Saturday, October 25, 2014

Nine more days to vote, and checking your milk code

Nine more days to vote!  You can vote once a day.

If you have a minute, please vote here:

http://faces.pgtb.me/w2Sg4d

Today's the big MSU vs U of M game.  My great grandma, who's shown in the video, graduated from MSU.  Then my grandpa, dad, and Kris and me.  (And various other family members.)

But!  No matter what school you're a fan of, in the 10-day countdown, here's one of the posts people found most useful.  There is a code on your milk that tells you where it comes from!

Each container of milk is identified by a 2-digit state code followed by a 3-digit processing plant code.  It's local!  Michigan is 26.

If you don't live in Michigan, you can check exactly where your milk comes from by typing in the code at this site: whereismymilkfrom.



Thanks again for taking the time to help me represent agriculture at a national level.  Again, you can vote HERE


Friday, October 24, 2014

Asking for your vote! Up for Faces of Farming & Ranching



I’m honored to be one of eight finalists in the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance® Faces of Farming & Ranching nationwide search!  (I don’t like asking for votes.)

So what does that mean?  It means that to help put a real face on agriculture, USFRA selected people who are proud of what they do, eager to share their stories, and are actively involved in sharing their experiences in public and on social media.  (But I’m going to anyway.)

If I’m selected, I’ll spend the next year representing farmers at different events around the country. (Here it comes.)

From today until Nov 2, you can vote for me on USFRA’s Facebook page:
Scroll down until you see my name and video and select the Place My Vote button.  You must have a Facebook account to vote.  If you don't, you can register for one right there.  Votes will be factored into the final decision to pick the next Faces of Farming & Ranching. (That’s ten days, and you can vote once a day.)

If you think I’ll do a good job representing Michigan and agriculture, please take the time to vote for me once a day.  (If you want to share this with others, that’d be great, too.)

So far ... there was an extensive application process.  Essay questions, a video, recommendation letters, and references - it was sort of like applying to college!  

Then, a video crew came out to do the video you're going to see on the USFRA page.  They told me they would be there from 8:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m. to shoot the video.  I thought, it can't possibly take that long.  They were there exactly those minutes!  They did a great job.  (I loved how the crew was always trying to make my hair not stand straight up, or tell me to fix my shirt because it was crooked.  I need people like that in regular life.)   

After that, I had a phone interview with the four Faces of Farming & Ranching from last year, plus USFRA staff.  Now, it's the online voting!  The winners will be announced on Nov 12.  Thank you for taking the time to vote - I appreciate it.  If you see my hair sticking up straight in the video, it wasn't the crew's fault.  They did all they could.

For the next ten days of voting, I'm going to highlight ten of my favorite (and most popular) blog posts. 

Number 10:  
Five myths about farmers: a tongue-in-cheek look at our industry.

Please take the time to vote (today and for the next 10 days!) HERE.  Thank you!  


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What’s going down on the farm? Questions you’d ask a farmer if she were your best friend.

Seriously, what’s going on with GMOs?  What are GMOs, anyway?

GMO stands for genetically modified organisms.  If you’ve ever grown a garden, you know that it’s not easy.  Now, imagine that your garden crop is your field and your job.  Imagine that you’re responsible for providing food for your country. (If this were my garden, we would all starve.)  Guess what?  People keep trying to do a better job. 

For about 10,000 years, farmers have been picking desirable characteristics of plants and crossbreeding them to get better plants – ones that grow better or taste better.  Now, lab technicians insert genes from one plant into another to speed the process along.  They can also be more precise this way.  For an in depth view from Popular Science, read: How to genetically modify a seed, step by step. 

GMOs allow farmers to use less water, land, and pesticides to produce more food.  For instance, we grow corn to feed our cattle.  The corn seed we buy has been genetically modified to be more resistant to drought.

From the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance page: “Since 1995, food from GM seeds has been commercially available and has been proven safe for human and animal consumption. No other crops have been more studied or subject to greater scientific review. GM seeds undergo testing for safety, health and nutritional value – and regulation is overseen by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”

But!  None of that matters if people think that GMOs are evil and killing us all.  I’m a firm believer in choice – I think we all are – but I also want people to have a deep understanding of what GMOs are, why farmers use them, and why they were developed in the first place.  Farmers are consumers just like you – we only want the best for our families, too.  My family has been farming here for 135 years.  We care about our land, our water, our animals, our product, and ultimately – you!
   
What’s the difference between organic milk and regular milk?  What’s up with antibiotics and hormones?

