Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Four wheeling

The new freestall barn and the manure lagoon are working out great so far.  The builders, electrical guys, and cement guys are all still here, working on modifying the existing dairy barn.

Kris has been able to go away on some vacation days, and when I suggested he leave his phone in the car while we went to an amusement park - (woo hoo - Cedar Point!  We are 17 at heart!) - he looked at me like I was crazy.  "I can't leave my phone," he said.  Again, like any business owner, he needs to be reachable!  He took it and didn't lose it on any roller coasters.  But he did take his calls.

He often takes the boys to work with him at night, and today I joined them right as they were about to chase the cows out to pasture.

He said if I was going with them, I could drive the other four wheeler.  (I know people call them quads, but we always called them four wheelers growing up.  I guess by this logic we could call all cars four wheelers too ...)

I said I hadn't driven a four wheeler in a long time, and he said this was a good time as any to learn.  Why not?!

He gave me a quick lesson on how to work it.  He took the three boys with him and I rode by myself.  The funniest part of that is that the boys were safer riding with him - even four people on - than riding with inexperienced me.

It was easy, of course.  I mean, I see the guys here ride them super fast.  Sometimes up on two wheels!  (I assume they're doing it on purpose ...)  I did get a little nervous when I was going down an incline and realized I didn't know how to stop it.  A minor detail.  I really didn't want to slam into the back of Kris and the boys.  But the brakes were like the brakes on ... anything, including bikes, so that took about one second to figure out. 

We rode a little while until I was confident, and so I took one of the boys on mine to even out the loads.

So there we were, the five of us out in the middle of the pasture, riding into the sunset.  It doesn't matter if Kris does have to take his phone everywhere he goes.  All of us being able to go to work with him makes it worth it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sunset over the lagoon

Not really what you were expecting, was it?
The construction goes on.  Every day, more work - but now on the old barn! 

We're making the old freestall barn more like the new barn.  We're making it roomier and with more air circulation by putting in new freestalls and taking down walls.

We've been doing a lot of moving of giant items.  The guys moved the mixer wagon out of the barn (hard to do), moved the molasses tank (giant), and today had to move the old bulk tank (bulky!)

Soon the construction will be a distant memory and we can work on ... winter projects!  But for now we're enjoying the beehive of activity around here.  And, of course, the sunsets.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cow proposal

Last year Kris and I were chosen as Michigan Milk Producers Association's Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperators.  So this week, we got to head up the meeting to choose the cooperators for this year! 
We had a really enjoyable time talking with the other dairy farmers from around the state.  We're really thankful for our great employees and family members because without their help, we couldn't attend events like these. 
One young couple there had been married just a year, and this is how David proposed to Kathleen:

He wrote on her cow!  Way to stand out from the herd.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cute calves


Along with the construction, a wiring issue that made the power go out, working out a water tank problem, looking for a heifer raising facility, and the regular everyday events - the cows still continue to have calves.  (Hooray!)

Two days ago we filled in our last spots in the barn with heifers.  After this we sell the calves to other farms to raise. 

But my dad and Kris found it hard to sell this nice heifer born yesterday ...

So big!  So healthy!  So pretty! 

So we kept her.

The boys like calves, too. 

Yesterday I watched Kris push up the feed in the new barn.  The tool is very simple:

A board on a frame.

It works to ensure that the cows can eat all of their feed.  When they eat it, they push it forward, just in the act of eating it.   To make sure they can reach all of it, farmers push the feed toward them.

Right side pushed up, left side not:

Coming up:

All done:
All farms do this, in various fashions, whether it's with a tool, a broom, or occasionally your feet, if you're right there. 

I took a picture of my dad, Kris and the boys while we were in the barn.  I said something about 'all the guys.'  My dad said, "Yes, you're outnumbered around here."  I gestured to the rest of the barn, chock full of heifers (all girls) and said, "Not here!"

It's a super busy month - Kris is doing a million different things, the team is working hard - but there's a light at the end of the tunnel!  It'll all be finished up someday soon.  With the guys and the girls.

Monday, August 5, 2013

From the inside

The cows are in the barn, and the pile is covered for another cutting.  It seems like fall outside because it's cool now.  It almost seems like things are slowing down.  Still, there are 50 cows that are still going to have calves this season.

There's still construction work going on at the barn - fences, cement, a walkway ... but getting the lagoon and the barn and the cutting finished really was satisfying.  So far, August is great!   

Friday, August 2, 2013

Full barn

The barn is full!

As of yesterday, the barn is fit for cattle.  The cows filed into the other side easily and happily.  They're cooler and giving more milk. 

I tried to take pictures of it, but it was difficult - it's been raining on and off all day yesterday and today.  As a result, it was really sloppy getting back there with three boys in tow.  I went back later when it was drier, but they were all still getting milked.  So just an empty barn greeted me again.

So now that the barn's full and the lagoon is getting filled - it really feels like we can exhale.  AHHHH.  It's nice to have them done.

So now Kris and the team are sitting around doing nothing.  Just kidding!  They're trying to chop the alfalfa for the third time this season.  Unfortunately, it keeps raining.  It's best to do it when it's dry out, but this endless rain keeps messing up the chopping plans. 

No complaining here.  At least the cows are dry.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lagoon in use!

Last night I was out with a friend and called Kris to see if he was going to be able to come.
He said he couldn't, because they were about to scrape manure into the lagoon FOR THE FIRST TIME! 
I said, "Hooray!  Take pictures!"
Later he said as he was taking the pictures, he was thinking about how most people wouldn't want to take, see, or hear about these pictures.
But when you have a dairy farm, manure is part of the business.  Especially when you've had a giant hole dug in which to store it.
So now we can scrape the manure from the barns (twice a day, every day) into the manure lagoon.  We'll pump it out and use it to fertilize our fields. 
We use a skid steer with an attachment on the front.  It's a half a tractor tire attached to a frame.  We can use the tire to scrape out all the - mostly liquid - manure.
Enjoy our photos ... these aren't the normal ones you get in your Facebook feed.