This was Friday morning - 2 degrees, and icily beautiful:
Later, I was marveling at the heifers. They have access to the barn, where they're bedded down with dry, soft straw. But some of them prefer to lie right in the snow:
I think even the other heifers were admiring her. Or questioning her comfort choices.
I've been doing a couple interviews for the Faces of Farming & Ranching award, and one of the interviewers asked me about how our farm is 'different' than a lot of dairy farms. I don't really think about it much, but, here are the ways our farm is different than a lot of others.
- We pasture our cattle.
Not every farm has fields right next to their barns, and not everyone had a parent who built an irrigation pivot. Barns are built for cow comfort ... sand beds, mattresses, even misters in their barn to keep the cows cool in warm weather.
- We use natural bull breeding.
Many farms use artificial insemination, which is called AI. We buy bulls from different farms, let them in with the cows, and let nature take its course. Why the difference? When people breed cows with AI, they impregnate them with like, the Harvard grads, NFL bodies of bulls. Also, it takes bull meanness out of the equation. We rarely have a mean bull, since we have young ones with only one thing on their minds, but it has happened. We just have to sell them.
- Our cows calve in the pasture.
Since the cows are in barns, the calves are usually born in maternity pens. Other farms, due to AI, also know exactly when the calves are due. Ours are born within a few months, but the exact time is a surprise. Usually during the night.
- We don't record each cow's milk production.
On some farms, people have monitors on each cow telling how much milk she gives. Some farms show the milk coming out of the milker so you can check right away:
We check this just when we're milking them.
But like when I talked to the interviewer, I told him what I think: there's no 'right way.' It's like any business - you do what works for you. What works for our land or operation might not work for another. So we're all different, and that's what keeps dairy farms - and dairy tours! - endlessly interesting. If you're a dairy farmer, anyway.
That, and the weather. The ice is gone and the mud is here. Wonder what the heifers will be lying in tomorrow?
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