Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Computer Down for Repairs

Well I'm back!  My dear, wonderful husband was left home alone with the computer a few days ago to tend to some much needed, end of the year bookwork, only to upload a virus to our dear computer!  We luckily have a computer guy in the family and he was willing to take a look!  We got the computer back before Christmas but I haven't had the chance to post anything until now. 

I hope the Holiday Season is finding all of you in good spirits!  Winter has decided to take a break here at Orange Patch Dairy.  We were unable to attend 2 of the 3 Christmas celebrations we were planning to go to this weekend, thanks to some new calves.  We had 8 calves born in the past 4 days (6 before Christmas & one on Christmas morning!).  So far the total is: 5 heifers, 1 bull and 1 set of twin bulls.  Since we have 8 new babies to feed, calf chores now take an additional 40 minutes each time, or 80 extra minutes a day.  Bottle feeding calves is very time consuming but I love bonding with my new calves!  I have pictures to be posted soon of my new babies, but for now I best be off to bed...we have at least one more calf coming tomorrow (I induced her mother today, since she is 5 days past due) and 5 more due before New Year's!  Stay tuned for more posts!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Dairy Farmers get dressed for Winter?

Well, we enjoyed weather today in the 10's above zero and that was a HUGE blessing.  For the past 2 days it's been below zero for most if not all of the day.  Yesterday's high was -2!  We work hard to care for our cows and calves in these temps.  Extra bedding is needed to make sure the animals can nest (tuck themselves in for the night).  While working for our cows, we do need to care for ourselves.  While I was waddling through the yard yesterday, I thought I would share the mountain of clothes that I wear each day to stay warm.

When I was 10 years old I was diagnosed with cold urticaria.  Basically, I am allergic to the cold, snow, ice, frigid air, and most of all cold damp air.  My body reacts to cold by producing hives...painful and itchy hives.  I share this allergy with my father, so we often help each other find ways to stay warm.  Even though I am allergic to the cold...I love living in Minnesota, so instead of moving I found ways to cope.  As you can see in my picture...I allow very little of my skin to actually come in contact with the cold air.  Once the temps are above 10 I can handle more exposure, but I still need to be careful.  So,....in order to stay warm and cozy while I work 10-14 hours a day outside I wear LOTS of layers!  So let's start at the top...

I usually wear a headband for my ears (they're very sensitive to the cold!).  In the negative temps I sport the insulated face mask.  I always wear at least 1 t-shirt and 1 long sleeved t-shirt, with a fleece hoodie on top.  I added another long sleeved t-shirt yesterday to insure that I stayed warm.  I wear a pair of athletic shorts, athletic pants, and a pair of jeans...all underneath a pair of insulated overall bibs.  On top of that I wear an insulated coat.  My feet enjoy 2 pairs of extra thick socks inside my insulated boots.  I swear I wear almost 50 pounds of clothing and gear, but all of it is needed so I can stay outside comfortably, working for our animals.  Sounds crazy I know, but I wouldn't trade anything, I enjoy being with my cows everyday...even in the Minnesota Tundra!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bracing for the Worst, Hoping for the Best-Blizzard 2010

Well, the weatherman has it laid out for us....ice starting within the hour, switching to snow at midnight.  We are expecting snow through the day tomorrow, then winds to start early in the morning.  Winds will blow up to 45 mph, with wind chills as low as -39 degrees by Sunday morning.  Snow totals will be 8-10 inches here, with more closer to the Twin Cities.  All of this means that most of Minnesota will be tuck in their homes safe and sound until Sunday, meanwhile, we will be working diligently. 

We live in town and commute to the farm each day.  It's a short 7 mile trip, but in inclimate weather it is a dangerous journey.  With the Blizzard Warning we are work ahead to bed in all of the animals (we will need to repeat this tomorrow).  We also fed the cows with extra calories today, making sure their bodies are prepared for the snow.  Jon is putting up a snow break, to block snow drifts and protect the dry cows and heifers.  I worked this afternoon to prepare my calf huts, removing extra snow and adding extra bedding.  Finally, Jon and I are trying to decide if we will risk going home tonight safely to find out we may not make it to the farm tomorrow morning or should we spend the night at the farm.  Since cows need to be fed each day, bedded each day, and milked twice a day; we have to be there.  So....time will tell if Jon will be daring with his 4-wheel drive or if we'll be playing it safe, but ultimately our cows will always come first!

New YouTube Video-Making of a Butterhead!

With all of my upcoming Holiday baking, I realized I never posted this video, so for everyone to enjoy...the making of the famous Butterheads at the Minnesota State Fair.  It was a great experience for my sister (and for me too back in 2002!)! 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter vs. Cows

A frosty look at the farm...pretty to look at, hard to work in.

Well, winter is here.  It was inevitable.  Forecasts call for even colder temperature for the weekend (Sunday might not even make it above 0!).  Cold is usually harder on the people working with our cows than the actual cows.  We work hard to prevent any problems the cows might have with the cold. 

First we provide them shelter from the snow, cold, wind, and moisture.  Our barns are made to be cool inside.  Right now the manure is freezing to the alleys, so you ask...why don't you heat the barn.  There's a major problem with that....cows have winter hair!  Cows grow a thick coat of hair each winter, by putting them in a heated barn they would sweat heavily and catch a "cow cold".  Instead of warming the cows, we allow their hair to insulate them.  We work hard to keep them dry and comfortable with fresh bedding often.  With that thick hair they hardly notice the cool temps. 

The cold dry air is drying out my skin.  My hands are cracked....and it is also drying out our cows' skin.  We use a special teat dip for our cows with lots of moisturizers in it (just like a lotion).  We also make sure that cows leaving the parlor have dry teats, because wet teats can get skin damage and in extreme cold even frost bite!

The calves are the most susceptible to the cold weather.  New calves are quickly moved from the calving pen.  New wet calves can very easily get frost bite (especially their ears!), so we swiftly dry them off, put them in a calf coat, bed them in with lots of straw, and feed them lots of warm colostrum.  As they grow we make sure to increase the calories that we feed them.  Cold weather means they are using more of their own energy to stay warm, so we compensate for that by feeding extra milk each day.  Calves also have unlimited access to calf starter. 

Older heifers also eat extra calories and enjoy extra bedding.  All of the extra effort is worth it, knowing our cows are doing well...it just takes a lot of extra time and work on our part.  So...chores are taking a lot longer than they would in fall, spring or summer....bear with us, it's going to be another long Minnesota Winter.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Collection of Misfits...

Today was herd health day at the farm.  Every 3-4 weeks the vet shows up to check the health of our new fresh cows, vaccinate cows and heifers, dehorn calves, pregnancy check cows that were bred, and check any cows that we need to have examined.  Today was an excellent herd health! We had a a good report on our fresh cows, vaccinations went well and most importantly we had a number of cows that were confirmed pregnant!  When looking over the list of cows that were pregnant, I decided that we had a small collection of misfits.  It was interesting reading each name and thinking about that cow's life history.

