Change happens. We can dig our heels in and fight as hard as we can, but the world around us changes. As women in agriculture, part of our responsibility is to adapt to that change. On the dairy farm, it seems like we are always adapting to changes in recommendations, changes in the needs of our cattle, and changes in things like weather. As a nutritionist, I find myself needing to adapt at a faster pace because my clients are adapting for their changes, and it forces change on me for many of the same reasons.
As a follow-up to my post last week, I wanted to talk about how we are working to meet another one of our goals for 2017. I previously talked about how I have been working on some changes in the calf program, the process and reasons behind those changes. This week I thought it would be appropriate to take a step back to where those calves came from.
This fall and early winter, my husband, Eric, and I put a big focus on improving what we do with the cows in the hope that we’ll drive better performance from them. Our farm took a progressive step toward the future several years ago, when Eric's family went from housing and milking in the tie stall to housing in the freestall barn and milking in the tie stall. That was a big step at the time and it was meant for more cow comfort. I met the family and began consulting on this farm in 2007, two years before they took the leap and put in a parlor.
As I am typing this, the temperature is struggling to stay in the positive territory of the thermometer. The winds are blowing, and while it may be 4°F., it feels like -60°F. Life at those temperatures makes everything more difficult. For our farm, those frigid temperatures mean that manure freezes in our freestall barn, the pack barns freeze down as well, and animal comfort becomes even more of a focus than before.
Every time I walk out the door – no matter what my destination – the farmyard suddenly wakes up. It is filled with tiny little “moos.” It’s the baby calves of our farm. While they are little, they are loud and insistent. We are milking 110 cows, and we are growing a bit with a goal of 120 milking cows going through the parlor, which means we have ramped up our calf numbers. We also keep all of our bull calves and raise them as steers all the way through to finished animals. As of this writing, we have 33 baby or wet calves.
It’s that time of year when my husband and I focus on fall harvest here at the dairy. Our biggest fall crop is corn, which we utilize as corn silage as well as high-moisture corn. Today, the crew is hard at work on our corn silage. For those of you not familiar with this product, it is the whole corn plant, cut off roughly 6 inches from the ground, chopped into pieces that are about ¾-inch long, and we process or grind up the corn kernels as best we can. Here on our farm, that is then ensiled into two bunker (or horizontal) silos.
My heart will forever hold precious memories of this past weekend. We had the tremendous opportunity to not only see our new cattle barn at the fair but also to see our daughter and nephew’s house and show their calves there, as well. I have struggled to find the words to express my gratitude for our community’s generosity and my extreme awe and pride in its efforts. Walking into a brand-new barn full of cattle, children, and smiling and thankful parents was truthfully, very overwhelming, and I know I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.
Like so many of you, summertime on our farm (and those of my clients) means being busy to the 10th power. I can’t even keep track of all the days, where we went, or what we’ve done except that every day the animals were cared for, we were taken care of, and we found time to sleep. Sometimes the sleep was in small interrupted doses and our care came at far less concern than our animals (except the kiddo).
Recently I have seen some great posts on Facebook touting the wonderful people in agriculture. It’s no doubt to those of us who live in farming communities that our neighbors are absolutely amazing people who are willing to help one another and work together to meet a common goal. It truly makes my heart swell with pride when I see these posts because I know that our little community is the same. When one farmer is in need the rest of us step up to help out. We don’t do these things for pride, money, or recognition.
It’s that time of year when tractors are rolling across the fields, the sun sets later, and the temps are warmer. It’s the time of year where, for me, home life ramps up and work life slows down. My clients are mostly on cruise control for the next two to three weeks, and I get to really enjoy my time doing what I love.