Monday, May 31, 2010

Been Busy Lately!

Holy smokes! I can't believe that it's Sunday night/Monday morning and I haven't actually blogged in awhile! It's been a really busy week at Orange Patch Dairy. Even though I did take the time to get our hay video out and a few pictures of the farm, I have been running in circles.

June Dairy Month: As county princess coordinator I am BUSY organizing the month's events! We have the girls visiting everything from grocery stores to day cares. We plan on making a number of visits with consumers as well as some fun parades. In combination we will be celebrating our county princess program/s 50th Anniversary! I will be focusing my time and efforts in June on our new blog Feel free to check it out, starting June 1st, as we will be featuring dairy stories from the past 50 years. I have some great pictures and stories to share!~Thanks to all of the princesses that shared information with us.

Drying off Cows: We dried off cows this week. Yep, its that time when we give the girls a well deserved vacation. We dry them off about 45-60 days before their due date to insure that they have plenty of time to relax and grow their calves. We know that calves grow the most in the last weeks of gestation/pregnancy, so its important that we feed these cows well, offer them exercise in their yard and provide a clean, dry and comfortable environment. We have about 10 cows due to calve in July, and these cows were all dried off these past few weeks.

DHIA Testing: We DHIA tested this week. It was a great test! The cows produced an amazing 92 pounds of milk per cow per day! We DHIA test every month to check each individual cow. We collect samples from each cow to be tested for protein, fat, and Somatic Cell Count (SCC-measure of milk quality). We are able to manage our cows on an individual basis with this information. DHIA also helps us keep track of when cows were bred, had calves, and need to be dried is a great organization system for our farm, allowing us to have more time to take better care of our cows.

Landscaping: I finally was able to steal a few hours each day to attend to our landscaping around our barn. While it's not perfect or done, we finally made some progress. I was able to plant some flower beds, move some perennials, and do some major weeding. The best part about living on a dairy farm is that I have nutrient rich fertilizer readily available whenever I need it. I am able to grow some amazing vegetables, fruits, and flowers with the help of my cows ;)

And I forgot to mention the best part of this past was HOT!!! Ok, maybe it wasn't the best part, it was the most challenging part. We are able to cool our cows with sprinklers and fans, but honestly, for the humans working on our farm its not that cool. We were unseasonably warm (90's and humid) this week and I was definitely thinking about joining the cows under the sprinklers. Hot weather just makes for a long day at the farm and a great appreciation for the AC. Thankfully rain is in the forecast for this week (we are getting dry here) and cooler temperatures!~I know the cows are looking forward to this as their comfort zone is about 55 degrees. Anything over that temp and they are here's to cooler weather!

Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 Alfalfa Season-1st Cutting Video

I took some time tonight to do what I wanted to do last night, but instead had to respond to yet another attack on America's good dairy farmers.  Tonight, I finally got to put together my video clips from hay making last week, into a nice "collage" of videos.  Please check out how we at Orange Patch Dairy work to make high quality forage to feed our cows during the year.  The best part is that we get to do this 3-4 more times this growing season....I like this video and I hope you do too!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Animal Abuse is NOT Acceptable!

Today we watch as another attack on the dairy industry was unleashed.  A video with some disgusting animal abuse was released, and portrayed as "an industry standard".  I can confidently say that this is NOT the case!  Dairy farmers care for their cows, whether an organic farmer or a conventional farmer, a small farm or a large farm....dairy cows need to be cared for and LOVED!  Yes, I said loved.  We love our cows, we care for them everyday and we often put their needs before our own.  Watching this video was heart wrenching! I encourage you to NOT watch it, its not for the weak of stomach.  For the news I read tonight the employee in question has been fired and facing 12 counts of animal abuse charges, other employees are being investigated and the dairy farmer in question is working diligently to revamp an apparent lapse in management.  Looks to me that they are taking the right steps, its just a shame that it happened in the first place. 

Jonathan and I discussed tonight what we would do if we discovered an employee (even though we currently do not have one) abusing our cows.  I name our cows, to give them a personality, and I believe that also makes it harder for someone to hit them.  Jonathan uses numbers instead of names, but he also respects and loves our cows.  If we were to see an employee abuse a cow, we would fire them instantly, and then call every dairy farm in our county to make sure that they never work with cows ever again!  It's abosultely unacceptalbe, and we know that our neighbors and fellow dairy farmers would stand with us.  Please check out the video below, which I filmed tonight while I was pushing up feed and bringing in the cows to the parlor.  I was fired up and decided that I needed to show that our cows are loved and respected everyday.  They need to stay calm and know that they can trust us.  So check it out!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pictures from 1st cutting of Alfalfa and spring scenes.