Cows varied in ages, but each was a misfit in their own right.  First we had a 12 year old cow, Terry, who is the oldest cow in our herd.  She has had numerous calves, and again, is pregnant and due in July. Terry isn't the prettiest cow in the barn but she milks well and has calves...she stays healthy.  We love her a lot.  Second on the list was Zhilgen.  She's a special heifer because she beat the odds.  As a heifer she had a serious surgery.  The vets told us that she wouldn't be able to have a calf someday, but we bred her anyways, got her pregnant and she successfully delivered a heifer calf.  After that, we were told that she couldn't have another calf, but after a couple tries, we are successful!  Third and fourth on the list were 2 cows that delivered calves months ago, but due to their high milk production they were not able to become pregnant.  After many tries we finally got them to conceive, even one with twins!  Fifth and sixth on the list were heifers that had many  tries as well, but we got them pregnant.  Finally, was Yevette!  Yevette was a heifer that was born 33 days premature, and against all odds she survived!  With a lot of TLC from Jon and I we nursed her, got her to grow, and now....she's pregnant with her first calf, due in July!  We are so proud of Yvette and how well she is thriving!

After Herd Health, I walked through the calf barn and saw another misfit!  On Thanksgiving Day we welcomed 2 new heifer calves.  These girls were very fortunate that we had our Thanksgiving Dinner at Grandma's house, which is next to the dry cow lot.  We were able to rescue them from the frigid weather, preventing frost bite.  The first calf, Izzy did great from the get-go, however, the second calf, Thankful, wasn't doing so great.  Thankful wasn't able to stand up, her legs were deformed, her ligaments were weak and unable to support weight.  We nursed her and nurtured her.  And finally today....6 days after her birth....she stood for the first time!!!!  I was so proud of my little calf, I gave her a hug!!!  Thankful was also a misfit, but with a little dairy farmer care she thrives.  Dairy farming is all about saving the misfits....they are worth the time and effort.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Time to be Thankful

It's been a little while since I last posted, unfortunately I lost my Grandmother over a week ago, and was busy with the events that came with her passing.  But from the combination of this loss and the coming Holiday, I had some time to reflect on what I am truly thankful for....

In life, we enjoy the presence of some very special people.  People who help develop who we are. not through their directions or orders, but through their example.  My Grandmother was and is still that person in my life.  We hear that "you never know how important a person is until they are gone", but I know that my family was well aware of how important our Grandmother was when she was here.  This Thanksgiving we celebrate without her here, but at the same time we know her spirit is with us.  There are so many moments in my life that Grandma was there.

As a child, she would often babysit me and my siblings.  We looked forward to spending time with her, hearing her stories about cousins from far away, looking at her pictures, enjoying her delicious cookies (she was the best cook I will ever know!) and her hugs.   She would let us play as we wished, and if we accidentally broke something, she would forget it, as she was mostly happy that we were there with her. 

As a dairy farmer's wife, she knew all too well the struggles that would face me as I told her that I was planning to return home to farm with my husband, a few years ago.  She shared so much wisdom about making sure that we always remembered the most important things in life: God and family.  She shared how proud she was of me to be working so hard to produce a wholesome food for the people of the world.  Dairy farming is a noble profession, and she knew that.  I wasn't wasting my college education, I was working to do something great; she knew that.

She had faith and passion for her God.  Grandma was always praying for her kids, grand kids and friends.  If there was something in life we needed help with, we would ask Grandma to pray for us, and she always did.  Just knowing that she was praying offered us so much encouragement and confidence. She attended church almost everyday with my Grandpa.  She enjoyed 63 years of marriage and 92 years of life, surrounded by the people that loved her most.  She stood as a role model for all of us to be humble, modest, honest, prayerful, loving, caring, and responsible.  I can honestly say that there are so many lessons in life that I learned just from looking up to Grandma, and how she would have handled them.  I joked with my sisters last week, that we need to ask ourselves, "What would Grandma Do?" whenever we were challenged in life; hoping to become better people, more like her.  So this Thanksgiving, I am truly thankful to have known a person as wonderful as my Grandmother, she will be missed, but she will also always be with us....God Bless You Grandma!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Feedlot Inspection Time

Just like when we get inspected by the milk inspector, it is time for us to have our feedlot inspection.  You may ask, "What is a feedlot inspection?" Well...it's a good thing!  Since we operate a farm that has over 300 Animal Units, we are required by county and state laws to have an inspection every couple of years.  Animal Units is a unit of measure of manure output from livestock.  1 Holstein cows = 1.4 Animal Units, therefore our 200 cows are equal to 280 animal units, but our additional heifers and calves add to that total. 

Tomorrow we have our County Feedlot Office scheduled to visit us.  As part of her inspection, she will be touring all accepts of our farm.  We will present to her records of where our manure has been hauled, how much was applied, and what nutrients were in the manure for the past 3 years.  She will inspect our heifer and dry cow lots to determine if we manage our runoff (making sure there is no runoff).  She will be inspecting our manure storage for our lactating cows, to determine if we have adequate storage, as well as checking ground water (making sure it is free of contamination).  Since we are over 300 Animal Units, we work hard to maintain our farm and have a nutrient plan. 

Odor is another concern that our officer will be checking.  We work hard to control odor through covers on our pits and hauling manure when the wind is blowing away from the neighbors, but there are a couple times during the year that the farm does smell....cow poop does happen on a dairy farm.  We try to be as kind to our neighbors as possible.

Part of the purpose of this visit is also to make sure a new project that we have planned for this winter, can still be constructed.  We are working to make some changes to our buildings for the betterment of our cows....so stay tuned for pictures and updates on what we have up our sleeves ;)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

And then Winter Came...

We were enjoying such a great fall.  Temperatures were above normal, precipitation was below normal, and field work was coming along nicely.  And then....WINTER CAME!  So, if you know and love a dairy farmer then you know that dairy farmers almost always wait until the last minute for everything.  Dairy farmers also try to cram as much work into a day as possible.  Sticking to those two traits, we have been trying to do SO MANY different projects at the farm and in the field.  Last night those projects came to a screeching halt.  Jon and I worked so hard yesterday hauling manure before and after evening chores, all the way until we had so much snow on the ground that the skid loader was unable to move.  So at 12:30 we headed home from the farm, snow was falling but it wasn't serious. 

When we woke up this morning, it was SERIOUS!  We had about 4 inches of snow on the ground, covering everything!  We drove the truck to the farm to be safe, and for good reason, there were a number of cars and trucks in the ditches already, early in the day.  The wet, slushy snow pulled the truck all over the road.  Once we made it to the farm, we went about our usual schedule.  I loaded the cows into the parlor and Jon got ready to milk.  We fired up the milk pump, put on the first 12 milking units and then the power went out!  Then it came back on!!  Then it went out!  Then is came back on!!! And then back out!!! So after getting annoyed with putting on milking units and watching them fall so many times, we decided it would be best to get the generator and milk with that instead.  So, after a 30 minute delay, we finally got milking cows, but at least we had a constant power source!  Turns out wet and heavy snow doesn't mix well with power lines.

We continued on with the rest of our chores, in the sloppy, wet, muddy, and cold conditions. It was mostly miserable not because of the moisture but because all of the wind blowing the snow. The warm soil was able to melt most of the snow. We only have about 2-3 inches of snow left, thank goodness! I am hoping that melting continues, and we can continue our quest to finish our fall season work. So to help you understand the difference, please check out some pictures of the BEFORE and AFTER of our first snow storm of the winter....

Last little glimpse of summer....

I still had snapdragons all the way through yesterday, I will miss them, until spring!

Snow in the heifer yard, covered everything!

An icy coating on all of my plants and flowers in front of the milking parlor.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

DMI is Farmer Funded NOT Government Funded!

