Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Allow me to play junior theologian

As I mentioned in my previous post, there's much being said about the "Green Bible" in both the news and on the blogs. I've tried to do a little internet research and have thought about this through the day, and for what it's worth I'll give you my take on it.

First though, let me establish my "junior theologian" credentials. I've got nearly 30 years of church attendance under my belt. My grandmother, a virtual walking Bible encyclopedia, was my Sunday School teacher during my early childhood and had me memorizing Scripture passages before I could even read them. I've been a member of two different Protestant denominations and was part of a non-denominational study and worship group while I was in college. I've served in my church as a trustee and lay leader, and I'm currently the teacher for the young adults' class and a member of our leadership committee. Now, I won't pretend to know all (or even most) of the finer points of doctrine, but I think it's fair to say that I have a pretty decent grasp of the Bible and the Message therein.

From what I have gathered, the "Green Bible" is a complete version of the Scripture with verses referencing creation printed in green. It is also a study Bible, with commentary (not intended to serve as or replace Scripture) on many of these highlighted passages. Those backing the edition hope to draw its readers' attention to God's love for his creation and the mandate for environmentalism.

I realize that I'm in a situation most others are not. I'm not only a lifelong church-goer and long time professing Christian, but I'm also a farmer who's out in and amongst God's Creation every day. As such, I'm deeply aware of my responsibility to serve as a steward of both the land and animals the Lord has entrusted to me.

So, back to the Green Bible. I'm afraid that those backing it (including secular advocacy groups such as Sierra Club and HSUS) and using it as a tool to inspire people towards radical environmentalism and veganism will succeed in getting people to join in their movement without considering how stewardship of God's Creation is just a piece of the Christian faith. Or even worse, it might lead to "earth worship". Despite my fears, my hope is that new people will be introduced to the Word and will be led towards a faith that goes much deeper than any one social issue.

In closing, if I was recommending a Bible to someone it certainly wouldn't be this version. But for whoever does read it, I hope that they'll prayerfully study it in context and will be open to the Holy Spirit's guidance to act in whatever way God chooses to use it anywhere from environmentalism to feeding the hungry.

Quick update

The ground has finally dried enough and the weather this morning has been ideal for spreading organic fertilizer, so that's what I've been doing pretty much all morning. I came in for lunch about 1:15, swallowed a peanut butter sandwich and some chips, and will be heading back as soon as I get this posted.

While on the tractor this morning, I've been trying to collect my thoughts about this new "Green Bible". The Advocates for Ag and Rural Vet blogs listed on my blogroll have each posted responses to it if your interested in learning more. I hope to post my own ideas as soon as I can get a little more information about it myself.

I'll also plan to post something about rural broadband access by the end of the week.

One last thing, I've added a feedback feature that will appear below each post. If you find a post interesting, or if you agree or disagree with my opinion/commentary on a subject, please take about 0.5 seconds to click the appropriate box. I hope to use your feedback to guide the content and improve the quality of these blog posts. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Today's Gilmer Dairy Farm preview

The cows have been milked and fed, the calves have been fed, and the employees should be cranking up the feed truck to take care of the heifers as I type this. So after I finish my deer sausage, fried egg, and coffee (and get the Christmas decoration boxes out of the attic for my wife), I'll be heading back over to the farm for what should be a pretty busy day.

To start things off, we've got three cows to breed. As soon as our milking herd has finished eating their TMR, we'll move them from their normal pasture to an adjacent one for the rest of the morning. All the rain we've had over the last three weeks has made the ground really soft, so we're trying to move them around a little bit to keep the ground from getting too muddy.

We've also got to put out 2-3 more dry bales of hay this morning, and we need to haul up a couple of loads of wheat baleage to grind in our TMR this week. Other than that, we'll probably work on a few oddjobs or build some fence sections before lunch.

The afternoon should follow pretty much like normal...cows will be milked, the afternoon TMR will be made and distributed, tomorrow morning's TMR will be mixed up, and the calves will be fed.

And, by the way, the weather is still great down here!

Monday, December 29, 2008

A beautiful morning

The sun has risen, the sky is a light shade of blue, and it's a beautiful morning here in northwest Alabama. We're starting off a little cool but it should warm up nicely through the day. And this is the type of weather we expect for the next few days. Hopefully, things will have dried out enough by mid-week to allow us to have fertilizer applied to our cool-season forages.

I'll be running around Gilmer Dairy Farm this morning on our Ford 6600 distributing hay bales to our heifers and dry cows. We were blessed this past summer to have a very good hay crop (quality and quantity) and I expect we'll be able to make it through the winter without having to purchase any additional forages.

Barring any unforeseen, out-of-the ordinary problems (we're always having unforeseen, ordinary problems), I think I'm really going to enjoy working today. I hope you have a great Monday as well.

Friday, December 26, 2008

And so, the week endeth

As is the case most Fridays, we try to accomplish as much as we can so we can keep the total working hours down a little bit during the weekend. So, I spent much of the morning putting hay in the pastures for all the heifers. There's one group that will probably need a new bale on Sunday, but everything else I suspect will be fine until Monday.

We did shuffle a few animals around today. We dried off three cows after the morning milking, weaned three calves mid-morning, and had two cows freshen (gave birth) this afternoon.

I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep before I have to head out to the dairy barn about 3:00am.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from Gilmer Dairy Farm and the Gilmer family! We hope each of you has a joyful day as we gather with our loved ones to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Recap

It was just another day on Gilmer Dairy Farm to be honest, but here's the recap in case you're interested:

  • 3:00am - start milking
  • 5:00am - put the TMR in the milking herd's trough (my first responsibility of the day)
  • 6:00am - finish milking and go home to eat breakfast
  • 7:00am - employees arrive, wash out holding area and begin feeding calves and heifers
  • 7:45am - Dad and I get back from breakfast, everyone gets busy with "odd jobs"
  • 8:30am - begin process of moving a concrete trough section from a dry cow pasture to add to the milking herd's feeding area
  • 10:15am- finish installing trough section, begin cleaning up feeding area
  • 12:00pm - go home for lunch
  • 1:00pm - milking and TMR building/feeding begins
  • 2:30pm - I start putting out hay bales for heifers and dry cows
  • 3:30pm - milking is done, rain begins to fall on me as I put out hay bales
  • 3:50pm - finished with the hay, I help feed the calves
  • 4:10pm - everything's finished...go home, clean up, and wait on wife and son to return from the in-laws.
  • 5:30pm - begin writing this blog post, which doesn't really offer much information or entertainment to the reader.
  • 5:55pm (projected) - Finish this post and log off the internet. The remainder of the evening will include supper, opening Christmas presents, going back to the farm to help deliver a calf (because that always seems to happen on holidays), working the late shift for Santa, and then getting a little shuteye before Christmas Day begins for me at 3:00am in the dairy barn.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Debating Animal Agriculture

I came across an interesting conversation today about animal agriculture. What started in the "comments" section of this article moved over to the comments section of this blog post about said article.

On a side note, I participated in one of the training seminars described in the above linked Capital Press article. In fact, you can read my evaluation of it in a previous entry, "Telling the REAL Story".

Now, back to the issue at hand. As a dairy farmer, it's probably wouldn't be too hard for you to figure out where I stand on animal agriculture. I believe wholeheartedly that our ultimate human purpose is to serve and glorify our Creator. I also believe He has made us the stewards of the rest of His creation. There are many of us that believe these basic truths but disagree as to what our actual responsibilities as "stewards" involve. Here's what I'm convinced it means:

I believe that we have a responsibility to USE the world around us in a manner that will best enable us to serve and glorify God both in the present and future. A significant part of our duty is the production of food, both plant and animal. When I lay down at night, I know that what I do for a living contributes to the health and well-being of hundreds of people, thereby extending their opportunities to be of service to God (whether they choose to or not is up to them). And I treat my animals and the environment around me the best I can so I can continue to make this contribution efficiently and for many, many years to come.

In closing, let me say "Merry Christmas" to both those who share my beliefs and to those who vehemently disapprove of what we in animal agriculture do for a living (and everyone in between). We're all God's children and look forward to the day that the issues that presently divide us will be totally inconsequential in the presence of His glory.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A good day to miss work

My wife and son and I loaded up after church yesterday and headed down to Bay Springs, Mississippi, to visit with my sister and brother-in-law and their newborn. We spent most of today down there and left for home about 4:00 this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the overnight temperature dipped down into the teens here on the farm, and barely climbed above freezing this afternoon.

