Friday, November 4, 2011

Picking out the Right Color Carpet....

I'm sure many of you can relate to picking out the right color carpeting for a home, the colors of paint for the walls, the types of counter tops, and the new light fixtures.  Each of these major decisions holds importance in the overall theme of your home and the goals of your family.  Are you fun or formal?  Are you going to be worried about guests or kids?  I bet you believe designing a home is one of the hardest tasks you will do.  Now...imagine trying to plan our a barn for a herd of cows!!!!!  Sure it looks easy but I would bet that it's even harder than designing a home! 
We've been planning our new barn for the past 4 years, and it's taken multiple trips to many different farms, research into new technologies, and lots of paperwork to make this all possible.  Our decisions were so much more complicated that picking out the right color paint....well we had to do that as well (trying to match the original red of our 2005 barn).  Things we had to decide on....
  • What type and style of stalls we would have?
  • What type of bedding we would use?
  • How would be move and handle manure?
  • How would these changes impact overall cow comfort and health?
  • Are we able to better handle and care for cows?
  • Can we improve cow health and handling?
  • Is it safe for the people who care for our cows?
  • What's the environmental impact?
  • What technologies can we afford to make managing our cows easier?
  • What technologies can we afford to make our cows more comfortable?
  • What type of lighting will we it energy efficient?
  • What type of ventilation will we have? Will it help our cows in July, in the heat?
  • Ultimately we asked......How can we make life better for our cows????
In the next few months I hope to blog more & post videos and pics to help explain all that is going  into our barn to make it a great place for cows....but for now, here's a sneak peak of a farm we visited in 2009 and 2010...and when we are done, our farm will look very similar!!!!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

2011 Construction Update

Our cows, looking longly at the new construction...their new home!
We have completed the dirt work on our new barn! (see the video below for more about that).  We have also finished the water lines for the barn.  We will have 6 water tanks for our cows and hydrants for the sprinklers.  Be sure to check out our FaceBook Page to see more pictures!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Our Final Project for 2011...the BIG Project!

Well, our hoop jumping and waiting are over!  Last week on Monday we received word that we had been approved by the Small Business Administration (SBA) for our loan for our final project for 2011, the BIG project...our new barn!!!!  Before I start posting video and pictures from the construction, I thought I had better start at the beginning with the plan and the reasons why we are building a new barn. 
Below you can see a picture of our cows resting comfortably in our current barn.  We built that barn in 2005, and have been generally pleased with how our cows are doing in there, but we know they deserve better.  This barn is a bedded pack barn, which is a "one size fits all" type of a barn.  Our cows had an enormous amount of flexibility to move around where they would want, but with that flexibility came some challenges.  They were at risk of stepping on each other, laying in manure (causing them to get infections and just be dirty) and at risk of getting infections in their feet.  All of these challenges were manageable, but we knew we could do better.  The cows are comfortable, and that's hard to the new barn!

Our new barn will be a free stall barn, which will allow us to have designated areas (beds) for each cow, preventing them from laying in manure, stepping on each other, and fighting for their favorite spot.  These beds will be bedded with sand instead of saw dust.  Since sand is inorganic, bacteria have a hard time growing, thereby helping us to maintain quality milk from healthy cows.  The sand also gives traction to the cows walking on concrete.  Mature cows will be in one pen and new heifers/smaller cows will be in another pen.  We are actually not adding cows, contrary to the rumors flying around, but making more space for our growing herd.  The entire milking herd will be moving to the new barn once it's completed.  But have no fear, we are still going to be using our 2005 barn...just with a new purpose....a dry cow/fresh cow/special needs barn! 

For the past 5 years we have been "housing" our dry cows (pregnant cows, right before calving) outdoors, with no shed.  The have shade in the summer and wind breaks in the winter, and that's been working for us, but it takes LOTS of hard work on our part to make sure that these important animals on our farm get the best care possible.  When we move the milking herd out of the 2005 barn we will move the dry cows and pregnant heifers into the pack barn.  We plan on leaving our half of the pack barn as a pack, bedded with dry corn leaves and stalks.  These pens will allows us to have our dry cows indoors!  They will be able to enjoy shelter from the Minnesota weather (mainly the winters that are the hardest!) as well as deliver their calves in more comfortable facility.  In the case that a cow needs help delivering her calf, we will now have facilities that will make that care possible.  I speak from experience, that it's not fun trying to chase a cow that's calving around in a big yard, let alone in a muddy or snowy yard!  It's this part of the project that makes us the most excited!  Giving better care to my pregnant cows makes me so thrilled!  They are tough girls, and handled the outdoors just fine, but on those wet and snowy days, I really felt for them. 

This is a big project, but financially we aren't going to be spending any more per month than we are now.  So how's that work???  Well, when we built our pack barn in 2005 the cost of saw dust was less than 50% than what it is now.  Currently we spend enough each month on saw dust bedding for the pack barn, that we have enough money to cover the loan payments and the cost of sand bedding!  We are confident these changes will help us to increase the quality of care that our cows get each day, and to us, that means more than any financial benefit.  Peace of mind, knowing our cows rest safely in a new barn, clean & priceless!!!
Our cows resting comfortably in our current barn,
 but we hope they'll be even more comfortable
in the new barn!

The PLAN...including the next steps for the Spring 2012.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Never Marry a Dairy Farmer..ignored advice from a friend

A couple weekends ago, my dear friend wed her best friend.  As a gift to them, I wrote some thoughts on marrying a dairy farmer, as this friend once advised to avoid dairy farmers.  Turns out she ignored her own advice too!  So, here's some thoughts on the great gifts of dairy farmers!

Never Marry a Dairy Farmer

A wise friend once advised me, “Never marry a dairy farmer”. Apparently she thought that having been raised on a dairy farm I would have been observant enough to notice the amount of dedication required from a wife married to a dairy farmer when watching my parents. But….I missed the message and decided to follow my heart. I wanted to be with my best friend for the rest of my life, regardless of his profession. Contrary to the advice of my dear friend, there are some great advantages to being married to a dairy farmer!

Lo and behold, a few years later this very same friend decided to also ignore her own advice and today….she also married her dairy farmer!!!! She too will learn the joys and tribulations of being married to a man dedicated to his farm and cows. But more than anything, I believe she’s entering into a relationship that is stronger than any other married couple’s. For a farming husband and wife have a bond built to withstand anything that life, nature and the world can throw at it, that is if they continue to love and care for each other.

Dairy farmers have tender hearts, open and willing to care for the most fragile of God’s creation. They have a deep dedication to everything that they do in life. They have a willingness to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work required to see a project (or relationship) through. They never give up. They have an appreciation for the simple, precious moments in life; riding in the tractor together, sunsets bringing the cows home, milking/working together, enjoying a star-lit night in late summer, the smells of fresh rain on spring soils, and bringing in the fall harvest. There are so many great moments to share with each other both at the farm and in life.

Today I wish my dear friend and her special dairy farmer the very best! Together they will make a great team for life. I hope that they can find joy, discover the strength to get through the toughest times in life together, and have a love and bond that grows stronger through the years. May they realize humor on their journey and continue to make each other laugh. May they say to each other years from now, surrounded by family and friends on their 50th Anniversary, that they did indeed, “Marry their best friend” so many years ago.

