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.