I think I picked a good day to miss work!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Feeding Calves

My son Linton loves riding in the tractor with me when I'm putting out the TMR for our milking herd. So, I figured I would let him "drive" his tractor into the calf pasture behind our house and give them some hay. Kind of in keeping with what we did last year, we decided to use this picture on the Christmas cards we're sending out. Unfortunately, I couldn't get him to wear the Santa hat again.

Worn slap out

Frequent readers of the DmB will have noticed that I've not posted anything over the last few days. The reason is, quite simply, that I've been "worn slap out". I've tried to post a couple of times, but have literally dozed off in my office chair while trying to put a post together.

So, why am I in such a sorry state?

It all begins with the Alabama Farmers Federation Annual Meeting in Mobile nearly two weeks ago. I left the farm Friday morning and got back Tuesday evening. The four nights I was there I stayed up late talking to folks and really got off of my normal sleep schedule. Once I got home, it took about three days to re-adjust myself.

Then comes this past weekend. Dad and I and one of our employees were supposed to handle all the work. Saturday went off without a hitch, but when 3am Sunday morning rolled around it was just dad and I in the milking barn. Our employee had no-showed, something that was becoming a weekend habit with him. Typically on the weekends, two people will milk while the other puts out the feed for the cows and heifers. When someone's not there it really slows things down, so Dad and I were later than normal coming in for breakfast and I didn't get a chance for a much needed nap prior to Sunday School. It was just the two of us again that afternoon, as we terminated the services of the aforementioned employee when he came in with another poorly conceived excuse (he once claimed that he had to go to court despite it being a federal holiday).

So, we put in a couple of extra hours on Sunday, but I figured things wouldn't be too bad during the week. Then came the phone call at 2:15 Monday morning. My sister had gone into labor and my folks were heading down to Hattiesburg for the birth of their first granddaughter. So, my work day continued to begin at 3am through Wednesday and we spent the first three days of the week two men down.

It's Friday morning now and I'm feeling a little better after two mornings of not reporting until 5am. I shouldn't have to put in as much work this coming weekend and will be going down to visit my sister's family on Monday, so hopefully I'll get a good chance to recharge my batteries.

Such is the life of a dairy farmer.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Farm update

After 7+ inches of rain from Tuesday night through Thursday afternoon, the weather is starting to improve. Of course, after that much rain things will be sloppy for a little while. There's another chance of rain first part of the week, but hopefully it will be minimal or none at all.

We were visited Friday morning by the outstanding veterinarian (and Dairyman's Blog reader), Dr. David Hidalgo of Amory Animal Hospital. He checked the general and reproductive health of some of our cows and performed a hernia surgery on one of our heifer calves.

We did change up our TMR this week, substituting sorghum silage and wheat baleage for the sudex and ryegrass baleage we were using. Despite the nasty weather we've had, I think they are beginning to respond and produce a little more milk.

We've added several new cows over the past few days and now stand at 205. And most of the heifers that have calved in over the last two weeks are flat-out getting after it. The future looks bright for most of those girls!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nasty weather

Cold, wet, and windy is what we're dealing with today. All we did this morning after breakfast was feed the heifers, put out a few bales of hay, and catch one heifer that needs an examination tomorrow. Hopefully the rain will stop before we start milking at 1:00.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's Thursday

It's Thursday, and I really have no idea what we'll work on this morning. We had a beautiful day yesterday, one of the best yo could possibly ask for this time of year. Today's a different story though. It's been raining since early this morning and looks to be dreary and cool all day.

On the plus side, the ten heifers that calved yesterday look like as a group they'll be heavy milk producers.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lots of new cows

Since about 3:00pm yesterday, we've had seven heifers give birth to their first calves (and are thereby now classified as "cows"). Of those, we've only had to assist with one delivery (4:00am). There were also two that had just started going into labor before we finished milking this morning, and at least two more I think will probably start before the end of the morning. I'll check them all again in about an hour. Everything appeared to be progressing as it should with the two currently in labor, but we'll probably go ahead and assist delivery to take the pressure off of them if they haven't had the calves by the time we get back.

While it's very unusual for us to have so many calves in one day, it's not a record. We had 13 born over a 24-hr. period a couple of years ago. At least this time it's not raining like it was that day!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Starting a new week

After not having done much other than the "basics" since last Wednesday, it's time to get back in the swing of things. Or at least we'll try to. The weather has been pretty nasty lately...damp, cool, and windy. That's continuing this morning, though we're supposed to see a little sunshine this afternoon.

Of course, we've already milked and fed the milking herd this morning. From 7:00 'til lunchtime will probably involve moving some of our dry cows and heifers from one pasture to another. We also need to haul some hay and baleage up to the farm to grind up for our milking herd's TMR. We'll be back to milking and feeding duties at 1:00.

So, as you sit comfortably behind your desk in your climate controlled office this morning, think fondly of those of us out getting slapped around by Mother Nature while working hard to keep our nation fed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My comment to the EPA

As a follow up to my previous post "Animal Agriculture Under Attack", I have submitted a comment to the EPA in regards to this proposed rule using Capwiz Action Alert. I would encourage anyone in animal agriculture, or any consumer that enjoys meat and dairy products, to submit a comment. The text of my personal comment is listed below:
I oppose a new proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency that would charge livestock owners a fee for alleged greenhouse gas emissions produced by their animals. This proposal is essentially a tax on livestock operations under EPA’s presumptive minimum rate and would have no net effect on the reduction of greenhouse gases. However, this proposal would have a profoundly negative effect on the agricultural economy and would endanger the food supply for all Americans.

I am an Alabama dairyman farming in partnership with my father, and together we are proud to provide a safe, nutritious product to the American public which is essential for proper growth and maintained health. The USDA recommends that all Americans should consume three servings of dairy products daily.

Implementation of this rule would affect both producers and consumers alike. The economic impact on the farm will lead to a reduction in productivity and profitability, resulting over time in a decreased supply of meat and dairy products. Consumers, in turn, would have to pay a much higher price for these products. A decline in the availability of affordable, safe, nutritious foodstuffs would have the net effect of more of our countrymen suffering from hunger and/or malnutrition. Our country would become reliant on others to provide lower-quality alternatives to these products, and we would ultimately find ourselves in a situation similar to our current energy crisis.

I applaud the EPA for its efforts to stabilize and improve our environment. As a steward of the environment, I recognize that we in agriculture should and do adhere to certain standards pertaining to our air, ground, and water. However, I believe all laws, rules, and public policies must take into account the “big picture” net effect on our country. Going forward, I hope the EPA will work with people within the animal agriculture community to find solutions that are grounded in both good science and common sense, so as not to set rules and standards that will effectively weaken or destroy our nation’s domestic supply of meat and dairy products.

I strongly oppose this new proposal, and would appreciate the EPA’s consideration to no longer seek its adoption and implementation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Animal Agriculture Under Attack

Animal agriculture is under attack! I know that isn't exactly breaking news, but it seems like every time we turn around there is another issue to deal with...another battle for our very survival.

This time, greenhouse gas regulation is the culprit.

I received this story via email just before breakfast, and it gave me a lot to think about while setting fence corner posts this morning. The basic premise is that the EPA is proposing a rule under the Clean Air Act that would essentially tax most livestock farmers for their animals' "emissions".

Now, we try to be good stewards of the environment and I imagine so do most all others in the animal agriculture business. I also agree with the idea that there are certain environmental quality standards we should meet, just so long as those standards are grounded in accepted, proven science and common sense. I also think it is imperative that our country not lump the production of our food into the same category with other industries.

The impact of this proposed rule would have far reaching effects on our way of life. If that cost is borne completely by the farmer, it would in effect drive many if not most of us out of business. Our food supply would decrease significantly, which would then either lead to skyrocketing food costs (and higher taxes to help those who can't afford meats and dairy products) or food shortages and rationing. Or both. And the only alternative would be relying on other countries for our food. We see how well that's worked with energy!

And what if these extra costs were passed on directly to the consumer? It's the law of supply and demand again, just in reverse from the above example. At the end of the day, we'd have less food and it would cost you much, much more to get it.

I could go on and on about this topic, but I've got cows that are expecting to be milked in five minutes. So let me leave you with this question:

Which is more important to you? Meat and dairy products that are nutritious, available, affordable, and the safest in the world, or regulating animal agriculture back into the Dark Ages and paying out the wazoo for these products (IF you can get them)?

It sounds harsh, but the choice really is that simple.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A wet start to the week

The forecast calls for rain on and off all day, but with a "short" week labor-wise we'll just have to work in between the raindrops the best we can. Priority number one for this morning will be fence construction now that we've finished drilling in all of our initial stockpile of forage seeds.

