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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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Life cycle of a farm truck

What does a farmer drive?  A truck.  The truck isn’t just a mode of transportation – it’s also a tool.  And like every useful tool, it shows some wear and tear. 

But it doesn't happen immediately ... welcome to the life cycle of a farm truck.


This is my dad’s truck.  My dad is technically retired, but he still helps on the farm.  When he helps, he of course drives his truck. 

Though still presentable, it's not his preferred vehicle to take anywhere nice.  Why?  Because you have to wear barn clothes when you’re on the farm, and barn clothes = actual dirt and manure.

Let’s look at some features:



You can’t smell anything over the internet.

He has the toolbox in the back, and he has a telltale whisk broom in the side pocket.  Still fighting the battle to keep it clean.  It's a farm truck, all right, but it's still in the early stages.


I give you ... Kris' truck.  This truck has been in the ditch, run into other vehicles, and carried many calves.

Yes, you see that on the back?  It's so when we pick up calves from the pasture, we can transport them safely to the barn.  It also ensures that your truck will never be a car thief's first choice.  

There is also a toolbox on the back of the truck that has every tool you need for living on a farm, except for the one you want at the the moment.  Then it's invisible.

Since Kris drives this all day long, every day, through pastures and to barns ... it takes a beating.  There's straw on the floor, and getting in and out repeatedly made a small tear in the seat.  Did I say small?  I meant barely noticeable.

The bumper was threatening to come off, so it's held on with not only duct tape, but also a bungee cord.  It is clear this truck is made for WORK, and the driver knows it!  And doesn't care because he's planning to buy another truck soon.  Which will eventually look like this one, anyway.


And the unveiling of ... Josh's truck.  

Josh pointed out that his truck can only be fully appreciated if you can hear the engine.  It rattles the windows in our house when he drives by, and I'm not exaggerating.  It takes a certain finesse to even be able to operate it.  

He uses it only for work ... he has a much nicer truck he uses to go other places.

And on the inside - the ubiquitous pine air freshener!  It's like Christmas every day. 

The truck definitely gets him where he needs to go, even though the body is rusting a bit.  But what I love most about Josh's truck is ... 

It sustains life.

Yes!  Above the wheel well, you can see a tiny blade of grass growing.  

Now THAT'S a farm truck.  Not only is it a tool, but it's growing cattle feed right on the truck body.  

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Giant food processor

I'm not a big machine girl.  The other day I really laughed on the phone with my friend, because about 15 minutes into the conversation, she said, "Did I tell you I got a new car?"  I said, "No - and so funny that you didn't mention it until now."  She said, "I actually got it last week."

So that gives you a little insight into my level of machine interest.

However ... you know what's interesting to me?  Really powerful machines.

I rode with Kris in the chopper today.  It's fun, because the chopper takes these big, giant, strong stalks of corn, and chops it into tiny little bits!  So tiny, they're then blown into a wagon!

I find it all amazing.  Just watch this:

Fun, right?  Powerful!  The entire plant is shredded in seconds!  (I suddenly sound like an infomercial for a food processor.)

It's small, digestible, and the cattle love eating it. We put it in a pile, let it ferment, and feed it to them until the next harvest.

But all of it - the readying of the soil, the planting, the fertilizing, the worrying about too little or too much rain - the harvest is the payoff!  What you can't see in this video is that the corn is as high as the chopper cab.  We had a great growing season for corn, and it's going to give us a lot of feed.  All good news.

Plus, this machine is cool.  I'll bring this up in any phone conversation tomorrow by at LEAST minute 14.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Jump with Jill - brought to you by Michigan dairy farmers!

Today I went to Oakview Elementary School in St. Johns for Jump with Jill - the "world's only rock & roll nutrition show!"

They start with a salute to Michigan dairy farmers, processors, and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan.  The show is all about eating healthy and exercising.  They sing, dance, and have tons of audience participation.  The kids loved it!

It's fun to go a show and know the people on the banner ... see yourselves, McCunes and Gaspers?  (Fellow Michigan dairy farmers and friends!)

They had kids and teachers come up and dance ...

The PE teacher, Joe Matulis, won a free show for the school.  Here he is with the cast!

The kids danced, and since this was an elementary school, ALL the teachers danced, too.  It was great!

Do you see how cool this milk is?  Sunglasses?  Cannot get any cooler.

They treat dairy farmers like rock stars, too.

Great promotion, great show, and great fun!

The videos are here if you want your own little nutritional dance party right now.