Good news for anyone wondering!

Conventional and organic milk have no antibiotics in it.

Conventional and organic milk have hormones in it.  (All milk has natural hormones.)

All milk is tested repeatedly on the farm and at the lab to ensure that it is antibiotic free.  We don't feed any antibiotics to cows.  We only give them medicine when they're sick, and then we don't milk them into the tank when they have the medicine still in their systems.  Then when they're better and the medicine is out of their system - only then do we begin milking them again.  No one wants antibiotics in the milk - the farmer or the consumer.

As for hormones - in Michigan, farmers don't give their cows hormones to help them produce more milk.  (We never have on this farm, either.)  When farmers did it in the past, there was no way to tell the synthetic hormone from the natural hormone, because cows already produced it.  (So there was no test for it.)  But when consumers didn't want it, farmers stopped using it.  In Michigan, that happened in 2008. 

I’m hugely in favor of capitalism and choice, and it's easier to make a decision when you know all milk is healthy and nutritious.    

So what is the difference, then? 

The difference is in the farm practice, not the product.  Organic milk comes from cows that are on certified organic farms.  They are fed organic feed, they are not treated with medicine when sick (they are sold or put into a traditional herd), and they have mandated outdoor access.

On our farm, they’re fed feed we grow, given medicine when sick and not milked into the tank until it’s out of their system, and are out on pasture.  We take fantastic care of our animals – just like all farmers try to do. 

There have been many studies – like by the USDA and the American Dietetic Association – that show organic and conventional milk is equally nutritious and safe.

So, once again – it’s America!  You can choose whatever you want in the land of the free and the home of the brave!  We have giant grocery stores at our disposal!  Just know that all farmers – organic and conventional – are trying our best to provide for you.

Isn’t the manure part of farming kind of gross?

Yes.  But only when it’s wet.  Dry manure just seems like dirt.

Here’s a little fun fact for you … many dairy farmers I know have a separate entry to their houses!  Many of them also have separate showers!  Many of them are also in the basement, for good reason.

Farms each have their own smell.  One day Kris came home and I said, “Where have you been?  You smell different.”

(Note – this is the exact opposite of a scene when a wife smells another woman’s perfume on her husband.  I smelled someone else’s farm manure.)

But the truth is - we need manure!  We save it up and spread it on our fields so we can grow well-fertilized crops to feed our cattle.  Our cattle all - with no training! - spread manure on their pasture themselves!

Do our boots have manure on them?  Yes.  Do our barn clothes smell like manure?  Yes.  Do we have a really good washing machine?  Yes.

Manure is just part of working on a farm and living on a farm.  But that’s where we keep it – on the farm.  We don’t ever go out in our work boots and clothes.  

Not even the boys … no matter how much they want to wear their barn boots to the library.



Any questions for me?  Let me know!   You can like the page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter@carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by good old, old-fashioned email - the form is on the right side of the page.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cowlendar guy

ANIMART is a dairy and livestock supply company we use, and this year they held a photo contest for their 'cowlendar.'  They wanted pictures of calves and kids.



I only have one or two million, so I sent in a picture I took of Max and a newborn calf.  They're July! (My guess is that they thought shirtless = summer, but honestly, Max is wearing only a swimsuit playing outside in a leaf pile right now, and it's 45 degrees.)  


I left the calendar out for Ty and Cole to see, and Ty looked at it, very puzzled.  He said, "Mom, this says 'cowlendar!"  Cole opened it up and found Max's picture, and all three boys were excited.  It'll be fun to turn to July this year.  

Thanks to ANIMART, too.  I just looked at their site - they have a 'cowtalog' too.  It seems like this could be cowtagious.  

If you want to know more, you can like the page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter@carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by good old, old-fashioned email - the form is on the right side of the page.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Radio interview & farm news



On Friday Nicole Heslip of Michigan Farm Radio Network interviewed me about being a finalist in the Faces of Farming & Ranching nationwide search.  It was fun going into the radio studio - it's in a beautiful old house turned office in Lansing.  There's even a bathroom with an old claw foot tub! (Getting it out would be harder than leaving it there, I'm sure.)  Nicole has four years with Michigan Farm Radio, is from a farm, and was a pleasure to talk to about all things farming.

You can hear the interview here!  Ag Focus on Michigan Farm Radio Network.

(Those of you who've asked about the USFRA Faces of Farming & Ranching competition - the voting starts on Friday and I'll post the details then.)