On the cow side, we're still not getting the milk production we want, but as I mentioned earlier that will probably be turning around with a change from a baleage-based to silage based TMR in a couple of weeks. We also had to treat a case of milk fever this morning. Milk fever is a condition in which a cow's blood-calcium level gets out of whack and results in muscle weakness and low body temperature within the first hours after calving. It typically happens in older cows, and is pretty simple to treat. We slowly administer a bottle of calcium solution intraveneously to the sick cow and typically she's back on her feet within minutes and back to normal within a couple of hours. Occasionaly a second treatment is required, but usually the first one does the trick. We'll keep this cow in our "sick pen" for a day or two just to make sure she doesn't have a relapse, and also to ensure that she regains her appetite.

Well, I'm off to check in on our patient. Have a good morning!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A chilly day ahead

We're going to remain cold and windy today according to the weatherman. Now, I realize for many folks further north of here that a day that starts around 25 degrees and peaks at about 45 degrees is a walk in the park. But, we're not quite as fond of the cold here in the South and would rather work in tolerable heat (95 degrees & humid) than miserable cold.

Anyway, today's agenda calls for our end-of-week cleaning jobs, getting antifreeze in all the radiators, and more seed drilling (ryegrass this time). Of course, we'll focus on milking the cows and building their TMR batches after lunch today.

Speaking of the cows, they've been declining in milk production for about the last couple of weeks. Perhaps the forages we're grinding have something to do with it, and if so that should turn around when we begin feeding sorghum silage in 2-3 weeks. Their butterfat content and fat:protein ratio is about right and they are all looking healthy, we'd just like to be getting a little more out of the tap. Our milk truck driver said everyone on his routes have been down in production as well, so at least we're not alone.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On the radio

I'll be in Birmingham this morning participating in the National Farm-City Council's "Combating Hunger in America" Symposium. I'll be part of a four-member panel discussing the issue, which will be carried live on Agri-Talk Radio from 10:00-11:00 CST.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Working calves and hauling hay

We spent most of the morning separating and worming the calves at my dad's house. We also found one with a hernia, so we'll have to have the vet work on her next time he's at our farm. After that we hauled some sudex baleage out of one of the fields and brought it up to the farm.

A pretty uneventful morning, I guess you could say.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Drillin' today, drivin' tomorrow

After a long weekend that started with a sick kid at home and ended with a sick employee missing both work shifts Sunday, I'm back and better than ever.

Well, probably not better than ever, but I am back.

We just took care of the basic milking and feeding over the weekend, and are hitting the new week pretty hard. I know dad and our employees have done several small odd-jobs this morning, and I've been back running the seed drill. I've switched from triticale to rye (AFC 20-20) and plan on running the drill all afternoon.

I'll be off the farm tomorrow for what I think will be my final meeting this year in Montgomery, and I don't expect I'll be going back there any time soon since I'll roll off the Alabama Farmers Federation Board and State Young Farmers Committee early next month.

I've grown so accustomed over the last 6 years to being actively involved and having responsibilities within both Dairy Farmers of America's Young Cooperators program (regional level) and ALFA's Young Farmers Program (state level), it's really going to be an adjustment for me next year when I don't have meetings to attend or off-the-farm responsibilities to deal with (excluding church, of course!).

Friday, November 14, 2008

An interesting Friday

Today's been interesting, but not really until about 5:30 this evening.

Work today was pretty straightforward. We fed heifers and put hay out in the pastures and cleaned up around the place this morning, then just milked and fed the cows this afternoon.

About 5:30, I was halfway finished with my supper when the phone rang. Heifers out!

So, I ride over to the farm in a drizzling rain and see right away that about 40 heifers were in a field between the milking barn and the pasture they were supposed to be in. So, I park the truck, jump on the 4-wheeler, and take off. By this time, it was pitch black, the rain was coming down heavier, and I had grabbed the visor-less helmet. After about 10 minutes I managed to get them all (or so I think) back where they needed to be.

Once I got back home, my wife informed me that our son had just vomited a little. This sent up a red flag since a stomach bug has been running rampant locally the week. But, he didn't act like he felt bad so we hoped for the best. A half-hour later, more vomit. So, we've got a sick young'un and won't be going to visit my sister and brother-in-law this weekend like we'd planned.

Here's hoping the rest of the evening returns to normal, which would mean I'll be asleep on the couch in about twenty minutes.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Still working heifers

We spent most of the morning once again working a group of heifers, this time the 5-11 month olds that were in the pasture next to my house. Once we got them to the farm we gave all of them a dose of wormer and sorted them by age and size. The older, bigger group was put in a pasture with other yearlings while the twelve youngest were sent back to my house.

First thing this afternoon, we'll have a man from Select Sires come and evaluate our first-lactation cows for the mating program. He will recommend a couple of AI-available bulls for each cow in an effort to improve our herd's overall health and production through genetics.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Heifer moovin'

We spent most of the morning sorting and swapping heifers, with a handful of dry cows thrown in to boot.

I don't know what the weather is going to do. It's been threatening rain all morning but hasn't sprinkled since around 7:30. I'll run the seed drill some more if the weatherman says we'll have a couple more dry hours.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


We were all pretty scattered out this morning. My dad and one of our guys have been moving cows and calves around to different pastures. Another one of our guys has been running a bush hog, and I've been planting Pica triticale with the seed drill. I'll be doing that the rest of the day while everyone else tends to the milking and feeding duties this afternoon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Haulin' hay

I spent most of the morning moving hay bales around. We brought up 18 bales of sudex baleage and 12 bales of dry ryegrass hay that we'll ultimately grind up as part of our milking herd's TMR. We also put out 5 bales of bermudagrass hay for drycows and heifers.

Also, our rye, triticale, and ryegrass seed may be delivered this afternoon. If so, dad or I will probably be running the drill for a pretty good while tonight.

Looking ahead on a Monday Morning

It seems like there's never a shortage of things that need to be done around the farm. Here's a list of some of the things we hope to accomplish (or at least get started on) this week:
  • wean several calves
  • dry-off several cows
  • fertilize our oats
  • begin planting rye and wheat
  • build a fence
  • add on to our milking cows' feed trough
  • repair a post on our commodity shed
All of this, of course, is in addition to our everyday duties of milking and feeding. With rain predicted mid-week, I'll be interested to see how much we can get done.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saturday Morning Update

Here are some random farm notes and updates:
  • Our cows' overall milk production has been down about a pound over the past three day. We've still got several cows to dryoff and more to calve, so as our average DIM starts getting lower our "milk per cow" should go up.
  • The five cows Dr. David Hidalgo (Amory Animal Clinic) checked on Thursday seem to be responding well to their treatment.
  • An inch and a half of rain fell on our farm yesterday, and hopefully we will now be able to start drilling in the remainder of our cool-season crops.
  • As part of my son's birthday party, I'll be giving his little friends a hayride around the farm this afternoon and will show them how the cows are milked.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The day behind, the day ahead

I didn't work much yesterday, but from what I understand a good deal of work was done. They finished baling hay and hauled most of it out of the field, they AI'd 11 cows and heifers, and even got the vet to come out and healthcheck about 5 cows.

So, what was I doing yesterday?

I went out at 4:00am to put out our cows' TMR before leaving at 5:00 for a State Young Farmers Committee meeting in Montgomery. Our Federation hosted a reception and dinner for the American Farm Bureau YF&R Committee (which is meeting in our state the next couple of days), so I didn't leave until around 8:30pm. After a very drowsy drive home, I walked into the house at ten 'til midnight.

It seems like I hadn't even gotten asleep good before it was time to get up again. I had to pull the full early shift this morning, so I was out in the lightly falling mist at 3:00am. So here I am, writing this blog post and drinking coffee while I should be in bed getting about a one hour nap. It's my dad's turn to have a meeting in Montgomery today, but all of our employees are supposed to be here today so we'll get a few things wrapped up if we don't get rained out. I'll just have to make sure I keep off the tractors for fear of falling asleep at the wheel.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

An afternoon in Amory

We got a pretty good jump on things this morning. We worked and separated a group of about 40 heifers, hauled up four days worth of hay that we'll grind up for our milk cows, and got a good start on raking and baling the crabgrass over at the "Lynnie place".

My work day was over at lunch...I had to go over to Amory, Mississippi.

Why? Well, I needed to pick up some cattle medication from the Amory Animal Hospital. More importantly, though, I needed to be with my wife for her 18th-week ultrasound.

The results? The first week of April, 2009, we expect to welcome our second child and first daughter, Jillian Elizabeth Gilmer.

