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). 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.' 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!!!!!!!