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!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Behind the Scences of a Colorado Beef Feedlot

Today I took the time to read an article that has been circling around the Ag community online.  It's worth sharing, that is for sure!  It features a vegan, Registered Dietitian, Ryan Andrews, who was allowed to visit a 22,000 head beef feedlot in Colorado.  I'll admit that I expected this article to spread further untruths about animal agriculture, but I was pleasantly surprised by this man's ability to be open minded during his visit and to make some astute observations.  Even though he walked away still not interested in eating meat, he did walk away with a new perspective about beef and animal agriculture.  So please take the time to check it out. Cattle Feedlot: Behind the Scenes

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Got it DONE!!! Making Hay when the Sun Doesn't Shine!!

We have successfully finished out 2nd cutting of alfalfa!  It was a challenge and if I ever meet a weatherman in person I might have to ask him the following: "How can you still have a job after being wrong so many times?"  Our weather forecast for Thursday was for rain, which we missed, thank goodness as those storms were filled with wind, hail, and tornadoes.  We pray for those who were hurt by these storms.  On Friday it was supposed to be about 80 degrees and light breezes, but we had mid-80's and a strong dry wind....which accelerated the drying of our alfalfa, much faster than we anticipated.  As a result our hay was dry sooner than expected, and we had to move faster.  At midnight on Friday, Jon, I and my brother in law Marcus decided that we were going to keep on chopping alfalfa until we saw dew, which would make the alfalfa too wet to chop.  But as long as there was no dew we were able to keep on chopping.....and we kept on chopping alfalfa until 9 am Saturday morning. Yes, you just read correctly, we chopped through the night and finished right before morning chores.  That means that Jon and I worked about 35 hours straight without any sleep.  We finished chopping and jumped right over to milking, feeding and our morning chores.  At 2pm we made it home, and took a well deserved nap for 5 hours!  We were very happy that we finished our 130 acres of alfalfa even if we had to work that hard to get it done.  Unfortunately since we worked so hard and in the dark, I don't have any pictures of 2nd cutting alfalfa, but if you saw the 1st cutting, it's pretty much the same thing all over again.

It's great to be able to work with my brother in law as well.  He's an excellent worker and never stops until he finishes a job~which is great for chopping alfalfa!  We worked that hard to chop our alfalfa because we know from years of experience that high quality feeds make healthy cows which in turn make healthy nutritious milk.  Focusing on quality has helped us gain so much in milk production, but more so in cow health.  As cows are ruminants, forages and forage quality make a huge impact on health. 

We also had a successful morning on Friday taking our 6 day old calf Fuji to New Ulm for the KNUJ Dairy Day at the Glock.  Fuji visited with many adults and kids, celebrating June Dairy Month for a good cause: area Food Shelves.  Now that she's home, Fuji is spoiled and looking for a head scratch almost every hour!  She's so darn cute though, neither Jon nor I can say no to we give in and she's getting even more spoiled.  I have some pictures of her that I hope to post soon!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rain Delay

I just thought I would take some time to blog, as I might be missing in action for the remainder of the week.  We are patiently waiting for Mother Nature to cooperate with us; we are waiting to cut our 2nd cutting of alfalfa.  We have enjoyed some much needed rain for the past few days and it has been great for the corn and soybeans, but it has made a mess out of our silage bag pad and we know our alfalfa fields will most certainly be moist and soft.  Today we saw the sun for the first time in days, and it was a welcomed sight!  With a little bit of a breeze we started to see dry soil again.  We will need more days like this before we can hit the fields, but it sounds as though we have a chance of rain again on Thursday. 

Time will tell, but for the time being, Jon was able to haul liquid manure over to the neighbor's harvested pea field.  It's great to have such ag-friendly neighbors who appreciate the value of cow manure and its ability to grow great crops!  We definitely appreciate having neighbors who will take our cow manure.  By doing this they help us make sure we don't over apply nutrients on our own fields as well as stay within the limits of our manure management plan.  Plus, sharing manure with neighbors helps them grow awesome corn too! 

We were also able to take some time to work on a cow who suddenly developed a sore foot.  Isabel, our 3 year old cow (who has had 2 calves and is pregnant with her third) started to favor her front left foot on Sunday.  Sometimes cows will injure their feet like people do, misstepping.  Other times cows have a more serious issue like a sore or infection.  We trim the entire herd twice a year, which eliminates most problems, but since it's been about 5 months since the last trimming, little issues like this sometimes pop up.  Isabel continued to favor that foot, so we decided yesterday morning (Monday) that she needed some medical attention.  We lifted her foot with a rope, as we don't have a hoof trimming chute.  She was actually a great patient.  She calmly stood on 3 legs as Jon diligently worked to carve out the bottom of her foot.  He carved hoping to find the problem, but we didn't find anything wrong with her foot!  When we were about to give up on Isabel, Jon checked for a second time between her toes and found what appeared to be a small sore.  Sure enough, that was our problem...a small sore that looked to have developed from a small stone getting stuck in her hoof.  Cow's hooves are much like our fingernails, so they can pick up stones occasionally.  We removed the small stone and the hoof tissue that was damaged.  We applied some salve to help heal Isabel's foot and wrapped her up.  While Isabel didn't start walking perfectly right away, she definitely was running around today!  Keeping a close eye on our cows is critical to keeping them healthy.  By catching Isabel's foot injury early we prevented any further damage to her foot as well as the risk that she could have slipped, fell and hurt herself even more.  We work hard to prevent injuries and illness, but early detection also helps maintain healthy cows!