God Bless You Both!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Jumping through Hoops

Well, it's been another series of crazy weeks for us at the farm.  Beside the usual hussel and bussel of fall field work and running a dairy farm...we've been working hard on pushing forward our fall project for our cows.  Since we are young, starting dairy farmers, we have limited resources to use as collateral for the bank.  As a solution to help us better our farm, our banker suggested working with a branch of the government to secure financing for the riskiest portion of our barn project.  Sounds like a good plan, BUT just when we thought we met the criteria of the government agency, we only learn we have more hoops to jump through.  First, it was the need of an appraisal of our current farm, then it was forms that we had signed in early September that were now outdated and needed to be resigned, and now we needed to get "official" quotes for ALL work scheduled to be done on our barn project!  Oh good grief! 
If you've ever built anything, you know timing is everything and the longer this process continues, the farther into the fall we get, thereby increasing the risk of...oh that dreaded "s" word, SNOW!  We desperately need to make these changes to our farm for the betterment of our cows, so we can only hope that we are done jumping through hoops~!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Red Duct Tape and a Story about Milk Quality...

Red Duct Tape: a critical tool in
milk quality!
It's not uncommon for us to frequent area stores to purchase some interesting items to use on our dairy farm.  It's definitely fun to watch the eyes of cashiers as I check out large quantities of bleach, rubbing alcohol, and colored duct duct tape specifically.  This past week was like so many others.  I was on my way to town with my master list of things we needed at the farm and home.  So many errands to run, so little time.  So I scurried through the isles of our local Wal-Mart working my way down my list.  I'm a huge bargain hunter and coupon user, so I'm always distracted.  As I rushed to the check out I greeted my cashier and started unloading my cart.  This shopping trip was like so many others, the cashier's eyes got big as she scanned multiple gallons of bleach, bulk bundles of paper towels, several bottles of rubbing alcohol, and then she couldn't hold it in any longer...she scanned in my roll of red duct tape.
"Well, my goodness!  This is a "colorful" way to keep someone quiet!", she exclaimed.  "Haha! That's not exactly what I had intended for that red duct tape."   And then it hit me....a perfect opportunity to have a quick chat with this lovely lady about the importance of producing quality milk on our farm!!!!  I love it when these opportunities pop up, and I seldom walk away from a good chance for I proceeded.
One strip of duct tape on both rear legs helps us recognize a
"treated cow" in the parlor, making sure our milk
is always perfect!
"You see, I'm a dairy farmer.  And that red duct tape is the perfect tool for marking my cows' legs.  When we have a cow that is sick and needs to be treated with antibiotics we automatically place a strip of this red duct tape on each of her rear legs.  This allows us to see her quickly, recognize her, and make sure that we milk her separately from the other cows.  Antibiotics are not allowed in milk for sale, so we work hard to make sure that our milk is always perfect, and if it's not perfect, we pitch it.  If we "accidentally" get antibiotics in our tank, the consequences are very this red duct tape has a VERY important job on our farm!" 
"Wow, I never knew that dairy farmers had to keep antibiotics out of milk.  I guess I just assumed it was all mixed together!" she shared with me.  How many other consumers shared her thoughts.  No one had ever explained to this kind lady how dairy farmers are tested multiple times each pick for antibiotics.  Food safety comes first, and we take our responsibilities very seriously.  We continued to have a great conversation as the cashier check out the last of my items.  That day I left the store having shared with a nice woman, the importance of milk quality and antibiotics on our dairy farm....and that was time well spent!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Following the Rules.....even though they make no sense

Well this week has been quite a week of roller coaster emotions!  Our week started out with a HUGE downer!  On Monday, Jon attended the County Board of Adjustment meeting, to present our plans for our new construction.  As part of that construction, we were hoping to build a lagoon (large lined storage area for manure) to store about 10 months of manure from our milking and dry cows.  The current county law states that farms (all livestock farms) over 300 Animal Units must have 12 months of manure storage if they choose to build manure storage.  Since we are over 300 Animal Units, we needed to appeal to the Board of Adjustment for a variance to allow us to have a smaller sized lagoon.  The reasons for the smaller size were many, the largest one is the fact that a small dairy of our size has a difficult time affording that much of an investment.  We also thought we could appeal to the board, since 10 months of storage is MORE than what we have currently, and would allow us go from weekly manure application to bi-yearly manure application (spring and fall applications).  Unfortunately, after a valiant fight from Jon, we were defeated, 3 votes to 2 votes.  Completely distraught, Jon called me.  "Now what?!?!" We were in despair!  This project was going to make the lives our cows more comfortable, as well as improving our own.  Now those plans came to a crashing halt!
Jon contacted our County Feedlot Inspector to see if we had indeed run out of options.  SUCCESS!  One small loop-hole was found.  If we agreed to build a lagoon for 12 months of manure storage in the next 3 years the County Planning and Zoning Committee would let us build our barn without the lagoon this fall.  Our manure would need to be hauled out to our fields, according to our manure management plan, on a daily basis.  This alone makes no sense to us.  We would have thought it would be better to have 10 months of manure storage, rather than none at all, but apparently our county's law doesn't read that way.  The reasons the Board of Adjustment gave were valid, but we do believe we addressed them.
The Board's primary concern was making sure to not set a precedent for others to come before the board.  We were the first to try for a variance on this law, and it looks like we might be the last.  The other concerns included hazards from hauling manure on county and township roads in the spring and risks of overflowing the lagoon.  Ironically, even though the Board of Adjustment believed we were a risk; neighbors, friends, fellow dairymen, and our suppliers have all expressed support for our previous plans.  It was really touching to have a visit yesterday with our dairy equipment dealer, who stopped specifically to see if there was anything he could do to help us with our hurdle.
So, for now, we have officially finished the financial paperwork for the project, changed and amended the permit applications, and are patiently waiting for next week and we find out if the County Board of Commissioners will give the "go ahead" in addition to the bankers.  So...we wait, hoping for good news instead of roller coasters!

Monday, September 5, 2011

So what's an Animal Unit???

This awesome cow is actually 1.4 Animal Units!
Read more on how we determine how many
animal units we have on our farm!

  As of recently Jon and I have been working diligently on our farm project.  As part of that project we are also renewing our conditional use permit for our dairy.  A conditional use permit is issued to livestock farms in our county to allow them to have and raise livestock on their property.  Yes, livestock is not a right, it is a privilege.  As part of this process, Jon has been making many visits with the area neighbors to discuss the changes we want to make to our farm and how they might affect the neighbors.  All of our changes are for the good of our neighbors, our farm, and most of all for the well being of our cows.  Also part of the process includes a listing in area newpapers of our application for this permit...and that's where the controversy lies.  We are currently over our previous permit of 299 animal units.  We are applying for a permit for 840 animal units, which is actually for 100+ more cows than we have now, but we are planning for the future, 5 or 10 years down the road.  This number of 840 has a lot of people talking!  So let's start at the beginning....

