Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Great Question and Good Conversation

I had the awesome opportunity to accompany the Illinois Farm Families Field Moms on their tour to Paul & Donna Jeschke's farm in Mazon, IL.  Thanks to an uneventful morning on our farm, a successful scoop and move with the toddler, and a puppy to occupy her once we got to Uncle Chris's for me to successfully escape without a meltdown, I arrived on time to the bus stop to enjoy a BEAUTIFUL spring day with other farm moms and non-farm moms to talk about agriculture. 
Aside from wanting to pick up and transplant Donna's gorgeous landscaping to my house (I've come a long ways from the girl that couldn't grow marigolds in high school horticulture class), I enjoyed talking and learning from these moms. 
These were people who WANTED to have a conversation with us about what we do.  That was what made it so enjoyable.  Last year, I stood in a grocery store on 2 separate weekends, giving out coupons and food samples and trying to start random conversations....either I wasn't very good at it, or I just had the wrong people, I had zero (not a one) meaningful conversations or even questions.  I was, however, told I was "evil".  The guy was serious and truly thought that I was an evil person because my profession was one of caring for animals.  I'll admit that was a downer of a day.  It was pretty hard to take that this person, really/truly thought that what I did for a living (and what I love) was morally wrong.  Needless to say, we did not have a conversation where we shared our thoughts and ideas with each other with respect for the other's point of view.
I'll freely admit that I'm not the most accepting person in the world.  I have a tendency to stay in my "ag" circles b/c I have a hard time understanding weekends (or weeknights) without chores, vacation homes, and whatever else occupies people's time and minds that don't have their head filled with haymaking, cow milking, and poop-scooping/scrubbing. But, at the same time, I really enjoy talking about farming to those who don't understand it b/c I find that the guy who called me evil was a vocal minority, and that the silent majority of people have lots of excellent questions and concerns that in a good conversation we can answer.  Maybe we'll satisfy their concerns, and they'll realize they don't have to feel guilty about the food they feed their family.  Maybe they'll say, "Thanks, but I'll continue to buy speciality products, b/c I feel more comfortable with the decisions made by those farms", but at the end of the day there will be genuine trust, respect, and understanding of different farming operations, technologies, and families.  I also realize that we have lots in common.  God Bless poor Tim from Beck's who got to listen in on a potty-training discussion over lunch.  Maybe I do have a better idea what occupies people's time...
One of the best questions I got asked that weekend was "How do YOU decide?"  How do we decide what to plant, apply to fields, feed animals, etc.  I had to think for a second, and I've pondered it for the past couple of weeks.  Well, I do the same thing these Field Moms are doing.  I do research.  I go to meetings.  I listen to the salesmen, (then I listen to the opposing salesmen).  More than anything, I try it out.  You'll see several examples of farmers "trying out" a new crop, new variety, or new practice on their farms.  Usually, we'll start with 20 acres of this, or 20 acres of that.  This year, we are trying 20 acres of peas & barley that we will chop and feed to the cows, and then we'll follow that up with winter wheat.  We're also trying snaplage to feed the cows next year.  Many farmers will run test plots, where they will run different seed, chemical, fertilizer, spacings, and other variables against one another on a section of land.  They'll analyze that data to decide what did or did not work on their farm, regardless of what did or did not work on the neighbor's farm, or the university or company research. 
BUT, the thing I realize we were forgetting to say in that answer is that FIRST AND FOREMOST, I make sure that I do the research and feel comfortable with the SAFETY of any product.  Before we decide what makes things better/easier/more efficient/more profitable for us as part of a business decision on our farms, we've already decided that we think its safe.  As farmers, we tend to skip over that step that we all go through.  Maybe its because we are more familiar with the research and approvals necessary for these products to even reach the market where we can buy them.  Believe me, I don't think it is because we are more trusting of government (probably the opposite).  Remember, we feed our families the same things you do, from our farms or from the farmer down the road. 
We haven't been perfect in agriculture.  So, how do I "decide" that GMOs or certain pesticides or herbicides are ok to use when maybe we used or did some things in the past that we found out weren't a good idea?  Well, I don't.  Not 100%, without any sliver of doubt/potential, BUT I feel like our research and knowledge is better than it was 50 years or even 10 years ago.  And, if there is ever a peer-reviewed/documented case that something we are doing isn't safe, we'd change it quickly.  People ask about bees.  We are all wondering what's up with the bees.  If we thought it was us, we'd change what we are doing, but we don't think it is. 
So, we'll continue to work for what is best for our family, and for yours. 
And thanks for the thought-provoking weekend.....I've come up with a few other blogs that I should write.  Motivation is key!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My Night By The Numbers

Thanks Emily Webel for the idea of "By the Numbers".....:-)

1 - the number of calves we pulled last night
2 - the number of cows that calved last night
3 - the number of live calves that were born last night
        (Have we had the "aha" moment with math here?)
4 - the hour at which I got up this morning
5 - the number of vaccinations the single heifer calf was given
6 - the number of cows due to calve in the next 10 days
7 - the hours of sleep I wish I got last night
8 - the number of CALVES due to be born in the next 10 days
       (Another math moment with #6)
9 - the hour on the clock at which I found 2 new calves last night
10 - the number of calves in the calf barn right now
11 - the hour on the clock at which I went to bed
12 - the number of days early the cow with twins calved last night
13 - the minutes along with 1 (1:13) at which Ainsley woke up, needing to be soothed back to sleep
14 - the number of degrees below zero it was last night

