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. So....here' 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!).