Wikipedia defines an animal unit (AU) as "a standardized measure of animals used for various agricultural purposes.A 1,000-pound beef cow is the standard measure of an animal unit. The dry matter forage requirement of one animal unit is 26 pounds per day. Animal unit equivalents (AUE) are calculated for various other animals."  At 840 animals, we are calculating each cow to be 1.4 animals units!  That's right, those cows are the largest AUE possible!  Even horses are only 1.3 AUE and beef cattle are only 1 AUE!  Now, if we have 2 herds of cows, one with about 100 and the other with 200...than at my calculation, we have 420 AUE in just the lactating cows!  Now figure that a cow has 1 calf each year, and half of those are usually bull calves, which are sold.....and we are talking at least another 300 head of heifers and calves...also to be included in the final AUE count.  Now, adding calves and heifers, we are almost to 650 AUE.  The extra 200 AUE accounts for any additional cows we add in the years to come.  To see the worksheet we used to do our math, check this out!

Seems scary at first to see such large numbers, but if you take some time to really analyze what these numbers actually stand for, it makes perfect sense!  Hopefully this clears the air on what an "animal unit" actually is!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

God Bless Good Neighbors!

Not enough can be said about having good neighbors.  So often in the "rural" areas, we depend on good neighbors.  It's so much more than walking over to borrow a cup of sugar or glass of's depending on them when you're really in a pinch.  I can't count the number of times we've helped pull a neighbor out of a snow bank, helped chased cows back into their yards, or helped fix a flat tire.  The best that our great neighbors repay those same favors back! 

On Wednesday, Jon was working diligently to finish the last of our 4th cutting of alfalfa.  We had some much needed rain on Monday night/Tuesday morning which delayed harvest.  I needed to leave to the MN State Fair on Wednesday, so Jon was working solo, with help from some of those great neighbors (and family too!)  Wouldn't you know it! Right before I was about to leave, I got a call!  Jon, "Do you have Greg's number?" Me, "Yeah, why???" Jon, "We've got a problem, that chain I was going to fix when we finished alfalfa broke and we only have 4 hours of chopping left" Me, "Hold on, I'll get it"  Minutes later, Jon goes flying by on the 4-wheeler, headed to Greg's place.  Turns out our good neighbor Greg had a spare part that we needed to fix our silage bagger!  Lucky for us, he was willing to let us have it, and replace it later.  Without Greg's help our alfalfa would have become too dry for silage before we could have drove 1.5 hours to get the replacement part.  We are definitely grateful for Greg's help and more than willing to pay him back!

The other "neighbor" issue on our farm is also a good one!  As we have been working on the next step for our dairy farm, we have also been working on renewing our permits to have dairy cows.  Yep, you got it!  We have to apply for a permit to have cows on our farm.   It's not a right to have cows, it's a privilege!  Part of the permitting process is to go to each of our neighbors to notify them of our plans and of the public county meeting, where we will find out if our permits will be approved.  The great part about notifying our neighbors, is that it gives us another opportunity to talk to them about what's going on at our farm.  Jon's been especially enjoying the conversations about how we care for our cows.  We know living next to a dairy farm isn't always glamorous.  Our cows make manure, and manure stinks.  We try to be conscientious of when we haul manure and where we haul it.  We also know that when we are in the middle of harvest, our tractors tend to make a lot of dust on the roads.  We are SO GRATEFUL for understanding neighbors!  How great it is to talk to them about improvements we want to make to be a more "neighbor-friendly" dairy farm!  We also make sure that all neighbors know we have an "open door" policy.  Any time our neighbors might want to stop for a visit or stop to talk about a concern...the door is always open!  We value our neighbors, and want to make sure that they can value us as well!  God Bless all of our Good Neighbors!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: View from our office

This is the view from our office for the past 2 days.  Hoping to wrap up chopping today! Putting 4th cutting of alfalfa in the bag for the year!  Feels good to have quality feed ready to feed our cows in the coming year!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Princess Kay

Our county dairy princess Kelsey Sellner, who will be running for Princess Kay of the Milky Way next Wednesday!  We wish her well as she represents the dairy farmers of our county!

Princess Kay....our calf !  Born on the same day that Kelsey was named a finalist...she's so big now!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Getting Ready for October

Well, it was yet another busy morning at our farm today.  We have been working dilligently on a couple large projects for the farm the past few weeks....namely, trying to improve the overall comfort and health of our cows.  With that comes a LOT of prep work: paperwork mainly.  I am eagarly awaiting the "ok" from Jon to blog about the details, but for now all I can say is that we are working hard on applications, permits, financial statements, and other related paper work!!! And hoping for a little luck ;)

The other daily tasks continue, but as we approach fall and winter, we have an "extra" to take care of: drying off cows.  As our cows approach the end of their pregnancies, we give them the last 2 months off, to relax, eat and enjoy life.  This gives them the opportunity to grow a calf instead of making milk.  It's also a good opportunity for the cows to enjoy some outdoor yards for daily exercise and allow their udders time to grow new "milk-making" cells.  Today we "dried" off 7 cows.  Last week there were another 7 cows....and next week there will be another 7.  As you can see, we have a LOT of calves coming in 2 months....OCTOBER!!  My math work tells me that we will be calving over 20 animals each month October-March!!!  That's a lot of calves, and I can't wait! 

So even though it is only August, at the farm, we are getting prepared for the fall already!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Grateful for our Veterinarians!

Today was an unexpected rough day at our farm.  Our morning began with a great blessing: cooler weather!  We enjoyed milking, almost shivering.  We did our chores, fed our cows and calves...and noticed that one of our dry cows was acting sluggish.  Her name is Undies...(it's a long story) we acted quickly, calling the veterinarian as soon as we moved her to the milking barn for easier treatment.  Our suspicions were correct...something was wrong...our girl was definitely feeling under the weather...but it was so much more than what we thought.  Our awesome vet Dr. Nancy was on the scene, and diagnosed a Left Displaced Abomasum (she flipped her stomach to the wrong side of her body-can be painful & deadly, fixed only by surgery).  BUT....after a thorough check up, Dr. Nancy also found that our dear Undies also twisted her uterus.  It is as painful as it sounds.  Dr. Nancy called it the worse case of cramps you can possibly think of.  This completely changed that treatment that we needed to do....we now had an emergency on our hands.  We needed to do the stomach surgery as well as a c-section for the calf, thereby untwisting the uterus.  We had no idea what caused these ailments....but we needed to fix them for Undies. 

We had a couple of risks to evaluate before we started the surgeries.  If we did the c-sections, odds were not in our favor for a live calf.  It was too soon for the calf to live, the lungs would not be developed enough to breathe easily.  We wanted to save we opted for the surgeries.  The stomach surgery went well, and then Dr. Rich arrived to help with the c-section.   Somewhat of a miracle happened though, Undies had started labor while we were working on her stomach and was able to deliver her calf normally.  We were excited to try, since this would be better for the cow, but maybe not as good for the calf.  Dr. Rich pulled out a backwards heifer calf, alive, but struggling to breathe, then Dr. Nancy yelled for help....there was a 2nd calf!!!!! Twins!!!!

