Friday, December 28, 2007

A rainy Friday

The first thunderstorm moved through this morning a little after 4:00 am, and we've had a couple of passing showers since then. It looks like the rain will continue to be off-and-on throughout the morning, and hopefully by lunch we will have gotten around an inch. We'll probably find some "indoor" work to do this morning in the milking barn or in the shop.

The generally mild afternoons we've had this past month has really helped our wheat, oats, and ryegrass to thicken up. In fact, we could probably graze a couple of the fields in mid-January if we get a warm, dry period of about ten days.

The cows have been milking really well, and the bulk tanks have been showing about a 62 pounds per day average. We're almost out of baleage and will be replacing it with corn silage next week. Hopefully the cows will be able to transition quickly and keep their production up.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Merry Christmas

Here's wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Strange Weather

Short sleeves in mid-December? What's what I've been walking around in the last couple of days. We've been enjoying high temperatures up in the 70's while the Midwest has been suffering through a terrible winter storm.

Our luck will run out pretty soon though...we're not supposed to get out of the 40's on Sunday.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Back from Mobile

I left home on Friday but now I'm finally back from Mobile and the Alabama Farmers Federation's 86th Annual Meeting. Our Young Farmers Committee was responsible for four programs during the event: Miss Alabama Agriculture Pageant, Excellence in Agriculture competition, Talent Find Contest (I served as emcee), and Discussion Meet competition (I served as moderator).

Our Young Farmers Business Meeting was Sunday night, and I was fortunate enough to be elected as our committee's chairman for 2008. It became official during Monday's AFF Voting Delegate Business Session, and I'll now serve as an ex-officio member of the AFF Board of Directors through 2008.

I'm excited for the opportunity to learn more about how our organization works and take an active part in moving it forward. After receiving the Federation's 2008 calendar of events, it looks like I'll be away from home approximately 60 days in 2008 on AFF Board or Young Farmers related events.

It's going to be an interesting year...stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fall weather

It looks like we may finally be seeing some "normal" weather for this time of the year. We'll have a couple of days of damp, dreary weather followed by a few clear days. This morning, the sun is shining and it's about 35 degrees, but it will warm up to the mid-60's by early afternoon.

All the wheat, oats, and ryegrass we previously planted appear to have sprouted. We still have about 30 acres left, and might get that in the end of this week if the ground will dry alot today. If we can't get it planted this week, we may just wait until corn season to plant that field.

The cows are enjoying the cooler weather and have upped their production just a little. We weighed milk yesterday and the "unofficial" results show about a 60 pound per cow average. We're about to have to change their feed formulation a little bit, as cottonseeds have now gotten too expensive to buy. It will be interesting to see how are cows react to removing the seeds from the TMR.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's been awhile

Sorry for the hiatus from posting to the blog over the last couple of weeks. I've been pretty much swamped with things I needed to do, and there's really not been much of consequence to report from our farm.

We've gotten a little more rain over the last couple of days, and that'll help our our winter crop. We've still got thirty acres of wheat and oats to plant (as well as about 15-20 acres to overseed with ryegrass), but some of what we've already planted is really starting to shoot up out of the ground. The rest shouldn't be too far behind. Now that all the bermudagrass has gone dormant and turned brown, it'll be nice to look out over some green patches again.

Feed costs continue to climb higher and higher thanks in part to both commodity prices and freight. We got a good deal on some peanut hay from a farmer in a neighboring county, and we're hoping our nutritionalist will come up with a ration that will let us use less alfalfa without sacrificing too much production.

Speaking of production, we're up to 203 cows milking right now and on average they're each giving 55 pounds a day. They could be doing a little more if we fed them just a little more, but with that many cows we don't have enough trough space to increase their feed.

Well, it's time for breakfast and then back to work.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Time to plant

Last week was was cool and wet and I loved every minute of it. The clouds have now given way to the sunshine, and it's finally time to plant our cool season crops. I'll start drilling in ryegrass seed this afternoon, and hopefully by the end of the week we will have been able to start preparing our fields for oats and wheat.

We dried off eight cows today and had one heifer freshen, so we'll have 191 cows going through the parlor this afternoon. Right now, their daily TMR consists of a concentrated dairy feed meal, cottonseeds, cottonseed hulls, alfalfa, ryegrass/oat hay, and bermudagrass hay.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bad Week

Well, this is the first time I've posted anything this week, but it's not for a lack of things to talk about...I've just been too worn out. My folks left on a trip to West Virginia on Wednesday, and things really started happening once they got out of sight. Since that morning, I've had to replace the starter on one of our "can't do without" tractors (had to have a new one shipped overnight), I've had calves out, I've had cows getting into the wrong pastures, I've had two calves get sick, the bucket of one of our loaders wasn't locked in and fell into our feed mixer wagon (which wasn't fun getting out), and those are just the minor things I'm willing to talk about! In other words, it's really been a dairy farm over the last few days.

On the plus side, we got a half-inch of rain on Thursday, and more's predicted for the first of next week!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Not much to report

We got just a little bit of rain on Tuesday. We're very thankful for it, but it wasn't nearly enough to allow us to start planting our winter crops. That same day I was in Montgomery for a state Young Farmers Committee meeting at the Alabama Farmers Federation home office. Other than that, it's just been a "by-the-book" week on the dairy. Our weather has turned cooler, with a high today in the 70's and a low tonight in the 40's, but it's going to creep back up into the mid-80's sometime next week, so says the weather man.