Website update

FYI, I've made a small graphics change on the front page of our Gilmer Dairy website.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lunchtime update

We got a lot more done this morning than I thought we would, and I even had time to vote before the lunch crowd made it to the polls.

The hay mowers have been unhooked, the hay rake is running right now, and I'll be firing the hay baler up as soon as I can put out the TMR for our cows right after lunch.

Time for me to log off, eat a quick bowl of ice cream, and get back to work.


We've got a lot to be doing on the farm today, but I don't know how much we'll actually get accomplished with two employees off until tomorrow. I guess we shall see. I know we'll finish clipping the crabgrass off our fields, but I don't know if we'll have time to start baling it.

I do know the weather is going to be great today! It's days like this I really appreciate being able to make my living outdoors smack-dab in the middle of God's Creation. Of course, I'd also take 35 degrees and rainy over a career spent underneath fluorescent lights (no offense to all you office workers out there).

Remember to vote today!

Monday, November 3, 2008

A serious appeal to America's voters

When you go to the polls tomorrow, please vote for pro-agriculture candidates and ballot initiatives.

America is, in my opinion, "Ag Independent". Even though there are fewer and fewer of us on the farm, we're still managing to produce in such abundance that we enjoy the safest, most affordable food supply in the world.

But for how much longer?

Heaven forbid we ever reach a point where we depend on others for our food and fiber as we do for energy. We're a long, long way from that point, but let's take steps NOW to make sure we don't face that grim prospect later.

As a farmer I can tell you that public policy and those involved in its creation, implementation, and enforcement effect every facet of my business and have a major impact on my ability to viably produce a product my fellow Americans want and need. The same holds true for most every other farmer I know.

We've got a great agriculture industry in this county! Let's all vote tomorrow to keep it that way so we can continue to enjoy safe, nutritious, affordable food.

The DmB's political endorsements

Here we go...

Attention Alabama Voters: the DmB endorses voting NO on Amendment One! It "reads" real nice and of course the education establishment is screaming that we'll suffer through proration if it doesn't pass. That might happen, but when you think of our state government and education system wanting this, consider this analogy: passing Amendment One is like saying "Just take a couple of little sips!" while handing an alcoholic a full bottle of whiskey.

Also to my fellow Alabamians, the DmB endorses the slate of Republican candidates for our statewide races, for Senator Sessions, and for Congressman Robert Aderholt.

And to prove I'm a non-partisan, the DmB endorses, with one exception, the slate of Democratic candidates for Lamar County's positions. The one exception is for District Judge, a race I won't publicly endorse because of family ties within the county's judicial system.

I almost forgot, but I am holding my nose and endorsing John McCain for President. Do I like him? No. But he does at least have enough of a track record to give us a pretty good idea about what we'd be getting. What about the other guy? Well, he DOES deliver a good speech and will proably win the election. He's undoubtedly very intelligent, but to me he's just an inexperienced walking soundbite that's about to be WAY in over his head.

Now, will these endorsements change anyone's opinions prior to the election? Of course not, but I needed something to do during my lunchbreak.

The week ahead

The upcoming week is going to be busy, though I'm not sure exactly how much we'll get accomplished. Here's how it's shaping up:
  • Today - AI about 8 cows right off the bat, and then bring a group of breeding-age heifers up to start heat watching. Cut the dead grass/weeds on the "Lynnie Place". It's too thick and rank to run our seed drill through it as is.
  • Tuesday - Bale the dead grass/weeds we've already cut on the "Stella Field" and get it out of there. Oh yeah, we've got to go vote Tuesday as well (More on this in my next post).
  • Wednesday - Run the hay baler at the Lynnie Place. I'll be taking off that afternoon (more on that in future post).
  • Thursday - Finish running the hay baler unless we get rained out. I'll be in Montgomery all day for a State Young Farmers Committee meeting at the Alabama Farmers Federation office.
  • Friday - Wrap up whatever needs wrapping up. Dad will be in Montgomery all day for a Dairy Association meeting at the Alabama Farmers Federation office. An early Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house that night (my sister's baby is due in December, and wouldn't be able to make the 3 hour drive home if we waited until the actual holiday).
  • Saturday - Typical weekend farming schedule...just milk and feed twice a day. We'll also have a couple of birthday parties for my son. We'll do cupcakes and a hayride for his church & daycare friends that afternoon with a family pizza party at our house that evening.
  • Sunday - Again, typical weekend farming schedule with church services in between.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Taking care of the cows

Our cows appetites' seem to be growing with the cooler weather, and we've gotten to the point of diminishing returns on adding cottonseed hulls to their ration. So, we took out some of the hulls yesterday and added crabgrass baleage into the TMR. This move lowered the overall dry-matter % just a little, but that's offset by the added nutritional value and the fact that it literally gives the cows more to chew on.

Well, the trough was clean this morning when I gave them their breakfast, so it looks like we'll be adding back some of those hulls and increasing the overal amount of feed they're getting.

The cows also seemed to be up in milk yesterday afternoon and this morning. The milk truck runs today so we can get a pretty good idea on the herd average. We're also weighing milk tomorrow morning, which will of course allow us to measure individual production.

We take good care of our cows because they take good care of us. In exchange for a nutritious feed ration, clean water, and plenty of space to lay down and roam around, our cows crank out the high quality milk that lets us make our living on the farm.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hay in the field, dust in my shirt

This afternoon we baled up about 30 round and 150 small square bales of bermudagrass next to my house. Before we started, though, I spent about an hour servicing the baler and the Case 5230 we pulled it with. Unfortunately for me, the baler had not been cleaned out very good after it was last used. Hay dust rained down on me pretty much the whole time I was greasing the lower fittings. I got alot of it inside my collar, of course, and spent the rest of the day itching like crazy.


We have now had our first official frost of the season. I had scrape off my truck's windshield before I could drive to the farm this morning on account of it. I guess I need to start using my "redneck defroster"...putting an empty feedsack over the windshield in the evening. I also need to get the heater going in the ol' Case I put the feed out with.

We're supposed to warm back up a little starting tomorrow, so I'm not quite ready to get the longjohns out of the attic just yet.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Coming up this week...

It's a chilly Monday morning here on the farm. With the silage harvest behind us, we can begin moving on to some other work. We don't have any major projects ahead of us this week (or at least not yet), just a little of this and a little of that. I do know we'll cut and bale a little bit of hay, and we may plant some of our cool-season forages towards the end of the week.

We've made it up to 203 cows in our milking herd, but we'll be drying off 11 this afternoon. We still have roughly 15 cows that will have a calf within the next three weeks, so we should get our numbers back up pretty quick. We'll weigh milk on Thursday to see how they're doing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


We're pretty much done with our silage harvest for this year. Dad cut the last load of sorghum out of our Yellow Creek bottom fields yesterday afternoon about 4:00. All that's left is to move the equipment back and cut about three loads of BMR sudex in front of my house to "cap" the pit. After that, we'll cover and seal the pit and let it do its thing for a few weeks before we start feeding it to our cows.

Monday, October 20, 2008

New article online

After returning home from another meeting in Montgomery, I found an email in my inbox notifying me that Dairy Farming has featured dad and I on their website. The article can be found here.
A big thanks to Amanda Trice of SUDIA for her work in getting our story on the DFT website!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fall is here?

It was chilly 49 degrees when I fed the heifers and calves this morning. I guess maybe Fall is now upon us. The milk cows sure seemed to enjoy it.

We're taking a hiatus from silage chopping over the weekend, but everything should be ready to go first thing Monday morning. Better than half of what's left is either in soft spots or has been blown over, to it's going to be very slow going. Barring any major mechanical difficulties, though, we should be completely through by sometime Wednesday.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's only Thursday?

This week has really gone by slow, and feels like it should be Friday by now. I guess it feels that way because I've been off my schedule. I was in Montgomery all day Monday for a policy development meeting and was tied up with jury duty at the courthouse on Tuesday morning. We've been working later hours trying to get our silage chopped, and that's had a little effect too.

About the silage, we'll be covering one of our pits this morning and will continue to put what's chopped today into our second pit. We'll run as long as we can, but rain is in the forecast. And judging by the rainbow I'm seeing to the southwest, it probably won't be all that long before we get some rain.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Still Chopping

We're still chopping sorghum, and have probably 30 acres still to go. It's putting out a lot of tonnage and looks like it should make some pretty good feed. If we can avoid a breakdown, we should have our first silage pit full sometime today. There is rain in the forecast for tomorrow and Friday, so we may get slowed down again like we did last week.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday morning on the farm

Our cows were really milking good this morning, so I hope that kind of sets a tone for the rest of the day.

