Category Archives: barns and silos

Wandering Minds

When trying to pick a topic for today’s blog…my mind keeps wandering all over the place. I have no topic that I really want to go in depth on today so I will talk a little bit about what’s been happening here on the farm.

I have sat down with the NRCS office, which under Vilsack’s proposal to shut down some offices is on the chopping block, about setting up some intensive pasture areas here on the farm. We have huge issues with erosion and after leasing the land out for the past two years, we have decided that leasing it out was a HUGE mistake.

The farmer, who is a big commercial dairyman, decided to not use the topography of the land or have any respect for the natural environment. We now have hills that are plowed straight up and down that the water just runs down like a creek. We are also having some phosphorus contamination issues in our pond as well.

More stress that we really didn’t need!

What are our next steps? Taking back the land! Using systems like the intense pasture management, controlling water run off and improving drainage are going to be the first steps. It makes me sad to think that we trusted someone to do the right thing and instead they have come close to destroying our beautiful pond. Some people are just idiots and don’t care.

Right here is a perfect example of a small farmer trying to do the right thing and a commercial farm with an ego the size of Texas doing whatever he wants to with no regard for anything or anyone. Well, we are putting our foot down. Enough is enough and he will not be allowed to use the property ever again.

This is also the guy who seems to think that he doesn’t have to abide by the law either. None of his tractors have lights, he completely disregards the manure spreading laws and he drives about 70 miles an hour down our hill (which by the way is full of blind spots, animals and kids). There are just too many things about this guy that rub me the wrong way.

Maybe it’s because I was raised to treat everything with respect. Respect for my environment, my family, the land and even the animals. I know he was raised different too. I actually love his dad. We have very lengthy discussions about farming, God and family.

This whole situation is mind boggling and depressing really. I just can’t fathom what goes through his head sometimes.

But, back to our farm….We have been approved for a no-till or minimum till for all of our plantings this spring. I am exciting to start getting things back to the way they should be here on the farm! I can’t wait to see the grasses swaying in the breeze and watch the cows out in the pasture munching away on it.

I can almost see it in my head now. Lazy times out watching the cows graze, the chickens and turkeys following along digging and scratching for bugs and worms….the sound of the birds chirping. Oh, how I miss warmer weather and the green of the grass!

The view from our top field during the fall months.

This spring is going to be really busy for us. There is going to be lots of work that needs to get done. We will need to plant, build fencing, finish the exterior of the barn, remodel the interior, build a milk house, cheese room, sugar house and still manage to hold down jobs and attend meetings.

But, you know…I look forward to it all! Every last bit of it. If I can manage to get it all done, I will get to live my dream and set an example for others to look at and think about. It almost brings tears of joy to my eyes thinking about it. I can close my eyes and see just how it will all look and I can almost live the moments.

So for now, I will take my wandering mind back and go daydream of what the next year will hold in store for me and our little farm.

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Questioning Your Food-Milk

As you sit down to dinner each night, do you think about where your food comes from?
While walking the isles of the grocery store, do you ever think about what’s produced in your state or region?

Lately, there is much conversation about antibiotics in meats and milk, along with a heavy conversation about GMO’s.

As a consumer, it made me sit back and think about where I got all of my information that is stored in my head about the food I eat.

As some of you already know, I also work on another farm. That farm is a 76-head dairy farm that produces milk that goes into our supply chain. That milk can become bottled milk, yogurt or cheese.

Neighboring Dairy Farm

I have talked and asked lots of questions over the years about the milk that goes into the tank for pickup. I have asked lots of questions about what happens to the milk from treated cows.

Here are just a sampling of those questions and responses:

1. About how much milk do your cows produce?
Our herd average is 80 pounds of milk per day.

2. Why do you use a milk line? (A milk line is a stainless steel pipeline that pumps milk from the cow to the milk house and ultimately into the bunk tank)
The system is mandatory for the USDA regulations. It is the safest way to transport milk from the cow to the milk house. It is a closed loop system that prevents air from within the barn to enter into the lines and reduces the opportunity for air-borne bacteria to enter the system. 

3. With the closed-loop system, do you still pay close attention to the cleaning process?
Yup, it is mandatory that the system is flush and cleaned with an approved cleaner to make sure that all of the milk held within the line is removed. Even our milking claws (that’s the piece that fastens to the teats of the cow) is fulling cleaned and heated with 180 degree water to ensure a sterilization process too.

4. Do you milk any of the cows that just freshened? (Or just gave birth to a calf)
We use a pail milker to remove just enough milk from that cow to relieve the pressure and fullness of her udder. We use the pail to make sure that the milk never reaches the bulk tank. The colostrum or mother’s first milk is feed to the calf. Any remaining is dumped out and unusable for any type of consumption. No other calf gets the colostrum and no human gets it either.

5. What happens if the mother gets milk fever or mastitis? (This are illnesses found in cows that are producing milk typical caused by an infection)
A vet usually checks them to make sure that our preliminary diagnosis is correct and then we typically treat the animal with antibiotics to help her fight off the infection. 