Friday, October 5, 2007

What we've accomplished

Over the last few days, we were able to harvest 68 bales of sudex baleage (bringing the grand total up to 106) and 143 bales of dry bermudagrass hay. On a per acre basis, neither of these are very good, but we're happy to get anything this year considering the drought. Other than helping dad change the milk machine inflations late one afternoon, I can't think of anything I've done this week that didn't involve cutting, baling, or wrapping hay.

I'll be going in to work at 3 am tomorrow morning to milk with my father while one of our employees handles feeding the cows and heifers. Once we finish milking, I'll prepare the cows' afternoon feed and then will be loading up to go to Starkville. It's homecoming at Mississippi State, and though I'll miss the Ag Alumni breakfast at 8:00, I should be there in time for the FarmHouse Association Meeting at 10:00. Afterwards, me and some of my old friends will enjoy pregame festivities in the Junction adjacent to Davis Wade Stadium. Then we'll watch State hopefully beat UAB starting at 1:30 pm.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Hay Time

After moving heifers and dry cows from pasture to pasture, weaning calves, and receiving a truckload of alfalfa yesterday morning, we turned our attention to our hayfields. I ran our cutter/conditioner through our remaining ten acres of sudex, which we project to bale green on Wednesday. Late this morning after the dew has dried, a couple of our employees will join in with our conventional hay mowers to help me cut about 40 acres of bermudagrass. We've got a long day ahead of us!

In other news, I made a few slight updates to our farm website over the weekend, most notably adding links to old articles about us at the bottom of our "farm news" page.

Friday, September 28, 2007

End of week wrap-up

Let's review:
  • Tuesday - a continuation of Monday, as our full, 1000-gallon water tank slid off a wagon and busted. I also hit a lot of rocks as I was spot-cutting some sudex in a couple of our fields.
  • Wednesday - nothing major to report other than weighing milk that afternoon.
  • Thursday - I baled and wrapped the sudex I cut Tuesday and wound up with 38 bales. That's not very good, but considering the drought we're in I'm happy I got that many.
  • Friday - I placed the hay bales I made on Thursday while the others cleaned up around the farm. This afternoon, we cut a field of bermudagrass and will plan on baling it Monday.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A case of the Mondays

No matter what line of business a person is in, they usually complain that things never seem to go right on Monday. Today could have been a whole lot better if one thing that happened hadn't, and one thing that didn't happen would have (did you get all that?).

So, what bad thing did happen? Well, in a year like this year, every bale of hay is precious. With that in mind, Murphy's Law dictated that a group of springing heifers (in a pasture will more than adequate grass to graze) tore down a wall section of one of our haybarns and ruined about 15 bales of bermudagrass. With hay costing about $50 per bale...well, you can do the math.

The thing that didn't happen that we wished would have was, of course, rain. It just "felt" like a thunderstorm could come though the whole second half of the afternoon, but never did. We had a Farmers Federation directors meeting in Vernon tonight, and a half a mile from our farm we could see puddles on the side of the road. It even rained in Vernon during our meeting, but no such luck back home.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


104...that's how many bales of signalgrass hay I rolled up this afternoon. The bulk of it was slow-going over very rough ground, as it took me five hours to roll 70 bales. After I ate supper and went back out to a different field, I was able to make really good time. I rolled 34 bales in only an hour and twenty minutes. We'll get back at it tomorrow morning as soon as the dew dries off.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday's odds and ends

  • The Gilmer Dairy front page has been slightly redesigned.
  • Fourteen yearlings decided to exit their pasture and explore the world sometime late last night or early this morning. We found them only about a quarter mile from where they should have been and put them in a pasture with some older heifers.
  • After some routine maintenance to our hay mowers, a couple of our employees spent most of the day cutting more signalgrass.
  • Our milking cows continue to enjoy the mild temperatures and cool breeze that blows late into the morning. They have started showing their "heats" due to the cooler weather.
  • Two specialists from Auburn University will be visiting with us on Wednesday. They would like us to plant about 10 acres of lupin, a forage legume, and ultimately harvest it as baleage in the spring.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Feels like early fall

After Homberto left us, our weather has turned very pleasant. We're topping out in the afternoons in the mid-to-upper 80's, but there's very little humidity and we're seeing low temperatures down around 60 degrees. The cows are really enjoying it, as they can sunbathe in their pasture much later into the morning.

There was no lack of things to do today. Two of our employees spent most of the day cutting a little over 20 acres of broadleaf signalgrass that we'll roll up for hay later this week. They'll continue cutting in a different field tomorrow and probably into Wednesday. My dad, great-uncle, and I moved some dry cows who are about two weeks from calving out of one pasture and into the maternity pasture. I lost my phone in the process but luckily was able to find it. I'm not sure what all we'll get into tomorrow other than cutting hay, but it never takes long to find something that needs doing on Gilmer Dairy Farm.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What a good week!