Jon planting corn on May 5th.  This corn will be harvested (chopped) in August/September this year.

A little landscaping that I did using pieces of dairy industry past.

My brother in law cutting our first cutting of alfalfa on Monday.

Chopping our alfalfa and blowing it into the silage boxes.

Jonathan packing the chopped alfalfa into the silage bag.

Pretty irises raised with cow manure.  Nature that is nurtured.

To see more pictures from this season's hay crop or this spring 2010 check out this link at our Facebook Fan Page.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm a PROUD Older Sister today!!!

I don't know how any day this week could top the excitement we had today!  Today was the "big" announcement of the Finalist for Princess Kay of the Milky Way.  12 young women involved in the dairy industry we chosen from almost 90 candidates to compete at the MN State Fair in August to be Princess Kay of the Milky Way.  8 years ago to the date, I was honored to be one of these finalists, and I had the time of my life.  My youngest sister, Angela,  was there along the way, and I guess she might have learned something from me...or she made her own way to being chosen today to be a Finalist!  Needless to say, I was overjoyed!!!!!  One of the best honors of this role is having your likeness carving in a 90 pound block of butter at the MN State Fair.  I can't wait to be there, watching it! 
I don't know if I will ever forget the phone call I received from her this afternoon.  Angela has earned many state and national honors and has always called me to tell me about it, but this time, today, was the first time that she was crying on the other end of the line.  My little sister was so joyful in her achievement that she was actually crying tears of joy!  I was so moved, I wished that I could have been there to give her a much earned hug.  So via cell phone I sent my love, and sent her off to have her pictures taken for the press.  She is a bright young lady, with a great future ahead of her! 
So if you would like to learn more about her, my sister Angela has a video up on YouTube from last June where she shares about our family's farm.  She is an inspiration for me.  She always remains calm and cool under stress.  Her big sister was panicking this week, as we prepared for her events, but she never faltered.  Even after forgetting a very important piece of her wardrobe for the weekend, she remained calm.  I know personally, that she is an excellent AGVOCATE for the dairy industry!  So....

Congratulations & Love You Angela from your Big Sister, Shannon!!!!! 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Kids Ask, I Tell, Part installment!

I saved my favorite question for last!

5. Girls can't drive tractors?!?!  Can they?!?!? (as I was jumping up onto our AC 6080 to pull our hay ride to the calf farm)

Haha! This one made me laugh, I get it every year!  There's always one little boy or girl who has grown up with the notion that only men are farmers, that they should be wearing bibs and flannel, and walk around with a piece of straw in their mouths, but guess what?!?!?  Women can drive those darn tractors too!  I have many friends (females) that are hard working farmers.  They no longer fall under the discription of "farm wife", staying in the house, making meals, tending the gardens, and feeding the calves.  Farm women for the past few decades have been moving out of the kitchens and gardens and into the offices of large dairies, the parlors, the fields, and yes, even the tractor cabs.  It's empowering to see women taking charge of their family businesses and making decisions.  So, yes...Girls can drive tractors too!

This is going to busy weekend, so if I am not around much, I apologize, we are prepping to get cutting alfalfa and we are also working so that Jon can do his hobby (playing drums in a local rock band!).  I hope to have pictures and video of both to share!

Awesome Rhubarb Jelly!

I am taking a break from answering questions to feature this SUPER easy Rhubarb Raspberry (or Blueberry if you want) Jelly for freezers...tastes great on ice cream!

Rhubarb Raspberry Jelly
7 cups Chopped Rhubarb
4 cups Sugar
1 can Raspberry Pie Filling
Boil the ingredients above in a large sauce pan or pot for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the following:
2 packages of Raspberry Jello
Stir in completely. Pour into jars and let cool.  Store in the freezer. DELICIOUS!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kids Ask, I Tell...Part 2

Highlighting more great questions from the tours last week, here's a couple more!

