Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Computer Down for Repairs

Well I'm back!  My dear, wonderful husband was left home alone with the computer a few days ago to tend to some much needed, end of the year bookwork, only to upload a virus to our dear computer!  We luckily have a computer guy in the family and he was willing to take a look!  We got the computer back before Christmas but I haven't had the chance to post anything until now. 

I hope the Holiday Season is finding all of you in good spirits!  Winter has decided to take a break here at Orange Patch Dairy.  We were unable to attend 2 of the 3 Christmas celebrations we were planning to go to this weekend, thanks to some new calves.  We had 8 calves born in the past 4 days (6 before Christmas & one on Christmas morning!).  So far the total is: 5 heifers, 1 bull and 1 set of twin bulls.  Since we have 8 new babies to feed, calf chores now take an additional 40 minutes each time, or 80 extra minutes a day.  Bottle feeding calves is very time consuming but I love bonding with my new calves!  I have pictures to be posted soon of my new babies, but for now I best be off to bed...we have at least one more calf coming tomorrow (I induced her mother today, since she is 5 days past due) and 5 more due before New Year's!  Stay tuned for more posts!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Dairy Farmers get dressed for Winter?

Well, we enjoyed weather today in the 10's above zero and that was a HUGE blessing.  For the past 2 days it's been below zero for most if not all of the day.  Yesterday's high was -2!  We work hard to care for our cows and calves in these temps.  Extra bedding is needed to make sure the animals can nest (tuck themselves in for the night).  While working for our cows, we do need to care for ourselves.  While I was waddling through the yard yesterday, I thought I would share the mountain of clothes that I wear each day to stay warm.

When I was 10 years old I was diagnosed with cold urticaria.  Basically, I am allergic to the cold, snow, ice, frigid air, and most of all cold damp air.  My body reacts to cold by producing hives...painful and itchy hives.  I share this allergy with my father, so we often help each other find ways to stay warm.  Even though I am allergic to the cold...I love living in Minnesota, so instead of moving I found ways to cope.  As you can see in my picture...I allow very little of my skin to actually come in contact with the cold air.  Once the temps are above 10 I can handle more exposure, but I still need to be careful.  So,....in order to stay warm and cozy while I work 10-14 hours a day outside I wear LOTS of layers!  So let's start at the top...

I usually wear a headband for my ears (they're very sensitive to the cold!).  In the negative temps I sport the insulated face mask.  I always wear at least 1 t-shirt and 1 long sleeved t-shirt, with a fleece hoodie on top.  I added another long sleeved t-shirt yesterday to insure that I stayed warm.  I wear a pair of athletic shorts, athletic pants, and a pair of jeans...all underneath a pair of insulated overall bibs.  On top of that I wear an insulated coat.  My feet enjoy 2 pairs of extra thick socks inside my insulated boots.  I swear I wear almost 50 pounds of clothing and gear, but all of it is needed so I can stay outside comfortably, working for our animals.  Sounds crazy I know, but I wouldn't trade anything, I enjoy being with my cows everyday...even in the Minnesota Tundra!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bracing for the Worst, Hoping for the Best-Blizzard 2010

Well, the weatherman has it laid out for us....ice starting within the hour, switching to snow at midnight.  We are expecting snow through the day tomorrow, then winds to start early in the morning.  Winds will blow up to 45 mph, with wind chills as low as -39 degrees by Sunday morning.  Snow totals will be 8-10 inches here, with more closer to the Twin Cities.  All of this means that most of Minnesota will be tuck in their homes safe and sound until Sunday, meanwhile, we will be working diligently. 

We live in town and commute to the farm each day.  It's a short 7 mile trip, but in inclimate weather it is a dangerous journey.  With the Blizzard Warning we are work ahead to bed in all of the animals (we will need to repeat this tomorrow).  We also fed the cows with extra calories today, making sure their bodies are prepared for the snow.  Jon is putting up a snow break, to block snow drifts and protect the dry cows and heifers.  I worked this afternoon to prepare my calf huts, removing extra snow and adding extra bedding.  Finally, Jon and I are trying to decide if we will risk going home tonight safely to find out we may not make it to the farm tomorrow morning or should we spend the night at the farm.  Since cows need to be fed each day, bedded each day, and milked twice a day; we have to be there.  So....time will tell if Jon will be daring with his 4-wheel drive or if we'll be playing it safe, but ultimately our cows will always come first!

New YouTube Video-Making of a Butterhead!

