Monday, September 18, 2017

Chopping, calving, running

We've had quite a month ...

Here's Kris with our 116th heifer calf this season.  About halfway done, now.  The calving has been going pretty well.

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I got to see this calf being born.  It's not always a sure thing, because the cows don't like to be watched, and sometimes when I'm hovering nearby with a camera, it makes them nervous and they walk away and stop pushing.  Then I feel like I'm making the entire birth process more difficult ... and take longer ... and possibly harm the calf ... you get the idea.

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I never get tired of seeing this.  This is my backyard!

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I spoke at an event put on by Ionia County Farm Bureau.  They hosted a tour that took consumers to see a dairy, a beef farm, an ethanol plant, and to lunch at Denny Farms Farm Market & Bakery, where I spoke to them about food safety.  Kudos to the organizers for their educational efforts and the people who want to learn!

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I finally flew with my dad.  He got his pilot's license eight years ago.  It gave me a great view of the farm!  The circles are the path of the irrigation wheels, and you can see exactly where the water stops.

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We chopped some of the corn, but not all, because the rest of it was much wetter.  (We farm on different types of soil, and one of our fields is irrigated - the one above.)  The boys love, love, love to ride with Kris.  They take turns, because Kris can only fit one of them in there with him now! We used to squeeze in more when they weren't so huge!

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Speaking of huge, isn't corn an amazing plant?!  As I read somewhere, people don't write country songs about soybeans.

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And speaking of irrigation ... we had a floorless tent up in our yard for an event for 22 hours.  During that time it rained about 1/2 inch.  Imagine the state of our crops if we didn't get that rain.  None of it drained over to under the tent?!  Incredible.  Thank goodness we got that tiny shower when we did - it really made a difference.

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This is an insurance row.  The insurance adjuster can't always get to the field before we do it, so we leave these rows so they can come and test it.  We come back later to chop it.

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My mom has been doing calf chores in the mornings!  Why?  Because she's great and we didn't have anyone to do them.  What a gem!

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As part of Team Chocolate Milk, I ran the Capital City Half Marathon in Lansing!  It was such a blast.  We all chugged some chocolate milk afterward.  We took a regular picture just holding our milk, and my dad said, "Why aren't you drinking it?  I want a picture of that!"  I like how, just by chance, we all have our eyes closed.  Bright ... and bliss!

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It's been a hectic summer, and we're looking forward to a slower fall.  Cheers!

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Monday, September 11, 2017

No hormones are added to your milk.

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Twice this weekend I was asked the same question – are there added hormones in milk?

I’m happy I could give the answer – no!  There are no added hormones in milk.  Not in conventional milk nor in organic milk.

First of all, 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.  The rest of the country has done the same.

All milk - organic and conventional - has natural hormones, because it is coming from a lactating mammal.  But!  Never fear because ...

Humans do not have receptors for bovine hormones.

It's not me saying it - it's scientists.

Dr. Terry Etherton: “There are zillions of protein hormones in both plant and animal foods. They are digested in the stomach, which kills their ability to have any biological activity." Best Food Facts

Another way to put it, from Science Blogs: Aetiology by Tara C. Smith, is:

“Studies have shown that human and bovine milk normally contain small amounts of growth hormone. After ingestion, growth hormone as any other protein in milk: it is digested into its constituent amino acids and di- and tripeptides. There is no data to suggest that BST present in milk can survive digestion or produce unique peptide fragments that might have biological effects.

Even if BST is absorbed intact, the growth hormone receptors in the human do not recognize cow BST and, therefore, BST cannot produce effects in humans. … Overall studies show recombinant growth hormone cannot be absorbed intact through intestine and even if small amounts get absorbed, there is no receptor for bovine growth hormones in humans.”

Or from the American Cancer Society:

"Neither natural nor synthetic BGH has been found to affect human growth hormone receptors."

Let me also add that these are naturally-occurring hormones, which all milk has, because it comes from lactating animals.  Hormones aren't just present in milk - they're present in all types of food. For instance, look at this chart about estrogen from Allen Young, Utah State University Extension dairy specialist and associate professor:

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So there’s your milk news for the day.  Please feel free to ask any questions you have!

Other questions answered:

What's the difference between whole, 2% and skim milk?

How long can you drink milk past the sell-by date?

Does milk make girls develop faster?  No.

What's the difference between organic and conventional milk?  Process, not product.

Why does organic milk have a longer expiration date?  It's heated up hotter.


There are no antibiotics in your milk.

This is what we do to guard against human error to never have antibiotics in milk.

GMOs, no antibiotics, etc.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


I'd like to give an incredibly enthusiastic thank you to:

Wirth & Fedewa Construction & Miller's Redi-Mix for buying Ty's steer,

and to J C Electric for buying Cole's steer!

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The community support at the 4-H auction is truly heartwarming. Thank you so much!

We had a great week.  My sister just uploaded her pictures from when she was here and shared this one with me ... here's a behind the scenes of what washing a steer doesn't look like at all.  Clearly not a candid!

