Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Our Response to ABC story tonight.

Like other proactive dairy farmers, I will also post my opinion about the news story that aired on ABC tonight titled "Got Milk? Animal Rights vs. US Dairy Industry".

First, let me set the story straight, we at Orange Patch Dairy and everyone of our dairy farming neighbors put the welfare and well being of our cows first everyday. We constantly strive to care for our animals, because the better job that we do caring for our cows, the healthier and happier they are. Happy cows make higher quality milk in greater quantities. If you read my blog you know first hand how hard we work to put our cows needs, some days, before our own.

At Orange Patch Dairy, we do not use tail docking as a management practice. Industry research has shown that tail docking, which was originally done to help keep cows clean, neither benefits nor harms cows. Being a null practice, we decided long ago that we would not dock tails to maintain cow cleanliness on our farm, but instead clip the long hair on the end of the tail. The short hair prevents the cow from getting full of manure and covering herself with it. We feel a hair cut is better than losing the aesthetic of a cow tail. The tail, while it looks pretty does have a purpose-swatting flies in the summertime, providing cooling, and something to hit that itch the cow can't reach.

We do however dehorn calves on our farm. I watched this video, and frankly saw only a couple things I would change. Cows with horns actually have a recessive trait, whereas cows naturally without horns (polled) have a dominant trait. The problem in the dairy industry is that the AI (artificial insemination) industry has not been able to produce enough popular polled bulls to help us breed the horn trait out of our traditional dairy cows (we expect this to change shortly). As a result, we have cows with horns. Horns need to be removed for the safety and protection of the animal, the facilities and the people that raise them. Cows with horns have the ability to do serious harm to each other, destroy buildings and fences, and harm the people that work with them. The injuries can be pretty gruesome. Horns can also break resulting in terrible infections or even bleeding to death. For these reasons, we remove our animals' horns.

At 14 days of age we dehorn. At this age the horns are very small and easily removed. The older the animal is, the harder the horn is to remove. We have our vet remove horns, mainly because he owns a gas powered dehorner, and we don't. We could do this but having a vet remove horns assures us that the horns are removed. We halter the calf, pull her out of her hut and make sure that we have her tied securely-so not to hurt ourselves and herself. We do not use a anesthetic at this time. We have discussed this practice with our vet and he believes that the injection would inflict more pain than the actual removal of the horn. We use a gas powered dehorner to cauterize the horn tissue surrounding the horn bud, and after a few seconds of brief pain we can pop the bud out. The calf is untied and returned to her hut. I know that this process causes little to no long term pain or damage, because by the time we walk back to the calf hut my calves are looking to have their ears scratched, neck rubbed and yes, even their head scratched. The benefits of doing this process at a young age is that they will never notice that it even happen. Years ago horns were removed when cattle we much older and they had to be cut out, leaving large wounds that could get infected or even bleed out. Sometimes this method was unsuccessful-and horns would grow back. Cauterizing horns, when done correctly is 100% effective. Days after dehorning calves, all that remains is a small scab, that will shortly fall off...and mainly itches, which means those darn calves come back from extra head scratching.

Dehorning is not a "large dairy" or "factory farm" practice, it is a universal practice amongst ALL dairymen. Dehorning is not cruel, but it is a practice which allows the animal to live a long healthy life-safe from being hurt by other herd mates. I believe that ABC should have done more homework before airing this story. The vast majority of American dairy cattle live the good life-comfortable environments, clean environments, excellent medical care, balanced nutrition, and care beyond their needs. A few isolated incidents do NOT paint an accurate picture of the dairy industry, don't believe me, see my YouTube Channel, my blog, see the blogs of those that I follow-all show dairymen caring for their animals EVERYDAY, 365 days a year.

If you have questions, don't be afraid to ask....I will answer them the best that I can.

