Monday, April 30, 2012

Rainy Monday

Hooray - we can breathe a sigh of relief for another planting season. Kris finished planting last night!

My dad, though he's retired, always helps when we ask. Last night he went to get more corn seed so Kris didn't have to stop to do it. It also rained last night and today, so Kris was especially glad he was done. It's too rainy to plant today, but the seeds should love it! (As much as a plant can express love.)

A third heifer calf was born this morning. Three heifers is a good start. Now we expect a run of bulls. It's just the way it works, but it always seems to even out in the end. (Literally.)


Sue Lounds of the Clinton County News wrote a nice article called 'St Johns middle school students get healthy lessons', where as a representative of Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) and United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM), I educated kids about dairy and handed out milk.

She wrote another article called 'Go Fly a Kite Day' for St Johns spray park is May 12.' I'm helping with fundraising for the spray park and Uncle John's Cider Mill is hosting this event. I hope we have a great turnout. I'm thankful to Uncle John's, too. I've been going there since I was a little girl, and I've seen it evolve from a cider mill into a tourist destination! It's super fun to go there and see agritourism flourishing.

While I love seeing the rain today, I don't want it to rain at all on May 12 from 11-4.  Some farmers might.  It doesn't matter ... the weather doesn't pay attention to any of us.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A weekend of planting

Kris planted corn all weekend long. He's still - at 10:00pm - doing it right now!

We strolled down to see him yesterday evening.

On the way, we stopped to meet the new calf. Two heifers, now! The newest one looks huge next to the preemie.

This field is 100 acres. My grandpa always said (I know this through my dad) that this was the best field on the farm. So I've always liked it, too.

Since we had the field worked up, it unearthed a lot of rocks. This is what an old-fashioned rock picker looks like. No, not machinery. A guy with a truck, picking up rocks:

Kris came over to see us. He said these were a fraction of what he picked up, since he also throws and rolls them off to the sides of the field. Rocky, eh?! You'd never guess it by looking at it ... until you're trying to plant in it, I guess.

One of the best things about farming is that we can visit Kris whenever we want. He took the boys for a ride with him to finish up the planting. (It's okay. Common sense prevailed on the child labor laws against working on farms ... it's been dropped.)

Kris was hoping to get the planting done before the influx of calves. It looks like he'll be done either tonight or tomorrow. Then, soon ... this barn will be full!

As full as Kris' and the guys' summer schedule.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Planting corn

Kris is planting corn! 

Timing when to plant is always stressful - why?  Because it depends on the weather.  I was out on the roads driving a lot yesterday and every farmer was out in his fields, planting.  We even saw them at 11:00pm at night, lights ablaze, working away.  It's really nice conditions for planting THIS INSTANT, so everyone wants to take advantage.

We hire a company to do some field work.  It works out for a lot of farmers that you can pay someone to do something (like field finishing), rather than own the equipment yourself.  Plus, these companies have huge equipment so they can do it super fast.

So this was our entertainment yesterday morning.  After it went by, my son said, "That was loud!"

As soon as he drove away, it was once again so quiet you could almost hear the grass growing.  And soon, corn.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Barn cats

Like lots of farms, we have cats. We’ve had cats as long as I can remember. We’ve never acquired a cat on purpose, but we always feed whatever cats show up.

They’re definitely useful. They live at the barn and eat mice. I assume they scare away other critters, too.

For the last year we’ve had a really friendly cat come around. (Either that or he’s two cats. I can’t tell them apart.) My boys named him (or them, they’re even worse at it than I am) Jack.

We feed him, they pet him, and my youngest really likes him, even when Jack’s accidentally knocking him over with affection.

Last week I took the boys out to eat and brought a burrito home for Kris. When we were getting out of the car, my son forgot to shut the car door. (I asked him if he did it, and he said yes. Sadly, he was dead wrong.) I was planning on going back out to get Kris’ burrito and the leftovers, but instead I started giving them a bath.

Kris walked in and looked sad. I said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “I came home to find the cat eating my burrito.”

That’s right. The cat had gone into the car, opened the bag, chewed open the tinfoil, and ate half his burrito.

