Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Time to be Thankful

It's been a little while since I last posted, unfortunately I lost my Grandmother over a week ago, and was busy with the events that came with her passing.  But from the combination of this loss and the coming Holiday, I had some time to reflect on what I am truly thankful for....

In life, we enjoy the presence of some very special people.  People who help develop who we are. not through their directions or orders, but through their example.  My Grandmother was and is still that person in my life.  We hear that "you never know how important a person is until they are gone", but I know that my family was well aware of how important our Grandmother was when she was here.  This Thanksgiving we celebrate without her here, but at the same time we know her spirit is with us.  There are so many moments in my life that Grandma was there.

As a child, she would often babysit me and my siblings.  We looked forward to spending time with her, hearing her stories about cousins from far away, looking at her pictures, enjoying her delicious cookies (she was the best cook I will ever know!) and her hugs.   She would let us play as we wished, and if we accidentally broke something, she would forget it, as she was mostly happy that we were there with her. 

As a dairy farmer's wife, she knew all too well the struggles that would face me as I told her that I was planning to return home to farm with my husband, a few years ago.  She shared so much wisdom about making sure that we always remembered the most important things in life: God and family.  She shared how proud she was of me to be working so hard to produce a wholesome food for the people of the world.  Dairy farming is a noble profession, and she knew that.  I wasn't wasting my college education, I was working to do something great; she knew that.

She had faith and passion for her God.  Grandma was always praying for her kids, grand kids and friends.  If there was something in life we needed help with, we would ask Grandma to pray for us, and she always did.  Just knowing that she was praying offered us so much encouragement and confidence. She attended church almost everyday with my Grandpa.  She enjoyed 63 years of marriage and 92 years of life, surrounded by the people that loved her most.  She stood as a role model for all of us to be humble, modest, honest, prayerful, loving, caring, and responsible.  I can honestly say that there are so many lessons in life that I learned just from looking up to Grandma, and how she would have handled them.  I joked with my sisters last week, that we need to ask ourselves, "What would Grandma Do?" whenever we were challenged in life; hoping to become better people, more like her.  So this Thanksgiving, I am truly thankful to have known a person as wonderful as my Grandmother, she will be missed, but she will also always be with us....God Bless You Grandma!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Feedlot Inspection Time

Just like when we get inspected by the milk inspector, it is time for us to have our feedlot inspection.  You may ask, "What is a feedlot inspection?"'s a good thing!  Since we operate a farm that has over 300 Animal Units, we are required by county and state laws to have an inspection every couple of years.  Animal Units is a unit of measure of manure output from livestock.  1 Holstein cows = 1.4 Animal Units, therefore our 200 cows are equal to 280 animal units, but our additional heifers and calves add to that total. 

Tomorrow we have our County Feedlot Office scheduled to visit us.  As part of her inspection, she will be touring all accepts of our farm.  We will present to her records of where our manure has been hauled, how much was applied, and what nutrients were in the manure for the past 3 years.  She will inspect our heifer and dry cow lots to determine if we manage our runoff (making sure there is no runoff).  She will be inspecting our manure storage for our lactating cows, to determine if we have adequate storage, as well as checking ground water (making sure it is free of contamination).  Since we are over 300 Animal Units, we work hard to maintain our farm and have a nutrient plan. 

Odor is another concern that our officer will be checking.  We work hard to control odor through covers on our pits and hauling manure when the wind is blowing away from the neighbors, but there are a couple times during the year that the farm does smell....cow poop does happen on a dairy farm.  We try to be as kind to our neighbors as possible.

Part of the purpose of this visit is also to make sure a new project that we have planned for this winter, can still be constructed.  We are working to make some changes to our buildings for the betterment of our stay tuned for pictures and updates on what we have up our sleeves ;)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

And then Winter Came...