Dr. Rich pulled the 2nd calf, also a heifer calf, but also struggling to breathe.  We looked like an emergency delivery room: 2 doctors, each working on separate patients, with 2 assistants (Jon and I) working to help.  With help we thought we had the calves breathing well, until the 1st born calf had a seizure of sorts and stopped breathing.  Within 30 minutes the 2nd calf did the same....all that work and time and we couldn't save the calves, no matter how hard we worked.  We had the best vets, providing the best care for our animals, but it wasn't enough.  It's with joy I can report that Undies is doing ok, BUT she's no where near out of the woods...she's got a long road ahead, but we'll be with her every step of the way.

Today, even though the results were not all great, we are grateful for the excellent veterinarians that we get to work with.  Being a large animal vet is a hard job, but we are blessed to have some very qualified vets to help us when our cows are in need.  So today...we pay tribute to some great veterinarians!  They are the BEST!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Heat Wave 2011: Staying Alive.

Sprinklers, critical to keeping our cows cool, but in our record heat, also alive.
Over a month since I have blogged, but I have a perfectly good excuse for it: we were working to keep our cows alive. Minnesota experienced much like the rest of the nation, record breaking heat and humidity. It was that darn humidity that was our biggest challenge in July. Cows are not built for warm climates, but thanks to technology and advances in animal husbandry, we are able to make them comfortable. Cows like 65˚ and so do I. Instead of our usual summer weather we endured an endless series of weeks with temperatures above 85˚ and dew points above 70˚. At times our heat indices reached almost 120˚! It was these extremes that put our cows in danger.

Our milking cows spend summers indoors, in the shade, under sprinklers, in fans, with plenty of cool water and fresh feed. Our dry cows and heifers spend summers out in our yards, with some shade, natural breezes and lots of cool water and fresh feed. Our calves have huts, which are placed in the shade of our groves, and receive extra cool water each day. During this extreme weather we worked daily to cool cows. First, we added additional fans to critical areas of the milking barn. We spent time each day hosing down our dry cows and heifers. Our calves had multiple feedings of cool water each day. We monitored our fresh cows (20 cows had calves during July) even more closely than before, checking their vitals not just once each day, but twice. These efforts helped to keep our cows well, but we did lose the fight with 2 cows and 3 calves, and we may see further challenges in the months ahead.

Heat is the most dangerous for the most vulnerable of our herd: fresh cows, sick cows, and calves. It was these 3 groups that received the most additional attention. 1 cow we lost was sick and the other was not only sick, but had also just calved. There was literally nothing we could have done for them, and that was the hardest thing to accept. Both cows spent most of the day parked under the sprinklers, staying as cool as possible, but the heat was too much and stressed them out too far. The 3 calves also had the same fate, sick and too hot. It was not only frustrating but emotionally exhausting to handle. There were days when both Jon and I worked ourselves so hard in the heat that we were both physically ill.  Heat sickness is serious, and it is very painful.  While our milking herd only lost 12% of their milk production due to the heat, the next few weeks could provide more problems. Heat stress of this magnitude can cause laminitis (cows with sore feet due to infection or sores), prevent pregnancy (bad ovulations) and possibly induce miscarriages.

As of right now, thanks to the cooler and less humid temperatures, the cows have rebounded in milk production. So far, feet on our cows look good and we seem to have cows in good reproductive health. We are praying that the heat wave of 2011 doesn’t have lasting effects into the fall. Excellent care of our cows helps to minimize the impacts of stress on their lives….hopefully we did a good job.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Importance of Taking a Calf to Town

Glenwood, daughter of Glencoe...scheduled to head to town tomorrow for a visit!
Tomorrow we are taking our little calf Glenwood to be part of a celebration for dairy month and a fundraiser for the local food shelf for June Dairy Month.  I'll be the first to admit that it's a hassel getting ready to take a calf to town.  First I had to pick the best calf to take to town.  It had to be a calf that would be friendly, is in good health, and will behave.  Glenwood was a great canidate for this, she's one of my favorite pets.  Then, today, I had to give Glenwood a bath.  After a little light scrubbing and some suds, she's a sparkling calf!  And she smells good too!  I put her in her own personal pen in the calf nursery, where she got extra bedding (to keep her dry and clean until morning).  I prepped by putting together feed, water, and milk for our trip to town.  Just like a child, she's going to need some snacks for this road trip.  I washed a special halter for her, becuase we want her to look her best.  The trailer needed a little cleaning, so we got that taken care of as well.  I have extra straw in the trailer, for a safe, comfortable and dry ride to town.

It's a lot of extra work, but it's definitely worth it.  To see the faces of the kids tomorrow, lets me know a little hard work makes a HUGE impression.  Talk about a conversation starter with parents!  Last year we had great questions about our calves, their mothers and the care we provide them.  As always, I was willing to answer all questions...and I am looking forward to some great ones tomorrow!  So HAPPY JUNE DAIRY MONTH!  Off to bed, we have a BIG day tomorrow!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vote for US-Progressive Dairyman Flavor Face Off 2011

Do you love Ice Cream? Would you enjoy $100 in FREE ice cream?!?!  Well, I have a deal for for me in the 2011 Flavor Face Off for Progressive Dairyman and enter to win!  Who could say no to a delicious serving of South Dakota State University Raspberry Cheesecake?   Little known fact, South Dakota State is credited for the development of Cookies and Cream Ice Cream, now the college has over 50 different flavors, many of which feature delicious treats from South Dakota's hard working farmers. 

Milk from cows like these is used to make delicious Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream.

Milk for SDSU's awesome ice cream comes from cows on the SDSU Research farm.  Milk comes from Holstien and Brown Swiss cows.  Student workers care for these cows everyday.  Once the milk is loaded on to the truck, it moves swiftly to campus, where the plant will be ready to receive it.  At the plant, many student workers and expereinced professionals, work quickly to recieve the milk, to make not only ice cream, but cheese, and fluid milk (bulk only).  Rest assured that these students are greatly prepared before setting foot in the plant.  Now many graduates of SDSU, including me, return for this delicious treat! 

Your vote is greatly appreciated!  So if you haven't, .......
 Click here to vote now!

Who can say no to this cuddly jack rabbit?!?!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Sprinklers!

During the hot summer days (anything over 76 degrees) these sprinklers run, cooling our cows by wetting their backs while they enjoy their meals.  As the temperatures increase, the sprinklers run more often, and as the temperatures decrease they run less often.  Add some fans, and we have an awesome, inexpensive way to keep cows cool all summer long!  Happy June Dairy Month!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thankful for St. Anthony!