Recovering from the Blizzard

Yesterday we experienced, what I would call a "surprise blizzard" in MN. The previous week we had been enjoying some wonderful temperatures-30's. We even had rain at the farm, but yesterday we were rudely greeted with snow (2 inches) and 45+ mph winds from the northwest. These conditions combined to make driving practically impossible. Visibilities were down to zero and the Department of Transportation in MN decided to shut down the roads. Yep, everyone was stranded, except us. We had to make it to the farm to milk cows and feed everyone, so on the road we went. Jonathan and I found only a few drifts, and took our time driving through the "white outs". We made it to and from the farm safely twice yesterday. All of the girls needed to be bedded in (to stay dry and warm) and fed. Just because the weather doesn't cooperate with farming, doesn't mean that the farming stops on a dairy farm. We find a way to continue to take excellent care of our cows.

Today, we mainly focused on cleaning up the tall drifts (some over 6 ft tall) in the yards, on the roads, and around my calf huts. I even had one calf hut, mostly full of snow-except for the area where the little one was sleeping over night. Needless to say that little girl was happy so see me this morning with the shovel =) She's much happier with no snow in her room. Cold temps have moved back in (and wind chills too) so back to wearing insulated everything to work outside. We are definitely looking forward to spring at Orange Patch Dairy!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Busy Days at the Farm

Well it's been a bunch of busy days at the farm lately. Between the birth of 8 calves this week (7 bulls and 1 lonely heifer calf) and a couple of sick cows, oh yeah and the good 'ol Minnesota winter...it's been a busy time!

First the bull calves. We have had 13 bulls out of the last 15 calves born at the farm. The 2 lonely heifers could really use some more friends, so I am hoping that the 2 cows due at the end of this week don't let us down.

Sick cows: nothing that we could really help, but we have 2 cows that have ailments that we and the vet cannot explain. I hate it when we call the vet out and even they can't figure out what is wrong with our sick cows. It's frustrating not knowing what's wrong with a sick animal-they can't tell us where it hurts or how they feel so we have to work smart and watch them. We watch how much they eat, how long they stand to eat, how long do they rest, are they chewing their cuds. We take their temperatures. We listen to their lungs, heart and stomachs. Using these observations we try to decide what might be wrong with our cows. These cows have digestive upsets, basically we have 2 cows that ate something they shouldn't have or they didn't eat as much as they should have. We treat sick cows like this without antibiotics, but instead with probiotics. It is never economical to treat cows with antibiotics-we lose the cost of the drugs as well as the milk lost that we will need to dump until the drugs leave the cow's body. Therefore, we try other methods, that take more time, but in the end are better for the cow and our pocketbook. We have been treating the 2 sick cows with alfalfa meal drench, probiotics, yeast, magnesium, calcium, choline, and other B-vitamins.

One cow has been responding well to the treatment, however the other decided to roll her stomach....her abomasum. Cows have a 4-chambered stomach, containing the rumen (fermentation chamber), omasum, recticulum (the honeycomb-looking stomach-1st stomach) and abomasum (the true stomach-just like our stomach). When cows have a disruption in their eating pattern, they can fill with gas-which causes their stomach to inflate and float out of place, thereby slowing or even stopping the flow of feed through the stomach. The rumen is a warm, wet environment for some awesome little microbes! They turn food that we as humans can't eat into usable food for cows. When there are problems, the microbes can start dying off, making the cow feel even worse. As a result it is very critical that we keep our cows healthy and eating. Surgery is the only option for a displaced abomasum. After a quick shot of tranquilizer, the vet and I worked for about an hour to relieve the gas in the stomach and stitch it back in place. Within an hour and a half the cow was back to normal, with nothing to show more than her sutures on her side. Needless to say, surgery is expensive and we have to put the cow on penicillin, so we hope to work to make sure a displace abomasum never happens-or that cows don't get sick in the first place.