Well, looks like they've done it again! Yet again, the major media sources (this time newspapers) have decided to run a story without checking all of the facts!  This time, while it's not a direct attack on dairy farmers, it is an attack on our promotion group, Dairy Management Inc (DMI).  DMI is under fire for promoting the consumption of cheese in partnership with Domino's. If you would like to see all of the misinformation corrected, please check out Year of Plenty Blog, where the truth is reported.  I am instead going to talk about the most important "false" fact of the news story: DMI is NOT funded by tax payer dollars, but instead by hard working dairy farmers like us!

As a dairy farmer, we proudly pay $.15 per every 100 pounds of milk that we sell for the Dairy CheckOff.  With 100 cows, averaging 85 pounds each day, 365 days a year, we produce about 3 million pounds of milk, thereby contributing over $4600 each year to national and local advertising, research, promotion, and nutrition education.  About 1/3 of this goes to national (DMI) and about 2/3's stays local (Midwest Dairy Association).  We are confident that our money is being spent carefully, because each of these organizations are managed by boards composed of dairy farmers, elected by dairy farmers.  Each year, area dairy farmers volunteer their time to work (for those of us who don't have the time) developing and approving new ideas.  These boards and organizations are also responsible for making partnerships with restaurants, schools and even the NFL!  Recently, DMI partnered with the NFL to develop Fuel Up to Play 60....a program that targets childhood obesity through nutrition education (yes, diets rich in low fat dairy products!) and physical activity. 

DMI supports nutrition, health and wellness with over 50% of their annual budget.  Research is being done at various universities across the country innovating new products to promote wellness.  I remember while at SDSU, 5 years ago, research was being done on making low fat cheese more taste appealing (obviously fat in cheese helps give its flavor, and as an industry we are working to improve the flavor of low fat cheese as an alternative for consumers).  Research is also being done to improve sustainability on dairy farms just like ours, through management practices.  Some of the local funds also support the Minnesota Dairy Princess Program....Princess Kay of the Milky Way; Not tax payers, but dairy farmers, funding all of these excellent projects.

DMI is a source of pride on our farm.  As a farmer, we are also busy working to care for our cows and land, leaving little time in the day for promotion....that's where DMI steps in to fill that void!  We appreciate their efforts on all fronts involving dairy.  As a local dairy princess coordinator, I am greatly appreciative of funds to help educate kids and adults about dairy farming and products.  But, yet again, DMI is funded by the dairy check off...not taxes.  So....tax payers can rest easy, your money isn't funding DMI, dairy farmers are funding DMI!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wish my Camera had Smell-O-Vision!

Today we opened our first bag of 2010 corn silage for our cows' lunches.  We were filled with anticipation this morning as we speculated what we might find in that silage bag.  As you may recall we made 8.35 bags of corn silage this past August.  We worked so hard to get the corn chopped at the right moisture, with the right level of starch in the corn, and chopped at the correct length (check out our video to refresh your memory!).  All of these factors help to make corn silage an amazing food source for cows.  Not only is corn silage a great source of energy (corn starch) but it also an excellent source of fiber (plant leaves and stalk) for our girls.  We feed roughly 50 pounds of corn silage per milk cow each day, making it the primary food of our cows.  When we chopped our corn this past August, it looked like the picture below.  The plants were green & the corn was bright yellow. 
 We sealed it inside the plastic silage bags like a ZipLock bag, with a coating of inoculant (good bacteria used to help preserve the silage). When we seal the bags we never know for sure what we will find when we open them. Every year it is a surprise. We hope that we did our jobs right; that we did the best that we could and would have an amazing feed for our cows. Each year we strive to do better than the year previous. This year we planted a variety of corn that was expected to be higher in digestible fiber for cows, therefore also higher in energy (cows also derive energy from fiber digestion!). So when the big moment came and we opened the seal on our silage bag...this is what we found!!!!
Yep! I sure wish my camera had Smell-O-Vision!  This corn silage smelled great!  It has a sour aroma to it, but with hints of a sweet flavor.  The sour is the vinegar that is produced during fermentation in a silage bag and the sweet is the beloved lactic acid, which makes silage awesome.  It's odd that we look forward to our silage, but our cows' health and well being depend on our ability to make good feed.  This silage was so tasty for our cows, that they ate more than we expected today and we will have to increase the amount fed to them tomorrow!  Hopefully this will result in more milk production as well as continued good health for our cows!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baby Pictures!

Our lives revolve around our calves right now, so I thought I would share a couple pictures of my adorable girls! Please feel free to check out our Facebook Page for more pictures of calves and activities this fall! Enjoy!

Autumn, she was the lucky girl that broke our streak of bull calves.  She's very special to us, and she's very spoiled.  We pet her head, scratch her ears, and rub her back every day!

Not 4 Me, named after a song written by my husband's band.  Her mother is named after the band.  Not 4 Me is very spoiled as well.  Her favorite activity is getting her ears scratched.

Not 4 Me also enjoys her lunch! She and her fellow calves drink about 1 gallon of milk at each feeding, with 2 feedings everyday.  She's already growing so quickly!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Calving Season in Full Swing!

Well, I haven't posted in a little while thanks to the beginning of our calving season.  It's so exciting to greet all of my new calves.  We calve cows year round, but thanks to the seasonality of the herds that we purchased 5 years ago when we started farming, we calve heavily during the fall and winter months.  The farmers that owned the cows before we bought them enjoyed not calving in the hot summer months and during planting.  Therefore, we have LOTS of babies to be born in the next few months.  Last week we were expecting 10 calves.  With a 120 cow herd, that's almost 10% of our herd calving in one week!!  We only had 7 calves born, currently I have 3 cows that are 3 days over due.  We broke our bull calf streak last week, as we had 4 heifers born in a row! (followed by 3 bull calves in a row, but we are still pumped about the heifers!)  The calf barn is once again busy, as is the fresh cow pen.  Each morning Jon now has to check a handful of fresh cows to make sure they are doing great.  It's awesome to be busy caring for our cows, this is my favorite time of the year.  It's very rewarding to help a cow deliver a healthy calf, raise and nurture the calf and watch the new cow excel.  I am hoping to post some of the awesome calf pictures in the coming days, so stay tuned!  Off to bed, I might have some new calves waiting for me in the morning!!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Time to change our Rubbers!

I thought I would run with a funny title tonight.  Today and yesterday we have been working with rain, cold and wind, which has forced us out of the fields for the time being, but has allowed us time to do some much needed maintenance in the parlor.  We have a great milk equipment service representative that visits our farm on a monthly basis to evaluate the equipment we depend on everyday to milk ours cows.  His job is to do check ups on our cleaning systems, milking systems and our milking pump.  Duane has been working with us for the past 6 years and we love him!  This week was time for our milking inflations to be changed.  Milk inflations or milk liners, are rubber liners that we use inside our milking units to gently sqeeze the teats of our cows, removing milk safely and comfortably.  Check out this animation from our supplier to get a better idea how milking works!  The purpose of the milking unit, claw or cluster is to stimulate the cow to let her milk down on her own, by making her relaxed and comfortable.  The inflations gently squeeze the teats, while the vacuum pulls the milk away from the udder.  The claw collects the milk and sends it to the milk line, and onto the bulk tank. 

