction. We are working hard to make our farm more efficient. We control our costs-spending money only on things that will make us money or needs to be spent. We would like consumers to purchase and use more dairy products-as the are an important part of balanced diet.

We know that the market will turn around's just the time that we have to survive through. We have hope that things will get better. We mourn the lost of our friends and fellow dairymen that have not weathered this storm as well as we have. It's a shame to lose so many to a bad economy, but it is the way the system works. So many that worked so hard and with so much passion to make a living, only to watch it all be taken away from them. So sad. So sad.

So when we do make it back to $17-18 milk, please don't complain about the prices in the stores. Please don't complain, because we receive only a small amount of the retail price. Please know instead that a farm family is finally making a living instead of paying for the opportunity to work. They are instead, finally getting paid to go to work, every other American. We put so much passion in what we do. If we were truly in this industry to make money....well we would have quit by now, especially this year. We would have said "screw this! It's too hard of work for such little pay"....but the truth is that we love what we do, we love the cows that we work with, we love feeding the people of the world with a nutritious product, we love giving back to our communities, we love giving back to our environments....even if we have to do it with little or no pay. Dairying is what we love. Please don't complain, because that gallon of milk you just bought was made with love, passion, devotion....from the entire dairy industry. Just a matter of When and If....

Monday, July 6, 2009

Had plans...then the plans changed ;)

Well it was an eventful 4th of July at Orange Patch Dairy. Not the kind of eventful that most people, friends, beer, food, fireworks, boats, lakes, camping, was milking, baby calves, cows, mixed up heifers, fresh cows with health issues and a downer cow.

Sometimes even though you make plans on a dairy farm, those plans have to be flexible-to change at the drop of a hat. We were planning on heading to a friend's place on Friday night for some "illegal fireworks"(in MN we can't fire off anything that leaves the ground or explodes, so we go to WI or SD to buy them and bring them home-he he!). BUT instead of going there, we got to stay home and sort heifers that thought it was the perfect time to bust through the gate and check out the other pen of heifers. After almost an hour of sorting and fixing fence, we finally finished and were too tired to head out-so we stayed home. On Saturday night we were going to head out for fireworks at a local baseball field-which does an AMAZING show, with Jon's family-a 9 year tradition for us. BUT....instead we got to deal with a cow that had a calf-which needed to be pulled. After pulling the calf out (this is not as painful as it sounds, but more like helping out the cow, so she doesn't have to work as hard) we needed to move the cow to the milk barn. This is usually a leisurely walk through the pasture to the barn, but this cow decided that she was going to go the wrong way and as a result fell down. Dairy farms have downer cows, they happen, it's how we deal with them that makes the difference. Most farms focus on make sure that the walking surfaces provide good traction-which we had, but sometime we can't manage for "stupid". Cow are smart animals, but sometimes they are just down right stupid. With small brains they can't process much, so they can easily get themselves in bad places-such as this cow. We put down some barn lime (course calcium carbonate used for traction) hoping this would help her stand up. But instead of trying to stand up she decided to be stubborn! Darn cow! Frustrating really, but this cow was determined to get up on her own time. We thought she might have milk fever. Milk fever is a metabolic disease that occurs in cows post calving that are low in calcium. The cure for this is a bottle of calcium administered via IV. So we got the IV set and gave her a bottle of calcium...BUT she still didn't want to get we let her sit. We continued with the rest of our chores and came back....she finally got up-all by herself! Darn cow was just being stubborn! We moved her and milked her and were still way too late to make the trip for fireworks, so we settled for watching the ones in town after we went home, and called it a night.

Not an excited weekend by normal standards, but in the world of dairy farming, it is the way it goes...maybe next year we will make it out ;)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy 4th of the July!!!!

Happy 4th of July to all of you! I have been missing for some time, and I promise a catch up soon. Been SUPER BUSY on the farm and with family stuff-holiday events and all!

Thank you to all that have served our country so well! And thank you to those who will serve it. We enjoy so many freedoms, so many we take for granted, and for those I am truly grateful!