The MN weather-rain for 12 hours plus 14 inches of snow on the ground=mushy mess everywhere! Slush is everywhere, getting stuck, cows getting wet, lakes forming from puddles, and mainly crummy weather to be outside in....hoping it gets better soon.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hoof trimming 09

This is video from June 2009, but it will give you an idea of what we did yesterday-yes it was our hoof trimming day! We trimmed 113 head of cows (all 4 feet) in about 8 hours, including set up and clean up time. We had 2 trimming chutes and 4 hoof trimmers. Hoof trimmers are very important in making sure that cows have healthy feet. By trimming cows twice every year, we make sure that hooves remain free of sores, cuts, and abnormal growths. Just like when we as humans trim our long finger nails.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Frosty Pics from the Farm

Purple cone flowers that made it through the winter.

Pretty vines on the trees in the grove.

Frosted round bales of grass hay.

Winter view of the heifer lot.

Dry cows, relaxing in the dry cow lot on this frosty winter day.

Meet AC/DC, our heifer who is 16 months old and expecting her first calf this fall.

Yevette!!! (our preemie calf from this summer) She's doing so well! She loves it outside, even if it's frosty. She's almost as tall as the other calves her age, but has so much more attitude.

Kittens like to snuggle up with the bulls calves in the calf barn.

Frosty trees in the yard.

Silver Bells, checking out the frost covered shrubs in front of her calf hut.

Our Dairy Barn, almost 5 years old already. View from the road.

Komanche, our heifer, checking out the birds in the tree out in the yard.

It's so cold, but we have such a pretty view outside!

Which one of these doesn't belong? Yep, it's Glencoe, she was our "day care" calf this summer, who visited area day cares. She thinks she needs to be spoiled and is completely immune to electric fences-she goes where she wants to and we just let her.

What a great view from the dairy barn!

Cows eating in a very foggy barn. Yummy! TMR! (total mixed ration-containing alfalfa, corn silage and so many other great feeds!)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Busy, but good recipe to share!

Holy smokes we have been busy, I haven't posted in so long! Between calves, cows, new cows, and dairy princess stuff it's been a whirlwind at the farm. I did get a chance to do some baking the other day-something quick and easy, but very tasty, so I thought I would share the recipe:

Peach and Raspberry Crisp
-6 cups peeled and sliced Peaches (I used ones that I froze from last year)
-2 cups Raspberries (I also used ones from last year that I froze)
-2 tablespoons Orange Zest
-1 1/2 cups Brown Sugar
-2 cups White Sugar
-1 cup Oatmeal
-1 cup Flour plus 2-3 tablespoons
-1 cup Butter

Toss peaches with Orange Zest, 1/2 cup Brown Sugar, 1 cup White Sugar and 2-3 tablespoons of flour. Let sit until juices thicken. Add more flour if needed. Gently toss in raspberries. Pour into the bottom of a 9 X 13 greased pan. Mix butter, remaining flour (1 cup), oatmeal (1 cup), Brown Sugar (1/2 cup), White Sugar (1 cup). Pour dry mixture over the top of the fruit layer. Gently press, and bake in a 350 oven for 1 hour.

Best served warm with vanilla ice cream on top and a tall glass of milk!!!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Made it to 100 cows milking, 120 cows total!

Just realized today that I had to update my blog page...we no longer have 100 cows, but have increased our herd to 120 cows over the past year! This growth has come from the addition of fresh heifers and just doing a good job making sure that our older cows live long, full, happy lives. We are hoping to plateau at about 120 cows milking, and about 140-150 cows total (milking and dry cows) in the next couple years and stay there for awhile. Any more additional cows will be sent to other dairy farmers that will provide them good homes as well. We like the idea of having a full barn....but an over-full barn can be detrimental to the cows-therefore we will have to make sure we can maintain our size "comfortably" for all animals.

We are so excited about this achievement! When we started farming almost 5 years ago, we had about 70 cows. In the past 4+ years we have added 50 cows without buying a single cow-all home raised heifers! This is quite an feat, if you know anything about the dairy industry-and we are super proud to have done it! Needless to say, we love our cows and love having more of them!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Congrats for surviving this Week of Winter!