***

Meanwhile, back on the farm ... the hot water heater went out!  What does that mean?  We use hot water for washing, and we need A LOT of hot water at once, so we have two larger-than-for-a-house-size water heaters at the dairy barn.  We've kind of outgrown those, too, because it's barely enough water to wash everything before the next milking.  (The water has to run through all of the pipes, tank, and milkers between milkings.)

Last week we ordered a new one that runs off of propane, (right now they run off electricity), but it won't be here for another week.  We ordered it before this one broke!  But not soon enough.  In the meantime, we are taking a hot water heater from the old barn and using it at the dairy barn.  Thank goodness for old barns with their spare parts.

We also dug a new well.  We didn't have enough water capacity for the peak times (again, for washing) so, we have two wells to help.  Plus, if one goes down, we aren't going to be left without water.  

***

Tomorrow we're starting a new milking routine to improve the amount and quality of the milk the cows are giving.  We have a great milking team, and we're looking forward to seeing the improvements!

There are so many elements that have to come together to get milk ... the harvest, the water pumps, the procedures.  Sure, I could talk about it forever, but the radio show only lasts half an hour.

   
If you want to know more, you can like the page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter@carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by good old, old-fashioned email - the form is on the right side of the page.






Friday, October 10, 2014

Tillamook Cheese



Like all good farmers, we spent part of our vacation in Oregon ... visiting a cheese factory!  (We did a lot of other things, but we also spent a lot of drive time commenting on fields and checking out animals on pasture.  "It must be so hard to farm on that slope!"  "Looks like they just harvested."  "Is that an emu?!" Sometimes we really live up to the stereotype.)

Tillamook Cheese has a self-guided tour at their plant, and it was so well done.

Parts that stood out:

- The first farmers that settled in Oregon were super depressed that they spent tons of time and effort clearing these GIANT trees and then ... they couldn't grow crops.  Bad for them, good for the dairy industry.

- A man said that he remembered how to make cheese, but his first batch was so swollen it exploded on the shelves.  He guessed maybe he didn't remember that well.

- We got to see all the factory work, which I always find fascinating.  So many machines, moving parts, and people.  We watched as one stopped working and they discussed how to fix it with a mechanic.  



- I loved this old ad:



- And this is exactly how I look when I serve dinner: 




- They had free cheese samples and we tasted them all, and then they had an ice cream stop.  It was $5 for 5 scoops of ice cream.  I told Kris I only wanted one scoop ... could he really eat 4 scoops of ice cream?  He scoffed.  "Of COURSE I can eat that!" he said.  I'd like to point out it was 9:00 a.m.  (Of course, he'd eaten pie ala mode for his entire breakfast the previous day, so what's the difference?)




- Tillamook is different than our co-op, because Michigan Milk Producers Association employs people to sell our milk to companies that want to use it. We don't make our own products.  If we did, maybe you'd really see us driving something like this little beauty.


8. Educational, fun, and ended in ice cream.  Nice vacation stop! 



In today's farm news - the corn is done!  Kris and the guys chopped from 11:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., then furiously worked to cover the pile as fast as possible because it was the last time of the season!  We talked briefly before he went to bed, mostly about how cheerful and great our team members are.  It's because of them that we can ever even go on vacation - and plunge ourselves into dairy history! 

If you want to know more, you can like the page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter@carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by good old, old-fashioned email - the form is on the right side of the page.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pedicures for cows

Today the hoof trimmer came.

If you're looking for work, look into becoming a good hoof trimmer.  It took us a really long time to find someone who was even willing to come - because they're ALL so busy!  With tons of dairies around here and tons of cows ... times four hooves ... maybe I'll be a hoof trimmer in my spare time.

Hooves are like fingernails.  They get long.

First, they picked out the cows that needed obvious work - cows with long hooves and ones that were favoring a foot.

He trims them down with a combination of tools.  He grinds them down, then sees if the hoof needs any more attention.  Like if there is something like a lesion, an ulcer, or a wart.

If they do, he puts the appropriate topical solution on them, and wraps up the hoof with an athletic-type wrap.  (The wrap just eventually falls off.)

Last, the cows selected their favorite polish color and trotted off, no doubt more comfortable than before.

Okay, no polish, obviously.  But a cow pedicure all the same.

In all the articles about jobs needing people, I never see 'hoof trimmers'.  But it seems like a good gig ... warts and all.


(Ours doesn't turn them on their sides, but here's a video that gives an up-close look at hoof trimming.)


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