Kris had put the pitiful remains on the counter. Kris said he couldn’t blame the cat – burritos are great. Jack hadn’t touched the boys’ leftovers though (he apparently prefers pork to chicken) so Kris ate theirs.

He moved to throw the half-eaten burrito in the trash. I said, “Wait – why don’t you give it to the cat?”

He said, “I sort of wanted to punish him.” But he got a bowl and set it outside.

Jack couldn’t even eat any of it – he was so full.

I’m pretty sure the mice ran rampant in the barn that night.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mad cow

I'm going to get all serious on you.  The U.S. Dept of Agriculture announced that a dairy cow was infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in California.  It's better known as mad cow disease.  (Much catchier name.  But not catching!  Important difference.)

The National Milk Producers Federation said in this article

"Milk and dairy products do not contain or transmit BSE, and animals do not transmit the disease through cattle-to-human contact. The infectious prions that transmit BSE are found in neurological tissues, such as brains and spinal cords."

Translated - Not in milk and dairy products. 

BSE hasn't been found in cattle in our country since 2006.  This is the fourth case in our country EVER.  So the rarity of it is a positive.  The fact that they test for it is reassuring.  As a result, no meat from this animal was ever in the food chain.

Obviously, we have standards and testing in place to keep us all safe.  News like this is bad for everyone ... but it's not as bad as it could be.  It's not a person that was infected.  Let's keep it that way.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Let's talk

Annual Dairy Communicator conference today! The speakers, the people, the facts presented - it was all very interesting!

Just a couple of notes:

There's a lot of milk in the US right now. I wrote notes like: "708 million more pounds than last year in the US. Hope for blazing hot summer ... in a different state." (Just kidding, southern states!)

United Dairy Industry of Michigan is promoting chocolate milk as a refueling drink at 18 races this year! The first two marathons were really successful, and we heard lots of testimonies about how great chocolate milk is for runners - from runners. I like the site:

Mitch Smith from UDIM said that for all Happy Meal orders, McDonald's workers are now being trained to say, "Do you want white milk or chocolate milk with that?"  (Maybe supersizing the milk will also be an option someday.) 

As always, talking to the people was a lot of fun. You know ... communicating with communicators. It's what we do best. That, and writing about it online afterward.

Friday, April 20, 2012


I got the call this morning. They needed a farmer, and they needed one now.

The preschool in town was hosting the Book Barn, donated by Farm Bureau. It's a cute little traveling bookshelf, shaped like a barn, that's filled with farming books. (Accurate agriculture books! The cows all have the proper amount of teats. Farm Bureau selects them.)

But ... they needed a farmer to read to them! The farmer they'd lined up couldn't do it at the last minute. They didn't mind me bringing my kids, so off we went.

The preschool kids all got animal hats and a coloring book about dairy cows. One of the books I read was: 'Extra Cheese, Please!: Mozzarella's Journey from Cow to Pizza.'

It was good! Entertaining, informational, real pictures, easy to understand.

The kids were adorable. I was asking them about it afterward and one of the boys repeated the book back to me, practically word for word. They had lots of questions and comments and the whole experience was great.

I love writing a blog because I can communicate with people everywhere - here and around the world. But like all things comparing the internet with face to face ... it's nice to see people. I like to put a face on farming, especially to kids who've never learned this before.

I'd do it anytime. Need a dairy lesson? Just call my hotline. I specialize in book emergencies.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I was in the grocery store tonight by Michigan State University. Two college girls were near me by the milk.

One girl took out a gallon of chocolate milk and said to her friend, "They say that when you work out, chocolate milk is the best drink for you."

"How come?" her friend asked.

"I think because it's lowfat and has a lot of protein," she answered.

I felt like I was in a commercial. That chocolate milk news has really gotten a good amount of publicity. It's regular dairy aisle talk!

I turned to them and said, "I'm a dairy farmer, and I just wanted to tell you that your conversation really warmed my heart."

They both laughed, and the chocolate milk proponent said, "I love dairy!"

I normally dread going to the grocery store, but maybe I should just hang out by the milk. Best trip in awhile.