Meanwhile, back on the farm ... Kris chopped corn the entire day.  This will continue for the next two weeks.  After chopping, the boys and I helped him with calf chores.  Inexplicably, the boys wore their nicest school shoes, but assured me they would "dry overnight."  After the boys went to bed, Kris went back to finish calf chores ... he offered that I could do them and he could go to bed, but I told him I'd let him do them.  I had a blog to write!

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Monday, September 15, 2014

MSU tour

On Friday, we hosted another MSU tour!  For a few years, Dr. Miriam Weber Nielsen has brought her animal science classes for a tour.

This tour is always fun, because the students have a ton of detailed questions.  Many of them are from farms, and many of them were wearing shirts from farms where they currently work.  

In this group, not only did they have great questions, but about ten of them stayed after to talk with Kris to get even more specific answers.   

Once I looked up while I was talking and saw one of the students had a cat on his head.  The cats were all getting lots of attention.  Who knew cats would be even more popular than calves?  ...Other than YouTube.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Faces of Farming & Ranching

Today the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance announced the eight finalists for their Faces of Farming and Ranching ... and I'm one of them!

They wrote, "To help put a real face on agriculture, USFRA has selected these standout farmers and ranchers who are proud of what they do, eager to share their stories of continuous improvement and who are actively involved in sharing those stories in public and on social media." The article is here.

This is the second year that they've held the nationwide competition, and the four winners last year spent the year representing agriculture at various events around the country.

This year, there was an extensive application process, a video requirement, references, and even letters of recommendation from agricultural organizations of which I'm a member - it was like college all over again!  They're coming in a few weeks to film me on our farm.  They'll then take that video ... and this is where my dear readers come in.

Yes, there's an online vote!  A quarter of the judging counts on how many votes our videos garner.  So on Oct 24-Nov 2, you'll be able to help me win the chance to represent agriculture at a national level.  I'll post the details then!

Thank you, as always, for reading about our farm.  I'm so happy to be able to share what we do on this little farm with the neighbors, the township, the country, and the world.  That's fun stuff for a farmer's daughter, farmer's wife, and dairy farmer like me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Night in pictures

Four times a year, we chop alfalfa and cover the pile with plastic and tires to store it.  (Then we do it for corn!) We finished last night, which was great because it rained today.  The chopper worked great.  

To give you an idea of how big the chopper is, I have a quiz question:

Kris filled up the chopper with diesel fuel.  How many gallons can the chopper tank hold?

If you guessed 290, you're ... a farmer with the same chopper!  Congrats!  

My boys rushed down to the barn to help put tires on the pile.  

I laughed out loud when I watched Mike lift this tire.  Like nothing!  Some people do this as a workout!  We should invite them to the pile covering.

The boys are still working up to that level.  Sometimes it's two kids per tire.

After I took this Max said, "That was my farmer face."  

Part of the reason the boys love putting tires on the pile is that we all hang out and have pizza afterward. I love seeing everyone, too. 

Afterward, the five of us went to do calf chores.  (That's how we say 'feed the calves.'  This is the way my family has said it as long as I remember.  Does everyone say it like that?)

Since I had my camera from the pile covering, I let Cole and Ty use it.  They took some good pictures like of us feeding:

And 84 of Max playing with the cats.

Kris took us home and the boys all said goodnight to him before he went back to finish chores.

Another alfalfa harvest done.  The cows must have known ... we had five calves born today!  We also bought 18 bulls and put them in with the herd ... let the cycle continue!  I'll keep taking pictures.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Big smiles, big chopper

Our last chopper lasted longer than we thought it would, but it was time to get another one.  After weeks of shopping around, phone calls, negotiating, and trading ... it came today!

A chopper is a machine that harvests crops.  It takes giant cornstalks and chops them into tiny little pieces to feed the cattle.  So powerful!  We also chop alfalfa and other grasses with it (also to feed the cattle).  You put different heads on it depending on the crop you're harvesting.

Kris said to me that last year, harvesting corn wasn't as much fun as it's supposed to be.  He said, "You're chopping through the fields of corn, you're putting up tons of feed - it's usually really fun!"  But last year, they kept having to stop early to work on the corn head, and there was the constant worry hanging over his head of more last-minute repairs being needed - besides the repairs we'd made earlier.

So this season, with a more reliable chopper, hopefully it'll be more fun for all the guys.  It's different, for sure, and a bigger size, so there will be lots to learn.

But at least one boy felt comfortable with it right away.

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