Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Preschool tour, school trip, and planting!

Has a kid ever looked more excited (or fashionable) on a farm?  No!  This little darling is also a daughter of a dairy farmer, which is sometimes what you get when you go on field trips!

We hosted our son's preschool field trip.  I well remember taking a field trip to our farm when I was in school, and now my son got to do the same.  He was SO excited.

Having a dairy farm isn't the most rare thing around here ... two other kids in the class also have dairies (and others have farms)!  My friend Britney told me her son asked, "Well, are we going to our farm tomorrow?"  

But, just like farmers like to see other farms, even the farm kids were super excited to go see another one.

They pushed feed in the calf barn and let the calves lick them ...

We took a ride on a wagon full of straw bales and straw to the other barns.  I'd say 'hayride', but Max corrected me.  There was not hay on the wagon.  Hay is green, and generally alfalfa or grass that cows eat.  Straw is wheat that is yellow, that is generally soft and used as bedding.  But 'strawride' doesn't quite have the same ring to it!

We saw the big cows in the free stall barn ...

Wore appropriate hats ...

And learned how the milk parlor works.

At the end, they climbed around on the chopper, tractors, and the dirt pile.

There was even one cat around that provided endless entertainment.

They all left with a GoGurt and a goody bag filled with fun dairy-related items.  Bracelets, coloring books, stickers, clips - just to remind them of their day.

Later in the day we did the second class, and none of them were from a farm!  The kids and the parents had lots of questions, and it was fun as always.  Preschooler questions are my favorite.  I asked it anyone had any, and many kids raised their hands.  Their questions?

1. I like Dalmatians.

2. I like cats.

3. My grandpa has a farm and I went there and I got to go on the tractor.

YES!  Is there anything better than preschooler question/statements?  No!  Just like everyone, they want to share and talk about what interests them.  It was a great day, and I'm so glad they came!


If you can't all come to the farm, the farm will also come to you!  Last week the librarian at my other sons' school asked me to come and do a dairy lessons for all the classes.  Again, it's such a good time to talk to all of the different classes and see what their interests are.  

For instance, some of my favorite questions were ...

1. If a cow came out a different color than black and white, would you still keep it?

2. When milk comes out of the cow, is it warm?

3. Does anyone drink STRAIGHT from the cow?

4. When a cow brings up her cud again, does she actually throw up?

5.  How does the calf get into the cow ... is there a bull involved?

It's always a great time to talk with these fresh, young minds!  They're always so eager to discuss and so willing to listen.  I'm sure bringing along inflatables, cow models, and milkers doesn't hurt either. Thank you to the school for the opportunity!


Meanwhile, back to the farm - we started planting corn today!  Such an exciting time of the year!

Kris rode with our planter (we pay him to plant our corn) and he was marveling at the technology of the planter.

It's all run off of GPS, so you only have to steer on the turns.  He has an overlay of the field, so where the ground is lighter, it plants fewer seeds, so that the soil has enough nutrients to support the plant. Where the soil is better, it plants more seeds, because the soil has the capability to yield more.

The planter can also sense how deep the seed needs to go.  When there's light ground, it presses hard, and when there's heavy ground, it presses harder.  Kris and I talked about it for a long time - all of the amazing technological advances there are in planting compared to even when we were growing up.

Part of this is why we pay our planter.  He has all the latest and greatest and we're glad to be able to benefit from it!

So here's to technology, planting ... and all the kids who are going to be doing this someday!

If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

My son asked, 'Why is the cat all wet?" Mystery solved.

My son asked, "Why is the cat all wet?"  Mystery solved.

My son asked, "Why is the cat all wet?"
Posted by Truth or Dairy on Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Farm and off

While I was gone, Kris hosted some people from New Zealand.  They were looking at joining Cooperative Research farms and wanted to know what Michigan dairies are doing.  I was sorry to miss them, but remembered while they were there that I wanted a picture.  I texted Kris and asked him ... then, knowing he wouldn't look at his phone during a tour, I texted Aaron, our nutritionist that brought them.  He does look at his phone!  