3. How come the calves sleep alone in the calf huts? Where's their mommies?
Great question!  Calves are moved to calf huts within hours of birth.  We house our calves in huts, as we do not have an adequate calf barn.  These huts allow us to house our calves individually, protecting them from germs from other calves (like kids in kindergarten).  They are able to stay healthy in these environments.  It may seem lonely, but calves and peak outside their huts and see herd mates down the row.  Each of these huts work like individual "bedrooms" for the calves, where they enjoy space to run around and plenty of soft and dry bedding.  Their mommies, the cows are in the milking barn, where we are able to better care for our cows.  We can focus on giving these cows the nutrition and care that they need after having a calf, instead of the cow worrying about the newborn calf. 

4. Can you drink the milk fresh from the cows?
Well, that's a good question too.  And yes you could drink the milk fresh from a cow, but it would be very warm, about 100 degrees.  It would also be very thick-as most cow's milk has a higher butterfat content that that milk that we buy in the store.  Also, milk from cows should always be pasteurized before people can drink it.  Milk that is pasteurized is guaranteed to be free of disease causing bacteria.  Bacteria is everywhere in food production, pasteurization allows us to insure that those bacteria (good or bad) are not present. I don't know about you, but I would like to drink milk that is cold and free of bacteria

More fun questions to come tomorrow~!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kids Ask, I Tell...

After last week's preschool tour, I thought I would take this week before we start cutting hay to reflect on their questions, and how I responded to them.  I think even adults wonder about some of the things that they asked, and frankly...if you want to know, JUST ASK US!  I am more than willing to share with you why we do what we do, instead of having false assumptions made about our here we go....first up!

1. Do your cows go outside?
Seems like a simple question, since we were in a barn at the time when this was asked.  Our milking cows do NOT go outside.  They enjoy life inside our barn with a roof, sidewalls with curtains for natural light and ventilation, and fans and sprinklers for summer heat.  We house our cows inside for a number of reasons, but the main one is that we are protecting them from the environment outside.  Inside our barn they are protected from rain, snow, sun, heat, cold, wind, etc...and they are protected from predators (coyotes are most numerous in our area).  We also have them inside so they stay out of mud.  Those silly cows sure do love their mud!  I can't believe how much mud they make and play in when they are outside.  Mud=dirty, and dirty=increased chance of mastitis (which is painful for the cow and our pocket book-clean cows are healthy cows!). 

We have a pack barn which is basically a big bedded pen, allowing all cows plenty of walking room each day.  They get exercise by walking to and from the parlor, up to the bunk for feed and water and mainly from running around with their herd mates during the day-playing!  Yep! You got it!  Cows play!  You should see them play, it makes Jon and I laugh so often during the day!  I love watching them just have a blast!

Our dry cows DO GO OUTSIDE.  They enjoy a 2 month vacation outside before they have their next calf.  Here they have one job, to eat and relax.  One of the moms on our tour last week thought that sounded nice, since she was expecting a baby in a couple of months ;)  In this pen we strive to keep them clean, but darn it if those cows don't find a mud hole every once in awhile, especially in the summer after a cool rain.  We hope to someday move these cows indoors to also protect them from the weather, but for now they are doing just fine.

2. How come your cows walk in poop?
This one was a great question!  Ever watch a herd of cows walk home from the pasture?  The follow the same path over and over again, until its dirt (hence the term "cow paths").  When it rains this turns to mud, but there is also "poop" there.  Cows poop all of the time.  Cows will poop when they get up to eat, when they lay down, when they leave the parlor, when they come into the parlor, and when they are scared.  We work hard to prevent the last condition-walking through the barn peacefully is a requirement, but with 20+ kids laughing and screaming at the cows...well, let's just say they were scared/nervous.  One very astute child suggested that we take the cows outside the barn, onto the grass and let them poop outside and then bring them back into the barn.  Just like a dog!  What an observation!  BUT....those cows would poop on the way out and on the way back, still making a mess and making a mess of our front lawn.  Unfortunately we have not potty trained our cows, but if someone ever figures out a way to do it I know many dairy farmers that would be interested.  Our cows walk on alleys that are made with concrete.  The cows have grip on these to prevent them from slipping.  We scape these alleys everyday-twice a day to prevent the "poop" from getting too deep.  It's a job that we do when the cows are in the parlor waiting to be milked.  Some farmers have machines that automatically scrape the alleys during the day while the cows are in the barn, but we do not have a system like that.  The "poop" is scraped into a holding pit which is pumped out every few weeks, and hauled to our fields.  Scraping "poop" is critical to making sure that our cows stay clean-the cleaner the cows are, the healthier they are, and we improve the overall quality of the milk that they produce! 