We'll start chopping more bermudagrass after breakfast. It's been going into the pit pretty good, and time will tell what kind of quality it returns as silage. We expect to finish with it mid-morning. Once we do, we'll swap the head on the silage chopper and transition back to chopping sudex. We'll use the sudex to "cap" over the bermudagrass in the pit, as it will pack tighter. There's a chance if everything goes well that we can chop all the sudex in a long afternoon, but more than likely we'll e fininshing it up one afternoon over the weekend. We'll get moved back into the creek bottom either Sunday evening or Monday morning and will resume chopping our sorghum as soon as the ground is dry enough to run the equipment over.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Back in the Field

After 1.3 inches of late night/early morning rain, we're back in the field today...just not the field we were in yesterday. With at least three days of ground-drying weather needed before we can begin cutting our sorghum again, we've decided to try cutting and chopping bermudagrass. Our guys should have the hayfield cut by mid-afternoon and we ought to know if this is going to work by quitting time this evening. If it'll chop up good enough to ensile in our pit, we should be able to get it knocked out tomorrow, run through our sudex field on Friday, and resume the sorghum chopping somewhere between Saturday and Monday.

If the bermudagrass won't chop like we need it to, we'll fluff it and let it dry out for a few days and then probably dry bale it Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Out of the Field

Silage chopping was rained out after 2.5 loads this morning. Based on the rain we've had over the last couple of hours (and what we're supposed to get tonight), I would say that it's highly doubtful that the ground will dry enought to let us harvest again this week.

In the Field

We were able to get our silage chopper going late yesterday morning, and over the course of about 6.5 hours were able to cut 19 loads of sorghum silage. We're not sure how things are going to play out over the next 48 hours, though. There is a front that's expected to move through tonight that may dump enough rain to make the field too muddy to operate in. Ahead of that, though, are isolated storms that could hit at anytime today. So, we'll get what we can get today and hope that the rain doesn't shut us down for too long.

Our milking herd is back up to 190 with all the recent calvings, and milk production is up too. That's really good news, especially since the price we receive for our milk is in the process of dropping.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's Friday

By the end of today I think we will be able to say that we've gotten a lot accomplished this week, but we've still got a whole lot to do.

We've got our oats and ryegrass planted on the 50 acres directly across from our farm. We'll strip graze our milking herd on these fields this coming spring, and maybe even this fall if the weather works out right. On a related note, I spent a couple of days spreading organic fertilizer onto these fields and in doing so emptied our storage tank. While the nutrient value of the fertilizer isn't quite stout enough to fully meet the crops' requirements, the moisture it provided to the soil should help with seed germination.

Speaking of moisture, there's a chance we may get "a stray thunderstorm" on Tuesday, but that's all they're predicting right now.

We're going to try to get our equipment ready today to start cutting our sorghum silage on Monday. Hopefully once we start we can get through it with minimal downtime. Things tend to get a little more intense around here when we're chopping silage, so I'm sure I'll be letting out a big "JOHN DENVER!!!" once we have the silage covered and sealed in the pit.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Quick points...

  • We're were up to 182 cows in the milking herd as of this morning, and I know we have at least one cow that has calved and will be going through the milking line this afternoon.
  • Most of the acreage we're drilling in oats/ryegrass on for our milking herd to graze has been planted. We'll need a little moisture before we can finish the job.
  • We will hopefully get our dump truck back from the shop this week. Once we do, we'll start cutting our sorghum for silage.
  • Today is the last "hot" day forecasted for a while. Starting tomorrow, our highs aren't supposed to climb out of the 70's. Cool mornings and mild afternoons...GREAT weather for cows!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Our Growing Family

Our family sure has been growing lately!

...and no, I'm not talking about our second child who's due in April.

We've had 1o calves born in the last week, and still have 35 cows and heifers in our maternity pasture due to calve within the next three weeks (which means my dad and I will be doing a lot of late-night pasture checks). It looks like we'll be going into the fall with a whole bunch of young'uns running around.

What's going on

We cut, baled, and wrapped 36 bales of crabgrass off of one of our fields yesterday afternoon. We'll get back to doing that on Thursday and Friday, but we're taking a break from it today so I can apply organic fertilizer to a couple of our other fields.

We also weighed milk this morning, and should have a preliminary report back sometime this morning. Our official report along with the milk sample results probably won't be here until early next week.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Milk safety

Thousands have gotten sick from tainted milk powder in China. How did this happen? Here's a quote from China's Agricultural Minister:
Sun singled out local "milk stations," which collect fresh milk from farmers and sell it on. Their operators have been blamed for adding nitrogen-rich melamine to sub-standard or watered-down milk, fooling quality checks measuring protein, also rich in nitrogen. Many were unregistered and unregulated, he said. (credit The Washington Post)
"Unregistered" and "unregulated" are two words that simply don't apply to the American dairy industry. Each of our nation's dairy farms must be registered and permitted by their state's health department in order to sell milk and are subject to regular on-farm inspections by local, state, and federal health officials. Milk samples are collected from every load of milk shipped from every farm in America and are tested for quality and safety before the milk is pumped off of the milk truck and into the processing plant. From that point on, there are several more inspections and quality control tests that milk and dairy products go through before they arrive at the grocery store and ultimately into your home.

So, you can drink your milk and eat your cheese with confidence knowing that the American dairy farmer, the American dairy industry, and Uncle Sam are all working together to provide you with a safe, nutritious, delicious product.

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's Friday

There's not a whole lot on the planned agenda today. We'll shuffle some dry cows around this morning and start cleaning up around the place. This afternoon we'll bale some bermudagrass hay provided it has dried out enough. Of course, we're liable to find ourselves spending lots of time on some type of unforeseen problem.

I hope I can get finished with everything this evening so I can attend THE big event in Lamar County. Or at least the north two-thirds of the county. What could it be? The Sulligent Blue Devils (2-1) travel 10 miles south to Vernon to play the Lamar County HS Bulldogs (3-0) at George Bell Memorial Stadium. Without doing any research, I'm pretty sure that tonight's game will be:
  • about as early in the season as these two rivals have played (it used to always be the last game on the schedule)
  • the first time in a while both teams have been legitimate playoff teams
  • and the first time in a few years that the two teams are back in the same classification and region (Class 2A, Region 7), meaning that the rivalry also has playoff implications for both
"Back in the day", I was a part of three of these games. My sophomore year, we went to Sulligent and won the game on a late kickoff return for a touchdown (I had been absolutely creamed in punt coverage our previous offensive drive). My junior year we dropped a close, ugly one in Vernon. My senior year, it seemed like we outplayed them all night but a steady stream of one-sided, questionable penalties gave Sulligent the victory and ended our season and kept us out of the playoffs. Every one of our big plays had a flag attached that night! Seriously, there was a referee controversy BEFORE the game, and someone from our stands actually rushed the field when it was over and went after the head referee. Luckily, one of our player's father saw what was happening and made a good open-field tackle on the guy just in time to keep the program from being slapped with probation.

Really, if we hadn't made so many mistakes we could have still won despite the perceived officiating bias. Like if our split end had cut inside instead of outside on "Blue 9" stand-pass like he was supposed to I would have laid a clean block instead of being flagged for a block in the back (or maybe I should have pulled up and not blocked the corner in the back). Or if our quarterback hadn't under thrown the ball on "Blue 26 Dump", a play in which I was wide open and even with my blazing 5.0 speed could have taken to the endzone. Oh well, at least I've obviously put it behind me and moved on!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday morning update

A large-animal vet will be coming to the farm tomorrow morning to give our cows a check-up, so we've adjusted our forage gathering plans a little. We cut a few acres of crabgrass yesterday that we'll bale and wrap today, and also cut 10 acres of BMR sudex that we'll bale and wrap tomorrow afternoon. We'll also be cutting about 10 acres of bermudagrass this morning that we intend to dry bale on Friday.

Also from yesterday, one of our silage pits was resurfaced and looks really good. I just looked out my son's bedroom window and could see that the crew is already working on the second pit.

Our cows seem to be enjoying this milder weather, and the forecasts I've seen show that is should be like this for several days. I hope so, because the cows aren't the only ones enjoying it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fall preview

I went out early this morning and the temperature was a cool, dry 57 degrees. It looks as if maybe summer's on its way out as our lows are supposed to stay in the 50's and our highs will be in the low 80's. The change should let us spot-graze our milking herd a little more in the mornings without worrying about them getting too hot 'round about 10:30.

