Sunday, September 27, 2015

Step right up

Our friends Julie and Brent Koopmann - dairy farmers in Iowa - came to visit!  We know them through National Milk Producers Federation so we actually met in Florida, got to know each other in Arizona, visited them in Iowa ... and now put them to work in Michigan!  

I'm kidding, of course.  Brent just stepped right in to help because ... it's what he does too.  (I swear we are better hosts than that.)

Since the summer employees are back in school, Kris has been doing a lot of calf chores.  Above, they're feeding bottles, and below they're using our calf cart.  We have a golf cart with a tank on the back.  We fill it with the milk from our cows and feed it to the calves in their buckets via a hose.  

We love our license plate.  (The answer is yes.)

We also have finished chopping the corn - but we still aren't done.  We have no more space for silage, so we rented an adapter and a combine head.  That way, we can mount them on the chopper and get snaplage to put into bags.  Snaplage is what it's called when you grind up the cobs of corn into easily digestible food for the cattle.

And, we have a new red and white Holstein!  We had a red and white Holstein bull a few years ago, and every now and then one makes an appearance.  My kids might not be covering this in school yet, but at home they get little genetics lessons all the time!

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 email!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

GMO - Genetically modified organisms

I got a handout from the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan all about GMOs.  It made me want to give one to everyone as Kris is out chopping our GMO corn right now.  Let me summarize from it so you, too, can discuss in the grocery store aisles!

What are GMOs?

Genetically modified organisms.  Translated - genes are changed.  Scientists intentionally make a copy of a gene for a desired trait in one plant and use it in another plant.

Selective breeding has been used since the beginning of time to produce crops with better taste, yield, and disease resistance.  GMOs speed up the process - instead of going through generations and generations of plants, you can use the genes right away.

Which crops are genetically modified?

(There are only eight!  How many of the eight can you name before scrolling down?)

Sugar beets

The USDA has approved others, but they're still in the process of being approved for sale.

Why would anyone want to grow GMOs?

One, they're better for the environment,

With better crops, farmers can reduce pesticide use, plow less often, and use fewer natural resources.

Two, they keep costs down for everyone.

When there's a drought, GMO plants still have a good chance of growing due to their hardy traits. That means food is still available to everyone, even though there was a dry year.  A year of no crops would be devastating to a farmer and bad for the consumer.  When crops are assured, we can still provide and we can all still consume.

Three, they present no health risks.

Farmers have been growing GM crops since 1994, and "there has not been a single documented instance of harm to human health resulting from genetic modifications, including allergic reactions, cancers, infertility, ADHD, or any other diseases." (CMPM, Real Talk About GMOs)

Who grows GMOs?

Answer in the brochure:  18 million farmers in 28 countries.  You may have heard that some countries ban GMO plants.  That's true.  But millions of people embrace the technology:

Canada, US, Mexico, Cuba, Honduras, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, S Africa, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Spain, Portugal, Slovakia, Romania, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Phillipines, Australia, Argentina, and Czech Republic

What else?

Today's GMOs are "the most researched and tested agricultural products in history."  In fact, "GMO crops are compositionally and nutritionally the same as their conventional counterparts." (CMPM, Real Talk About GMOs)

GMOs are bred to resist chemicals and/or insects.  They do not internally contain pesticides and herbicides.

I wasn't able to find the brochure online, but this is the information in it.  I like it because it's succinct and straightforward.

Of course, none of this matters if consumers decide they don't want GMOs.  What consumers want, consumers get.  So if we're all educated on the matter, then we're all able to make better decisions.

As a farmer, why am I pro-GMO?  All the reasons that I just cited.  When a new iPhone comes out, people are waiting in line overnight.  Technology is embraced.  When scientists are able to streamline the genetic modification process to allow farmers to grow drought-resistant, chemical-resistant, and bug-resistant crops, people are worried.  Technology is not embraced.

Since I'm involved in agriculture and know a lot of farmers, my social media feed is full of articles about GMOs.  Take the time to do your own research ... and try to be more informed.  Take note of the woman who answers, "What's a GMO?" with: "I don't know.  I know it's like some corn, bad stuff, right?  I know it's bad, but to be completely honest with you, I have no idea."  When you have all of the information, you can make an informed decision for yourself.  Then when Jimmy Kimmel comes along, you'll be ready!

Thank you to the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan for their great brochure and educational efforts.  You can follow them on Facebook.

Meanwhile, back on the farm ... we're still chopping corn!  It's such a fantastic yield this year.  All the farmers are in the fields chopping.  Our milk co-op had an advisory board meeting today and I'm wondering who could have possibly made it!  When the corn's ready, it's ready.  We're still having newborn calves, today's the last day of summer, and the milk prices aren't budging.  Let's hope for a wonderful, dairy-loving fall!

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 email!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Roll it

We rented a roller to help compress the pile of corn silage.  It's really heavy and it has the nubs on the roller and it vibrates.  It's a Caterpillar - regards to our old employer!

We've done 110 acres so far (5 entire days of chopping) and have about 130 acres left to do.  Almost halfway!  We store it in a huge pile so we'll have feed for our cattle the rest of the year.

Here's what the chopper looks like folded up to drive on the road.

The soybeans are all turning yellow - we don't grow any soybeans, but we do buy them as a supplement to our feed.  Lots of our neighbors grow them, and I think they're beautiful.  The leaves change on the trees and the leaves change on the ground.

It's a rough time of year, really.  It's hard work with the continued calving and harvest, and the milk price just keeps going lower.  We're really thankful for our great team of people and everyone who bought milk today!

A friend posted this story on Facebook - her son didn't eat any of his lunch today.  When she asked him why, he told her it was because he drank four chocolate milks - that he had taken, not paid for, and no one had noticed.  I think it calls for a new marketing line - dairy!  Good enough to steal!


Today I spoke at the US Department of Agriculture's Mideast Marketing Area meeting in Frankenmuth.  It was super enjoyable, and they had a lot of questions.  Thanks so much to Linda Garrett for inviting me.

I also participated in my first email conversation with the fourth grade class at Gateway North Elementary School.  Gateway is an AG-STEM school, and Kris and I are the class farmers for the fourth grade this year.  They had lots of good questions also, but my favorite was the first one because I've NEVER gotten it before.  It was ... Do you have turtles?

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 email!

Thursday, September 10, 2015


We started chopping corn today!  Every time we chop corn I'm amazed at the machine that is the chopper.

It takes the ENTIRE corn stalk, ear and all, and turns it into confetti-sized pieces.  The pieces shoot into the wagon that a tractor is pulling.  (And it happens fast - much faster than I can mow wet grass!)

The person driving the tractor has to drive alongside the chopper at the exact right speed and distance.  When his wagon is full, he goes and dumps it on the pile, and another tractor and wagon takes his spot.

Everything has to go right ... all the machinery has to work.  The corn has to be the right moisture. Everyone driving has to pay close attention.  They use hand signals and cell phones to communicate. It's quite a process.  Today one of our team members pulled a wagon for the first time for us - and did a great job.

I rode along today, and I was impressed like every year.  I like to think of what my ancestors would think about this machinery.

One thing never changes, no matter the machines ... everyone is exhausted after a day of harvesting. Whether you're using horses or amazing machines - it's tiring!

I've been sharing a lot of little pictures and videos on Facebook - if you're interested you can like my page on Facebooklike this:

It's corn chopping time! Here's Kris and Max (age 4) discussing the harvest. : ) We chop the entire corn plant into...
Posted by Truth or Dairy on Thursday, September 10, 2015