Hopefully I will be doing hay to follow!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Keen Attention to Detail at South Dakota Dairy

Meet the Gross Family of South Dakota.  They are another example of excellent dairy farmers who's keen attention to detail has allowed them to take excellent care of their cows. 

I may be in and out these coming days, as we are preparing for the 2nd cutting of alfalfa for the year.  We are also going to be hauling manure tomorrow.  Yep, that's right, it's time again to haul out some manure and water from our barn and parlor out to the fields.  We have some excellent neighbors who raise peas.  These peas were harvest today, clearing the field to be planted with soybeans, but before they plant some soybeans, we will be fertilizing it with cow manure.  It's really a great exchange.  By hauling manure to our neighbor's farm, we are making sure that we don't over apply these valuable nutrients on our own land and we are also keeping up on neighbor relations....who could really turn down free fertilizer?  So, we'll be busy in the fields, but I hope to have some pictures to share when I get a chance in the days to come.  Happy Summer & June Dairy Month!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Raw Milk: Drink at Your Own Risk

Before I go into this topic, I think I should give a little background about myself.  I was raised on raw milk.  In fact I was known for bringing raw milk from the farm to college for my first year there.  I had a difficult time adapting to milk that was not as thick or creamy as raw milk.  BUT, I did in fact adapt to drinking pasteurized milk and drink about 1-1.5 gallons each week.  I can also confess that I do occasionally drink raw milk from our own tank at our farm, but I really don't need over 3.5% fat milk, but I would prefer 1% fat for my health.  The reason while I feel safe drinking milk from my own tank is that I live and work in the same environment as my cows.  I am exposed to the same bacteria, good or bad, as my cows.  I believe that this exposure makes it possible to drink my raw milk without incident of illness, however I would NEVER serve my milk to someone not from my farm.  I believe that they should be drinking pasteurized milk.  When I drink raw milk I take a risk, there is probably a one in a million chance that I could get a bacteria that would harm me. BUT I would never allow another to take that risk, pasteurization is insurance that harmful bacteria are not present in our precious milk.  There is no proven health difference between pasteurized and raw milks.  Safety first.  We don't eat meat without cooking it completely, or fruits and vegetables without washing them, why would we drink milk without pasteurization?

Recently a dairy farmer in Minnesota was associated with an e-coli breakout, resulting in 5 ill children, 3 of which were hospitalized.  This farmer was selling his milk to many families, some with children who are most at risk for illness.  Today, this farmer had a press release where he denounced his link to this outbreak, even though Minnesota Department of Health Officials have found e-coli on the farm and in a sample of cheese from the farm.  I am sure this farmer never intended for others to get ill, but the fact is that someone did.  Raw milk consumption is dangerous.  Midwest Dairy Association has an excellent link describing why raw milk is dangerous.  Also a great resource is the FoodSafety web site by the USDA, which highlights myths about raw milk that are false.  Claims that raw milk will reduce lactose allergies, help fight pathogens, or help digestive disorders are all false. 

So if you drink raw milk, please consider pasteurization for your safety...whether organic or conventional milk, just make sure it is pasteurized for your safety.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Amamzing Strawberry Pie

I had the opportunity today, thanks to the rain to come home (since we live about 10 minutes away from our farm) and bake while Jonathan worked on paper work and financials.  Our farm is a business, so we always have to make sure we are staying on top of those darn bills, haha!  Anywho...this is a great recipe that I found in my trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook for Strawberry Pie, with a couple of changes that I made to it, using my strawberries from my garden.  And yes!~the strawberries were grown with fertilizer thanks to the cows...yep, cow manure was used to grow these wonderful berries!  YUMMY!  Hope you try this recipe out!

Strawberry Pie (makes 2, since one is never enough)
2 single pie crusts (see recipe below for my recipe)
4 pounds of Strawberries, washed and cored, if needed
6 Tablespoons Corn Starch
2 cups Sugar
1 cup Water
2 packages Cream Cheese, at room temperature (I used reduced fat cream cheese)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring or extract
Fresh Whipped Cream, sweetened to taste

Use and mash enough strawberries to make 2 cups of mashed strawberries.  Mix corn starch and sugar together in medium sauce pan.  Slowly add mashed strawberries and water.  Stir constantly on medium heat until boil.  Boil for 1 minute, and remove from heat to cool.  Mixture should be thickened and slightly transparent.  Mix cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar together, add vanilla.  Spread smooth into the bottom of the pie crusts.  Place remaining sliced strawberries on top of the cream cheese, layering if needed.  Pour cooled strawberry sauce over the top of the sliced strawberries.  Cool for 3 hours in the refrigerator, cut and serve with sweetened REAL Whipped Cream~this is DELICIOUS!!!  Hope you enjoy!