On the agenda for today, we'll have a concrete crew resurfacing one of our silage pits (and another tomorrow) while we replace half of the belts on our hay baler. If we can take care of that pretty quick, we should be able to get back to cutting crabgrass. I could see us cutting and green-baling 8 acres worth today and then wrapping it tomorrow.

Overall, here's what we're facing. It's funny how everything kind of stacks up and needs doing a the same time.
  • Our forage sorghum is ready to cut. Before we can, we have to have our silage pits resurfaced (they should be ready to go by next week), our dump wagon re-plated (the plates are ready, the machine shop just has to come out and weld them on), our dump truck fixed (or hire/rent another truck), and the ground in the bottomland has to be dry enough to run on. With any luck we'll be able to start in about next Tuesday, but it's too soon to know that for sure.
  • We planted 20 acres of BMR sudex which is ready to harvest. We can either chop it and pack it into a pit like our forage sorghum or we can green bale and wrap it.
  • We've got roughly 45 acres of bermudagrass that will be cut for hay this season. 10 acres is ready, another 25 should be in about 10 days, and the rest in about three weeks.
  • 40 acres worth of oats and ryegrass is ready to be drilled in right now. We plan on strip grazing our milking herd on it late this fall and then again in the spring.
  • Roughly 50 acres of crabgrass will have to be removed (cut & baled, maybe wrapped) to drill in our other crops.
We've got our work cut out for us over the next couple of weeks!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Midweek update

The next few weeks should be pretty busy.

Looking at the calendar, in about 10 days we'll have dry cows calving about every day for close to five weeks. We'll also start breeding a group of heifers in early October.

As far as our field work goes, I've spent the last couple of days spraying army worms in what looks to be the best September crop of bermudagrass we've had in a long time. It should be ready to harvest in 3-4 weeks.

We've cut the crabgrass in the two fields directly across the road from our "headquarters". Our intentions were to green bale it and wrap it for heifer baleage, but it's had one inch of rain fall on it (thanks for getting the forecast wrong, weatherman!) and we haven't decided whether or not to let it dry out and then bale it or just leave it in the field to rot. The only money we'll have in it is the cost of harvesting it, so that will make it easier for us to just leave it there if that's what we decide to do. Regardless, we'll be drilling in oats and ryegrass into those fields in the next few days.

We've also hoping to get our dumptruck's transmission fixed, dumpwagon's bed reinforced, and silage pits resurfaced all within the next two weeks. I don't know if that will all happen, but we need it to because we've got to cut our forage sorghum for silage ASAP. If we don't get into the bottomland before it gets too wet, we're going to lose alot of time to being stuck.

Friday, September 5, 2008

It's Friday

Today's the last day of the workweek, unless you're a dairyman and work 7 days a week. Anyway, we're going to be working with heifers this morning. We had recently consolidated a couple of groups and now we're ready to break the one large group into three smaller groups.

The cows milk production hasn't been very consistent. If they give a lot of milk one day it seems like they'll be "off" the next. Averaged out it's been ok, but we'd always like a little more. We should be drying off 4 this afternoon, and unless one of our dry cows has a calf this morning that will put us at 169 cows in milk, the first time in quite a while we've been below 170.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

No weather problems

Gustav stayed far enough to our west that we never got more than a nice breeze. With no rain falling, we were able to move around some pregnant heifers and dry cows this morning. We also got some hay bales moved out of a couple of fields in time to get some ammonia nitrate spread this afternoon.

None of our cows...neither the milking herd nor either group of dry cows...seemed interested in moving around or eating this afternoon. Our milk cows didn't want to come in the barn to get milked and then didn't want to leave and go to the feed trough after they'd been milked. All our dry cows wanted to do was lay around instead of grazing. It struck us as pretty odd since it's been overcast, breezy, and relatively mild. We'll see how they act tomorrow I guess.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Get ready for Gustav

Looking at our current forecast, we should start getting some of the rain from Gustav sometime today and then through most of tomorrow. Right now, the worst of it should remain to the west of us, but if it tracks back to the east after making landfall we could still see some pretty hefty winds.

So, what do we need to do up here 250 miles north of the coast? Well, really not much out of the ordinary. We baled hay the end of last week and we'll make sure that we don't have bales sitting in low spots that will hold water. I think we'll also run a bushhog to help open up a couple of shallow drainage ditches. Other than that we'll just wait and see I guess. Living in a rural area with lots of trees around power lines usually means power outages when these storms come through, but maybe we'll dodge the bullet this time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Forage Strategies

The bermudagrass we cut yesterday was pretty good in spots, and should yield out a fair amount. We already have more hay rolled than we did last summer, and will be adding yesterday's cutting to that number (and will probably have another cutting in late Sept. on approx. 35 acres). Despite the increase, we've still have several plans and options for feeding our herd from now through next summer:
  • As of today we'll start feeding our milking herd lupin baleage. We have enough to last about 35 days, by which time we should have a good idea about whether or not lupin is a crop we should continue to grow.
  • After we feed all of the lupin, we'll be going back to ryegrass baleage and then our wheat/oak baleage. We should have enough total baleage to get us well into the fall.
  • Our 20 acres of BMR sudex and 55 acres of forage sorghum will be ready to harvest in September. Originally we planned on making baleage out of the sudex and chopping the sorghum, but I think we're going to go ahead and chop both crops and pack it into a silage pit.
  • We have roughly 80 acres of cropland we haven't planted this summer that we'll use for our cool season forages. We will have to clip and/or spray the weeds and crabgrass prior to planting those crops in the next couple of months. We'll probably try to harvest some of the crabgrass as baleage. Its quality will be a factor in deciding whether to feed it to the milking herd or to heifers/dry cows.
  • We will probably once again try to buy peanut hay, assuming the economics work out. It would allow us to extend the availability of our sorghum silage and reserve more of our bermudagrass hay for our heifers and dry cows.
  • The cool season crops we intend on planting include ryegrass, oats, and triticale, with possibly some wheat and lupin. We'll use these for both grazing and for harvested forages (either baleage or chopped silage in the spring). Grazing these crops will let us extend our summer/fall-harvested forages later into the spring, and the baleage or silage we harvest from them will be our forage basis through next summer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wednesday morning on the farm

It's a foggy, damp Wednesday morning. We weighed our cows milk this morning and thought they did pretty good. We'll probably get an initial report back this afternoon, and the finalized, detailed report sometime next week.

We do have a favorable weather forecast for cutting hay. I imagine we'll try to get the equipment on the tractors this morning so we can start cutting after lunch.

Well, it's time for breakfast and another cup of coffee. Have a good morning.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to Work

It's back to work for me today after spending yesterday in our capital city, so I'll be swapping my dress shoes for rubber boots (even though rubber boots is oftentimes exactly what you need in Montgomery). Things are pretty wet around here...we received 2.8 inches of rain from Saturday through lunchtime yesterday, plus whatever fell yesterday afternoon (and might fall today). According to the weather we won't be getting much sunshine this week, but we should see the rain clear out sometime today and not come back until the weekend. Hopefully we'll be able to get a few acres of our bermudagrass cut tomorrow and baled on Friday.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A rainy Sunday morning

It's been raining pretty much non-stop since I went out to the farm this morning at 3:00am. I don't have any idea how much has fallen, but for the most part it has been a slow, steady, soaking rain.

I'll be attending a meeting in Montgomery tomorrow, and this weather system should be about cleared out by the time I go back to work on Tuesday. We have several acres of bermudagrass that is need of cutting, so hopefully we'll get a few days of dry weather.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Photo Gallery Updates

I've redesigned the Photo Gallery on our farm website. There's a total of 32 pictures currently available among three categories. It's ok to be nosy...check them out!

Dry cows

Dad fixed the plumbing on one of our water wells yesterday afternoon, and we'll be sending four dry cows to that pasture this morning. GDF #7 "Charger" will be one of them, and it's going to be interesting to see if she'll stay there. She has a history of not being satisfied staying in pastures that are out of sight of our farm headquarters. She's big enough (and stubborn enough) to take down a fence with no trouble if she decides she wants to come back. We're keeping our fingers crossed she'll be content, but time will tell.

Clean-up Thursday

Dad went to Columbus yesterday morning to pick up some parts, and the rest of us set out to do a little cleaning up around the farm. A couple of hours with a bush hog, weed-eater, and pressure washer did the place a lot of good! We were really about due to do this anyway, but my grandmother's 90th birthday party is Saturday and we wanted everything to look good for her and our family that will be traveling in for the weekend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lots to fix

We did pretty well moving our hay out of the field yesterday morning, but things changed after lunch. Not only did an axle break on our hay-hauling trailer, something or another in our dump truck has gone out and now it won't run. Our feed wagon also has a leaky tire that's having to be re-inflated about twice a day. It looks as if we'll be spending a good portion of our time today in the shop!