The first calf - still the only one - is doing well! She went to the bathroom and tonight Kris taught her to drink from a bucket. Hooray! Our calves have a bottle for two or three feedings, and then he moves them to drinking out of a bucket. He teaches them by letting them suck on his two fingers and then gradually putting his fingers in the milk bucket. Some of them catch on quickly, some of them take a long time, but they all get it eventually.

Today we sold all 25 of our one-year-old steers. Now the calf barn is empty and we can completely scour it with some heavy duty sanitizer before more calves are born. It's like getting a nursery ready ... minus the cute decorations, plus manure residue.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Calf and cows

We went to visit the new calf. She's so tiny.

You can just see how small she is with some perspective.

She didn't drink tonight. She hasn't gone to the bathroom yet, so she's not hungry.

Every once in awhile a calf is born with a deformity of its intestinal tract. If it can't go to the bathroom, it won't make it.

Hopefully, tomorrow she'll be better.

Newborns! You have to watch everything about them. What they eat, when they go, how they act. They're delicate little creatures.

Thankfully, they get hardier as they grow up. These look like forces to be reckoned with.

Monday, April 16, 2012

First calf

It's started! The first calf of the season was born today. Kris said she's small, since she's early, but she drank her bottle!

After she was born, there was the regular task of figuring out who birthed her.

When a cow has a calf, she usually has - ready for it? - afterbirth. That's a good indicator. She also usually has a really full udder. The term for this that Kris uses is 'bagged up.'

But, since the calf was early, the cow's udder wasn't that huge. But they were able to pick her out eventually.

So - a heifer. She drank. They found the cow. Seems like a great start to the calving season to me! Let's hope for a winning record.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Picking and planting

There's a lot to do to rotate crops. We've been growing corn in this field for awhile, so we're changing it to alfalfa. Changing crops breaks up the bug cycle, changes the weeds, and is good for the soil makeup.

Kris and the guys cleared all the rocks in the field. He even used a wheel loader to get out some huge ones. The boys pointed out the giant hole to me today. (They'd helped him do it. How long until they can just do it themselves? We're counting down.)

I asked a friend who just returned to farming how his spring was going. He wrote, "It's really dry and we need rain. Doesn't that make me sound like a farmer? Ha."

That's exactly what I said when I looked at this field. Can't help the way you sound when your job depends on the weather!

But soon this ...

Will turn to this:

You know, provided we get enough rain - and everything else goes perfectly!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dairy farming is second to last

I saw this headline everywhere today! released the Best & Worst Jobs in 2012. Worst job of the 200 they evaluated? Lumberjack. Second to last? Dairy farmer.

They used five measurements: pay, outlook, work environment, stress and physical demands.

Tony Lee, publisher of said, “Dairy farmers work outdoors in all weather conditions and all hours, with very large animals that step on their feet and break limbs,” Lee says. “Plus, they compete with corporate dairy producers so earnings are down.”

Their site features this picture:

Two funny things:

1. Those aren't dairy cows. I'm sure the person putting the article together didn't know the difference - no big deal, but funny! I wish the picture of the lumberjack also showed him with pillars instead of trees.

2. Tony Lee says that corporate dairy producers reduce earnings. What makes one farm corporate and another just a dairy farmer? Isn't everyone part of some family? Besides, we all get paid on the amount of milk we ship.

I get why dairy farming loses with these evaluation points. Yes, there's stress involved in owning your own business - especially one that depends on the weather. Kris has a lot of physical demands, but it keeps him active and healthy.

But the work environment? Seriously hard to beat. Kids and cows are awfully cute.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ah, youth

Today I ran the dairy booth at our town's middle school health fair. The 800 kids came to my booth - and the 14 other booths - for their PE class.

It was so much fun! I don't often see kids this age. They were giggly and excitable. I had chocolate milk and white milk to give them, milk moustache stickers (a big hit), Got Milk? pencils, good handouts ... but to get these items, they had to answer a quiz question.

Why is milk good for you?

They all knew the answer to this one. It must have been drilled into their heads forever - they mentioned calcuim, strong muscles, stong bones. It was good to hear.

Name one dairy product other than milk.

75% of the kids knew this one, but 25% answered ... eggs. Then the other kids would say, "EGGS?!" (How did eggs get on the dairy list? I really don't know.) Several other kids answered, "orange juice." One student answered "steak." (This was closer!) One student told me, after much thought, that her favorite dairy product other than milk was "cookies."

