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.