Thursday, March 30, 2017

Talking to farmers, drying up cows

This week I went to Albany, New York speak to farmers at a conference put on by Farm Credit East called GenerationNext2.  It's a leadership development program in part organized by Tom Cosgrove, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Knowledge Exchange.

So - a conference full of young farmers and bankers?  Of course it was fun.  I was especially glad that I had the chance to talk to and get to know everyone throughout the conference.  There were all types of farmers - sod, cranberry, forestry products, of course dairy - and it was just interesting to hear about all different types of businesses.

My talk was about thinking beyond your business and engaging with neighbors, public officials, and the public, and after I served on a panel with Jessica Ziehm, Bill Peck, and David Haight.  It was so interesting and fun to do!  Smart people, great conversation, good questions.

I was dying to get downtown to see the famed capitol building, and Jessica kindly gave me a whirlwind tour!  The Egg was a bonus - I didn't even know about it!  Everyone also pronounces it ALLbany - not Albany, as I was, and Jessica said it's so small they sometimes call it SMALLbany. This was also funny to me, because you know ... my town is a tad smaller.

Thank you to everyone at Farm Credit East and at GenerationNext2! 

Meanwhile on the farm ...

We are drying up cows today.  This is a huge deal, so big that I have written about it in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 ... you get the point.

Why is it a big deal?  You have to prepare cows to not be milked.  You can't just stop milking them and expect them to just deal with it.

They're not going to be milked from now until they have a calf.  This way, their bodies can concentrate all their resources on getting ready to have a calf.  Then, after they have calves, they'll be ready to produce milk again.

Yes -  cows have to have a calf to continue giving milk. Jessica Ziehm organizes a Dairy Cow Birthing Center at the New York State Fair, (visited by 250,000 people each year!) and she said that people are continually amazed by this fact.  I assume they just never think about it.  Cows give milk, period, is what people think, and don't think about how or why until pressed.  We can't all think about everything at all times!

Some people ask if there's a period where we're milking no cows, but no.  We use bulls, and all the cows don't get pregnant the same month.  Some of them get pregnant later, so we don't dry all of them up at the same time.  So the ones that aren't as far along we still milk until it's their time to get dried up.  By that time, cows will have calved and we'll still have milk in the pipeline.  (Yes, the young ones get pregnant first, the older ones later. Some things never change.)

We already were contacted about two different types of tours on the farm for May and August.  When calving season starts, so does tour season!

Want to know more about the farm?  Like the page on Facebook, on Twitter @carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by email - the form is on the right side of the page.    

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What's the difference between milks? Whole, 2%, skim?

I was at a conference with a consumer panel, and I asked the question, "What kind of milk do you buy?" I was thinking they would talk about organic, almond, or regular.

I was completely wrong.  They answered with what kind of milk they buy - whole, 2%, or skim. This made me happy.  Today at the grocery store the cashier told me everyone knows the code for bananas, because everyone buys them.  I said, "What else does everyone else buy?"  She said, "Milk, eggs, bread."  WE'RE STILL IN!

My friends have been asking me some specific questions about milk, so here are some answers!

Is there a difference in nutrients?

No. Whole, 2%, and skim have the same nutrients when it comes to the nine essentials - calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and niacin.

Is there a difference in fat and calories?

Yes.  There IS a difference in fat and calories.  But!  That doesn't mean you're getting different nutrients.  When the fat is removed from the milk, it loses some of the vitamins, (like vitamin A binds to fat), so they are added back in.  If you read the label, you'll see whole has a little bit less vitamin A (6% to the others' 10%). In the other two, vitamins A & D are added back in to reach the level of 2,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin A and 400 IU of vitamin D per 1 quart.

It says there is sugar in my milk.  Is this added in?

No.  Milk has a natural sugar called lactose.  White sugar is not added.  This is like fructose in fruit - it's what makes it naturally sweet.

What about sodium?  Is that added?

No.  Sodium occurs naturally in lots of foods, milk being one of them.

How do the milks compare?

What?  You don't have all three in your fridge? We do because we have different likes among the five of us.  (We all share, too, when we run out.)

For 8 ounces...

Whole milk:  150 calories. 8 grams of fat.  Cholesterol: 35 mg
2% milk:       120 calories, 5 grams of fat.  Cholesterol: 20 mg
Skim milk:     80 calories, 0 grams of fat.  Cholesterol: <5 mg

What's the same?  Protein, sugar, carbs, potassium, sodium, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C.