These rubber inflations are critical to making sure that we have healthy cows.  These rubber inflations help to make sure that the ends of the teats of our cows are smooth and soft instead of dry and cracked.  I hate dry skin and so do our cows, especially on their teats.  If the inflations were working incorrectly, then we would have dry teats and as a result an increase in mastitis (infection of the udder).  So...as you can see it is very important to change our rubbers on a regular basis!  Inflations have a hard job.  On our farm they last about 3 months, then it is time to install new ones.  We are currently trying out some new inflations, to improve our cow health even more.  At this time we are very excited about the results that we have!  Cows love the new inflations! (we know because they didn't kick off a single unit since the install!) 

Maintaining our equipment makes sure that we continue to have healthy cows and we produce a safe and nutrition product!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's a Girl!!!

Finally!!!  We can report that we have a heifer calf!  We had 9 bull calves in a row, and from the looks of things, we were thinking that this too would be another bull calf.  Cow #312 was due 7 days ago, typically when this happens, it means that it's going to be a bull calf (male).  Not always is this the case, but typically if a calf is born late, it is a bull.  2 days ago, we decided that #312 waited long enough to have her calf.  We decided to go ahead and induce her delivery.  We gave #312 medication to begin labor on Wednesday at 2pm.  On Thursday at 1 pm #312 finally began displaying signs of labor.  We watched her very closely.  She progressed slowly, but after 3 hours we decided it was time to intervene.  We walked #312 from the dry cow yard to the calving pen.  #312 needed a little help to deliver her calf, so we hooked up to give a pull with each of her contractions.  At 4:30pm on Thursday, we successfully delivered a beautiful HEIFER calf!  After almost a month, we finally had a heifer on our farm and she was beautiful!  We had to check her twice just to make sure we had a heifer, and I quickly named her "Autumn".  #312 went to work cleaning Autumn off, and we worked to make sure #312 got plenty of warm water to drink after such hard work.  After an hour we moved Autumn to her new, freshly bedded stall and we moved #312 to the milking barn.  #312 literally ran to the milking barn!  She knew exactly where she was going.  She found her feed and water waiting for her, as well as all of her friends!  It's so great to see a fresh cow doing so well!

What to see #312 licking off her calf? Check out our video below!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Liberty also means Responsibility

I have always intended this blog to highlight the good work that dairy farmers do everyday for their animals and land.  I have never intended it to be a place for talk of politics, but today, while driving tractor and listening to the radio, I was prompted to include a little politics in my blog.  So here's my story...

Here in Minnesota our media has been filled with so many political ads!  Yesterday, in the mail, we received mailers about our Republican candidate for US House of Representative.  The flier was printed by the Minnesota DFL, and they reported that the Republican candidate had received thousands of tax payer dollars but, if elected, would vote to end government funding to the "poor" and "middle class".  After further inspection of the flier, I discovered that the tax payer dollars that this candidate received were from various Farm Programs for his farming enterprise.  Some of those same funds were distributed to our neighbors and my in laws.  This definitely was a shock to me, to see a simple fact found on the Internet to be skewed in such a way to portray a candidate as an abuser of the system.  I will definitely acknowledge that each political party is guilty of this practice, but that doesn't make it right.  Even more angering was to find out today on the radio, the millions, yes millions of dollars being pumped into the political machine built to confuse and persuade voters. 

As a voter, I take this liberty seriously!  We are so blessed to live in a country that give us a say in how our government operates.  I don't care what political party you vote for or with, but what I do care about is that you take time to seriously consider the responsibility that comes with the liberty of voting.  In my Agricultural Policy class in college we often talked about how ill informed the voters have been in the last few years, and how this has been accelerated through the media.  Instead of researching the issues, voters will vote based on the letter D or R behind a name, or even with the more popular commercials on TV.  As we draw nearer to the election in a few days, I ask each of you to take the time to review the issues that are important to you.  Please vote on those issues instead of voting on the R or the D.  Please take the time to consider issues that are important to you before you vote....and make the best decision for your communities, because voting carries a great responsibility with it, make wise decisions.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Word of the Week: Flexibility

Jon chopping soybean straw at sunset last week. (Check out our Facebook Page for more pictures!)

This week has been all about flexibility.  First, Thursday, we had a full schedule and we fulfilled most of that schedule.  I worked hard to continue washing away the dirt and crud of summer in the milking parlor.  Jon worked to prep the manure spreaders for hauling this weekend.  We finished those tasks, loaded 5 bull calves for the neighbor who buys them and raises them, and bred a heifer that was in heat.  We then found out that we had some unexpected visitors stopping in for a tour in a mere 20 minutes!!  WHOA! That's short notice!  I had left some supper cooking at home and had so many other things to do at home that night, how were we going to find the time to give a tour?!?!  Thankfully, my father in law stepped in to give the tour.  We gave a short demonstration of milking and the milking parlor for our friend from town and his Colombian exchange student.  The student, Juan, had so many great questions about the technology we use to milk cows.  How could I not spend some time with him, talking about how we provide nutritious milk for consumers?  I suppose we spent about 30 minutes with Juan and our friend.  It was great to share with Juan, how we care for our cows and our land as well.  Needless to say I didn't get the rest of my jobs done for the night. 

Then on Friday, Jon and I worked so hard to milk, feed and bed the cows.  Calves and heifers were fed.  I loaded up hay at my parents' house, drove it home and unloaded it.  Jon worked on more prep for the manure spreaders, and then we were finally able to start hauling manure.  We hauled 10 loads to our neighbor's field and had to stop for evening chores.  After completing calves and setting up the milking parlor, we loaded in the cows.  Apparently our cow Judas (named after the band not the apostle) needed to run into the parlor for milking tonight.  But instead of sprinting safely into the parlor, she slipped and fell in the holding pen.  She wasn't the smartest cow in the barn tonight, as she drug herself a few feet into the parlor.  This was a problem, because we wouldn't be able to help lift Judas with our usual equipment.  Jon had to use some special lifts from the farm shop.  While he gathered supplies, I chilled out with Judas, making sure she was comfortable.  Sometimes when cows slip and fall it takes a little time to get them back up, dairy farmers just have to be a little patient with them, and offer them a little help.  30 minutes later, Jon had Judas lifted up, standing on her own, and doing fine.  Our fear when cows fall, is that they may become injured.  Working quickly helps insure that injuries are minimal (sore muscles) instead of serious (broken bones or tore ligaments).  Judas didn't even show signs of a fall after milking tonight.  She felt so good, she tried to come back into the parlor for some more fun!  Silly cow!  Hopefully she learns that she should walk to the parlor instead of running next time.  Nevertheless, we were delayed from finishing milking on time, and since Judas was blocking half of the parlor, we could only milk at 1/2 speed for those 30 minutes.  If we had scheduled plans for our Friday night, we would have cancelled them, but we luckily had no plans. 

So often in the dairy industry flexibility is critical.  Cows need care 24 hours a day.  Sometimes they can handle themselves, but sometimes they need help.  I can remember times growing up at home, when my dad would have to miss a concert, a 4-H show or a church event because he needed to stay at home with a cow that was calving or had a piece of machinery break.  We grew to understand that Dad would have loved to be at our events, but he had a responsibility to his farm and his cows.  Now, I share that responsibility to my farm and my cows.  I know first hand how frustrating it can be to work so hard to finish chores so we can leave to an event, only to have something happen, turning our plans upside down!  But, at the end of the day, our cows come first.  Their care is our priority and our responsibility and we take that VERY seriously.  So....here' hoping that tomorrow will be a little more predicable and a little less random (but I am counting on something random to happen, like a new calf!).