This past week has been pretty doggone good. We got some rain on Tuesday, we got alot of rain Friday morning, and the weather turned just beautiful after that. And to cap it all off, my Mississippi State Bulldogs went down to Auburn and won there for the first time since I stood and cheered their incredible end-of-the-game comeback victory in 1999. The only downside to yesterday's win was that I was offered tickets to the game but decided not to go.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thank You, Mr. Homberto

What's left of hurricane Homberto has been falling on us as a slow, soaking rain since yesterday evening. As of 3:00 am, we had only gotten 0.7 inches, but it's probably at least 1.5" by now, and the rain is expected to fall up through mid-morning.

So, what does this rain mean for us? Well, it will definitely give a kick to our grass, both in pastures and hayfields. It will also help soften up the top layer of soil...something that had to be done before we could even think about preparing our fields to plant wheat and oats.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A rainy Tuesday?

Today's our best (and probably last) chance to get any rainfall for the next few days, and we need it in the worst way! Our bermudagrass hay fields haven't had enough moisture to grow, and ground is too hard and dry to plant wheat, oats, or ryegrass.

Our cows are still holding up pretty well, and I'm sure they'll appreciate the cooler days we have in store this week (only in the upper 80's!).

I baled up 102 rolls of hay last week, primarily broadleaf signalgrass and johnsongrass. It won't have alot of nutritional value, but it will definitely work as a fiber source. We've got several more acres we plan on cutting, and will probably start doing so tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Quick Notes

  • I've updated the Edopt-a-cow profiles on
  • We've been cutting broadleaf signalgrass since Monday and will continue to do so through this afternoon. We'll rake and bale it tomorrow and Friday, and then start the process over again next Monday.
  • The cows, on average, are still giving around 54-55 pounds of milk.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The week ahead

I don't think we'll run out of things to do this coming week. If all goes as planned (though it seldom does):
  • We should finish chopping our corn this afternoon. That means spending time tomorrow covering our silage pit. If not, we'll be busy fixing another breakdown.
  • We're due to weigh milk this week, if we can get our schedule coordinated with the tester.
  • We need to rebuild a few fences, especially one around the pond in our milk cow pasture.
  • A pretty fair stand of signalgrass has come up in our wheat fields, and would make good hay. We'll work towards cutting and baling it if they knock back the rain chances (we'll gladly take the rain, though).
  • Speaking of wheat, Dad and I will start deciding how many acres of wheat, oats, and ryegrass we'll need to plant in a few weeks, as well as the fertilizer and tillage requirements.
  • I need to spray some herbicide in a few places and kill weeds.
  • Nights this week will also be busy, as we've got a service at our church tonight, our county's Farmers Federation's annual meeting Tuesday night, we'll go watch our beloved Mississippi State Bulldogs take their annual beating from LSU on Thursday, and then Friday I believe our hometown high school will open their football season at home.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dairy Star article

Dairy Star, a publication out of Minnesota, recently did a story on us in their "Dairying Across America" feature. You can read it in the "Recent Farm News" section of our farm web page.

A Dairyman in the "Heart of Dixie": Drought, dwindling resources challenge Alabama Farmer

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A morning for moving cows

We spent most of this morning trying to move a fews cows to different pastures. To start with, we had to catch one group of our dry cows, separate the eight cows closest to calving, and put them in our calving pasture so we can keep a closer eye on them. We also dried off six cows this morning and took them to the same pasture we pulled the previously mentioned eight from. Then, we had to move two cows that recently freshened from our calving pasture into our milking herd pasture.

All of this was made possible due to the fact that our corn silage chopper was broken down, and the replacement part we needed didn't arrive until late morning. Hopefully it will be back up and running shortly. If all goes smoothly, my afternoon should pretty easy...putting out feed, making a feed batch for tomorrow morning, and feeding the baby calves.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Ask the Dairyman

Teachers and students (and anyone else for that matter), if you would like to ask me anything about life on a dairy, please use the "comments" section or send an email to me. You can get my address from Gilmer Dairy


Our long, dry spell was broken early this morning about 2:15 as a thunderstorm developed and dropped about a half inch of rain on our farm. This obviously isn't a drought-breaker, but it should give a definite kick-start to our bermudagrass and sudex crops. We've got a fair chance of getting another shower before tomorrow morning before the clouds clear back out.

My dad will start cutting our corn down in Yellow Creek bottom this morning. The 45 acres we planted down there probably didn't reach much more than 45% of the yield potential, but the corn is in tremendously better shape than any of the "hill corn" we've harvested.

Our cows continue to chug right along despite the heat. In fact, when the milk truck picked up our load on Wednesday we had just over a thousand pounds of more milk than we did the previous time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lunchtime Update

Guess what? It's another hot, dry day. While my dad and our employees were dealing with the corn harvest, I did a little electrical work in our milking barn this morning. We've got four newly installed fans that we'll use to circulate the air when our cows are being milked. We also plan on adding fine-pattern spray nozzles in front of the fans to provide a cool mist. Other than that, I moved a few cows around from one pasture to another, made a batch of cow feed for this afternoon, and took care of a few other odds and ends. This afternoon I'll be helping in the milking barn, feeding the baby calves, and hoping that none of our silage harvesting equipment breaks down.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A hot week behind, a hot week ahead

Today will be at least the fifth day in a row to hit triple digits on the thermometer, and we probably won't see a high below 100 until this weekend. The heat index continues to float between 105-110, making it tough on all of us who work outdoors for a living. And, of course, there is no significant chance of rain anywhere on the horizon.