How do you milk a cow?

Most students knew about the udder squeezing, though three of them called it the "gutter." They had the idea, anyway.

One girl said she didn't know. I told her to guess ... think about the olden days. She said, "I don't know! I was born in 1997!" I said, "But you're aware that things did happen before then?" Ah, youth!

How do you milk on modern day farms?

Everyone pretty much answered "machines."

Is chocolate milk good for you?

Their answers allowed me to tell them about chocolate milk's health benefits, especially following a workout.

How many teats does a cow's udder have?

I originally asked this because I thought it would be a super easy, jokey question. But, this one was answered wrong the most. 90% of the students said six or twelve. Even numbers, anyway! Cows have four teats.

It was fun answering their questions and promoting dairy nutrition. And did I mention the milk moustache stickers?

This boy put his on his forehead, and I said, "Like Anthony Davis?" He was surprised I knew what he was getting at and said, "Yes!"

I wasn't born in 1997. But milk moustache humor is timeless.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dairy category

I was listening to the Bob & Tom show and my ears perked up when they had this conversation:

"I gave up dairy for Lent."

"But you didn't like it to start with."

"Yeah, I do. Cheese ..."

"You don't like mayonnaise."

"That's not dairy - mayonnaise is egg-based!"

"Eggs are dairy, aren't they? You find them in the dairy section!"

(Scoffing) "Eggs come from chickens, not cows! Yeah, I run a big dairy farm ... we've got 15 head of chicken."

"I base all my food groups on grocery store placement."

To be fair, both products do come from farms. But then again, so does all food.


I went to my friend's house today in town. Really, in town - within walking distance of grocery stores and libraries and schools. She said she had a surprise in the back. She walked out of her potting shed with ... baby chicks! Her husband bought them at TSC and they sent them home in a little cardboard box. They were adorable. My friends are either going to make a coop or give them to a relative to raise when they get bigger.

I'm 100% certain they know they aren't dairy producing chickens.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Animal care

The National Dairy FARM Program (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) was created to "demonstrate and verify that U.S. milk producers are committed to providing the highest standards of animal care and quality assurance."

It's a third party verification program where a rep comes to your farm and checks on your operation and animals.

Two reps came to our farm today to start the process of getting our farm FARM verified. They went through eight pages of questions on everything from sanitation to locomotion. The reps also evaluated the different groups of cattle and scored them. (Similar to a beauty pageant, but definitely different categories.)

The rep joked that they didn't need to see all the groups because they were all basically the same - no problems. A joke I'll always like.

We're awaiting our certification while the cows battle it out for Miss Congeniality.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


A friend texted me a picture of this product:

She got them in the grocery store. We'd never heard of them before, so I looked them up on the Got Milk? site. They have a variety of flavors.

They're (of course) available online, too.

It seems to go in the category of bread bowls for me. You get to eat the container. Is it Easter yet? I'm thirsty AND hungry.


Kris is doing a million things to get ready for the season - trying out a new wheel loader, checking on calf sales, using the rock picker to get the field ready for planting alfalfa, paying bills ... He's always on the phone researching, getting quotes, getting answers, and working. Nice that he can work from home, anyway! Even though his office is up a flight of stairs, it doesn't have a door. I'd say his truck is his real office. That sounds like a country song title. Fill in the verses - you'd have a hit!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I love coming home to this - the cattle grazing across the road from our house.  Welcome back!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The grass is always greener

The cattle are always excited when they move to a new pasture.  Today I happened to be outside when 180 of them were headed for new ground.  My goodness - the running!  The mooing! 

The heifers at the calf barn saw them coming and got in on the mooing too.  My sons started to moo.  Some neighbor children came over to watch them run.  It was quite the event.

I don't think most people see cattle excited.  We see it all the time.  They run and kick up their heels.  They were galloping to the new pasture - no one was chasing them.  They just really wanted to get there.   

I didn't have my camera when they first started coming, but I ran to get it after the initial rush so you could get an idea.  The last one in the video is running despite her huge udder!

They'll be just as excited when, in three days, they move to the next pasture.  It never gets old - for them or me.