Meet Trooper a.k.a. Runaway!
I am so thankful for St. Anthony!  I am Catholic, and we have a patron saint that we pray to when we are searching for something that is lost....St. Anthony.  My grandmother taught me that if you lost something very dear, that you should continue your search but make sure to pray to St. Anthony to seek more help from God.  Today I needed St. Anthony. 
We had a VERY busy morning, as a result my usual schedule was a little off.  I was late to the calf barn to feed my babies.  Like always, I started feeding my "kids" only to find that my darling calf Trooper was missing from her hut!  Never fear, this happens from time to time.  When my calves get hungry waiting for me or if they just got fed and want more, they sometime jump right out of our huts, no matter how many twine strings I tie on the cross bars!  Nevertheless, Trooper was missing and it was lunch time!
Knowing that I was there to feed her, I would have expected to see Trooper come running out of the corner of grove (we have a wooded area where the calf huts are located for shade), BUT....Trooper never came for lunch.  Oh No!!!  What to do!  I stated searching frantically for her.  I looked in all of the logical places: in the grove, in the weeds, in the ditch, in the where to be found!  Oh no!!!!  What to do?!?!  I called Jonathan, he told me that it was no big deal, she'll show up, but I didn't know what to think.
Previous calves have runaway as far as the neighbors yard and Grandma's backyard.  So I searched everywhere, including the CRP (nature reserve/grassland) across the road.  Could someone have come in and snatched her???  We do live close to the road....but that would be crazy in the day light!  I talked to the rest of the family, to find out she was just around the barn an hour before I arrived.  She HAD to be around here!  BUT WHERE?!?!?!  I had to take a break, I was exhausted! 
Jonathan joined me in my search later on.  We decided to think outside the box, search in a larger area.  He took one side of the farm and I took the other.  I looked in the woods, behind the house, around the sheds and approaching the fields, when I got a call....
"I found her!" HE FOUND HER!!!!!  "Oh Thank God! Where in the world was she?!?!" "In the machine shed! Checking out the tractors!" "Oh that little stinker! I could just kiss her!"  We swiftly moved her back to her hut and fed her.  She was starving!  I love Trooper, but I am thinking she's up for a name change, something like "Runaway" seems more fitting.....

Wordless Wednesday: God's great Beauty!

We were greeted with a large amount of rain, yet again (almost 3 inches today!) At least, even though it's wet & muddy, we got to see this little wonder!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wordless Wednesday-better late than never ;)

Lunch time on the Patio!  Summertime has been a great time for the cows to enjoy our new patio!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Saturated & Muddy!

Saturated & Muddy!  That's how I would describe the "environment" on Orange Patch Dairy, these days.  There are so many things to be done on the farm, but there's literally too much mud, rain, slop, and muck to get it done.  I would take pictures to share our misery, but it's almost embarrassing.  Just when the weather clears, and the soil finally starts to dry, and it might look like we can get back in the fields (we have corn to finish planting, soybeans to start, and alfalfa to chop) we receive another 1/2 to 1 inch of rain.  This morning we were "blessed" with another 1+ inch of rain.  The forecast has more rain predicted for tonight as well as Thursday night.  The sun might actually come out this weekend, but that's just in time for my brother in law's graduation party....which means we can't be in the field. 

Then there's the cows.  It's so muddy in the cow yards right now, it has become impossible to get bedding to the cows.  Thankfully the sand corners of the pens are drying during the day, so the cows can rest on dry "islands" in the sun.  It looks bad though.  I was out fixing fence in our yards today, and sank into the mud as I stood still, like in quick sand.  I nearly lost my boots twice, stuck in the mud as I tried to walk out.  I've never been more grateful for the concrete portions of our yards, where are animals can find additional reprieve from the mud, as well as eat and drink in mud-free peace. 

Even if we get into the field, the mud is so severe by our silage bags, we will not be able to make our new 2011 haylage bags in the yard.  We will be searching for the highest, driest location on the's crazy to think about not being able to put a silage bag on our pad for weeks.  So please wish us well...these soggy dairy farmers could really use a dry break for the next 2-3 weeks, then we'll take some more rain.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Teaching the importance of consistency....

In a previous post I commented on some of the changes that we were making on the farm. One of the first changes was hiring our first employees. For the first couple weeks, things went really well. Jon and I both reaped the advantages of having extra help on the farm, but not too long after that we started to have some problems with one of our employees.
Dairy farming is a 24-7 job. Cows are always producing milk, and need constant attention. Cows crave consistency. Cows do not like changes. Cows expect to be milked everyday, twice a day. One of our employees missed that point. This employee decided that it would be okay if he didn't come to work, not once, not twice, but three different times in the past weeks. When you depend on someone to be there, and they don't show up, it's a huge let down. But on a dairy farm it has long lasting implications...this week was proof of this. Not only was Monday a complete disaster (we basically got cows milked, fed and bedded, but that was it, no extra projects for us), but we also had a mismatched schedule for the rest of the week. For example, today, I dried off cows that should have been dried off on Monday.
It's been easy for us to teach the importance of being dependable, responsible, and consistent to our other employee, but for the other, it was more than a challenge. We knew we would be at risk for employees that just might not care as much as we do about our cows, but we didn't think we would face it so soon.

We love our cows, and we expect our employee to care for them as well. In fact, we also expect them to get to know them by their names and personalities. We have a book/manual about cow behavior, we ask them to read. We also expect our employees to understand how much not only us, but our cows, depend on them to show up to work on time and do a good job. Without good employees we would not be able to provide our cows the care that they deserve. Needless to say, our truant employee put in his notice yesterday, before we could formally let him go. Our lesson was learned, and we will continue to work harder to teach our employees the importance of their roles in food production and cow care!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Antibiotic Tests

Did you know dairy farms test for antibiotics on farm? Shown here are 2 samples from 2 cows in our herd.  The yellow sample is a cow that is negative for antibiotics, and will return to the milking herd, producing milk for consumers.  The purple sample is a cow that tested positive for antibiotics and will NOT return to the milking herd.  She will remain in the sick cow pen, where her milk is dumped and NEVER used for human consumption!  Milk is tested 17 times before it reaches the consumers!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Photos I was Afraid to Share

Our cows, resting on the bedded pack in our dairy barn.

An example of a photo I was afraid to share....
cows walking in "poop" (manure).
 As part of my goal with my blog, I believe that there is nothing to hide about what we do on our farms everyday!  Some have accused me of "sugar coating" the truth about dairy farming, but rest assured, everything that I post is the honest truth.  That being said, I had a startling realization the other day.

I was talking with our hoof trimmer Brian (the lovely man who comes to give our cows pedicures twice a year) about the health of our cows' feet and hooves as compared to other types of dairy farms.  He shared with me a very interesting point....but I'll start at the beginning first.  Our cows are housed in a pack barn (see above picture) where they are allowed to roam freely each day around this pen.  We bed it every few days with fresh wood saw dust.  The bedding helps to keep our cows dry as well as comfortable.  As you can see, they rest very comfortably.  Much like a traditional modern free stall barn, we have a feed alley where the cows can also freely walk to and eat.  In this feed alley, they walk in "poop" (manure).  In fact, on certain days, with certain cows, they actually accidentally sleep on "poop".  The "poop" is removed from the floor twice daily, but during parts of the day there is "poop" on the floor.  Pictures that I have taken in our barn of cows eating on the alley have been carefully edited, cropped or avoided all together because I wasn't sure how I could explain to a consumer the fact that our cows walk in "poop".  The funny thing is that I give tours to preschool kids and parents, where they see first hand the cows walking in "poop", and I was able to explain to them why this was ok, but I couldn't do it on my blog. 