Booties?  Check.

We also had some work done on the barn.  Since the cattle are out on pasture or in the barns, we didn't have anywhere to treat them except when they're in the parlor.  (For instance, the other day I watched Kris treat a hoof on a cow while she was standing in a freestall.  It works, but it's not the easiest way.)

So these are called headlocks.  After leaving the parlor, if a cow needs to be 'sorted' into the pen, you just herd her into here.  Kris cited the specific instance that if you need a cow to pee on a stick to check for ketosis, doing it here instead of in the parlor is much easier.  I know what you're thinking - cows are peeing on sticks?  Answer - sometimes, yes.

Last week I also had a Dairy Communicators meeting through our milk co-op, Michigan Milk Producers Association.

Many of us were recognized for various year-milestones of holding the position.  I hit five years (and got a lovely and fitting ice cream scoop) and just was thinking back to when I went to my first meeting.  I had a million questions - how to get into schools, how to get dairy promotional items, etc. Now, just five years later, it's a regular part of the schedule!

Also there were interesting people there ...

Katelyn just graduated college and went back to her family farm.  She said she's most interested in the health aspect of cows, and right now she's working on that ... as well as what her dad doesn't want to do.

Leona Daniels did a great lesson on how best to do a dairy lesson in classrooms and at other events.

And I sat with these friends, who have great farming blogs!  Check them out -

Farm Barbie - Barbara

Messy Kennedy - Ashley

One of my favorite moments of the meeting was when we all got up and introduced ourselves.  A friend at my table stood up and gestured to the newborn she was cradling in her arms under a blanket. She said, "This is Oliver nursing under here, and he's three weeks old."

Is there a more fitting place to introduce yourself while nursing a baby than at a Dairy Communicator meeting?!  Only the Le Leche League.

If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Talking it out

I knew right away this was going to be a good conference.  Three milk choices?!
Through U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, today I spoke at the American Food Technology & Innovation Summit in Illinois.

Though 'American' is in the title, it was a very international conference!  Today I talked to people originally from India, Ireland, Brazil, New Zealand, England, Sweden, Germany, Canada, and Holland.  Nine in one day!  The accents were music to my ears.

Not only is it an interesting conference, but the attendees were very interested in learning about modern farming, and the people and technology supporting the industry.  Lots of questions and follow up conversations!  I had questions about anaerobic digesters, organic farms, modern farming practices, sustainability practices ... and lots of evening discussions.  Very enjoyable time with intelligent, invested people.

- One of the presenters who kicked off the conference was Kai Kight, a violinist, composer, and speaker.  Not only was his playing beautiful, but so was his message - don't just be the person playing the notes someone else wrote.  Write your own plan and do something different.  (As an added bonus, he and Zippy were super friendly.)

- During the PepsiCo presentation, Richard Black said that their products are consumed over a billion times every day.  It sounded like an impressive number - and it is - but without doing any research, I'm certain that dairy products are also consumed over a billion times a day.    

- Jeff Manning, one of the people behind the Got Milk? campaign, brought to my attention that there was at one point a Got Milk? Barbie.  How have I gone this far in life and not known that?  

- We had a Future Ingredients showcase - people are always trying to come up with something new, and I love it.  Lycotec, Innophos, and Parabel presented.  They might be your next favorite new ingredient.   

- After I showed how the hoof trimmer keeps track of a cow's hoof problem, Don McGhee of Perfetti Van Melle told me, "I don't even have that!  My doctor doesn't even keep track!  He just asks me what problems I've had!"  

Lots of talk about GMOs, ingredients, and global food issues.  I'm thankful to be part of the conversation to bring in the farmer perspective.  Even in my Midwestern accent.  

If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me! 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Farm tour and milk plant tour with young cooperators

We got together with the young cooperators from our co-op for a conference.  We toured our MMPA president’s farm (Ken Nobis, who farms with brother Larry and son Kerry) and checked out their manure sand separator.

