Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Milking gone viral

Have you heard of the latest internet craze since planking?  It's milking!! 

Obviously, I couldn't be happier. 

Some guys in Newcastle uploaded a video of themselves pouring containers of milk over their heads in public places.  It's funny. 

The text on their YouTube tagline is 'support British dairy farmers.'  It's gone viral and spawned a lot of imitation videos. 

You can watch the video below.  And copy it often.  Let's bring this trend across the ocean!  You go first.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tis the season

Tis the season ... but not the holiday season.  It's meeting season!  Today we went to the Michigan Milk Producer's Association Leader's Conference. 
One of the speakers showed the picture above on her last slide while she took questions.  I whispered to Kris, "That doesn't look like one of our cows."  (She's much burlier than ours.)  Kris said, "Because none of ours have maps?"  I looked again and saw she had the world map photoshopped onto her!  I hadn't noticed.  One of the audience members made a joke about it to the speaker and she did a double-take and said, "I never noticed that before! I've been using that slide forever!"  I was glad I wasn't the only one.
Other notes from the meeting:
A company wanted to sell milk in China and made it very Chinese - label in Chinese, Chinese-type marketing, everything.  And it flopped.  Apparently the Chinese public wants American and European dairy products with a Chinese label slapped over the other languages.  That way, they know that it's coming from another country.  Buy local isn't popular everywhere.  Glad it is here. 
Our general manager was going through sales slides and pointed out that Hurricane Sandy will affect dairy prices this upcoming season.  Due to the displaced people, fewer people will be buying cheese, butter, and milk for holiday gatherings.  No hurricane here in little Michigan, but we're all affected. 
A fellow farmer introduced himself to me and said, "I know you worked off the farm first ... why did you want to farm?"  I told him about how we wanted to own our own business, we liked the lifestyle, and we wanted to raise our children somewhere we'd see them all the time.  He agreed, and said he loved his life on the farm for all those same reasons.  The only difference is that we've seen both sides and got to make a choice.  A lot of people farm because their parents farmed and they know it's what they want to do from the beginning.  Both of the ways of life would have been nice, but we just picked.  So far, it's been a good pick.
Remember the Pure Michigan gift bag?  The winner, Meghan, sent me a picture of herself wearing/eating/displaying all the gifts at the same time.  PURE MICHIGAN!  Even though she lives in Texas.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The big heifer move

Over the last two days, we've been moving the heifers. 

We're moving them for the winter from a far pasture to a pasture next to the barn, so we can feed them silage. 

The guys left the gates open, so that the heifers could sniff around and make their way over on their own time.  That way you don't have to chase them and have them get all crazy. 

One heifer didn't want to go, and she did get really wild.  She took down a cable, tried to hurdle a four-wire fence, broke a pole, and ran along the creek for a long way with Kris chasing her.  But she eventually went with the herd!

The guys put them through the barn so they could pour dewormer on them.  Kris said it's strange having them walk through the barn because they don't remember how to walk on concrete!  They're not used to a non-ground surface.  But they got them all through, dewormed, and out to their winter pasture. 

Now they'll spend the winter outside eating, gestating, and waiting for spring.  A huge pasture full of pregnant heifers is a beautiful sight.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sights and scenes

This morning we visited Kris during a run. 
We were there while some corn was being delivered from the feed company.  A nice corn pile triangle:
Kris had told me about the wheel loader, but I hadn't examined it up close.  When it was really windy, one of the guys opened the door and the wind caught it and shattered the glass.  (Yes, that's how windy it was!)   
So this was the fix in the meantime:
That's a feed bag duct taped over the door.  The glass was delivered already, and someone is coming to install it next week.  Until then, just being cold and looking sweet.
We also had snow flurries yesterday ... and it was 23 degrees when I got up this morning.  So soon I'll be taking pictures of machine malfunctions caused by ice, and conical piles of snow.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Down on the farm

When Kris worked for Caterpillar, it was understood that we were going to move around a lot.  We had no problems with it - no kids, not much stuff, exciting.