We were enjoying such a great fall.  Temperatures were above normal, precipitation was below normal, and field work was coming along nicely.  And then....WINTER CAME!  So, if you know and love a dairy farmer then you know that dairy farmers almost always wait until the last minute for everything.  Dairy farmers also try to cram as much work into a day as possible.  Sticking to those two traits, we have been trying to do SO MANY different projects at the farm and in the field.  Last night those projects came to a screeching halt.  Jon and I worked so hard yesterday hauling manure before and after evening chores, all the way until we had so much snow on the ground that the skid loader was unable to move.  So at 12:30 we headed home from the farm, snow was falling but it wasn't serious. 

When we woke up this morning, it was SERIOUS!  We had about 4 inches of snow on the ground, covering everything!  We drove the truck to the farm to be safe, and for good reason, there were a number of cars and trucks in the ditches already, early in the day.  The wet, slushy snow pulled the truck all over the road.  Once we made it to the farm, we went about our usual schedule.  I loaded the cows into the parlor and Jon got ready to milk.  We fired up the milk pump, put on the first 12 milking units and then the power went out!  Then it came back on!!  Then it went out!  Then is came back on!!! And then back out!!! So after getting annoyed with putting on milking units and watching them fall so many times, we decided it would be best to get the generator and milk with that instead.  So, after a 30 minute delay, we finally got milking cows, but at least we had a constant power source!  Turns out wet and heavy snow doesn't mix well with power lines.

We continued on with the rest of our chores, in the sloppy, wet, muddy, and cold conditions. It was mostly miserable not because of the moisture but because all of the wind blowing the snow. The warm soil was able to melt most of the snow. We only have about 2-3 inches of snow left, thank goodness! I am hoping that melting continues, and we can continue our quest to finish our fall season work. So to help you understand the difference, please check out some pictures of the BEFORE and AFTER of our first snow storm of the winter....

Last little glimpse of summer....

I still had snapdragons all the way through yesterday, I will miss them, until spring!

Snow in the heifer yard, covered everything!

An icy coating on all of my plants and flowers in front of the milking parlor.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

DMI is Farmer Funded NOT Government Funded!

Well, looks like they've done it again! Yet again, the major media sources (this time newspapers) have decided to run a story without checking all of the facts!  This time, while it's not a direct attack on dairy farmers, it is an attack on our promotion group, Dairy Management Inc (DMI).  DMI is under fire for promoting the consumption of cheese in partnership with Domino's. If you would like to see all of the misinformation corrected, please check out Year of Plenty Blog, where the truth is reported.  I am instead going to talk about the most important "false" fact of the news story: DMI is NOT funded by tax payer dollars, but instead by hard working dairy farmers like us!

As a dairy farmer, we proudly pay $.15 per every 100 pounds of milk that we sell for the Dairy CheckOff.  With 100 cows, averaging 85 pounds each day, 365 days a year, we produce about 3 million pounds of milk, thereby contributing over $4600 each year to national and local advertising, research, promotion, and nutrition education.  About 1/3 of this goes to national (DMI) and about 2/3's stays local (Midwest Dairy Association).  We are confident that our money is being spent carefully, because each of these organizations are managed by boards composed of dairy farmers, elected by dairy farmers.  Each year, area dairy farmers volunteer their time to work (for those of us who don't have the time) developing and approving new ideas.  These boards and organizations are also responsible for making partnerships with restaurants, schools and even the NFL!  Recently, DMI partnered with the NFL to develop Fuel Up to Play 60....a program that targets childhood obesity through nutrition education (yes, diets rich in low fat dairy products!) and physical activity. 

DMI supports nutrition, health and wellness with over 50% of their annual budget.  Research is being done at various universities across the country innovating new products to promote wellness.  I remember while at SDSU, 5 years ago, research was being done on making low fat cheese more taste appealing (obviously fat in cheese helps give its flavor, and as an industry we are working to improve the flavor of low fat cheese as an alternative for consumers).  Research is also being done to improve sustainability on dairy farms just like ours, through management practices.  Some of the local funds also support the Minnesota Dairy Princess Program....Princess Kay of the Milky Way; Not tax payers, but dairy farmers, funding all of these excellent projects.