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Tale of Two Harvests...

In Minnesota we have been enjoying some AMAZING weather!  It's been a record breaking week! We had 90's for 2 days this week, and 80's for 4 days.  Last year at this time we had 2 inches of snow on the ground, 20's and most of the crops were in the field. This year most of the crops have been harvested, bedding is being made, and tillage will start in a few days.  We have been so blessed this growing season with ample rain and heat.  Our soybeans and corn have produced quite the bounty! 

We are looking forward to the next few days to make more bedding for our cows, heifers and calves.  Dry bedding helps us keep our cows clean and dry, in addition to keeping them healthy.  Winter months and wet weather require literally tons of dry bedding to allow us to do a good job caring for our cows.  After we wrap up bedding, we will work right into manure hauling.  We have a few storage units holding months worth of cow, heifer and calf manure.  We can't haul all of our manure in the growing season, so we store it until the fall when we can hit the fields hard.  By applying the manure to fields, according to our agronomist's recommendations, we utilize all of our farm nutrients and reduce our need for commercial fertilizer.  We also apply manure on some of our neighbors' fields to help make sure that we don't over apply manure on our farm.  We use manure as a trading item with our neighbors.  In exchange for valuable nutrients and organic matter, we get the opportunity to make bedding from our neighbors' corn and soybean fields.  So it's a win/win for everyone.  So...hopefully I will get some pictures up soon.

Friday, October 8, 2010

God Bless our Veterinarians!

Well, it's been a busy week already! We returned from our great vacation to WI and World Dairy Expo, to well cared for cows.  I can't say enough about the guys that we had hired to watch, feed & milk our cows.  They did an awesome job, above & beyond the call of duty, and we thank them for that!  It's always nice to come home and know that the cows were cared for. 

One of the other key players while we were gone was an excellent veterinarian from our local clinic.  We had 5 cows calve right before we were about to leave to Expo.  We wanted to make sure that while we were gone these cows got the same excellent care that we provide for them on a daily basis.  Our feeders and milkers already had their hands full, so we decided to bite the bullet and hire the local vet to make a visit on Thursday and Friday mornings.  Dr. Sue was on call and willing to do the job.  Dr. Sue came out on Wednesday so that we could give her the health history of each of the 5 cows she would be caring for.  Yes, that's right, we keep very detailed medical records on each of our cows to help us make the best decisions for their care.  Dr. Sue would be responsible to check each of the 5 cows for a variety of different symptoms that can happen just after calving.  Using her 5 senses and a few simple tools (thermometer, urine ketone detection strips, & a stethoscope) Dr. Sue would be able to determine the health of each cow.  Every morning, we do this very same thing for each of our fresh cows.  While we were gone Dr. Sue found no infections, just one cow with an upset stomach.  She treated the cow with probiotics, yeasts, and alfalfa meal.  By the next day the cow was as good as new.  When we came home those 5 cows were in great health!

Then, on Tuesday night, we were in a pinch and needed a trusted veterinarian again.  At 10:15pm, we were wrapping up chores and Jon notice a lot of blood puddled in the alley by the cows.  He knew exactly what he was looking for....a cow with a punctured hole in her udder.  A cow's udder circulates about 400-500 gallons of blood to make 1 gallon of milk, so if cow milks 9 gallons a day, that's 3600-4500 gallons a day pumped through the udder! A punctured cow can bleed out very quickly.  Jon found a fresh cow named Sprinkles, drinking water, oblivious to the fact that she was bleeding out onto the ground.  Sprinkles had a hole, less than an inch wide in her udder, pulsing blood onto the ground.  Jon acted fast, putting his hand on the hole to apply pressure and stop the bleeding.  Then Jon called for me.  We moved Sprinkles to the "vet area" where she could be treated and I called Veterinarian 9-1-1....each night and weekend our local vet clinic has a vet on-call to handle emergencies like this.  Jon and I had no idea what to do, but thankfully after a 30-minute wait, Dr. Greg arrived to help us out.  We very swiftly worked to stitch the hole shut.  It was careful work, as Dr. Greg did the sutures and Jon applied pressure to the wound, preventing further bleeding.  After about 40 minutes of patient work, we were able to permanently stop the bleeding without Jon holding Sprinkles udder.  She didn't even know it happened....and when we let her back to the pen, she went straight to the feed bunk to eat (as though she wasn't about to bleed to death an hour previous)!!!!  If it wasn't for excellent veterinarians like Dr. Greg & Dr. Sue it would be very difficult to care for our cows.  Vets do amazing work and help us out in our times of need, times when the situation is bigger than we can handle.  Dairy farmers have an excellent sense about their cows & they know how to care for them, but sometimes we need someone with a more experienced resume.  So, GOD BLESS OUR VETS!!!!!!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pedicure Day at the Farm!

Well, I'll be busy the next 2 days at the farm.  We are giving the cows their second pedicure for the year.  Each year every cow on our farm have their hooves trimmed.  Hooves get over grown, especially in the summer months, so it's time for a good clipping.  When we are finished, each cow will be walking with a little more spring in their step.  What to know about what this looks like?  Check out our video from hoof trimming video from 2009!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Flash Flooding!

2 days ago it started raining at about 1pm, stopping all farm field activities, and it continued to rain for almost 24 hours producing almost 4 inches of rain onto of already saturated soils.  As a result, we experienced a Flash Flood and we are currently still in a Flood Warning.  Some MN communities to the south of us had even more rain!  It was reported that over 10 inches fell in less than 24 hours southeast of here.  Want to check out what that looks like?  See fellow dairy farmer Merri Post's pictures to give you an idea what the flood looking like.  At Orange Patch Dairy, we had a LOT of standing water in the cows and heifer yards, as well as flowing over field roads to the south of our farm.  It was amazing to see so much rain fall in such a short time period.  Corn and soybeans in the field are now standing in water, in some places the water is almost as high as the ears of corn and soybeans are completely submerged.  This flood will be delaying what was going to be an early harvest, but that's how it goes in nature and agriculture.

All of this water reminded me why it is so important to work to protect our farm environments.  With this much water, we did experience runoff from our cow yards, and yes that runoff water did contain cow manure (fast moving rain water will pick up cow manure and wash it away).  BUT....when we built our new barn, we had to develop a plan for an event just like this!!!!  When we built our barn 5 years ago, our county required us to build a drainage ditch with a natural grass filter strip and a sediment catch.  This ditch works to collect runoff water from the cow yards, stop top soil from running away, and stops cow manure from floating into the area rivers via our drain tiles & ditches.  It's a really simple design; yesterday we got to see it work.  The runoff water (complete with cow manure) runs into a large zig/zagged deep dug ditch.  This ditch is filled with naturally growing grasses and native plants from our area.  These plants slow the flow of the water, allowing the soil  and manure particles to drop out of the water solution.  The plants also use nutrients in the water to grow.  By the time the water flows to the sediment catch, the water is pretty much free of manure.  This water now flows into the drainage tile and to the drainage ditch. 

