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!