We'll be getting our corn cutting equipment prepared this morning, and could begin chopping silage as early as this afternoon. We'll be starting in a field that hasn't made much corn due to the drought, and we'll actually only harvest part of it as silage. The rest we'll cut and bale for hay.

On average, our cows are each giving around 55 pounds of milk each day. We're also milking more cows right now (193) than we ever have during this part of summer.

Well, it's time to cook my sausage and egg and head on out into heat. Think about me while you're enjoying the air conditioning today!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Hot, Dry, & Miserable

With temperatures reaching the 90's by late morning and topping out around 100 in early afternoon, I guess you could say that the weather has been a little uncomfortable. Despite the misery, our cows are holding up pretty well, and I just hope we can get some relief before they start really feeling the heat stress.

With no rain in over a week and none on the horizon, I'd say we're definitely back in drought-mode. Some of our sudex has sprouted, though you can't really tell it when you drive by the fields. Our hay fields aren't exactly setting any records either.

I've updated our Edopt-a-Cow program on our farm website, for any of you who might be interested.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A quick, catch you up to date

A high pressure system has moved in and is keeping the rain away for the next several days while we suffer under high temperatures in the upper 90's. Luckily, we got a small shower this past Monday. It wasn't enough to do much good, but if it activated the ammonia nitrate in our hayfields and helped our sudex seed germinate we'll certainly be happy. We're now in the process of baling up the first cutting of bermudagrass on the fields we didn't work last week. The ten acre patch next to my house yielded 4o bales, so that's works out to just over 1.5 tons per acre. In other forage news, we scouted one of our two remaining corn fields this morning. It's pretty pitiful, but it's got just enough ear on it to make it too difficult to cut with a hay conditioner. We might start gearing up and run the silage chopper across it next week.

In other news, the Dairy Star, a publication out of Minnesota, will be featuring our farm in their "Dairying Across America" section in an upcoming edition. I guess good things happen when you go to church with the guy who serves as the contact person for our state's dairy industry. Also, I'm in the process of reworking our farm website's Edopt-a-Cow program and adding new cows to it. Be sure to check that out at Gilmer Dairy!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Getting dry again

It's 9:30 on Saturday morning, and it's already 82 degrees. The hot weather over the past few days has started to dry things out again. We've got a fair chance at some thundershowers today and tomorrow, but after that things look quiet until next weekend. We need some rain right away to help our sudex seed germinate and put the ammonia nitrate we had spread to work.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Back from the Beach

We arrived home from the Council of Co-op's Couples Conference (say that five times fast) Wednesday evening, and it was back to work on Thursday. Other than the regular duties of milking the cows and feeding all the animals, we spent most of the rest of the day hauling hay bales out of the field. We finished with 133, which is less than we initially thought we would harvest but we're not complaining. Today we've had those fields fertilized with ammonia nitrate to kick start some new growth.

We also weighed milk this morning and early indications are that the cows are averaging around 58.5 pounds each.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Weekend Update

  • We have around thirty acres (spread over three fields) that are ready to be planted with sorghum-sudangrass (sudex) and fertilized first of the week.
  • We have cut about that many acres of bermudagrass with seven more to go, and plan on baling it up Tuesday and Wednesday. We're guessing we'll yield between 175-200 4'x5' round bales.
  • All of the above will be done without me, as my wife and I are headed to Orange Beach for the Alabama Council of Cooperatives Couples' Conference first thing Monday morning. We'll be back sometime Wednesday afternoon.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Preparing for a new crop

We spend time yesterday disking up about thirty acres of land on which we'll sew sudex seed. One of the fields we are going to plant hasn't had a crop on it since we harvested our wheat and oats, so the grounds a little harder and will require a second cutting this morning. We're following the disk with our "do-all", and implement that breaks clods and rakes the ground smooth. We hope to get a little shower sometime this afternoon, and then spread the seed and fertilizer next Monday or Tuesday.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Back on the Farm

We arrived back home from Dothan on Saturday evening, and I was back to work milking cows at 3:00 am Sunday morning. I'm not sure what all we'll get done this week, as the weather forecast is calling for at least a 40% chance of showers daily. Once it dries up enough, we'll be tearing up ground in preparation of planting a sorghum-sudangrass (sudex) crop.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Heading down to Dothan

Our State Young Farmers Committee is having its annual summer planning meeting down in Dothan, Alabama, over the next couple of days, so my wife, son, and I are about to head down to peanut country. It will probably be about a six hour dive when you add in a couple of stops, as Dothan is 300 miles from here. We'll be back in "The LC" (Lamar County) sometime Saturday.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Two weeks 'til hay time

We took a look at our hayfields yesterday, and have decided that they'll probably do to cut in about two weeks. Neither of our bermudagrass varieties (Tifton 44 and Russell) will give us a great first cutting on yield or quality the way the weather's been the last two months. But once we clip the hay and get some fertilizer on the fields they should both do really well (if it continues to rain like it has the last couple of weeks).

