Friday, January 30, 2015

     I try to be a positive ag-vocate for the dairy industry.  I admit, it is sometimes hard to be proud of what you do, how you make your living, when some people think what you do is cruel and serves no purpose.  This week, there was a dairy industry take-over of the social media sites.  Meaning, dairy farmers and those involved with dairy, signed up to participate and spread the good word on Milk.  We remained positive in our approach, not tearing down other products or people but simply stating the positive facts about milk.  Hopefully lots of conversations were started and questions asked and answered.
     However, the day after this, an article showed up on my facebook feed from someone else, stating how milk does not do a body good.  It only takes one headline to bring all the positive down.  When you are passionate about something, when another bashes it, it really deflates you.  Responses to this article were along the lines of how we "force feed" our cows corn because it is cheap, they are not allowed to roam, and we feed them rotten feed.  I just want to scream, "if you only knew!" 
     Lets put the milk on the side for now.  On our animals.  Yes they are animals, just like your favorite cat or dog, an animal.  On the topic of force feeding.  I don't know how anyone would force feed a 1200lb animal.  If she is not willing, she won't eat.  On the rotten feed:  yes some hay or silage or corn may get in that is not 100% awesome.  But, if feeding rotten feed was a common practice, we would have sick cows that gave no milk.  They would lose babies if they would even cycle and got bred. We do not want sick cows, we want healthy cows.  We have a vet that is here at least once a month to check cows and calves.  We have a nutritionist that figures the very best ration for feed for the very best healthy cows.  I have never seen a "drunk" cow from fermented feed.  She may have a gut ache, or diarrhea, but not wobbly.  If she seems off-balance, there is something else wrong for which she will be given a supplement to help her stabilize.  Corn is not a cheap food to feed, look at the markets.  Much of our income each  month is devoted to corn alone.  That's not counting the hay, haylage, corn silage, mineral, soybean meal, and feed pellets.
cows eating of their own free will.

     And last but not least, is the terrible conditions we supposedly lock them up in.  The cows honestly don't seem to care.  For the better part of the year, there is grass, alfalfa, and corn 20 ft. away from our cows.  They are kept in by a single strand of  wire.  Our cows are allowed to go out on dirt if it is dry.  I hear numerous times, bring your pets in when it is cold. Several commercials are dedicated to that statement.  Now when we as dairy farmers provide a dry, warm shelter, we are cruel.  How can it work for one set of animals and not the other?  And to add to that, cows are made for cold weather.  They increase hair and fat for better insulation.  Not many, if any, cows and calves would survive a cold, harsh, northern winter without shelter.  So if they were allowed to roam free, they would likely be dead. 
     Every farmer will tell you they have a favorite animal.  One that may be friendlier, or has overcome illness, or even one with a face only a mother would love.  We have those.  It doesn't mean the others don't count.  They all matter.  We provide the same care for all of them.  There are the groups who stand by and let an animal get abused just for the sake of a video.  What does that say about them?  I, for one could not stand by.  It makes me sick.  Every profession has people working in it that give it a bad name.  Police, lawyers, doctors, preachers, and even parents.  The majority of all these people are good, honest, hardworking people, but some will still judge on the actions of a very few.
Alex and his heifer, Josey.

     To close, I stand by the dairy industry, no matter how difficult it maybe at times. It is our life and our way of life.  It is how we teach our kids to work hard.  They are taught life and death and how to love and respect our cows.  They are taught to take pride in their animals and treat them well, then they will treat you well.  It's not always about winning, but how you run the race. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hello, all people.  I am 5003, actually that is my mom's number, I will get my own when I'm a little older, around 3 months.  I was born on a very cold January 6, 2015.  This is how I looked shortly after birth:
I was cold and wet.  Thankfully, my farmers were on the look out for me and took me and my mom to the warmer calving barn.  Mom got a drink of vitamins before going out with the other milk cows and I went to the calf warmer where I dried off and stayed nice and warm.  My new mom, aka Jodi, fed me a bottle of delicious, warm colostrum and I was happy. 

I spent 2 days in there being warm when it was so cold outside.  After that, I was moved to my own hutch and got a warm red jacket on.  Jodi kept me locked in for another couple days to prevent the south wind from getting in and making me sick.
This is my first day out in the warm sun.  I really don't want to leave my hutch but the sand is tempting so out I go to jump around and get some fresh air.
     5003  will be in the hutch for 8 weeks.  During this time she will get fed 4 pints of milk, twice a day for 6 weeks.  She will have complete access to grain and water.  After 6 weeks she will begin to get weaned and lessen her milk to 4 pints once a day.  At week 7, she is done with milk and completely on grain and water.  Stay tuned for her next adventures.  See you soon!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy 2015 to everyone!  I hope this new year keeps everyone happy and healthy.  We ended and then started the year not feeling the best.  The kids remain ok so Jason and I will just keep on because that's what dairy farmers do.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to share our milking process and how we ensure that the milk that comes from us is safe, clean, and healthy.  We begin with the cows entering the barn to be milked.

This is how a cow looks when she enters our parlor.
We wipe off any access sand from the sand, free stalls and then dip with a yellow, pre-dip.  It contains peroxcide and other cleaners to kill any bacteria and germs that may be present.
This is wiped off after about 30 seconds with a clean towel.
The wiping and dipping and wiping again are not just for cleanliness.  They serve another purpose in helping stimulate milk let down.  This helps her "fill up" in the udder and teats and is ready to be milked.  We also do a quick fore-strip of each teat to get the first milk out.  That milk has the greatest potential to have bacteria in it.  With a couple of pulls, that milk is out and only good milk goes into the system.
This photo shows a clean milking unit on a clean udder.  Her legs do have some poop on them but we are very careful in putting a milker on to not let the inflations touch any yucky stuff that is around.  If a cow moves and it does get dirty, it is shut off and rinsed then placed on.  When first on the cow, the milk gushes out, almost filling the small clear plastic globe underneath.  As she nears being done, that drops off to a thin stream, eventually being done.
This is the cow at the end of her milking.  The unit is off and she is dipped with a dip to help keep her teat ends healthy.  It helps keep bacteria out and contains a conditioner to help the skin stay soft.  Usually our dip is a basic iodine dip, but with winter here, it is a green dip that is better for them when it's cold.  In very cold, windy weather, we use a powder dip to avoid freezing.  There are different dips for different seasons and reasons.  We have some lotions we use to help if teats are dry or cracked, much like lotion for your hands.  We also have a frost-guard cream to help in cold weather . 
We take great care to ensure that milk, from us to you is safe and healthy.  We drink it too.  Next time you enjoy your cold glass of milk or hot chocolate, you can be assured that it is the best.