So...back to the hoof trimmer.  Brian shared an interesting fact about cows that walk in "poop"...their hooves are actually in the best condition of all the feet he trims!  No way!  Walking in "poop" is actually good for cows...much like cows on pasture which will walk in mud, or create cow paths that may get moist!  The moisture from the mud or in the case of our farm, "poop" acts a a moisturizer for cow feet, thereby helping the cow maintain good hoof growth (hooves grow like human finger nails).  Brian also shared that cows that have feet that are always kept dry and clean, actually have a painful problem: their feet get hard, dry and brittle.  In some cases the hoof material actually stops growing!  So...I no longer need to feel ashamed to share a picture of our cows standing on a "poop" covered floor...because the truth is that our farm facility is natural to the cow and provides for her excellent hoof health!  So rest assured...I am willing to share everything!

Friday, May 13, 2011

2011 Projects-Phase 2: The Patio!

Arrival of the feed bunks! Another muddy day!

So much rain meant Jon had to work in the rain a lot! Dedicated to get the job done!

Finished project!  Happy Cows! Success!
Since late March, we have been working diligently to start and finish our second project for 2011.  We wanted to do this project last November, but thanks to our lovely Minnesota winters, we were greeting with snow a little too early.  Late March we started moving dirt, poured concrete in April, laid the bunks in place in April, welded gates & fencing in April and let the cows out for their first night on the patio just before May began!  Our patio was inspired by a visit at a fellow dairy farmer's farm, Laura Daniels of Wisconsin.  Laura had a patio on her farm for her Jersey cows to roam out to, which allowed her to add more eating space for her cows.  BRILLIANT IDEA!  We saw this idea in October, and wanted to add it immediately, but there were some hoops to jump through...all dairy farmers have to do some serious planning before a project, even a smaller one like this.

First we started to lay out the "floor plan".  We then contacted the local county office to visit with our County Feedlot Inspector.  Our inspector came to the farm for a visit in November to check the site, overview our plans and give the "go-ahead" to start.  The primary concern for the county, with outdoor feeding, is manure run off.  We designed the patio with curbs and bumpers which keep the manure from running away, even in a heavy rain storm.  Next we contacted local contractors to bid the project and worked with our banker to secure financing.  So...why did we add this patio?!?!?! 

Easy!  We have more heifers calving each month, and we have a very low cull rate (percent of cows removed from the herd via sale), therefore each month our herd grows with additional cows-the result of excellent animal care!  Our growing herd had plenty of space in our bedded pack barn for laying down, resting and sleeping, but as we add cows the amount of feed bunk space got lower and lower.  We managed around this by pushing up feed frequently each day, as well as feeding twice a day.  The cows never ran out of feed, but the competition for feed increased.  Research recommends 24 inches of space per we added the patio.  The patio also allowed the cows to go outside to enjoy the sun and get a little exercise.  They enjoy the sun shining in on the south side of our curtain barn, but this was an added bonus!  Even on a rainy day, there's at least a couple standing out there!  Check out the pictures of the progress that got us to our final goal!  Ultimately, the new Patio allows us to continue the excellent care our cows get everyday!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

2011 Projects....Phase 1

Well I have been busy, as you can see by my absence from the blogging sphere.  There are some great reasons for this, which I will explain in the coming posts.  We expect 2011 to be a great year for our farm, we have some big plans to make our farm better for our cows (first priority) and for us (second priority).  Phase 1 of our projects was to hire a full time employee or 2 part time employees to assist with milking and clean up of the parlor.  We started our search for employees locally in mid-April.  After interviewing a couple candidates we settled on 2 men to help us.  One is responsible for coming to milk in the morning, while the other assists with milking at night.  Both have the good fortune of milking with me! (haha!)  By hiring employees, we free up Jon from the responsibility of being in the him the opportunity to work on other projects around the farm. 

Now that we have the "kinks" worked our of our schedules and we have a more settled routine, we can see the advantages of having additional help.  In the mornings, I am able to milk cows and do cow health checks while Jon is able to feed 2 batches of TMR (total mixed ration) to the milking cows, feed the dry cows and feed our heifers all before noon!  In the evenings, Jon is able to haul manure, fix various pieces of equipment, and work with cows that need additional care.  It's been amazing how much more efficient we have become.  Because we have feed to all of our animals, earlier in the day, we have seen an increase in milk production.  Because we are able to milk our cows faster, the cows are able to spend more of their day resting, eating and drinking.  It's been great to see the cows relax and reap the benefits of such a simple change. 

Neither one of our employees have any previous experience milking cows, but we have been working to teach and train.  They are fast learners and have a great respect for our cows.  I think that's been the best part of adding employees....teaching them about how much we respect and care for our cows.  In fact, last Saturday, our morning milker brought his 10 year old son to milk with us.  It was awesome to see Clif share with his son the importance of cleanliness in the parlor, proper cow handling, and the value of agriculture in our local economy.  So, as we continue to work out the kinks, we hope to have more good news about hiring employees.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

So Why's your farm called Orange Patch Dairy???

After writing this blog since 2009, I realized I have never posted about why we call our farm "Orange Patch Dairy"...interesting, since that's a really good here we go....

My husband Jon, who I have had the good fortune of knowing my ENTIRE life (yeah we've known each other since we were toddlers!) shares my passion and love of dairy cows and farming.  In addition to his love of dairying, he also loves his orange colored tractors (Allis Chalmers, Agco Allis, Agco, etc) and his sliver combines (Gleaners).  When we married, I not only married  him, but his vast collection of orange and silver toys, magazines, caps, advertisements, catalogs, parts, and clothing.  He's been literally obsessed with orange since birth.  You see, his Grandpa has been farming with orange since the day he started farming, and that's impressive since he was raised on a green farm (John Deere).  Jon's Dad continued that legacy with the purchase of a couple more orange tractors, making our farm the home to 12 very special and very used orange machines.  There is also a silver combine in the machine shed!  Farmers in the neighborhood, who chose to drive green or red tractors, often joked about the "pumpkin patch" down the road, with all of the orange (pumpkin) tractors.  My in laws ignored their jokes, they drove dependable tractors that just happened to be different than everyone else.

So when Jon was just starting FFA in high school, and needed to have a name for his herd of dairy cows, the choice seemed perfectly clear for him: Orange Patch Dairy, and the name just stuck.  Because you see, our farm is not home to a Pumpkin Patch, but home to 12 orange tractors, although gaining in years, still loved and care for each day.  So our farm name highlights the fact that we chose to be different, unique and special.....and why not!?!  Someone has to be a trend setter ;) 

So there you go....why we are called Orange Patch Dairy

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Too mad to go to bed!

ARG!  Looks like Mercy for Animals (MFA) found yet another example of abuse in the livestock industry.  I watched their video, which they will be releasing to the press tomorrow, but it did not sit well with me at all (I'm so MAD at these people, I couldn't go to bed without posting)!  It was really hard for me to watch such pain and disrespect for these calves.  Heart wrenching doesn't even begin to describe how I felt.  I wanted to reach through the screen at take a swing at the abusers!  Everyday, dairy farmers like myself work diligently, putting the care of our calves and cows first, most times before our own care.  It is a black eye on our industry when another situation like this is found.  Abuse of this nature is not commonplace in our industry, even though some activists would lead you to believe this. Orange Patch Dairy and other dairies across the nation strive everyday to improve the care we give our animals.  We do not treat our animals like waste and we do not withhold medication/medical care.  Our cows get our VERY BEST, EVERYDAY!

Thank you MFA for finding and reporting this abuse.  It is an example of completely INAPPROPRIATE animal care.