With all of my upcoming Holiday baking, I realized I never posted this video, so for everyone to enjoy...the making of the famous Butterheads at the Minnesota State Fair.  It was a great experience for my sister (and for me too back in 2002!)! 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter vs. Cows

A frosty look at the farm...pretty to look at, hard to work in.

Well, winter is here.  It was inevitable.  Forecasts call for even colder temperature for the weekend (Sunday might not even make it above 0!).  Cold is usually harder on the people working with our cows than the actual cows.  We work hard to prevent any problems the cows might have with the cold. 

First we provide them shelter from the snow, cold, wind, and moisture.  Our barns are made to be cool inside.  Right now the manure is freezing to the alleys, so you ask...why don't you heat the barn.  There's a major problem with that....cows have winter hair!  Cows grow a thick coat of hair each winter, by putting them in a heated barn they would sweat heavily and catch a "cow cold".  Instead of warming the cows, we allow their hair to insulate them.  We work hard to keep them dry and comfortable with fresh bedding often.  With that thick hair they hardly notice the cool temps. 

The cold dry air is drying out my skin.  My hands are cracked....and it is also drying out our cows' skin.  We use a special teat dip for our cows with lots of moisturizers in it (just like a lotion).  We also make sure that cows leaving the parlor have dry teats, because wet teats can get skin damage and in extreme cold even frost bite!

The calves are the most susceptible to the cold weather.  New calves are quickly moved from the calving pen.  New wet calves can very easily get frost bite (especially their ears!), so we swiftly dry them off, put them in a calf coat, bed them in with lots of straw, and feed them lots of warm colostrum.  As they grow we make sure to increase the calories that we feed them.  Cold weather means they are using more of their own energy to stay warm, so we compensate for that by feeding extra milk each day.  Calves also have unlimited access to calf starter. 

Older heifers also eat extra calories and enjoy extra bedding.  All of the extra effort is worth it, knowing our cows are doing well...it just takes a lot of extra time and work on our part.  So...chores are taking a lot longer than they would in fall, spring or summer....bear with us, it's going to be another long Minnesota Winter.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Collection of Misfits...

Today was herd health day at the farm.  Every 3-4 weeks the vet shows up to check the health of our new fresh cows, vaccinate cows and heifers, dehorn calves, pregnancy check cows that were bred, and check any cows that we need to have examined.  Today was an excellent herd health! We had a a good report on our fresh cows, vaccinations went well and most importantly we had a number of cows that were confirmed pregnant!  When looking over the list of cows that were pregnant, I decided that we had a small collection of misfits.  It was interesting reading each name and thinking about that cow's life history.

Cows varied in ages, but each was a misfit in their own right.  First we had a 12 year old cow, Terry, who is the oldest cow in our herd.  She has had numerous calves, and again, is pregnant and due in July. Terry isn't the prettiest cow in the barn but she milks well and has calves...she stays healthy.  We love her a lot.  Second on the list was Zhilgen.  She's a special heifer because she beat the odds.  As a heifer she had a serious surgery.  The vets told us that she wouldn't be able to have a calf someday, but we bred her anyways, got her pregnant and she successfully delivered a heifer calf.  After that, we were told that she couldn't have another calf, but after a couple tries, we are successful!  Third and fourth on the list were 2 cows that delivered calves months ago, but due to their high milk production they were not able to become pregnant.  After many tries we finally got them to conceive, even one with twins!  Fifth and sixth on the list were heifers that had many  tries as well, but we got them pregnant.  Finally, was Yevette!  Yevette was a heifer that was born 33 days premature, and against all odds she survived!  With a lot of TLC from Jon and I we nursed her, got her to grow, and now....she's pregnant with her first calf, due in July!  We are so proud of Yvette and how well she is thriving!

After Herd Health, I walked through the calf barn and saw another misfit!  On Thanksgiving Day we welcomed 2 new heifer calves.  These girls were very fortunate that we had our Thanksgiving Dinner at Grandma's house, which is next to the dry cow lot.  We were able to rescue them from the frigid weather, preventing frost bite.  The first calf, Izzy did great from the get-go, however, the second calf, Thankful, wasn't doing so great.  Thankful wasn't able to stand up, her legs were deformed, her ligaments were weak and unable to support weight.  We nursed her and nurtured her.  And finally today....6 days after her birth....she stood for the first time!!!!  I was so proud of my little calf, I gave her a hug!!!  Thankful was also a misfit, but with a little dairy farmer care she thrives.  Dairy farming is all about saving the misfits....they are worth the time and effort.