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.