Awesome questions!!!! More to come later this week!!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rainy Day Projects

Cool rain falling outside meant that I could clean the parlor today.  Now that I have a working power washer I thought I would take advantage of a rainy day.  Once I have the parlor spotless, I like to keep it that way.  Success!  So far it's been clean, because you never know who might stop by.  2 years ago a young couple who work for one of the local pig farms stopped in to find out about dairy farms.  We definitely let the enjoy the visit, but obviously we would have liked a call first =)  They learned so much that night about how we care each day for our cows.

Theresa May and Theresa Joy met the vet last week...they are now dehorned.  Our vet and I restrained them, and we used a horn burner to "pop" the horn buds off.  Honestly, I don't think they even know that it happened, as they went back to running around in their huts and have been growing quickly ever since.  As you may recall we dehorn calves at a young age at our farm, to make sure the pain is minimal.  Dehorning is needed for the safety of animals and for the people that work with them.  Horns can break off and get infected and they can damage barns.  Silly calves feel great now...and we excellent patients!

Weekly Re-Cap

Holy Smokes!  This has been one crazy week!  Monday was filled with preschool tours.  Tuesday was herd health day where we learned that we will have over 20 cows and heifers due to have calve in December.  Wednesday, our corn finally went into the ground~Jonathan and I are so excited to have our first field of corn.  Thursday I was at the dentist and making parts runs.  Friday, it rained, but then we had to bed in all of the cows and heifers.  Saturday we dried off 4 cows due to calve in July.  We also moved heifers and calves-graduating them to new pens with more space for their growing bodies. 

Today, well we enjoyed a dinner out with family and then returned home to care for our newborn calf Osseo and her mother Olivia.  Olivia surprised us with a new calf right before church this morning-I swear they do this on purpose!  Nevertheless, we worked even faster to care for the calf and the new cow...and returned after dinner and church to do the final touches.  Osseo enjoyed 1 gallon of fresh colostrum and Olivia enjoyed being moved to the milking barn, where she had all of the TMR that she can eat.  Jonathan worked this afternoon on our disk mower (machine we use to cut our alfalfa) as we know that we will be cutting our first crop of alfalfa soon.  I did a little landscaping.  Seems like the weather forecast is calling for  more cold and wet weather, so I am working during the sunny days while I can.  We had a small dose of frost last night.  The airport reported temps as low as 28.   We woke to frost on the grass and the rooves.  This afternoon I took a quick trip through the corn and alfalfa fields to survey the damage.  Our alfalfa got nipped in the low lands, but on the hill sides it appears that those plants were spared.  If we get some sun and warmer temps, I do believe that the alfalfa will be fine.  Our corn, as it was just planted was safe and sound in the soil (warm, since the soil temps are over 60 degrees) BUT...our neighbor's have corn that has germinated and sprouted out of the soil.  Those plants did get damaged, but if the growing point of the plant was still below the soil...the plant will be here's hoping their corn will be fine.  I will try to be back a little more often this week, but once we start cutting hay, all bets are off....another busy week at Orange Patch Dairy!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Enjoying the Fruits of Spring!

I LOVE rhubarb!  Jon does not, but his mom had an amazing recipe I HAD to try, and now I have a wonderful cake to enjoy all by myself!...Check it out!

Upsidedown Rhubarb Strawberry Cake
1-Strawberry Cake Mix (made according to dirrections)
4.5 cups-Rhubarb (rinsed and diced)
1-10 oz. package of Minature Marshmallows
1-3oz. package of Strawberry Jello.

In a greased 9X13 pan pour out the rhubarb.  Sprinkle the strawberry jello, lightly, over top of the rhubarb.  Cover with marshmallows.  Pour cake batter over top of it all.  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.  Cool and serve upsidedown with REAL Whipped cream! 

Enjoy~ I know I did!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pictures from our Preschool Tours!

We had a GREAT time introducing these kids to Theresa May and Theresa Joy, as well as all of the cows in the barn.  They had a great day learning about dairy and all that it has to offer.

For more pictures check out our Face Book Page