Please see the following links for other farms/dairies and videos...showing how much we truly put our cows needs first! 

Don't go Vegan to protest abuse....prosecute the abusers!

RayLin Dairy, California
Haley Farms, Ohio
Dairy Farming Today YouTube Channel
Dairy Farming Today WebSite

Monday, April 18, 2011

Baby Boom!

I have always stated that our major calving rush has been in the winter months, but after this past week I think I misspoke!  We have had 1-2 calves everyday for the past 6 days!  The first one visited us on Wednesday evening.  I was gone in the Twin Cities, speaking at an agricultural meeting, when I got a call from Jon on the trip home.  "You better hurry up and get home, Gloria had her calf, and it's snowing here!"  All I could think was, "SNOW! In April!!"  It was sunny and 50 where I was...yuck!  I drove home as swiftly as I could.  It was still snowing!  And there was my little heifer calf, running around in the heavy and wet snow.  She was very healthy, but very wet and cold.  So I scooped her up (named Glorified) and moved her inside the barn, into her dry, heated, and bedded stall.  After that, we moved her mother to the milking barn, so she could be indoors with access to all the feed and water she would want.  That was our first baby...

Thursday our second heifer calf was born.  Her mother was a 1st time mother (fresh heifer), calving almost 10 days before her due date, who had a little trouble calving, but we were there to assist her delivery of a healthy calf.  Friday was the 3rd heifer calf from another surprise calving...#75.  #75 has always had trouble with milk fever, as long as we have owned her (6 years).  With each delivery she has had problems maintaining her blood calcium balance at calving, which causes milk fever.  Symptoms include: muscle weakness, cold ears, poor pupil dilation, and inability to stand.  We needed to give #75 IV fluids that included calcium.  With a little time she was up and running.  Saturday was another big surprise...TWIN heifer calves!  My lovely cow Olivia calved overnight, successfully delivering twin heifers: Ochyeden and Ogilive.  They're so cute!  I am still amazed at how well Olivia cared for twins, it was no easy task for her!  And finally, this morning we came to the farm early, to get ready for church, when I discovered Delano trying to calve.  We worked as swiftly as we could, but we were unable to deliver a live calf.  Delano had been laboring for a few hours overnight and was unable to deliver her calf on her own.  We assisted her when we got to the farm, but pulled a dead bull calf.  I was so frustrated!  Times like this make living in town very complicated.  The 10 minute drive to the farm might have well been 10 hours, because we were too late.  So, we promise to work harder next time, and are thankful for at least a healthy Delano.  So as you can see, we've been busy with our latest Baby Boom!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I Raise My Hand for Chocolate Milk! How about you?

I recently read that Chocolate Milk is under attack yet again by the media and health officials for being unhealthy for kids.  The very thought of banning Chocolate Milk from schools makes me cringe!  I remember my grade school years, and how often I would drink Chocolate Milk rather than "white milk".  It was a real treat to have Chocolate Milk, plus I was getting 9 essential nutrients (Calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D, B12, riboflavin and niacin ) in that awesome package, important for my then, growing body.  Studies have shown that by removing Chocolate/flavored milk from the lunch room, there was a dramatic reduction in overall milk consumption among kids, thereby lowering their daily intake of calcium, protein & potassium.  That's putting these kids at risk.  That carton (it's bottles now) of Chocolate Milk is the perfect balance between good nutrition and good fun! 

This nutrient package is difficult to find in other foods that are as affordable or appealing to kids.  Studies have shown that children who drink flavored milk…drink more milk overall, have better quality diets, do not have higher intakes of added sugar or fat, and are just as likely to be at a healthy weight compared to kids who do not consume flavored milk.  In fact, flavored milk contributes only 3 percent of the added sugars in children’s diets. Only a fraction!  Studies have also shown that athletes who refuel with Chocolate Milk, replenish stressed muscles faster than if they consumed a sports drink.

So, even after knowing this, as a parent, you still want to reduce the amount of sugar your child consumes.  No problem!  The dairy industry is working on that!  Recognizing that many schools want to reduce the sugar content in all their menu offerings, the dairy industry has taken action to reduce fat, calories and added sugars in flavored milk. Today, the majority of milk in schools is low-fat or fat-free, and the majority of flavored milk is at or below 150 calories.  The newer formulas for Chocolate Milk have 2 to 3 teaspoons of added sugar compared to 3 to 4 teaspoons of added sugar in traditional formulas.

Even today I enjoy Chocolate Milk.  I usually drink 1% "white" milk and fat-free Chocolate the same time!  After a long morning of chores at the farm, I can be found at noon relaxing in our office with a turkey sandwich and a tall glass of Chocolate Milk.  I often find the chocolate flavoring of my milk to be a little over-powering, so I will mix my "white" and Chocolate Milk together in a 50/50 ratio.  Same delicious Chocolate Milk....with a little less there's a tip for those mom's out there.  If you can't find a Chocolate Milk that suits your lower sugar requirements, just add a little "white" to lower the grams while still encouraging your children to have healthy habits for a long life! 

For more information about Chocolate Milk, check out: Raise Your Hand for Milk or on YouTube at

Thursday, April 7, 2011

With high feed costs, we are Planning Ahead....

Well April is here! The weather has really improved in the past few days!  We are enjoying more moderate temperatures and sunshine!  Needless to say, we are working overtime on projects and getting a lot accomplished, but today was for planning ahead.  Often times on a dairy farm, we need to plan ahead, schedule tasks, and make sure that we are using our time and resources to their fullest potential for our cows.  Our dairy consultant/nutritionist Jeremy stopped in for his monthly visit and a planning meeting.

When Jeremy visits, he first walks through the groups of cows and makes observations.  He evaluates how fat or thin our cows are, he watches them eat, he watches them pass manure (and checks that too), he checks our feed, and collects data about the milk we produce.  All of this information helps him to make decisions about what to feed our cows and how much.  Good nutrition is so important to our cows, so we depend on Jeremy's expertise everyday.  Today's report was good: cows are chewing their cuds well, they are passing excellent manure and they are all in great condition (amount of weight they carry-we don't want them too fat or thin).  After talking about the good news we got down to business.

With the recent increases in the corn price, our feed costs are out of control.  The milk price is slowly keeping pace, but it will be hard to make a living milking cows in the next couple months.  Knowing this we needed to develop a plan for our 2011 growing season.  We will be planting our crops in the coming weeks, much of which will be harvested as alfalfa haylage or corn silage for our cows (forages).  After going through all of our options to keep our costs low, while making sure we keep our cows healthy and productive, we decided that we will need to chop more corn silage for 2011.  It is currently more economical to feed corn silage rather than dry corn to our cows, plus cows prefer forages anyways!  We will still feed dry corn (cows need some dry corn too!), but at least we can cut the amount.  We will need to continue to focus on making the best possible feed for our cows this summer, and pray for good growing conditions.  We have a plan, to keep costs low while producing a great product (milk) from healthy cows.  So as we start planting in the coming weeks, we will stick with the plan...stay tuned!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

March is Leaving Like a Lion...