6. Once you treat them, what happens to their milk?
All of her milk is dumped. She is milked into the milk pail and the milk is then discarded. It isn’t acceptable for the bulk tank.

7. What happens if the milk gets into the tank?
When the milk is tested at the delivery site, if it registers back that the milk is contaminated with antibiotics, the whole truck gets dumped. The trucking company will then back track the milk in that load to the farms it was picked up from. If it is discovered that is from our farm, we are responsible to pay for the loss of the whole truck of milk. One load tracked back to our farm could put us out of business.
*Special note- Some milk pick up companies do a dip test at the time of pick-up. 

8.  How much milk do you send on a truck?
We send approximately 10,000 pounds of milk every other day. Since a gallon of milk weighs approximately 8.5 pounds, that means we ship 1176 gallons of milk.

9. Wait, they only pick up milk every TWO days?
Yes, we have a chiller attached to our tank to ensure that the milk is kept at 45 degrees. All milk that enters the tank MUST be chilled to that temperature within two hours. When we do additional milkings, the tank can NEVER go above 50 degrees.
Ultimately, the milk is pasteurized at temperatures about 160 degrees to kill any bacteria that may enter the milk.

10. Do you drink milk from the tank?
Yes, we do take about a gallon, maybe two, a week to drink ourselves. We do not pasteurize for our own consumption.

I hope that these questions and answers help those who were curious and concerns about antibiotics within the milk supply chain. If you have any further questions, comments or concerns please leave a note or comment below. We will take the time to answer them all.

Will Gilmer of Gilmer Dairy has also taken time to write about antibiotics in milk today. I hope you all click the link to go read his view points as well. http://gilmerdairy.blogspot.com/2012/01/faq-are-there-hormones-in-my-milk.html

It’s Cold Out There

Even though the temperatures are above freezing already this morning, at a whole 32 degrees…It sure hasn’t been that way for the past two or three days.

On Friday, we got hit with extremely high winds with some gusts over 40 mph and snow. I don’t mind the snow. I actually think it’s good to get some snow. Especially when the ground is already so saturated from all of this strange weather we have had this year. Buffalo, which is about a three hour drive from here, is 40 inches below their average snow fall accumulations for this season. We have had more rain than I can ever recall and there have been days in January that have days in the 40-50 degree marks.

January 13th, 2012

But on Saturday, the thermometer decided to plunge. It was 9 degrees out there when Mr. Farmer went out to do morning chores.

He had a few problems getting out little milking pump started but, everything else went alright. No frozen water lines, no cold animals and no sludge for oil like I had yesterday morning when I went out.

Sunday morning brought a headache, sore muscle and stress. One of our calves got cold stress. Cold stress in a calf is very dangerous. It is actually a form of hypothermia. The poor girl was our there shaking like a leaf in the breeze. She wouldn’t eat or drink. Having to bottle/force feed a five month old animal isn’t the easiest thing in the world. I didn’t want her to get dehydrated and I also know that giving her warm liquids is a good way to warm her up from the inside out.

After discovering that my girl was so cold. I decided to take a peek at the thermometer again. It turned out to be a big mistake when I pulled it up on my truck when I was headed to go pick up our weekly feed.

Just a little chilly out there

After the half hour feed trip, I had to work on getting the water lines unthawed. During all that, I had to keep checking on the heifer calf, making trips to the house to warm up blankets for her. Then the milker pump needed fixing. Mr. Farmer put on a different motor, cleaned it all up and warmed the oil (which turned out to be the only issue).

Then we cut firewood due to the fact that we were burning through lots of extra. All of those winds seemed to find yet more cracks in the walls of the house. At one point, the whole house was at 51 degrees. Thankfully, we didn’t have any frozen lines. We built a fire in the fireplace for added warmth but only ended up with temps around 60.

The chickens stayed nice and toasty inside of the chicken barn with their heat lamps. Believe it or not…they actually ALL laid an egg yesterday too. That was a whole boat load of eggs and more than my poor little bag could handle. I had eggs in my coat pockets, the front pouch on my hoodie and a couple in my hat along with the one’s in the bag as I raced hatless to the house! 45 eggs in total.

Old barn

My fingers and toes still hurt from frost bite but things are looking better for the time being. I guess that eventually, we will all pull through this and be alright. At least, I sure hope so. And here I was hoping for a better, even start to 2012. So far, everything has been full of severe swings of ups and downs…one positive thing, it has to get better from here!

Hope you are all staying warm and dry. God bless.

Sunrises around the farm

The morning sunrise (Taken Spring '11)

I don’t know what it is about this location but there are not too many days out of the year that we do not have spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

I live in a fairly high elevation, about 1300 ft. above see level on the side of a hill. The best place to watch the sun rise is basically right out my front door or off the backside of the one of the barns. Most mornings, I am out there finishing up chores, camera in hand watching it come up.

Sunsets, on the other hand, are kind of hidden through the trees. A good place to watch them is the pond. Unfortunately, I don’t get down there often enough so that I can get some good quality photos though on a regular basis.

I put together this video clip from photos I have taken just this month. I hope that you enjoy!