I didn't walk out in it very far, but our forage sorghum crop looks to be pretty thick, albeit not that tall. It should make for a pretty good crop. As my great-uncle is saying about it, "Someone's going to get tired of hauling that stuff out of there".

We had two dry cows to calve yesterday evening, and now we're are back up to 176 cows in the milking herd.

We're grazing the cows once again this morning. They've enjoyed spending a couple of hours in "new" scenery, and it's helped their milk production a little bit, too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday preview

I think we're going to be spending most of the morning moving the hay we baled last week from the fields to our storage area. We ended up with 137 bales on 36 acres, which isn't as heavy as a yield as we were anticipating. The quality should be pretty good though. We've actually got about 20 more acres that needs cutting this week, but there is too much of a chance of rain tomorrow to cut anything down. Hopefully we'll be able to get to it next week.

We are grazing our cows for the second morning in a row. While their milk production wasn't all that great yesterday afternoon, they really poured it out this morning. The amount of rain we get over the next couple of days will dictate where and if we'll continue to graze them through the week.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Graze 'Em

Once we finished milking this morning, we decided to put our milking herd in the field across the road from our milking barn and let them graze down some of the crabgrass that's come up. We'll turn them back into their normal pasture after breakfast so they can still eat their normal TMR as well.

I think we probably have enough crabgrass close by to do this about every morning this week, just so long as they have enough time once we turn them back across to eat their TMR before the temperature gets to warm for them.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Flat tire

I'm in an hour early for lunch, and will be going back at noon to begin raking hay. But before I can go to the field, I'm going to have to replace a ruined tire on the rake. That's a radial, tubeless 185/65R14 for those of you keeping score at home.


There are now 8 cows available to "edopt" from our farm website, and 2 more will be added as soon as I can snap a good photo of them.

Our edopt-a-cow program is very simple to use. Just fill out the registration page and I'll email you a photo of your selected cow along with a "certificate of edoption". Then, all you have to do is log on to your selected cow's profile page every so often to see how she's doing.

The program is free to use, but we also offer a $5 option to personalize the photograph. Since I'm a generous guy, I'll throw in free personalization for the first 10 people who sign up and put "blog offer" in the promotional code box.

I hope you'll try our Edopt-a-Cow's not going to cost you anything and you might just learn something about dairy cows.

Busy day ahead

It's Friday, which means we'll try to get as much done today as we possibly can so we can have a little breathing room over the weekend. We've got 35 acres of what's probably going to be the best bermudagrass crop we've had in three years (quality and quantity) on the ground right now. We'll probably start the rake as soon as the dew dries off and then start baling after lunch.

Our cows are continuing to produce pretty good for this time of year. The un-August-like weather we've been having has certainly helped things out!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hay Day, part II

We were expecting early sunshine this morning, but never got it. That kept me from starting until about 12:15, but once I got cutting I never stopped. Dad came and relieved me about 4:45 this afternoon, and probably has about two hours ahead of him to finish out our "big" field (and another two if he decides to cut our "little" field). The bermudagrass wasn't quite as tall as I would have liked it to be, but if we continue to get moisture over the next few weeks we should get another solid cutting off of it this year.

Hay Day

We'll start laying down some Tifton 44 bermudagrass for hay late this morning. We'll be cutting approximately 30 acres from our two fields near Mt. Pisgah church. It will be an all-day thing, I suspect, since we haven't gotten our New Idea mowers repaired yet. Our Gehl cutter/conditioner will cover some ground pretty quick on long runs, but there are so many terraces in our hay fields that you lose a lot of time having to turn around so much. Anyway, our plan is to fluff the hay tomorrow and then rake and bale it on Friday.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Perfect weather

We're supposed to have near perfect weather today...on-and-off rainfall and temperatures below 80 degrees. I hope we'll continue to have days like this, because it sure beats the "normal" August day with a 110 degree heat-index.

The rain could limit some of what we do this morning, and for me that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Lamar County Farmers Federation's annual meeting is tonight, and as secretary-treasurer I have a lot of things I need to get prepared. I should have a pretty good opportunity to get it all done with plenty of breathing room before tonight.

On the cow front, I think we're going to "bottom out" today at 171 cows going through the milking line. From this point forward we should be having cows calving in faster than they dry off. Our cows' milk production has also picked up a little bit since the weather has turned off cooler over the past several days.

Also, I should have the "Edopt-a-Cow" choices ready to go by the end of the week. All I'm waiting on is an opportunity to snap some new pictures of the cows, and then everything will be set.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cloudy Monday

I returned home yesterday from Birmingham, where the Alabama Farmers Federation's 2008 Commodity Producers Conference had been held since Thursday evening. It remained overcast all afternoon before lightly raining in the evening, and I don't think the temperature ever climbed out of the 70's.

It looks like we'll have a little more of the same today. It is supposed to be a little warmer, but it's quite pleasant right now, and much different from this time last week. We've got a fair shot at rain today and tomorrow, but most of it is projected to go south of us.

We'll probably be a little slow today, but will pick up steam during the week. We've got about 35 acres of bermudagrass ready to cut for hay right now, and we plan to start on that either tomorrow or Wednesday (depends on the forecast).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Believe it or not

Can you believe it? We've got a lot of things to do this morning on the farm! Aside from feeding the heifers and calves, we'll be
  • setting up a new power pole near one of our wells
  • cleaning out the inlet around a culvert
  • spraying weedkiller around some fence
  • cleaning out our grain drill
  • cleaning our hay baler in preparation for some maintenance/mechanical work
and that's just the stuff I can think of right now while I'm having my coffee.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hello new readers!

Traffic has picked up a little bit since the recent story about us in the FBNews. So, I thought I'd take this opportunity to quickly explain what this blog's about...

It actually came about during a redesign of our farm website. The "news" section of our website used to be narratives of our farming activities that I would post every month or two. I decided to replace that content with published news stories about us and move the self-reporting to a blog. Some of my old college friends were interested in what was going on around here, so I thought I would give it a shot. I also thought it would be a good complement to our Edopt-a-Cow program. This format has allowed me to give updates about our farm much more often and we're now communicating with a much larger audience.

I typically don't go into much detail about the technicalities of what we're doing on the farm since I suspect that most of our readers are not in agriculture. My primary goal is to give the reader a general idea of what it is like to live on a small dairy farm in Alabama. The hours are long, there are always things to be done, and our cows are only a piece of the overall picture.

Farming can be tough and it can be stressful. Knowing your livelihood depends on so many things that are out of your hands can sometimes be frustrating. But farming is also necessary, it's rewarding, and it's both the career I've gladly chosen and the path I believe God wants me to travel. I hope you enjoy The Dairyman's Blog, and you're always welcome to leave comments or shoot me an email.

A new week beigns

After getting another round of rain in here Saturday evening (1.1 inch), we're pretty certain that our sudex crop is going to make something. We don't have very much acreage planted, but I'm planning on spraying the weeds in it today. The air conditioning on the tractor I'll be using is temporarily out of commission, so I'll be starting early and finishing as quick as I can. We may do some limited replanting in one of our fields tomorrow, but I'll get a better handle on that after I've sprayed what's there.

Our cows milked better this morning than they have in the last 10 days. We've cut back their forage a little bit, and dad thinks the change in TMR formulation might be responsible for the upturn. According to the long-term forecast, we should have very hot days the first half of this week but then things will cool off somewhat. We could be seeing nighttime lows down to the mid-60's and highs only reaching the low 90's. That doesn't sound like a big drop, but the cows will notice it.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

It's too hot

It's too hot outside when you break a sweat before 6 AM. Looks like today is going to be a rough one.

Friday, August 1, 2008

More rain on the way?

It's still overcast and it was getting very hot and humid before lunch, so we might get another shower or two this evening.

Well, it's time to run a backhoe for a little while. Gotta get those culvert inlets cleaned back out!


Dolly has come and gone, leaving behind 3.5 inches of rain at Gilmer Dairy Farm. We enjoyed nearly constant rainfall from about 5:30 to 8:00 last night. I cannot remember how long its been since we've had that much rain in one evening. We even had a lightning strike that knocked our power out overnight!

We had ammonia nitrate spread on about 20 acres of bermudagrass and 10 acres of sudex two days ago, so this rain couldn't have come at a better time. The question we'll be wrestling with over the weekend is about that sudex field. Our stand is pretty spotty, and we may opt to go in and replant portions of the field early next week. Of course, if we don't get another rain for two weeks, the ground will go back to being like concrete.