Speaking of rain, we got a slow 3 inches on Saturday, and a pretty quick, stormy 2.5 yesterday.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Random Thoughts

Nothing too much to talk about in depth, so here's some random pieces of information for you:

  • We had around three inches of rainfall Saturday. The good, slow falling, soaking kind!
  • Our preacher was on vacation this weekend, so it fell to me as my church's Lay Leader to lead the Worship Service. I used The Great Commission as the Scripture text and spoke about our responsibility to witness both individually and collectively, and then introduced a study series we'll be starting in a couple of weeks that will help strengthen us to do ministry. It also marked the first time we've had a Power Point presentation during the Sunday morning service.
  • We've got 218 cows right now (177 in milk, 41 dry) and 214 heifers ranging from three-days old to could-calve-any-day-now.
  • Our bermudagrass hay fields are all starting to grow now. We probably won't wait for the grass to get too tall though before we cut some of them. The earlier we cut them, the more potential we have for getting two "good" cuttings afterwards (though that window will start to close before too long).
  • Looks like we'll plant more acres in sudex this summer and less in wheat/oats this fall. We need the forage to carry us through the winter, and can't focus too much right now on the spring.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

What is "Edopt-a-Cow"?

People often ask me to explain what my farm's "Edopt-a-Cow" program is all about. It's very simple. It's a way that individuals or classrooms can "adopt" one of our cows over the internet (hence, "edopt"). Since fewer and fewer people these days know what farm life is all about, this is a way to give them their own little connection to agriculture. We hope that those who participate will learn a little about the life of a dairy cow, and will be interested enough to learn even more about dairy farms and other types of agriculture.

You can "edopt" on of our cows (#007-"Charger" for the next few days) for free by clicking here. Try it out and tell me what you think of it!


Rain has been falling on Gilmer Dairy Farm slow and steady since early this morning, and according to the radar should continue to do so for a while, as the western edge of the system is still in the Mississippi Delta.

On top of what we're getting this morning, the long-term forecast (for what it's worth) is predicting a 30-60% chance of rain everyday through next Sunday.

It's going to take a lot of rain over a long period of time to break the drought and get back to "even", but this slow, soaking rain is just what we need right now.

Harvesting Corn (with a hay mower)

This past week, we harvested about 22 acres of short corn by cutting it with a hay mower, raking it, baling it, and wrapping it. On those 22 acres, we got a whopping 30 bales of corn baleage. As poor as that sounds, that would extend our ability to feed baleage to our milking herd by 15 days, which is much better than the alternative of having to buy more feed to replace it with.

Of our remaining corn, we have about 25 acres that we'll make baleage out of, and about 45 that we'll try to run the silage chopper through in a few weeks (the better spots of the 45, anyway).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

High milk prices don't equal big farm profits

Even if you aren't the one who does the grocery shopping for your family, you're probably aware of the record milk price at the stores. You may have also heard that we dairy farmers are getting paid really well right now too. We are getting paid a really good price for our milk, but what shows up on the "gross" doesn't stick around for the "net".

The cost of corn, soybean, and cotton feed ingredients have all gone up...significantly for some products. This drought has forced many farmers who typically grow all their own forages such as silage and hay to purchase them from outside the southeast. The high price of diesel fuel has increased the freight cost of getting these products to the farm. By the time you add everything up, it's costs more per day to feed a cow her 60-70 pounds a day than it ever has!

And when you add in the cost of feeding heifers some of the same ingredients (while getting no immediate return on investment), the cost of labor, the cost of electricity, and all the other costs that go into a dairy farm, there's not a whole lot of the milk check left after you've paid all your bills. It's even worse if you're in the middle of making facility improvements like we are.

Thanks to the high price, many dairies have already begun milking more cows, and at some point there will be a higher supply than the market calls for. Then, the price will drop in the stores (and probably drop like a rock on the farm).

Corn, Milk, and Rain

I tried yesterday to cut down some of our hill corn. It's tasseled and about chest high, and really doesn't have enough growth potential left in it to justify waiting and harvesting it with a silage chopper. So I tried to use our hay cutter-conditioner on it and lay it in a windrow. The problem was that the clutch in the conditioner has about worn out over the years, and was just too weak to get the job done. So, I'm going to try this afternoon to cut it with a bush hog. Actually, I KNOW a bush hog will do the job, the question will be if we can get it raked into a good enough row to pick it up with the hay baler. Even if we can, I'm sure there will be a lot of dirt in it, but dirty feed is better than no feed, right?

Our cows seemingly hit a brick wall the end of last week. The heat and humidity have finally started showing up in their production, as our daily herd-wide production dropped one thousand pounds over the course of four days. Yesterday afternoon and this morning seemed to be a little better though, so maybe they'll gain a little of that back.

And we finally got a "big" rain yesterday evening. A thunderstorm came right over us and dumped around three-quarters of an inch over the course of about thirty minutes. It had literally been months since we had seen a rain like that.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Adding Alfalfa

We've made the decision to begin feeding alfalfa to our milking herd for the first time since 2000. We have not used it in the past several years because of it's high cost and our ability to grow all of the forage we need (when we get enough rain). We will substitute the alfalfa for the dry ryegrass hay we are currently using in the TMR, and will have to alter the formula of the dairy feed blend we've been adding to it. We will continue to use wheat baleage, cottonseeds, and cotton hulls.

Speaking of forages, we've got approximately 200 dry bales of hay we harvested this spring, and if we can get "normal" rainfall and warm temperatures into late September we should get 300-400 bales of bermudagrass. We've also got enough baleage to feed for 70 more days, by which time we should have some corn baleage, corn silage, and possibly even some sorghum-sudangrass baleage.