Well it sure looks like March 2011 is going to leave us like a Lion.  It came in like a Lion, and it's suppose to leave like a Lamb, but I doubt we will get that Lamb like last year.  We had snow and cold to start March, and now we are leaving March with cooler than normal temps with a chance of rain/snow tomorrow.  We have local flooding in our rivers and at the farm we have MUD!

Dare I say it...I wanted Mud Season so badly only weeks ago, but now I am throwing the white flag of surrender! I give up!  It's not that the mud affects me directly, but it's that I have to deal with the aftereffects it has on Jon.  My calves, heifers and milking cows are all inside or in lots that are sandy, therefore drier. order to feed all of our cows, heifers and calves...we have to get to our silage bags out in the field south of our milking barn.  In that we field we have MUD!  We have mud so deep and thick right now that if you walk through it with boots on, the mud will pull those boots right off!  The mud has the consistency of a thick modeling clay...tacky yet still slimy.  We are no longer able to get to our silages with the skid loader, but instead we have to use the loader tractor with Front Wheel Assist (a fancy ag-way to say extra traction!).  The loader tractor is leaving ruts and tracks almost 3 feet deep!  You could fall and get lost in ruts that deep!  Driving the loader tractor is not for those with weak stomachs.  The ruts also track up and down over pieces of top soil that are still frozen and top soil that is thawed out all the way to the clay base.  That darn mud gets in everything and is everywhere!  Jon has brought home mud in his boots, on his boots, and on his clothes.  Mud even gets in his hair.  Needless to say Jon would be tickled pink if we could get a week of 50 degree temps and's hoping April brings us more "spring-like" weather!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Please don't litter, it's not only a farm but our office too!

Well, spring is here!  Currently it is thundering outside, with a forecast of snow and cold to follow...welcome to Minnesota in March!  With the warmer temps came a rapid thaw of our snow banks and drifts...the problem is the garbage that is left behind.  It never ceases to amazing me, that in our environmentally conscience society we still have problems with people littering! 
The snow left behind pop cans, plastic water bottles, fast food wrappers, cigarettes, papers, magazines, and so much more!  It appears that since we live on a major paved county road and that we operate a dairy farm, that means that we are an acceptable dumping spot for other peoples' trash.  Each spring I spend at about 2-4 days walking ditches, cow yards and tree lines, looking for this trash.  It seems simple to throw your garbage out the window at that dairy farm, but it turns out there are grave consequences for us. 
For example, each summer we bale our road ditches (grass and alfalfa mix) for our heifers and dry cows.  There's nothing more irritating than finding crushed pop cans in a bale of hay.  The bigger problem comes if a cow decided to eat that pop can.  Metal in a cow's rumen causes all kinds of problems, but if they are not caught and treated....the cow will die.  This is a serious issue.  Just today I watched one of my cows try to eat a soft drink cup from McDonald's...this is not safe for her! 
Secondly, we value the image of our farm.  Garbage in the ditches makes our farm appear "trashy" to passer-bys.  We work hard already, caring for our cows, calves and land, in addition to making the farm look presentable, we don't need more trash to pick up during our free time. 
Finally, it's just not nice to spread your garbage in someone else's office.  I don't think most people would enjoy it if I brought some of our trash to their offices and left it on their desk.  Please keep that in mind when it comes to dairy farmers...our farm is our office...we like keeping it neat, and we hope you will too!  So before you throw that trash out your window, please think twice for the dairy farmers who have to pick up after you...thanks!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Networking with Fellow Dairy Producers

Today I had the honor of speaking at the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin's Business Conference, and let me tell's been a blast!  How awesome to see so many producers excited about milking cows, caring for cows, and communicating to consumers!  It's been great to see many producers taking advantage of the great seminars with awesome how to handling our cows better or how to communicate with consumers more effectively.  Dairy farmers are always striving to do a better job.  We are always looking for new methods to make our cows more comfortable or increase the level of care they receive.  New innovations are also displayed in the "Hall of Ideas", where I am looking forward to searching tomorrow...great new products from dairy companies that help us care for our cows!  The other great thing about this conference, besides the education is the networking with fellow dairy farmers...

Let me tell you, it might not seem like it, but we dairy farmers are VERY social people.  When we do get off of our farms we LOVE to talk with other dairy producers about what's working for them, what's working for us, new ideas with dairy industry representatives, and latest current events. It's great to share with producers from across the country your common frustrations and joys, because those are what bonds us together.  It's been an awesome experience to share with fellow farmers the joys I have writing this blog, posting on Facebook and Twitter, as well as our YouTube channel.  I hope many of those I spoke with today are as inspired as I am to continue sharing our stories...because dairy farmers have such GREAT stories!  Thanks to all dairy farmers for the hard work that you do everyday!  You are greatly appreciated!

Saturday, March 12, 2011's what's for dinner!

As dairy farmers, we work hard to promote our milk products, but as dairy farmers we are also beef producers too.  Our bull calves are raised by local farmers as steers and a few of our older cows are also sold for beef.  So, I took some time to educate myself tonight in why beef is important in a healthy diet.  I always knew beef was important, but I didn't know how power packed a lean serving of beef can here's some interesting facts:
  • A 3 ounce serving of beef supplies 51% of the daily recommended Protein.
  • That same serving of beef also provides 38% of the daily recommended Zinc, 37% of B-12, 26% of Selenium, and 20% of Phosphorous! Wow!
  • Beef is also a good source for Niacin, B-6, Riboflavin, and Iron.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Reports: "Americans are increasingly overfed yet undernourished, so it’s essential that we get the most nutritional value from the foods and beverages we enjoy. In fact, the USDA states American's should “get more nutrition from their calories” by choosing nutrient-rich foods first, within and among all food groups, including colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low- and nonfat dairy, and lean meats.

Beef's essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) helps the body build, maintain and repair body tissue. Muscles also form hormones and enzymes, and increase resistance to infection and disease. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that eating more protein can benefit weight loss, muscle mass maintenance, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and satiety. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), iron deficiency is a common nutritional deficiency worldwide among young children and women of child-bearing age, including those who are pregnant.  Four million U.S. children are iron-deficient, and childhood iron-deficiency anemia is associated with behavioral and cognitive delays. Beef is a good source of iron, and unlike plant proteins, beef is the food supply’s most readily available and easily absorbed source of iron. Iron not only helps red blood cells carry oxygen to body tissue, it also plays an important role in cognitive health, including memory, ability to learn and reasoning.

Beef is an excellent source of zinc, which is an essential nutrient that fuels thousands of bodily processes, including building muscles and healing wounds, maintaining the immune system, and contributing to cognitive health.

Beef contains a significant amount of several B vitamins including vitamins B12 and B6, niacin and riboflavin.  Vitamin B12 is needed for normal functioning of body cells and of the nervous system.  Vitamin B6 is important for a healthy nervous system and helps the body fight infection. In addition, both vitamins B12 and B6 play important roles in lowering blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that increases risk for heart disease and dementia.  Niacin promotes healthy skin and nerves, aids digestion, and fosters normal appetite; and riboflavin helps the body use energy and promotes healthy skin and good vision.

As with all of our food choices, we must remember to eat in moderation.  Beef balanced with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat dairy creates a delicious, healthy meal for families.  So, support our beef producers....and serve beef, it's what's for dinner!