DMI is a source of pride on our farm.  As a farmer, we are also busy working to care for our cows and land, leaving little time in the day for promotion....that's where DMI steps in to fill that void!  We appreciate their efforts on all fronts involving dairy.  As a local dairy princess coordinator, I am greatly appreciative of funds to help educate kids and adults about dairy farming and products.  But, yet again, DMI is funded by the dairy check off...not taxes. payers can rest easy, your money isn't funding DMI, dairy farmers are funding DMI!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wish my Camera had Smell-O-Vision!

Today we opened our first bag of 2010 corn silage for our cows' lunches.  We were filled with anticipation this morning as we speculated what we might find in that silage bag.  As you may recall we made 8.35 bags of corn silage this past August.  We worked so hard to get the corn chopped at the right moisture, with the right level of starch in the corn, and chopped at the correct length (check out our video to refresh your memory!).  All of these factors help to make corn silage an amazing food source for cows.  Not only is corn silage a great source of energy (corn starch) but it also an excellent source of fiber (plant leaves and stalk) for our girls.  We feed roughly 50 pounds of corn silage per milk cow each day, making it the primary food of our cows.  When we chopped our corn this past August, it looked like the picture below.  The plants were green & the corn was bright yellow. 
 We sealed it inside the plastic silage bags like a ZipLock bag, with a coating of inoculant (good bacteria used to help preserve the silage). When we seal the bags we never know for sure what we will find when we open them. Every year it is a surprise. We hope that we did our jobs right; that we did the best that we could and would have an amazing feed for our cows. Each year we strive to do better than the year previous. This year we planted a variety of corn that was expected to be higher in digestible fiber for cows, therefore also higher in energy (cows also derive energy from fiber digestion!). So when the big moment came and we opened the seal on our silage bag...this is what we found!!!!
Yep! I sure wish my camera had Smell-O-Vision!  This corn silage smelled great!  It has a sour aroma to it, but with hints of a sweet flavor.  The sour is the vinegar that is produced during fermentation in a silage bag and the sweet is the beloved lactic acid, which makes silage awesome.  It's odd that we look forward to our silage, but our cows' health and well being depend on our ability to make good feed.  This silage was so tasty for our cows, that they ate more than we expected today and we will have to increase the amount fed to them tomorrow!  Hopefully this will result in more milk production as well as continued good health for our cows!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baby Pictures!

Our lives revolve around our calves right now, so I thought I would share a couple pictures of my adorable girls! Please feel free to check out our Facebook Page for more pictures of calves and activities this fall! Enjoy!

Autumn, she was the lucky girl that broke our streak of bull calves.  She's very special to us, and she's very spoiled.  We pet her head, scratch her ears, and rub her back every day!

Not 4 Me, named after a song written by my husband's band.  Her mother is named after the band.  Not 4 Me is very spoiled as well.  Her favorite activity is getting her ears scratched.

Not 4 Me also enjoys her lunch! She and her fellow calves drink about 1 gallon of milk at each feeding, with 2 feedings everyday.  She's already growing so quickly!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Calving Season in Full Swing!

Well, I haven't posted in a little while thanks to the beginning of our calving season.  It's so exciting to greet all of my new calves.  We calve cows year round, but thanks to the seasonality of the herds that we purchased 5 years ago when we started farming, we calve heavily during the fall and winter months.  The farmers that owned the cows before we bought them enjoyed not calving in the hot summer months and during planting.  Therefore, we have LOTS of babies to be born in the next few months.  Last week we were expecting 10 calves.  With a 120 cow herd, that's almost 10% of our herd calving in one week!!  We only had 7 calves born, currently I have 3 cows that are 3 days over due.  We broke our bull calf streak last week, as we had 4 heifers born in a row! (followed by 3 bull calves in a row, but we are still pumped about the heifers!)  The calf barn is once again busy, as is the fresh cow pen.  Each morning Jon now has to check a handful of fresh cows to make sure they are doing great.  It's awesome to be busy caring for our cows, this is my favorite time of the year.  It's very rewarding to help a cow deliver a healthy calf, raise and nurture the calf and watch the new cow excel.  I am hoping to post some of the awesome calf pictures in the coming days, so stay tuned!  Off to bed, I might have some new calves waiting for me in the morning!!!