The key is rainfall and temperature. If the weather is wet and warm over the next three months, we should be able to make it through this drought ok.

What to do with drought-stricken corn

We've been wondering for the last couple of weeks exactly what we could do about the corn we planted earlier. After seeing that some of our bottom land corn is already about shoulder high, I think we're going to let it grow as much as it can and then chop and ensile it as usual. The shorter corn (that's still living) will probably have a hay cutter/conditioner run across it, then we'll bale it up and wrap it like we do our spring forages.

Better weather ahead

We got a brief rain shower yesterday evening...not much but we were certainly glad to get it. And right now the forecast calls for a 30-50% chance of afternoon thunderstorms everyday through Saturday. We're keeping our fingers crossed!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Good milk production for June

Our cows have produced pretty doggone good this month as compared to what they typically do this time of year. Our milk was weighed yesterday and the preliminary report came back that the "all cows milking" daily average was 63.5 pounds.

On the road again

I'll be working up until the middle of the morning, and then it's off to the ALFA Youth Leadership Conference at the 4-H Center in Columbiana. The event is sponsored by our Young Farmers program, and our state committee is responsible for leading one of the workshops. The conference runs through Sunday morning, but I'll be coming back after the workshops wrap up on Saturday afternoon.

This comes after I took Tuesday off to "assist" with the Alabama Ag in the Classroom program's farm tours. Turns out, all I had to do was ride one of the buses and be available to answer questions some of the teachers had. We toured a catfish farm in Perry County and then went back to Tuscaloosa (where the workshops were taking place) to let the teachers see the effects of the drought on non-irrigated corn, cotton, and soybeans.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

R-A-I-N spells relief!

Well, we have finally had a little rain to fall on the farm. We've had two separate rains, one last Friday evening and one this past Tuesday morning, combining for a total of three-quarters of an inch. While we would have loved more, both times the rain fell slow over a period of time that allowed most of it to soak into the ground. This hasn't exactly "broken" the drought, but it's been helpful to our land at a very critical time. We can already tell the grass is a different shade of green than it was towards the end of last week.

Our forecast for the next few days calls for very hot and dry weather, with temperatures reaching up into the high 90's by the weekend. Extending on out into next week, it is giving a pretty good chance of showers for several days, so hopefully that will bear out!

Milk Mustache Contest

I have posted the co-winners of our annual Milk Mustache Contest on our farm web page, Gilmer Dairy

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More of the Same

Were at the mid-point of yet another dry week, with not much chance of rain until next Tuesday.

Sometime today we may try to fight through the deer flies, ticks, and cottonmouths and tear out a beaver dam that been built across a small creek that runs through one of our pastures. If we do, we'll at least be reminded what water and mud look like.

Monday, June 11, 2007

How dry is it?

According to the Alabama Office of the State Climatologist, our "Palmer Drought Index" is listed as a -3 'severe drought', and we would need 10.9 inches of rain to break the drought. Dr. Christy was quoted as saying, "This is the driest period from January to now in Alabama in 114 years."

The US Drought Monitor says that we're under a D3 "Extreme" drought, and we're only a few miles away from being in the D4 "Exceptional" range.

According to NOAA's US Seasonal Drought Outlook, the drought should persist through July.

The USGS reports that the Buttahatchie River a few miles to our north is flowing with a discharge of 51 cubic feet per second. The 36 year median flow for this time of year is 267 cfs, meaning that its flowing roughly at 20% OF NORMAL.

This drought has been devastating to agriculture in Alabama, and is now starting to really effect a lot more people in the central third of the state as many cities are starting to issue water usage limitations. With no real relief in sight on the weather forecast, we definitely covet your prayers for rain.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Another hot one

The high temperature today will once again reach into the 90's, with a nice hot breeze blowing. It's days like today that make me happy that we have a couple of tractors with good air conditioners, such as this New Holland TL100.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Time for a Cattle Drive

We're going to be brining a group of bred and pregnant heifers up to the farm this morning for their yearly vaccinations and fly treatments. Hopefully they will all cooperate and go the direction we want them to. It only takes one going the wrong way to get the whole group to do likewise.

I'm going to take the camera and if I get a chance I'll snap a couple of pictures of it to post on our photo gallery.

Time management

Sometimes your responsibilities get you into trouble. For instance, I've known for ten years that I would be responsible for organizing my high school class's ten year reunion. Over the last six weeks, I've probably spend 30-35 hours working on what will be a simple 3.5 hour event. And I only thought I knew how to budget my time! As much as I'm looking forward to the reunion next Saturday, I'll be relieved once it's over!

Butterfat up, maybe milk production too

The butterfat content of our cows' milk has hit a six month high at 3.85%. This is up from a low of 3.15% just twenty days ago. Coincidentally, this is about the time we changed their feed ration. Of course, the trade-off is that we aren't getting the same volume of milk, and the way milk is priced I don't know how the skim volume vs. butterfat premium will balance out. But we may see somewhat of an upswing on our production (or less of a drop off due to this heat) as we started feeding a different batch of baleage to them yesterday. We had been able to spray a second application of N-sol on this lot, and that extra fertilizer should mean more nutrients, which will hopefully equal more milk.