Now that we live here, we live here.  Our farm and business is here.  We're not going to be moving for a long time, if ever, depending on what happens in the future. 

Not only am I really invested in my community, but I also apparently have a new concern I've never had before.

I have really great friends here.  When one of them used to tell me that she had news, I would automatically guess that she was pregnant.  Not anymore!

Recently my friend called and said, "I have news!" 

I said, "Please don't tell me you're moving!"

Another friend started working in a city 2.5 hours away and commutes.  She started telling me about her job and I interrupted with, "You're moving.  I just know it!"  She hasn't yet.  Yet.

Last night we were out with another couple.  My friend began a story with, "Try not to be shocked."  I said, "You're moving!"

She laughed.  My response has become automatic.  The funny part is - she also has a farm.  She's not going anywhere either.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Keep it together

We have a barn on our farm that's over 100 years old.  My great great grandpa Warren Casterline built it. 

It's built the way you want a barn to be - sturdy, well-done.  It's served as the milk parlor, a calf barn, and now we use it for bale storage. 

However, everything needs a little lift now and then, right? 

We've cabled the barn.  That means we had the builder come and drive really long, huge screws into the beams.  Then they stretched a cable to the other side of the barn and drove screws into that side. 

Then, you stick a crowbar in the hole you can see in the picture and turn it.  It brings the barn together slowly and carefully.  The cables are permanent.

When I was growing up, we had a barn on our property that was obviously ready to collapse.  We weren't allowed to go near it, because my parents were afraid it would fall right on top of us.  They decided to knock it down and ... it wouldn't go!  They used tractors, they used brute force - it was kind of comical that a building that looked so fragile was really so strong. 

We did this because the cables will help extend the life of the barn.  Hopefully it'll outlast all of us.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Some cheese for your pizza and oatmeal

Kris and I attended the National Milk Producers Federation joint annual meeting in Orlando, FL this past week.

Just a few high points:

- Patrick Doyle, CEO of Domino's Pizza, talked about how their partnership promoting milk and cheese has benefited both of our businesses.  He toured the Horning dairy farm in Michigan.  He was a super speaker and charismatic guy.

- Jose Luis Prado, the president of Quaker Oats, talked about how they're promoting how oatmeal can be made with milk - right now only 30% of people make it with milk.  He also talked about the restaurant OatMeals, which is popular NYC restaurant that uses oatmeal like people use rice - mix it with all types of other ingredients.  Like cheese.  Or you can make them yourself.  He also joked about how he was jealous of Patrick because there are "pizza parties" but no "oatmeal parties." 

- The two days of meetings just for young cooperators and issues that concern us.  Great to talk to young farmers from around the country and to hear the speakers on business planning, robots, the death tax, and farm practices! 

- The glow in the dark volleyball game with the young cooperator group.  So fun!  After one of my bumps a lump formed on my arm that didn't hurt much, but looked like an injury would look in a cartoon drawing.  Ah, my athletic prowess strikes again.

Is that my elbow?  No, my forearm.

- Being with all these other dairy farmers excited and energized about our business. 

They talked all about the opportunities for milk - like why isn't there a fountain-type machine from which you can get all the kinds of milk in one machine - skim, chocolate, strawberry, 2%, whole ... instead of that crummy warm pitcher of milk they have in hotel lobbies?  (Quick, someone invent it!) 

While we were gone ... only one calf was born.  So much for the full moon theory. 

It was great to be gone, it's even nicer to be home, and I'm excited to spend the next year working on the 2013 Young Cooperator Advisory Council. 

Know what else?  At the meeting, when break times were over, a staffer would walk around and herd us back into the conference room by ... ringing a cow bell.

Not surprisingly, it worked really well.

***Meghan Kidwell won the Pure Michigan gift bag giveaway.  Congrats, Meghan!***