Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Lingering damage from Drought 2012

Well Spring has finally arrived in Southern Minnesota!  That's the good news, the bad news is that we're quickly finding out what lingering damages exist from the Drought of 2012.  As spring starts, usually our alfalfa fields start to green up just like perennials in a flower garden, but this year the plants have been really slow to green up. 

We work very closely with a agronomist who has been scouting our fields for weeks already.  He's not finding very good news for us.  We know at this moment that we will need to re-seed at least 40 acres of alfalfa that never made it through the winter.  We planted this field last fall, and thanks to the drought only half of the seeds germinated, the other half sat in the field for the winter.  Those seeds that did germinate never made it through the rough winter, as they didn't have enough moisture in the fall to get a good start.  Moral of the story: 40 acres of alfalfa seed is now dead or rotten.  Yuck! 

Since we were building our lagoon last year we also postponed planting an additional 40 acres of alfalfa....so we need to plant 80 acres of alfalfa, hopefully this week!  It's possible these fields will yield at least one cutting of haylage for us this year, but we're going to need some serious rain and sunshine to push it along.  So that leaves us with the remaining fields from the past years (we plant a field of alfalfa and keep it for about 3-4 years).  While the acres are small, they are very valuable....our only source for alfalfa for the summer.  We still don't know that status of these fields.  Hopefully with 70's in the forecast, we will have excellent news by the end of the week! 

So what does this mean for the cows???  Well, we have already worked with our nutritionist and lowered the amount of alfalfa haylage in the cows' diet and replaced it with more corn silage.  Our inventory of haylage from 2012 is disappearing VERY quickly!  We'll be completely out in only a couple weeks.  Alfalfa is a very important feed to our cows, supplying protein and fiber, so we want to continue to feed it while we can.  By adding more corn silage we will be using more of our inventory than we expected as well...which means in August we may be rationing out our corn silage and replacing it with haylage....it's a balancing act.  Ultimately we will continue to do our best to make the best forages possible for our cows....sacrificing nothing for our cows...they deserve the best care & nutrition!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

We're more than a team...we're a family

It's been a little while since I've blogged, but I have a good reason, like I always do.  Exactly one month ago our only full time employee, who had been with us for almost 2 years, didn't show up for work.  In fact he not only stopped coming to work but we were not able to contact him or his family.  It was a complete shock to us that with no notice he would basically disappear!  We've been working together 5 days a week for almost 2 years.  We knew his family and he knew ours.  How could he do this to us?  We tried to encourage him in his job, offer him opportunities to learn new skills and educate himself.  He was genuine interested in our cows and cared for each of them.  A person, an employee, that ACTUALLY cares about our cows is priceless to our team.  It takes a team of people to care for cows, but more importantly, over time, each employee becomes a member of our family....that cares.  We were so hurt by this action at first.  We were frustrated.  We were angry, also, but now we're just disappointed and feel let down.  But...like in all things in dairy farming and life...we move on...

So taking a really bad situation, where Jon and I were the only ones here caring for our cows, we decided take the opportunity to make some changes to our family.  We have since hired 2 full time employees and have also added another part time employee.  With our growing herd comes some serious increases in the time required to give each cow the care they deserve.  We decided that we need an even bigger team to care for our cows.  In the past month we have evolved our team to be more like a close knit family...and we think we have the right people in place to do a good job providing our cows the very best. 

My cows are my babies, and I really have to trust an employee to leave them in charge of my girls...just like a member of my family.  We're working on teaching the right skills to move our cows calmly, milk them gently, and feed them correctly.  We're also working on teaching responsibility, so we have people in place to save Jon & time during the day...so we can do other things, like play with my calves ;)  Wish us luck as we keep on building our family!