We were able to build our ditch with funds from NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program).  This federally funded program gives grants to farmers who apply, to improve their livestock operations to better protect the natural environment that surrounds their farms and the animals that make their farms habitats.  Rest assured that the dollars that we received went straight to the engineering and construction costs of our ditch.  We worked hard to design a system that would be able to handle most heavy rainfall events for our area while conserving the amount of space that it uses.  I know that this ditch is working well for our environment as well as providing habitat for a number of ducks and geese that like to stop buy for a swim.  So, at times like this I would like to thank the NRCS for the funds to protect our environment and our farm for generations to come!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Looking Ahead

Yikes! It's been a little while since I have posted something again.  That's not really intentional, but be have still been in a whirlwind of busy-ness at the farm.  Now that the silage is off of the fields we have the opportunity to haul manure to add fertilizer and organic matter to the soil for next year's crops.  Today we got rained out of the fields, and we expect we won't be able to get into the fields for the next 3-5 days, since we are in a Flood Watch until Friday.  Oh well, rain delay!!!

We have also been working diligently to plan a much needed "vacation" to World Dairy Expo.  We can't just pack up and leave, as cows need care 24 hours each day, so we have been working to find people that are available to milk cows, feed calves, and feed cows while we are gone.  Not just anyone can do these tasks, we always look for qualified individuals that know how to handle animals with respect and care.  We want to know that our cows are in good hands while we are gone.  As of right now, we have enough people to milk and feed calves, just looking for a feeder for 3 days.  I am so excited to breathe the sigh of relief that we have found people to replace us.  I am also excited to have 3 days off to enjoy a little bit of Wisconsin (my favorite place in the whole US, beside MN) and see friends and family!!!!  Now we have to work to train the new milkers, organize protocols (so they know what to do in case something should happen while we are gone) and re-stock all supplies, so they don't have any issues.  So, this next few days we will be working diligently to get stuff ready!

We are also looking forward to "Calving Season".  At our farm, we have a few months during the year that tend to have the most cows and heifers calving.  Those months are usually September through March.  We look to have about 14-19 cows and/or heifers calving each month!!  That's a lot of little baby calves and mothers to care for, but we look forward to it each year!  I love the calves and my husband enjoys caring for the cows.  We will be required to put more time in at the farm to care for all of these animals, but that's ok.  So stay tuned for lots of stories about baby calves and the joy that brings us!

Friday, September 17, 2010

We're not Lucky, we're Blessed!

Well, we wrapped up our 5th cutting of alfalfa this week, so as a result I have been working on that and recovering from the end of forage season marathon. It's been crazy, so a couple of days this week, we did the necessary chores and then came home for a nap (a much needed nap). The last load of alfalfa haylage was loaded into the silage bagger on Tuesday night at 7pm, and we celebrated with a good 'ol local beer (Grain Belt Premium Light)! It was a tasty beer! After working so hard this summer to make excellent, delicious, wholesome food for our cows, we figured we deserved the treat for ourselves. As we reflected on the past few months, we started to call ourselves "lucky", but I stopped short of calling us lucky. "We weren't lucky, we were blessed," I exclaimed. Jon looked at me, "I suppose we were."
As farmers, so much of what we do depends on nature. And nature is unpredictable, unmanageable, and uncontrollable. It's our faith in God that helps us pull through the though moments in life and on the farm. God protected us from storms, hail, wind, floods and droughts. God helped us work safely this summer, so that we were able to make tons and tons of feed, while the friends and family that helped us were kept safe. God helped us dodge some untimely rains, but also received some timely rains. Our first crop of corn yielded greatly, a miracle in our eyes. God protected our alfalfa from bugs and pests the entire summer, allowing us to grow alfalfa without spraying it with pesticides (saving costs and making better quality feed without insect damage).

So many times during a growing season, the crop can be destroyed, but we know we were blessed. Our former priest told us once that farmers are some of the closest people to God. "Farmers have to be close to God, to battle nature, feed the world's hungry, and work countless hours without recognition, while providing for their families." Those words have always stuck with me. Watching my grandparents and parents (who also farmed) I know that our priest was correct; they all have great relationships with God.

So, as the forage season of 2010 ends (we have some combining to do yet, but most of our crops are harvested) we THANK GOD for all of the blessings and miracles that we have received, for we are not lucky, we are blessed!!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

More Videos from the Princess Kay of the Milky Way Coronation!

In addition to celebrating a Princess Kay Finalist from our county, we also celebrated 2 finalists that were from the neighboring, Nicollet County.  Ashley Swenson and Megan Herberg were great canidates for Princess Kay as well!  While they did not earn the title of Princess Kay, both accomplished young women were awarded 2 of 3 scholarships for leadership in the dairy industry.  These young women are examples of all that is good and wonderful about growing up on a dairy farm!  Check out the videos from their big introductions!

Also, finally...the big coronation, which announced Katie Miron as the 57th Princess Kay of the Milky Way!  We wish Katie a great year promoting the Minnesota Dairy Industry, and we also look forward to bumping into her at various dairy events this coming year!  Check it out!!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Videos from the Princess Kay of the Milky Way Coronation

Me and My Sister Angie!

Angie and Princess Kay of the Milky Way Katie Miron, of Hugo MN

Our family, gathered to support Angie!

I know I haven't been blogging much lately, but I have been recovering from a whirl wind of activity surrounding the Minnesota State Fair.  We, in Minnesota, lovingly call the State Fair the Great Minnesota Get Together...and for good reason, it is a great opportunity to connect with many fellow farmers and also with consumers.  There were so many opportunities to connect, and I did partake in a few of these events.  So, to highlight these events, I will be blogging the next few entries about all that I was part of or observed.  First on deck, is the Princess Kay of the Milky Way Coronation.  This year, my youngest sister served as a finalist for Princess Kay of the Milky Way.  She was not chosen for Princess Kay, but she did have a blast serving the dairy farmers of Minnesota at the State Fair.  She also had the opportunity to have her likeness carved in a 90 pound block of butter (more about that to follow). 

So to start out my blogs, below is a video from the beginning of the coronation, which showcased each finalist, sharing a valuable message about dairy products and dairy farmers.  Here's Angela's message:

Next up, a video of introductions from fellow SDSU student Brittany Morse, of Lyon County and Angela Sellner:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Corn Silage 2010

Well I know it's been a long time since I blogged, but I am hoping now that a majority of our forage harvesting for the year I will have more time to devote to this blog.  Since we were busy chopping corn silage last week, taking about 4.5 days to chop over 2800 tons of corn silage for our cows from about 135 acres of corn, I thought I would do a short/long/informative recap of the week's events.

A little information about corn silage first though.  We strive to feed our cows a high forage diet (a diet composed mainly of fiber/forage instead of grain, which promotes excellent rumen & cow health).  The vast majority of our diet's forage comes from corn silage.  We like corn silage because it not only provides valuable fiber material for our cows but also highly available energy in the form of corn grain.  The corn grain in corn silage has been processed (crushed so that rumen bacteria can digest the corn starch to make proteins to feed the cow) and the corn is also wet-also making it more digestible.  Our cows eat over 100 pounds of feed each day, and over 50 pounds of that is corn silage.  As such a large portion of our cows' daily diets, corn silage quality becomes very critical. 

