Friday, September 5, 2014

Farm Photo Friday (9/5/14)

There's an old joke shared by dairy farmers (and I presume a few other folks) that we celebrate Labor Day by laboring. That was true for us once again on the farm, and was also the case for a couple of our pregnant cows. Cow no.086 went into labor Monday afternoon and easily birthed a heifer calf. Cow no.038 didn't have it quite so easy.

my father helping cow no.038 deliver her calf
My father made a final check on the cows in our maternity pasture when we finished milking Monday afternoon. He noticed that no.038 appeared to be having labor pains, but with no visible sign of a calf being born. We herded her to the working pen so we could help her have her calf, and dad discovered that it had a leg turned backward at the knee which was preventing it from being delivered. After "going in her" and straightening the calf's leg, he attached the OB chains to it's front ankles and begin to pull. It wasn't a very big calf, and it pulled rather easily. Unfortunately though, it had already died prior to our intervention.

That's the way it goes on the farm sometimes. Our cows rarely have calving problems, and even when they do the calf is usually delivered alive and healthy. This was just one of those times that it didn't work out...a bad way to end a holiday.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dairy Good Questions (9/4/14)

This week's edition of "Dairy Good Questions" is going to be a quick one..

DGQ 1) What is a mineral tub for?

Answer: Mineral tubs are used to provide supplemental vitamins and minerals to cows that are out on pasture and rely on grazing or hay as their primary diet. These tubs contain trace minerals such as selenium, zinc, and cobalt, and are available in several different formulations depending on the animals' nutritional needs. The tubs we provide for our heifers and dry cows come with the minerals and vitamins suspended in a molasses-based liquid that is poured into a plastic tub and hardens into a block. Cows will spend a few minutes a day licking the mineral tub, seeming to instinctively know both when they need it and when they've had enough.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to send your questions to me any time!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Farm Photo Friday (8/29/14)

Happy Friday, y'all! I have two farm photos to share and discuss with you today.

WARNING: cows in mirror are closer than they appear
Most of Tuesday morning was spent "working" dry cows and pregnant heifers. We walked the group from their pasture to the milking barn, sorted them into three smaller groups based upon their expected calving date, and then walked each group back to their respective pastures. When we are dealing with lots of animals (around 60 in this case) in close-by pastures, walking them down County Road 36 is much quicker than setting up a catch pen and hauling 6-8 at a time.  So if you're ever driving by our place and see us moving them on down the road, just remember that the cows in your mirror are closer than they appear.

The second "photo" is a video I shot while dumping a load of corn silage over into our truck. That process happened 113 times over the past ten days, and I'm glad to say that our first round of silage harvest is now complete. We will spend the first part of next week making some repairs and adjustments to the harvesting equipment, and I expect to be back in the field the week after that. I expect to repeat this scene at least another 85-90 times with the corn that remains, and then well over 100 once we start chopping sorghum a month from now.

Y'all have a "dairy" good weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Five Year Anniversary on Throwback Thursday

I uploaded my first farm videos to YouTube five years ago this week. I filmed and uploaded them from my very first "smartphone", a Nokia e71x, while harvesting hay. And while the video quality has definitely improved over the years, my goofiness and singing voice are still around the same level of awfulness as they always have been. 

So on this Throwback Thursday, I present my first YouTube videos. Try to enjoy!

Dairy Good Questions (8/28/14)

Welcome to this week's installment of "Dairy Good Questions". I've had several good questions come in over the past several days, and I would like to focus on two of those today. I had intended to answer three, but a breakdown on my silage chopper is costing me half of my lunch break. So with that in mind, let's get started...

DGQ #1) Have you ever drank raw milk?

a refrigerated bulk tank full of raw milk
Answer: I have, but not many times. There have been occasions in the past when I have collected a couple of quarts from our milk tank to either drink or make ice cream/milkshakes with. If I was to do that now, however, I would pasteurize it first. That would allow to me to keep the extra butterfat while removing potential harmful bacteria in the milk. Truth be told, though, it's a lot easier to buy milk at the store and add some half-and-half if I want to thicken it up.

The safety of raw milk is one of the great debates within the dairy industry, as well as the argument over whether or not consumers should be able to purchase it if they so choose. I have felt relatively comfortable drinking raw milk from my farm because I spend so much time around my cows and are exposed to the same "bugs" that they are. But while I would figure our raw milk would be 99.99% safe for someone else to drink, the consequences of that 0.01% just don't make it worth it. Proper pasteurization provides a food safety aspect that far outweighs any perceived flavor or nutritional benefit gained from drinking raw milk.

DGQ #2) Do your milking devices self-disconnect when cows are finished milking?

Answer: Yes, our milking machines have automatic take-offs which turn off and disconnect the units when a cow finishes milking. In our system, each cow's milk passes through a chamber that contains a pendulum. As milk hits the pendulum, air in another small timing chamber is released. As the milk flow slows to the point it no longer moves the pendulum, the pressure in the timing chamber begins to increase. Once that pressure climbs to a certain level, it triggers a series of valves that first shut off that milking unit's suction and then pulls the unit off and away from the cow's udder.

Until next time, thanks for reading and have a "dairy" good day!