Oh I couldn't be more excited for warmer weather than what I am right now! In case you didn't notice, I haven't posted a blog in over a week. There's a GOOD explanation for that-we were taking care of our cows the best that we could in some pretty miserable Minnesota weather. At last count we put in 3 16-hour days, 2 15-hour days, and 3 12-hour days. It's been tough, no lie about that. Our biggest challenge was just making sure that all of our cows, heifers and calves were protected from the wind and snow. Frost bite is just as dangerous to cows as it is to humans....we take the winter very seriously. We bedded in all animals everyday with lots of extra straw, thereby keeping them dry and clean. We moved cows that were due to calve in the coming days, into a heated pen to assure us that any calves born would be warm and frost-free. Accidents do happen, where cows are not smart enough to stay out the wind and decide to have their calves out in the open, in a snow bank, and in the wind-those calves usually die. Knowing this fact-we didn't want to take any chances-we want all live calves, so mothers got moved inside. We used special teat creams/lotions in the milking barn to protect teats on cows and heifers that could be at risk of freezing as well. The temperatures dipped below -30 a couple of times over night, but wind chills were out biggest enemy: -45! Add some fluffy, fresh snow and we had a good mess on our hands. One night we were even unsure if we could make the 7 mile trip from the farm back to our home since most local roads were closed...but we made it.

It's days like those that I really wonder how animal rights activists can accuse us on "not caring" for our cows!?!?! Seriously!?!?!? If I didn't care for my cows, I would have stayed at home, wrapped up on the couch with a warm blanket instead of sporting 5 layers of clothing and a ski mask to care for my animals. Those days were really hard on us mentally. Jon and I asked ourselves often-"Why is it that we are doing this?" We do it because we love our cows, and we strive everyday to give them our very best-they deserve it! Farming is not easy, but we do it because we know how important it is to grow, raise, and produce safe, quality, wholesome food for the world. So, I guess to rest my case....say thanks and congrats to a dairy farmer today....especially if they survived a week of winter like we did.

And, be grateful for the +30 temps coming this week!

Saturday, January 2, 2010


FROZEN: that pretty much describes our day today. Everything is FROZEN. Last night we had temperatures at -31. Today's high temperature was -11. Yep, we didn't even get close to going above zero! The milking cow barn was pretty frozen this morning. The cold air almost instantly froze the humid breath coming from our cows. Frost covered the entire inside of our barn and even dusted the cows. The parlor floor, which is heated, couldn't keep up with the cold air and started to form ice in the back of the parlor. Warm piles of cow manure even froze to the ground.

We had to work extra hard to remove frozen cow pies from the barn. The silage that we feed the cows with is even frozen now! The silage was 70 degrees going into the silage bag but now it's frozen. Each "ball" of frozen silage needs to be broken with the skid loader before being mixed with in the TMR and fed to the cows. We also dried off the teat dip (iodine and skin conditioners) from the cows this morning before the cows could leave the milking parlor. This makes sure that the dip doesn't freeze and cause the skin on the teats to crack. We use a dip with a higher level of skin conditioners to make sure the skin stays soft and smooth. We also moved a couple heifers that are close to calving (any minute now) into the old dairy barn-keeping them warm and dry so they also are free of frost bite. In temperatures like this it is critical that we make sure that we prevent any frost bite: good homes, dry bedding, heating where needed, dry teats and ears.....yet another day on a Minnesota Dairy Farm!

The calves are doing well though! Those calf huts do a great job of keeping the calves cozy and warm. Even though it's cold outside, the wind isn't blowing-thank goodness! As a result, the heifers came out this afternoon for an exciting romp in the snow. It was so fun to watch-I wish I would have had my camera close by to record their silliness.

Above zero is looking like a heat wave right now!