Excellent cow health on our farm starts with excellent nutrition.  We harvest our corn at 65-69% moisture.  A normal corn plant is about 75% moisture, but after the corn grain is mature, with the onset of fall, corn plants begin to dry down and lose moisture.  With the warm temperatures this summer and excellent growing conditions, we had an earlier than expected harvest of silage.  We also had to work faster than expected to beat the weather.  With temperatures in the 90's and strong southerly winds, the clock was ticking.  Usually corn will lose about .5% of moisture each day in normal temperatures, but with the increased temperatures we were losing more moisture than expected.  We pushed even harder to finish the harvest, and thanks to an awesome friend of the family (who donated his time and his tractor) and an awesome brother in law...we were able to reach our goals.  On Sunday night/Monday morning we ran the last load of corn silage into the bag, celebrated with a beer and "hit the hay".  Monday we sealed silage bags, and boy did they smell amazing!  I LOVE the smell of freshly fermenting corn silage.  It's comforting to know we have most of our feed for our cows for the upcoming year in bags.   We have been truly blessed!  Please feel free to check out the pictures below from the week's events as well as a new video I added to YouTube.

Rows of delicious feed for our cows this coming year.

Chopping corn silage in "our" corn field.

Filling the bagger (the machine with packs the corn silage into the long silage bags).

My brother in law and our friend showing off, as they are side winding corn silage into the 2nd silage box so that the chopper doesn't have to stop chopping.

Thanks to the dry and warm weather we had a fair amount of dust on our field roads coming into the farm.

Tall rows of corn, green and full of nutrients for our cows!

Last load of the night!  It was a hard one to get in, thanks to some break downs, but we got it done!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Corn Silage is Ready!

Today we check our corn to determine if it is ready to be chopped for silage....and it's ready!!!!  How do we know that it's ready?  Well, I drove out into the field this afternoon and collected samples of corn stalks.  In each field I chose 10 stalks of corn and chopped them with the chopper.  We collected a sample of the chopped corn, measured it, and dried it with a Koster tester (which removes water from a sample with the use of heated air).   After re-measuring the sample we can determine the moisture of the total corn plant.  It is ideal to chop corn silage at about 65-69% moisture to be packed into the silage bags.  Today's samples told us that the corn is about 64-70% moisture, so it is time to start chopping!!!  BUT....we are not ready to chop. 

Last September, we basically destroyed the processor on our chopper.  The processor is part of the chopper which crushes corn grain and corn cobs into smaller pieces which are more digestible for cows.  By processing our corn we are also able to cut the leaves and stalks into larger pieces which encourages improved rumen health for our cows.  This processor is a critical part of our corn silage chopper...and we haven't fixed it since it broke.  Today we hit the ground running, making sure that we get the chopper fixed!  Jon and his brother Marcus worked long into the evening tonight, putting on the new processor.  They are not done yet, but it did rain tonight which buys us about 1 day of additional time to get it ready to rock.  We have 9 bags of silage to make this year (each about 250 feet long and 10 feet around).  It will be a long task, but with some help from neighbors and family we will get it done as quickly as possible...so the marathon begins!!!  Corn silage season is here!!!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Corn Silage Season is coming fast!

Our Silage/Grain Corn Variety on July 26th, 2010...looking great! (I'm about 5'7" for a reference for height).

Our Silage Variety plot, noticeably taller than me!  Some as high as 10 feet!

On July 26th, 2010 Our corn was looking pretty darn nice! This is plant producing 2 ears of corn! It's going to make delicious feed for our hungry cows!

Seems like we were just talking about the beginning of summer, starting hay season and the 4th of July, but it looks as though we have blasted through the county fair, the MN State Fair is only days away, we finished our 4th cutting of alfalfa last week and we are looking at starting corn silage in a matter of days as well!  Where did summer go!?!?!?  Above are some pictures that I took of our stellar looking corn crop.  As you may recall,  Jon and I are growing our first field of corn, to be chopped as silage for our cows.  This 25 acre field will feed our cows for about 3-4 months, so it's not really enough for the year, but it helps to be able to raise our own feed instead of purchasing ALL of it.  In order to make enough corn silage for our cows this year we will need to chop about 120 acres to feed each of our cows, heifers and calves for the coming year.  We will fill about 9 silage bags (250 feet long and 10 foot diameter) as well as 2 upright silos, for about 3000 tons of corn silage. 

We planted 2 different types (varieties) of corn this year.  We planted our "usual" variety which is a conventional (no genetically modified traits) which can be used as a grain corn (tends to be harder and higher in starch) or as a silage corn (plant material, leaves and stalks are more digestible for cows to eat).  We also planted a "test" plot where we are trying out some silage specific varieties that are even more digestible for cows.  These 4 varieties (you might notice the difference in heights in my picture, since they are drastically different) are also GMO (genetically modified organisms) varieties.  We are not sure what to think of these crops yet, as we will need to feed them to the cows and let the cows tell us what they think (it's their opinion that really matters!).  Right now we know that the silage specific varieties are VERY tall and are making some nice ears of corn, however the conventional variety is producing some even NICER ears of corn, some plants with as many as 3 ears/plant!!!  In the end though, we really focus on making excellent feed, that provides energy and fiber for our lovely ladies!  It's what our cows tells us about our feed that really matters....if they don't like it, it does us no good, therefore a HUGE focus on quality is key.  Stay tuned for more info from the fields and if you are interested, check out our Facebook Page for more pictures of corn and alfalfa! and some cows too!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hello Blog, I am back again!

After a little time off to work on various other projects for the upcoming county fair, I thought I would just let everyone know I am still alive and kicking.  It's be crazy at the farm right now.  It's been raining about every 2-4 days and we are trying to make 4th cutting alfalfa in between showers/storms.  Our corn is loving this weather though, as it thrives with heat and moisture.  The cows are hanging in there with the heat.  Milk production has come down about 2-3 pounds per cow and their feed intake is down.  I wouldn't want to eat in this heat either.  Thank goodness for sprinklers and fans, those things have paid for themselves 10 times over already!  I know that the cows will be fine as long as we have sprinklers on them. 

Other than that we have the county fair this week, which means I will be busy with the princesses, the anniversary for the princesses, the dairy show and well....hopefully a demolition derby or two!  Stay tuned for pictures and more stories!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Where has the summer gone?

As I write this short blog, I am pondering where in the world has the summer gone?  Seems like just weeks ago we were still in June, enjoying June Dairy Month & various promotions, but now we are closing in on August, including county fairs & the great Minnesota State Fair.  Our summer has definitely not decreased in "business"!  In the coming weeks I will be working diligently on my various projects for the Brown County Fair, mainly around the 50th Anniversary of the Brown County Dairy Princess Program.  To learn more about this great program, check out our blog at http://cowsncrowns.blogspot.com/. So...If I am a little slow at blogging, please bear with me =)

Back at the farm things have been incredibly busy as well.  July was our busiest month of the summer for calvings.  We had 14 cows have calves, 10 of which were heifers.  This means that I have almost quadrupled my calf chores.  I am not complaining, but merely stating that I have more chores.  Those calves, especially the youngest ones, require lots of time and care to make sure they have an excellent start.  I can proudly say that my new girls have been doing great!  Lucy, our first registered (full bred Holstein with papers to prove her family tree) even calved in with a beautiful heifer calf, which I have named Luciana.  I will try to get some pictures posted. 

We have been getting a LOT of rain at the farm.  A couple of nights we had some flash flooding, but all in all the cows and corn have been doing great!  Our silage corn is putting out ears & in full tassel.  It has stretched out to almost 10 feet tall!