What percentage fat is whole milk?  

It has 3.25% fat.

This is interesting, because it actually means that it only has that much, and it's 96.75% fat free.  Why aren't we marketing it that way ...

Cows aren't made all the same.  Different breeds and different cows give milk that differs in the fat content.  It differs based on what she's eating and how long ago she had a calf, too.  Farmers pool that milk with other farms' milk, so when you get the milk it's not automatically going to be these percentages.  That's why we take milk to a processing plant to homogenize it.

What is homogenization, anyway?

Homogenization breaks down the fat molecules in milk so they stay integrated instead of separating as cream.  Nothing is added to the milk.

Does it bother you when kids you live with call skim milk 'blue milk' or say 'it tastes like water?'

Why yes, it does!  I love skim milk the most.  There is zero water added to it.  And they're not doing the grocery shopping anyway.

What else is milk made up of?  

Ready for this!  WATER!  Milk is about 87% water!!  It differs from cow to cow and among breeds, but that's a lot of water.  And vitamins.  The original vitamin water.  It wasn't added though - it's all-natural. (Even skim, you kids.)

How much protein does milk have?

A lot!  Just 8 ounces of milk has 8 grams of protein. Chug away.

Is my milk from around here?

Most likely, yes!  Milk is perishable, so it's a lot easier to sell it near where you live.  If you don't know, you can check the label.  Each container of milk is identified by a 2-digit state code followed by a 3-digit processing plant code.  It's local!  Michigan is 26.

If you don't live in Michigan, you can check exactly where your milk comes from by typing in the code at this site: whereismymilkfrom.

Thank you for your questions, and please let me know if you have any more.  I'm off to chug some milk now, but not from the jug.  Well, not while anyone is looking.  Cheers!

Want to know more about the farm?  I post a lot of pictures on Facebook. Come on over.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Happy spring!

Today's the first day of spring! It really seemed like it - warmish, super muddy, and smelled like dirt.  Ahh!

The cattle that live partly outside grow a winter coat.  I like their fluffy look.  They'll shed it soon, just like my children have already shed their coats and shoes.  (It was nearly 50 today, after all!)

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In other news ... I served on a GMO Task Force this past six months.  The Michigan Farm Bureau board asked us to be on it to research the issue and come up with conclusions of what action should occur.  Today we presented our findings to the board.  (Someone said, "Carla, stand in the back, you're tall."  Thanks for the boost, shoes!)

Kris said he feels like we're in a holding pattern.  It's the end of winter, the cold is supposedly over, but it's the time before EVERYTHING HAPPENS AT ONCE.  Soon, calving, planting, work work work.  

But before that ... more meetings!  We're headed to more this week.  I'm not wearing a coat to any of them.

Want to know more about the farm?  I post a lot of pictures on Facebook. Come on over.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A decade in...

Ten years ago today Kris had his first day on our farm.

I moved here in February of 2007 to work full-time at TechSmith.  I took great satisfaction in the fact that I could still fit all of my clothes, shoes, home office, and music in my little Pontiac Grand Prix - just like all of my college years!  Kris moved everything else by himself.  Luckily, he is great at packing.

So when he moved here in March, he had his first day at work.  Of course I wanted to take his picture.

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My parents got him that coat as a gift for his birthday the month before - his first Carhartt.  Right now, he was just leaving for the barn, and we calculated that he's on his third!  His current one is a taaaaaad dirtier.  (What a testament to a durable product.)

We got out the photo album tonight and showed the kids.  Ty and Cole kept marveling at how giant pregnant I was with them, and Max asked continually, "Where am I?!"  The pictures already seem so dated - here we are in the old barn, here you are climbing up to fix the old silo, here we are - just two of us - in our house!

I love to speculate what our lives would have been like if we wouldn't have bought the farm.  We have good friends who work for Caterpillar, and it's like checking out the parallel existence.  It seems great also!  It's just different, for sure.  As for us, we're happy we bought the farm, we love living here, and we're excited to see where this adventure goes.

Let's think ...

How many more coats will Kris go through before he sheds them and heads for a warm, sunny retirement community?

How many changes will the farm go through in the next ten years?

and -

Did anyone think that electrical setup in the picture above was a good idea?

Want to know more about the farm?  Like the page on Facebook, on Twitter @carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by email - the form is on the right side of the page.