Here's really what it looks like, with my dad.  The kids did it too, of course.  We all got pretty good at it.  It's nice to see them all clean, trimmed, and spiffed up at the fair.  

Meanwhile on the farm ... it's dry.  The corn and alfalfa look so dry, even though we got a couple tenths of rain.  Around us they've had tons of rain, but we're still hoping for more here before harvest. 

Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Fair Week

It's the 4-H Fair!  Kris and I both led cattle and had projects at our fairs, our siblings did, our parents did, our grandparents were leaders ... the connection is long and storied!  Until now our kids have just enjoyed attending the fair, but this year our twins had prospect beef steers.  They worked very hard on teaching them and leading them (way, way more than I ever remember working with my calf), and yesterday they showed them.  They were in showmanship and market, and they did well!  We're spending the rest of the week there taking care of them, and the auction is on Wednesday night.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the family members, friends, and 4-H people who helped us!

Meanwhile on the farm ... summer is quite the time.  Sentences like, "Seven calves were born before noon," "My phone battery died hours ago," "It's just one thing after another," are pretty much an every day type of thing.  Let's hope the month of August is boring and predictable ... and that someone invents a phone battery that actually lasts an entire day.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Summer months

Summer ... we're helping calves get their start in the world, harvesting alfalfa, and doing all the regular milking activities.  It's a pretty busy time, to say the least!

Here's an overview of what's been going on the last month ...

The chicory is blooming!  This flower makes me so happy.  It's tough, I love the color (periwinkle is what I say), and it covers our roadsides.

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We completed the second cutting.  We had just about 30 more acres to cut, and our discbine broke.  Our friend and neighbor Mike came over and cut it with his!  (We paid him, of course, but really a nice thing to do any way you look at it!)

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We hosted the Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator picnic at our house, which is an award given through Michigan Milk Producers Association.  The picnic is for everyone who has gotten the award from the year they started giving it, plus MMPA staff.  It was great talking to everyone!

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This was in June.  This did not mean I didn't need to wear a winter coat.

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We've all, especially my dad, been helping the boys with their 4-H calves.  It takes a lot of training to teach them how to walk with them ... way more than I remember doing when I was ten years old!

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Max is always along, even though he's too young to do it.

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We continue to work on our barns ... since we were working on the free stalls, we figured we might as well take the sides off of the barn to make it more ventilated.  Here's the process:

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As always, we're working with our promotional activities and our wonderful community.

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Here's to continued great weather and a fun summer!

Sunday, June 11, 2017


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This morning Kris and I got our 17th heifer of the season from the pasture!

I came back from a Caterpillar Women in Leadership Conference in Peoria, IL.  I was on a panel to talk about agriculture with Julie Anna Potts, Vice President at American Farm Bureau, and
Jill Harvie, a farmer and programs manager at the Canadian Cattleman's Association.  (Wonderful conference and a fantastic time.)  It was great meeting them ... and afterward I was standing a group of five Cat employees who also happened to be from farms!  We congregate.

Panel moderator Phil Kelliher, Cat VP, Julie Anna Potts, and Jill Harvie 

My dear friend came over with a belated birthday gift - one of EVERY FLAVOR from the MSU Dairy Store!  I was floored, I was thankful, and I think this picture captures the sheer joy I'm feeling! Thanks so much, Elaine!! (Yes, this is how much I love ice cream.)

The day ended beautifully.  This is my backyard and one of my favorite sights in the world.

It's the busiest time of the season - calves everywhere, Kris is super busy, and everyone is working really hard.  I'm ready for the boys to get out of school so they can help more with calf chores!  ... Is that an excused absence?

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Welcome Gateway Elementary fourth grades!


Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Berkhousen's fourth grade classes from Gateway Elementary (plus many adults) came to visit our farm today! 

We are the class farmers for fourth grade at the ag-focused Gateway, which was recently featured in the article - Connecting the classroom to the farm improves mathematics test scores: St. Johns Schools-CMU partnership focuses on Ag-STEM.

I've been to their classrooms, as well as answered many questions by email.  But today was the big day - the day they came to see the calf barn, the free stall barn, and the milking parlor!  

As usual, the calves were adorable, the cows were curious, and everyone had lots of good questions.

A new question I got was: "Does it always smell like this?"  I said yes, but told him to wait a few minutes and he wouldn't be able to smell it any more.  (Like magic, this olfactory sense!)

A new statement was: "I would like to be born from a cow, but still look like this."  We all agreed that would be really interesting to see.

I told them part of the reason we do this is to enjoy delicious dairy products, so we ended with GoGurts.

Thanks to Gateway, their teachers, the parents, Stacey, my mom, and everyone who is helping teach these kids about where all their food comes from.  It may be smelly, but wow, does it provide some good food.

Want to know more about the farm?  Like the page on Facebook, on Twitter @carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by email - the form is on the right side of the page.