Pat in Pan Pie Crust (Makes 2 single crusts)
2 2/3 cups Flour
2/3 cup Vegetable Oil
4 Tablespoons Water
1/2 teaspoon Salt (if desired, but I don't ever bake with salt)

Mix Flour and Oil together in bowl, until flour is moistened.  Add water one Tablespoon at a time, tossing flour mixture to incorporate.  Make into 2 equally sized balls.  Place into 2 greased pie pans. Press up sides. Bake at 475 for 10-12 minutes, until golden, cool and fill.

Check out Cows n' Crowns!

Hey All!  I've been busy lately, devoting time to my new blog Cows n' Crowns a tribute to the 50 years of Brown County Dairy Princesses.  If you get a chance, please check it out, we are currenlty featuring princesses from the 1960's.  It's been a blast collecting information from these lovely ladies!  More to come in the next weeks.
As for the farm, well today was moving day for the calves.  I usually move calves all at the same time when I have a group of 4 ready to move to group housing from the calf huts.  Today was moving day for Theresa Joy and Theresa May.  They have been growing so nicely.  Both calves have gained about 50 pounds a piece, they have been dehorned, check by a vet and they are ready to be in a group pen.  In this pen they will join 4 other calves, teaching them about social interaction, preventing them being over whelmed by new friends.  We will move this group of 6 calves together for the rest of their lives as heifers (animals that have not had calves) until they freshen (have a calf).  Theresa Joy and Theresa May were so easy to move with the halter.  All of the attention from the preschool kids on our farm tour definitely helped to mellow them.  It's amazing how much attention and care from humans helps to calm a calf, developing a future animal that will be easy to handle, trusting of humans.  So I moved the calves inside, moved the previous calves in the smaller pen into a larger pen, the calves from the larger pen (about 12 head) were moved to the outside lot...where they will stay until they are comfirmed pregnant.  Of course all of the calves were moved into pens that were freshly bedded, clean and dry.

Other than moving calves, Jonathan has been working on getting our hay equipment ready to go.  We have about 7 days until we have to cut down 2nd cutting of alfalfa.  So our clock is ticking ;)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Do you push your cows to milk more?

I have been meaning to address this issue/question for the past few months.  I can understand that people might think that dairy farmers "push" their cows to milk more, but the truth is that this assumption is a myth!  The truth is simple...cows that are well cared for are good milkers. 

W.D. Hoard said ."The best cow in the world could not do good work unless well cared for and rightly fed."  Excellent point!

I can give you our own personal examples to help prove this point.  When Jon and I started milking cows 5 years ago we purchased 2 herds of cows from 2 older dairy farmers that were doing a great job with their cows.  One herd was producing about 23,500 per cow per lactation without rBST and the other was producing 24,500 with the use of rBST.  We have always believed that we could manage our cows to milk well without the use of rBST, but I do know that there is a place in this industry for rBST-it's safe, it works to increase the appetite of cows thereby increasing milk production.  rBST does not hurt cows nor does it push cows to milk more, just to eat more.   This being said, we wanted to work hard to care for our cows and to see how well they could do without rBST. 

During the first year we enjoyed about the same milk production from the cows.  We tried our hardest to produce quality feed for our cows that year, but we made some critical mistakes along the way.  We paid the price the second year of milking.  We made haylage and corn silage that were too dry and mature, and as a result the cows were not able to produce as much milk as the year before.  We were also learning quickly how to care for our sick cows, and how critical prevention was moreso than curing illness.  At that time the cows were milking about 20,500 per cow per year.  This was our low point, we had some serious rebuilding to get back to where the cows were when we started...and that was our goal.  We knew where we had failed as caretakers of our cows, so we knew what to fix and how to fix it.  Cow care and feed quality became our main goals.

During our third year of dairying we worked dilligently to make the best feed possible.  We made some small mistakes, but nothing that reduced the quality of the haylage and corn silage that we made and stored.  We worked harder on performing regular check ups every morning on all fresh cows (cows that just had calves) and those cows that were ill.  Each day we go through a list of cows that need to be monitored, even if they aren't sick we want to make sure that they stay without illness.  By doing this we slowly rebuilt our herd's milk production.  That year we ended with an average of 24,900 per cow per day.  By making these changes the cows were responding, not only in milk production but also in health.  We were treating less cows for illness, we were selling less cows, and more cows were living well over 4 years of age.  Our herd was starting to grow!  Older cows were living longer and we were adding heifers that were calving in. 

Our fourth year, we made a huge leap to 27,000!  This was so joyful for us and VERY unexpected.  We believed that the cows had peaked.  But they had more to prove to us.  As of last week on our most recent DHIA test, we had reached 29,300 pounds per cow per year!!!!  I can't even explain how that happened!  All I know, is that each year we work to fine tune even further our feed quality to give our cows the best nutrients and nutrition and we also work to fine tune our cow care, focusing on prevention of illness rather than treatment of illness....these have been key to our herd's success and everyday we are truly grateful for the efforts of these wonderful animals!  We love our cows, they are amazing and continue to impress us everyday, not pushed to milk that much, but well cared for. 

Milk production is the consequence of excellent cow care...and we can testify to that!