Oh yeah, no rain yet, and the long term forecast calls only slight chances of heat-generated afternoon thunderstorms. Our corn and hayfields are looking worse by the day.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Another Milk Mustache Contest reminder

Once again, don't forget our farm's online Milk Mustache Contest. You can get more info from our farm website, Gilmer Dairy

No Relief in Sight

This past weekend was our best chance for rain for a while, and we did get a trace amount. But that was nowhere near substantial enough to salvage our "hill" corn or spur any growth in our hayfields. At this point, we're looking at the grim reality of having even less of a corn silage crop than last year and not much hay. The good news is that, provided it starts raining within the next month, we can replant our corn fields in sorghum or sorghum-sudangrass and still put up silage this fall. We were already planning on planting these crops on about a third of our normal corn acreage. It won't have quite the yield or quality that corn would, but it would definitely be better than nothing! Also, the hayfields and pastures should come around if we get the moisture.

I guess the biggest difference between having an early summer drought like this year and a mid-to-late summer drought like last year is that you still have time for contingencies provided the drought does break. All we can really do in the meantime though is keep praying and have faith that at some point we'll get some real relief.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Milk price up, milk production down

After a pretty bad stretch for mailbox milk prices in 2006, this year's milk price has been improving. The bad news, of course, is that we've had to buy a lot of feed and it ain't been cheap, so our bottom line hasn't improved all that much. Now, feed prices are starting to back off a little (corn anyway...cotton seed and cotton hulls are going to be terrible) and the Class I milk price continues to inch forward. Problem now is that our herd's lactation curve is getting extended on out (avg. DIM = 206) which means that they will be giving less and we'll be drying them off at a more rapid rate. In fact, we've dried off ten and culled five within the last week. This morning I measured daily production at around 60.5 pounds per cow, and I imagine we'll be down below 60 pretty soon.

If there's been one good thing about this high pressure system that's kept the rain away, it's been that it has also kept the humidity at bay. We've had several days in the high 80's - low 90's, but the cows haven't shown signs of heat stress. They've continued to eat all of their feed (in fact they're eating more than "the book" says they should) and don't come to shade until very late morning.

Drought today, rain tommorrow?

I sprayed weed killer on our bottomland corn fields yesterday, and I don't ever remember seeing that ground so dry. The corn hasn't twisted yet, but much of it is spindly and the leaves are beginning to "fire". We have a small patch planted about a quarter mile down the road from my house and it looks about the same, which is amazing since that ground drains alot quicker than the bottomland.

It's now been over two weeks since we've gotten any rain, and we've gotten less than an inch total this month. But, according to the Weather Channel's online forecast for this area, we have a 30-40% chance of scattered showers today through next Monday, so hopefully we'll finally get some relief. I expect that getting some rain over the next few days will be the difference in salvaging a decent corn silage crop or losing it all together.

This drought has also put us way behind where we need to be on our hay harvest. Typically, all of our bermudagrass hayfields would be ready to cut for a good yield the first and second weeks of June. As it stands, only the ten acres next to my house that I've been applying slurry on has exhibited any real growth.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Praying for Rain

We're now a week and a half removed from the last quarter-inch (at best) of rain that fell on the farm, and two things about the 10-day forecast stand out: 1) the high temperature for eight of the next ten days will break 90, and 2) the best chance of rain is only 20%.

We had gotten enough rain over the last few weeks to get our corn up out of the ground. And though we definitely could have used more rain, the crop was looking pretty good. Some spots have now started to fire up, and another ten days without rain could stunt it so bad that it won't recover.

This doesn't bode well for our hay crop either. Our bermudagrass has virtually stopped growing and I'm sure we'll have at least one less cutting this season than what we had hoped for.

Oh, yeah, and our milk herd's lactation curve is extending on out and is causing (coupled with the heat) a reduction in milk. We've been steadily declining in production over the last two weeks, and hope that we've now at least stabilized at 58 pounds/cow/day. Time will tell.

All we can do right now is just pray for rain and that we'll make good management decisions in the meantime, and have faith that in the end everything will work out.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What's been happening

I haven't posted in about a week, so let me fill you in on what's been happening...

Last Saturday, I drove up to St. Louis with some friends to watch the Cardinals play the Astros. After driving nearly 500 miles, we watched the Cards get smoked and left after six innings with the score 9-0 Houston (they would go on to win 13-0). By the time we got home, we had been gone 19 hours, 15.5 of which were spent driving. It was my second straight year to make this trip, and I hope to do so again next year (just hope for a better game result).

Another trip I made recently was to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday night to attend that county's Young Farmers meeting. I really enjoyed their meeting and hope I can attend other county meetings within the district I represent on the State YF Committee.

Back on the farm, we cut down the remaining wheat and oats that our milking herd had been grazing on. It was a very slow, rough ordeal getting over the ground, but ultimately we got 89 more dry bales of hay out of it than we would have if we hadn't cut it. We also vaccinated and fly-tagged about 45 heifers on Thursday morning. Only 175 more to go!