The #1 best thing this morning:
Brent: "Ainsley, Mommy is a saint"

Made my day! :-)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 30: The Future - Luxury

Ok, so Luxury has been my little pet.  With Gail out of commission for feeding calves for a little bit, Luxury has been my little pet.  The first week I started feeding her, she got sick, hard.  And fast.  And I went ballistic - cleaning, revamping, calling in the vet, driving samples to the vet clinic on Saturday, picking up new name it, I was trying it, b/c while I was able to nursery Lux back to health, though it took a full week, I was NOT going to go thru that again.  And, if a calf is getting sick, it hurts their very sensitive growing gut for the future and could stunt her future growth and milk production.  And, Luxury is Lucke's calf.  The FIRST Holstein heifer calf that we have gotten from her, and as God as my witness, SHE WILL LIVE.

Luxury will hopefully be a show heifer, though she will be a little young this next year to compete with heifers born almost 2 months before her (the class has heifers born from Sept. 1 thru Nov. 30, and she's Oct. 26.....), but hopefully by the time she is a yearling or a cow, she'll be able to compete, and Ainsley will be big enuf to at least walk at the end of the halter.

I had this gorgeous picture planned of Ainsley with Luxury as the future of our farm, and well, it got cold VERY early this year.  It was froze the week of Thanksgiving.  We had a ear infection while we traveled south to see my family, and I don't think Ainsley has been outside besides runs to & from the car since.  Seriously, I could use a warm up b/c I have about 15 calf panels to clean for the new calves that will be born in March, and I have not had a SINGLE day (on a weekend when I'm home) that is above freezing to even attempt to try washing all these panels.  I have 2 set up for the one lone heifer calf that is due at the beginning of February.  They are at least clean, though they need repainted and have frozen snow & ice stuck to them.  I'm hoping it thaws enuf that I can at least get THAT done......

Oh spring - where art thou?

Full Name:  Po-Cop Armani Luxury
We call Her:  Lux
Age: 1 month
# calves/lactations: Hopefully Many! :-)

Linking up with Holly here

Back to my beginning of 30 days here

Day 29: Nothing Special - #9015

 She's nothing special, but she is the type of cow that pays the bills.  She has been the high milk cow on individual tests several times.  She is rarely sick, doesn't have foot problems, is easy to work with, walks into the parlor easy and freely every time.  She's a no-nonsense kind of cow, and I LOVE that.

Full Name:  Po-Cop Matches Mirage
We call Her:  #9015
Age: 4 years, 6 months
# calves/lactations: 3

Linking up with Holly here

Back to my beginning of 30 days here

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day 28: Thanksgiving - Blessing

I also wrote about Blessing a long time ago.  I literally brought her into this world & breathed life back into this calf when she was born.  Now, to see her in the milking barn, I am reminded of that late night, the thrill I had in saving her, and how thankful I am that we get to farm!  Even the late nights, cold days, and all the ick in between that we end up dealing with - it is awesome

Blessing is usually in the 1st group or two of cows in the morning, and she's just a little skittish, but nowhere NEAR what her mama was.

Full Name:  Blukel PC Exactor Blessing
We call Her:  #141 or Blessing
Age: 2 years, 1 month
# calves/lactations: 1

Linking up with Holly here

Day 27: Revisiting - Million Dollar Reward

Here she was a long time ago:

And, here she is now:

My how times change.....

Full Name:  Po-Cop Million Dollar Reward
We call Her:  #101
Age: 2 years, 8 months
# calves/lactations: 1 - due again late winter

Linking up with Holly here

Day 26: Interesting - Curious George

Ok, so I've been really excited to talk about "Curious George".  That actually isn't her name at all, but that is what we call her, because she is slow, methodical, and not scared of anything!  She always has to come check out what we are doing, and give us a sniff, nudge, or just sometimes stand there and stare.  Although George is curious, she sometimes gets completely freaked out by the grates in the barn, and while she doesn't spook or jump, she will simply NOT cross over them sometimes (no matter how much you may push & pull, and if a 1800# cow doesn't want to go somewhere, believe me, you are NOT going to make her).  But, she crosses them at least 4x a day to get in & out of the parlor, so maybe she just learns to not look down at that time.  However, she is so calm, sometimes we just leave her standing there while we sort or go get other cows to bring in or out of the barn.  Usually when we come back from wherever we are going, there is George, still standing in the same spot we left her.
In fact, she is the only cow that doesn't back out of the headlocks in fear when Ainsley comes running down along the alley (to allow great pictures like this to be taken).

 Curious George & Ainsley

Full Name:  Po-Cop Jeeves Tomatillo
What we call her:  Curious, George, Curious George, or #9030
Age: 4 years, 2 months
# calves/lactations: 2, due for #3 this winter

Linking up with Holly here