General Manager of MMPA Joe Diglio pretends this is a candid picture with Ken Nobis
Larry Nobis starts the tour

There are a variety of ways to bed down cattle.  The Nobis family has been using sand bedding since 1974.  When you use sand bedding (like a beach!) you can reuse the sand by using a separator.  

That way, you don’t have to buy new sand, but can squeeze and move the water and manure out of the sand you already used.

The sand separator has, as one of the guys put it, “a lot of moving parts.”  Sand and manure are super for lubrication, obviously!  But they’ve been using it for a long time and are loving the results and ultimate cost savings.

Sand separator 

We also saw their udder gun.  (It doesn’t sound like what it is.)  It cleans the cow teats before milking with two air motor driven brushes that turn.  It’s like an electric toothbrush for cow teats, but it also has the cleaning fluid in it.  It stimulates and cleans.  Here’s Kerry showing it off:  

Then we went on a tour of our Michigan Milk Producers Association plant in Ovid.  Talk about moving parts!  I visited a few years ago, but it’s bigger and better than even then.  One of the new machines we have is a butter churn.  I wasn’t allowed to take pictures in there for fear I’d steal my own co-op’s secrets and use them against myself (I get it, just kidding) but here's one from when I went last time.  This room was still the most amazing to me.

This is one of many amazing rooms
The butter churn is now totally automated.  When I went last time, there were still people involved in cutting the butter.  No more.  Now (even gloved) human hands don’t touch the butter at all.

The sanitary restrictions are in place, too.  At one point we had to climb over a stainless steel wall, cupboard level high, to enter a room where we had to wash our hands and then use sanitizer.  There was no good way to climb over this.  My pregnant friend was more graceful than I was.  She sat, swung her legs around, and stood up on the other side.  I thought maybe I could just step over it, but it was so wide that I reeeeeeeealy had to stretch.  Just another level of cleanliness – no sneaking in there!

Maternity wear, by my friend Chriss

A farmer in front of his barns, a farmer in front of his milk plant

It was really hard to tell us apart. Not kdding

I was impressed with all of it – the room full of milk powder, ready to be shipped, the technical machinery, the efficiency.

We went back and played a trivia game, via phones, with the rest of the young co-op members.  It was a blast – lots of laughs – and our team was doing super well, until our team member’s phone died.  As a result, we didn't get to play for the next two questions.

Looks like there’s always room for improvement, machines.

If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me! 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Milkers milking milk

My lovely friend Lindsay brought her niece and nephew to see the farm.

We were in the parlor with Dave (who I've known my entire life) and his son Ryan (and I've known him HIS entire life.)  Not only has Dave milked on our farm for a long time, but he also has his own dairy farm.

Obviously, Dave likes cows and milking.  But you know what he doesn't like?  We were talking and he said, "I don't drink milk.  I mean, I put it on cereal when I eat it ... like twice a year."

"You don't drink milk?!"  I said, incredulous.  "Do you like all the other dairy products?"

"Oh yeah, cheese, ice cream, butter ..." he said.

"I don't drink milk either," Ryan volunteered. "But I like the rest."

I was so surprised.  Kris came into the parlor and we relayed our conversation to him.  They were all amused that I was so surprised.  But I was!  First of all, because I love milk and rarely go a day without having it, and second, because they're farmers.

One of my first jobs was at an ice cream parlor.  My friend had worked there the summer before, and she said to watch out - she'd eaten so much ice cream that she got sick of it.  I didn't want that to happen ... and it didn't.  I ate ice cream or frozen yogurt there all the time and I NEVER got sick of it.

But you know what I don't like?  I'm not fond of cheese.  Another friend doesn't like ice cream.  Kris doesn't like sour cream.  So, just because we're all dairy farmers doesn't mean we have to like EVERY SINGLE dairy product.  After all, we're producing, not doing all of the consuming.

So, eat and drink merrily today!  Whatever you want.  You know, as long as it comes from a cow.

If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!