Lamar County's annual Relay for Life is this evening. Besides walking during the "team walk" at the beginning of the event, I'm slated to walk between 2:30-3:00 early Saturday morning. Last year I stayed from the opening up through my walk time, but I think I'll have to come home and get some sleep sometime around 10:00.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Milk Mustache Contest

If you're interested in entering my farm's Milk Mustache Contest, click over to our website, Gilmer Dairy

Bring on the rain

We've baled up all the hay we cut earlier in the week, and I've started spraying the N-sol fertilizer on our hay ground and pastures. We are supposed to have a good chance of rain over the next four days, which will help put the fertilizer to work (not to mention help our recently planted corn).

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Hot day in May

Today's high temperature could possibly reach up to 90 degrees. If so, it would tie the record for May 1 set 20 years ago and would surpass the average high for this date, 78, by 12 degrees.

We've cut more of our winter annuals, which consisted mostly of volunteer ryegrass that came up in a poor stand of drilled-in oats. Thanks to the hot weather over the last few days, we've been able to dry it down and will not have to plastic wrap it. We started baling yesterday, and should finish this afternoon. Once the bales are removed from the fields, I'll apply liquid nitrogen fertilizer to boost the bermudagrass.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Our cows' milk production was measured during the Tuesday morning milking shift by our local DHIA technician. In addition to calculating how many pounds of milk each cow is producing, a sample is taken from each cow to determine the percentage of butterfat and protein in her milk. The tentative average for all cow in milk was 68 pounds of milk per day, and we'll know more in a few days after we get the "official" results.

The Corn's in the Ground

We finished planting the last of our silage corn crop late Tuesday morning. I noticed yesterday that the first we planted is starting to peg through the ground already, and I expect I'll see a lot more of it if we get the rainfall the weatherman is predicting.

There's nothing more to do to it over the next few weeks except watch it grow. When it gets to its gets to a certain height, we'll side dress it with N-sol (liquid 32% Nitrogen fertilizer) and spray another application of RoundUp to kill the weeds in it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thursday update

I took a little time yesterday to attend the "First Acre Ceremony" associated with the first soil survey being done in Lamar County in I believe 90 years. It was a nice little event with around 40-50 people representing several different groups, agencies, and ag/forestry sectors. As nice as it would have been to already have this survey done several years ago, we will have an advantage in that the project team will have newer technology at their disposal to go about completing the survey. Based on what I saw, it should be quite impressive once it is complete and available in late 2010.

We should finally finish planting our "hill" corn today. One of our employees is going to take over the planter from me this morning so I can run a disc across a few wet spots in one of our creek-bottom fields. If all goes as planned, we'll move the row-till to the bottom this afternoon and let it get a good head start on the planters so the ground will dry out a little more. We will move the planters down there tomorrow morning. If we don't have any breakdowns or problems of another kind, we should have all our corn in the ground by the end of Monday and I can go back and spray the Dual and Roundup over the cornfields on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tuesday's morning report

We were able to start our field work yesterday, with my father laying off the rows in the "Rhudy" field. He should finish there first part of the morning and move on to the "Austin" place. I will start planting behind him this morning, and if all goes well, we should have around 18 acres planted by the end of the day.

Our cows' milk production has been a little inconsistent over the past few days, but they seemed to milk pretty good yesterday afternoon and this morning. The milk truck comes today, so we will soon know how they've really fared over the last two days.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Time to plant corn

We had intended on planting our corn a little earlier this year, but thanks to last week's freeze we're glad we didn't. It looks as if now we'll start laying off our rows today and planting tomorrow.

We will lay off our rows and apply our liquid nitrogen with a row-till. We will follow behind that with the planters and, depending on the rain forecast, we'll either apply our Roundup and Dual at that time or make a third pass a few days later. All in all we expect to plant around 100 acres of silage corn this year, which will take several days considering we have four-row equipment.

We will be planting a Pioneer variety (33V14) almost exclusively this year, save for a few rows of another Pioneer variety (31Y42) and two Cropland varieties (7505RR,8221RB) we will plant for an Alabama Cooperative Extension System research plot.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Here's to a full Friday

We generally seem to be really busy or really slow on Fridays, depending if we are rushing to finish something before the weekend or not. With several acres of hay on the ground and rain in tomorrow's forecast, today is going to be pretty full. I expect to be running our bale wrapper most of the day. It's a trailer type implement made by Vermeer that will pick up a green bale, set it on a turntable, wrap it in silage plastic, and dump it on it's end. I'll be pulling it with our Ford 6600, one of the older, smaller tractors we have that doesn't have a cab or canopy. So, I'll be hoping for sunshine and no wind, but expect to get just the opposite.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Here we go...

After nearly five years of maintaining a website for my farm, I've decided to give the world of blogging a try. I've intended to do something like this on the "news" portion of my website, but it just never worked out, so we'll see what happens.

Let me catch you up to speed on where we are. On the farm, we're milking 213 cows right now and are averaging about 65 pounds of milk per cow per day. We were doing better than that, but some sort of "bug" made its rounds through the herd and knocked their production off a little bit. We haven't planted the first kernel of corn, but will hopefully begin doing so next week. We have harvested some of our wheat and oat crop, putting up 136 ensiled bales so far. I should be able to add to that number by the end of the week.

It seems like there's as much to do off the farm as there is on the farm. I've spent time at my church the last two evenings, one for a meeting and one to finish some interior work on our Family Life Center. I've been working on my high school class's 10 year reunion and also have been working with a lot of Farmers Federation stuff.

Well, it's 7:40 AM and time to go back to work. I'll keep you up to date as things progress.