I hope to post pictures of these events soon! 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer Cooling for Cows 2010

With the temperatures rising this week at Orange Patch Dairy, it has made it very apparent that cow cooling is critical in the summer months.  We provide shade, sprinklers and fans to make sure our cows are comfortable every day.  As the temperature rises, the sprinklers run more frequently.  Cows really enjoy the sprinklers, like kids at a water park.  By cooling cows, we make sure that they do not become stressed.  Heat stress is a serious condition in cows.  Heat stress can cause a number of health issues and illnesses, therefore...it's definitely important to keep the girls cool!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fire Safety 101

On Friday last week, we learned a hard lesson on fire safety, but a good one.  A lesson which taught us that we should never take for granted farm safety and knowing what to do in a critical situation.  At 1:50pm on Friday I decided that since it was hot out I would double check that my dry cows were getting enough water.  On my way past the new dairy barn I smelled smoke.  As I look up I could not determine where the smoke was coming from.  Once I reach the road I saw the source....our calf barn (the previous milking barn)!!!!!  I was driving the 4-wheeler and pushed it as fast as it would go.  Once I reached the back of the barn, I saw the flames!  The large fan at the back of the barn, which was used to keep our calves cool was now blowing the flames further into the calf pen. The calves bellared in fear, a horrifying sound.  I rushed inside to unplug the fan and try to chase the calves out.  Fear filled the calves, they wouldn't move, so I left the gates open and rushed outside to call 911.  As I called 911, I ran to the house to get my father in law.  I jumped on the 4-wheeler a got Jon.  Once we got back, in a matter of minutes, the guys were in the back of barn fighting the flames with a garden hose, and us girls (my sister in law, my grandmother in law, and I) were pailing water onto the flames as well.  The round bale of corn straw that I had in the back pen was on fire, as  was the bedding in the pens.  At this time, most of the calves in the pens had been evacuated and we were in the process of moving the others out of the front of the barn (about 40 total).  It took about 14 minutes from the first 911 call until the fire department arrived...it's a 10 minute drive from town, so I thought that was pretty darn fast!  At this point the guys had the flames down to only a couple smolders.  The fire department took over looking for hot spots (we had a couple walls that were close to igniting).  We removed the round bale and ripped it apart, hosing it down. 

Once it was all said and done, we had family and friends there to help us.  We cleaned up the wet smoky bedding and by 7pm, the calves were back in the barn!!!  It's amazing but no calves were hurt,  no people were hurt, the barn is slightly burnt but still in tact, and everything was ok!!!!!!  Truly a miracle!!!!!  We know we had some angels that day!

Thank you so much to those who came to our aid, the fire department, our quick thinking family, farm safety classes, those who check in on us to make sure that we were ok and most of all thank you to God for protection from what could have been an incredible disaster!!!!!  Check out the damage picture below.

Our calf pen with blackened steel in the back where the fire was burning.

Note the plywood, where the fire department ripped a hole in the wall to find a hot spot.

Burnt plywood.

Gates and steel all blackened from the flames. Our plastic windows also melted.

2nd pen where the round bale was sitting.  The steel is now black as well.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Pic from Orange Patch Dairy

Peas ready for harvest on 6/25/10.

My father in law's cows out on pasture.

Fuji the calf, checking out the grass at a local dairy promotion for June Dairy Month.

Jon, adding corn silage to the TMR (Total Mixed Ration) Mixer, making the daily feed for the milking cows.

My view from the corn field on 6/24/10.  Looking good!

One of my cows, being weird, picking her nose...they don't have fingers, so how else should they do it?

For more pictures from our farm, please check out our Facebook page!!!!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mental Health Day!

Every once in awhile the grind and stress of a dairy farm gets to us.  I would say that every couple months or so, we try to take at least one day off from the farm, making sure that we can relax and someone else is in charge of the cows.  Thank you so much to our awesome helpers, milking and feeding the cows and calves while we were gone.  On our day off we decided to celebrate our 5th Wedding Anniversary and the 4th of July.  We went to a local amusement park to "relieve" some stress.  It was an awesome day!  As a result though we had to work hard before the day off...and work hard afterwards to catch up.  Who knew cows were more work than milking and feeding?  Yep, we needed to bed the calves, heifers, and cows in before we left and then when we came back.  There was cows to breed, heifers to treat (one got sick with bloat while we were gone) and there were various other small projects to work on.  But every once in awhile it is nice to walk away from the "To Do List" and come back refreshed and renewed!  I know the cows appreciate that we are in a better mood...and we do too! 

So I am back and caught up...and ready to blog some more...so stay tuned, I have a bunch of pictures and video to share in the coming weeks.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

After the Storm

View in Sleepy Eye, on the south side of the storm as it passed to the north of town.

Looking to the southwest of Sleepy Eye, as the storm passed to the east, producing some very ominous rotating clouds! Jon called me from the farm as he also watched this storm.

Damage: Pipe on our manure pump was blown over  and twisted off.  Nothing a little fixing tomorrow won't fix, but it looks bad.  We also had a number of trees lose branches thanks to the VERY strong wind (excess of 65 mph).

Pea combines parked in the field south of the farm, where they were harvesting peas up until the storm hit.  Thanks to the power outage they were waiting for the plant to re-start and send the trucks so they could unload their hoppers full of tasty peas.

Jon hooking up the generator to the power box by our milking barn, however, since we hardly ever use our generator, we didn't know it wasn't in working condition until we tried to get her running.  Thank goodness for the Linemen that got the power back and running so quickly!

Heifers checking out the storm damage, now that they were no longer afraid to be outside.

Rainbow at the end of the storm. We were definitely blessed to be so protected, family & friends are safe, crops are still standing, & buildings are undamaged.

Tonight I expected that I would be able to write about our peas being harvested today, I even have pictures and video to post, but Mother Nature had some different plans for us.  This afternoon at about 6pm, our local area saw some very serious storms move through.  We know of a couple of farms that experienced damage and some crops that were either blown over or are hailed off (hail stones shredded the plants and the fields will need to be replanted in serve cases).  One dairy farm near Courtland lost their dairy barn and had to relocate about 800 cows to various farms in the area.  Thanks to the help of area farmers they were able to safely move these animals.  I can only imagine what those girls were thinking when the roof blew off their barn!  So between tornadoes, strong winds (65mph or more) and hail (as big as 4.25 inches!) it made for an eventful evening locally.  Thanks to the wind, we experienced some damage out at the farm.  Thankfully the corn is still standing, but my in laws did lose some trees and branches from trees in their yard.  As you can see above the manure pump succumbed to the power of the winds as did my flowers planted around the milking barn. 

The biggest challenge of the night was the power outages.  We were without electricity on our farm for about 1.5 hours.  Without power we were not able to do much.  Electricity runs so much on a dairy farm: water pumps, well pumps, milk coolers, milk pumps, lights, fans, curtains, sprinklers, etc.  So our cows had no fans or water until the power came back on.  We couldn't feed calves since we didn't have hot water for them.  Without electricity we couldn't milk cows either!  Rest assured though our milk stayed cool in its insulated tank.  The milk was about 42 degrees once the power came back, definitely safe and cool.  We would usually hook up a generator, run by a tractor, but tonight we discovered that our generator is not running (will be fixed tomorrow).  So we waited patiently for the excellent linemen of our local energy cooperative to fix the down power lines.  They promptly came out after the storm and we had power in about an hour!  Bless those men! They do good work!  The cows were a little crabby about being milked about an hour later than usual, but we got through it.  Thanks to Brown County REA! You do great work!  Hopefully I will be able to report less stormy news tomorrow!  God bless!!