Own the cow front, we dried off 10 this morning, who were averaging 23 pounds per day apiece based upon the prelim. milk weighing report we received. We're happy to see those cows go dry for a couple of months (pregnant cows are typically removed from production two months prior to calving). Next week's a different story. We've got 14 due to dry off next Friday, who are averaging 46 pounds per day apiece. We can hold a couple of those heaviest producers for an extra week, but it's still going to be a blow drying off that many who are above the break-even line.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hello, Dolly?

It's nearly 1:00pm and the remnants of Hurricane Dolly haven't quite made it to us yet. I certainly hope she stops by for a long visit this afternoon.

In other news, it looks like we've got a pretty good stand of crabgrass on one of the fields we originally intended to plant sudex in. We'll probably get some nitrogen on it and cut it for hay in early September.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What happened on a Wednesday

There was nothing too exciting about farm work today. I spent a fair amount of time this morning doing some paperwork in preparation for the upcoming Lamar Co. Farmers Federation annual meeting. The second half of the morning, we really started tearing into our two New Idea 5408 model hay cutters, both of which are in need of repair. Each one looks to need a new cutterbar shaft, along with assorted other repairs. We'll more than likely just fix one and use the other for parts.

We weighed our cows milk this afternoon, and should have some preliminary results back tomorrow or Friday. Two of our dry cows calved last night, and we brought them through the milking barn for the first time this afternoon. Each cow had a heifer calf, and both dams and daughters are doing exceptionally well.

Big time publicity

Our farm, farm website, and this blog have been featured in a major, national publication. You can read about it on page four of the July 28, 2008 edition of FBNews, a publication of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Again, thanks to Beth Davis of O&B and all who have had a hand in helping get our story out there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Another hot week

I'm home from my travels and back for what is shaping up to be another hot week. We have a decent shot at some rain mid-week, so hopefully we'll get a little. I'm not sure what all we'll be getting into on the farm this morning, but I'm sure we'll be busy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tearing up the asphalt

Before I begin, it doesn't look like we'll be planting anymore BMR sudex unless we get more rain over the next couple of days.

Ok, I've hit another period where I'll be gone more than I'll be on the farm. I was in Montgomery yesterday for a FarmPAC meeting, and will be going back down there on Monday for another all-day meeting. In between, we'll be leaving in a few hours to drive over to Tuscaloosa. We'll be having our annual State Young Farmers Committee summer planning meeting there, which will begin this evening and run through Saturday morning.

Telling the REAL Story

Back in May I was fortunate enough to participate in the American Farm Bureau Federation's Conversations on Animal Care Initiative training session in Huntsville, Alabama. A website, Conversations on Animal Care, has been developed as a compliment piece to the project. I was fortunate enough to be one of three farmers whose "testimonial" about the program was published on the website. I'd like to send out a big "thank you" to Beth Davis of Osborn & Barr Communications for her work on my story.

I would certainly encourage anyone in animal agriculture to participate in this program if given the opportunity. We all know the well-being of our animals is critical to our success as farmers and ranchers, but unfortunately we've taken for granted that our customers understand this principle. All to often, the first voice (and the loudest voice) the public hears from on the subject of animal care comes from individuals and organizations who are seeking to brand us as inhumane. It is imperative that we as producers take the offensive in telling our story, the REAL story, and give the American consumer the piece of mind of knowing that we are providing the safest food products in the world and are giving our animals the highest standard of care.

Can we plant?

Can we plant? That's the question I hope to answer within the hour. We're a little over 50 acres short of planting all the BMR sudex we inteded to drill in this summer due to the dry conditions. We've received some rainfall over the last couple of evenings, so I'm hopefull that the ground has softened up enough to run our grain drill over it.

As late as we're getting into the summer, we may only plant about half of our remaining acreage. This would allow us to get an early jump on our fall planting (wheat, oats, ryegrass, etc.).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ready to irrigate

The weather forecast has changed a little bit and is showing a slightly better chance for rain later in the week, but I've decided to go ahead and apply liquefied natural fertilizer on the only 11 acres of BMR sudex we've planted so far. It's not showing a very good stand and the ground is like concrete. I'm hoping that I can soften it up enough tonight that some more of it will come up. I'll probably run tonight from about 6:30 to 11:00.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Home again, still hot

While my wife and son went to a water park with a bunch of folks from church this afternoon, I got to make feed for our cows. Really, the only complaint I have about it is that one of the tractors I have to use has a broken air conditioner, which makes it like riding in a greenhouse.

As a response to our cows' drop in production, we began adding water to our TMR a few days ago. It seems to be having a positive impact, as our cows were up about 3 pounds of milk a day. I guess we should have done this a long time ago!

It's still dry, with no real chance except for passing heat-generated thunderstorms in the afternoons.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Live from Tennessee

Joni, Linton, and I drove up yesterday evening to the Tennessee Farm Bureau's Young Farmers & Ranchers Summer Conference in Columbia. Our state's Young Farmers program director, committee vice-chairman, and myself were invited to come participate. It's been very interesting and we've picked up on a few ideas we might could incorporate into our conferences.

We're about to head back to TFB headquarters for their "Olympics". I'll be back on the farm tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wrapping up the workweek

It's Friday, and looking back on the week it doesn't seem like we've gotten much accomplished. That doesn't mean we weren't busy, but we weren't "hammer down" like we usually are. We did get 61 bales of good quality bermudagrass rolled up for hay, as well as an additional 20 bales of rough bermuda we can use for roughage this fall. We've also trained our new employee this week to make and distribute our milking herd's TMR feed.

We've still got about 50 acres of BMR sorghum-sudangrass (sudex) to plant, but we can't until we get some rain to soften the ground. But not having the humidity needed to help generate a rainstorm did have one good impact...the heat index stayed down and the weather hasn't been as stressful on our cows (and us).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Website updates

I've made a few minor updates to several of the pages on Gilmer Dairy recently, including the "Farm History", "About our Farm", and "Teaching Resources" pages. I've also updated our Edopt-a-Cow profile pages and will be posting a new group of available cows within the next few weeks. I also hope to finally update the picture gallery a little bit, too.

As far as farming goes, it looks like it's going to be another hot, dry week. We'll probably start baling hay this evening, but I'm not sure what we'll get into before that.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Short but thick

Short but thick...a good description of the hay we cut today. The Russell bermudagrass obviously didn't reach its full potential height due to the drought, but it has formed a tight, green sod.

We'll probably start baling it tomorrow evening and Wednesday morning.

Glad that's over! (long story)

You won't often find someone who's glad Monday's here and the weekend is gone, but that's the way I'm feeling right now!

This past weekend wasn't necessarily bad, just really busy. It started on Wednesday afternoon when my father left for an Alabama Farmers Federation conference in the south part of the state, which meant I would have to work the early morning milking shift until he got back. That really wasn't any big deal Thursday and Friday because our milkhand and I would start about 3:00am and be done by 5:30. That gave me a couple of hours to go home and nap before returning to the farm. From that point, the employees and I would work until noon, come back at 1:00, and would be finished by 4:00.

Things were different on Saturday, though.

I woke up about 2:30am, loaded the border collies in the truck, and struck out to run the cows from their pasture into the holding barn below our milking facility. We were "all hands on deck" Saturday with our milkhand (who was scheduled to be off this weekend) and two other full-time employees taking care of the milking duties. This allowed me to go ahead and take care of feeding the milking herd then head back to the house.

But this morning there would be no nap because I was scheduled to give a presentation on behalf of our state Young Farmers committee at the same meeting my father was attending. So as fast as I could brew a pot of coffee, shower, and put on some good clothes, I was headed south. Once I arrived, they worked me in almost immediately so I could give the presentation and get back to the farm.

I arrived back at the farm later that afternoon. Our cows' production was really down on Saturday due to the heat and humidity, and by 3:00pm both the milking and the feeding had been finished. I decided to leave the fans and sprinklers running for a couple of more hours and figured I would turn them off when I came back later that evening to check on three cows I suspected might be going into labor.

As I was leaving the house to go back to the farm at 5:30, I was only expecting to turn off a few fans, close a water valve, and see a few newborn calves. I'd be back home within 15 minutes, eat supper, and start preparing a Sunday School lesson for the next morning.

Turning off the fans and sprinklers was no problem, but the cows were a different story. One had given birth to a calf and was working on her second...she was having twins. Everything appeared to be o.k. with her, so I left her alone so she could finish the job in peace. The other two cows though were starting to show signs of distress with no visible indication that a calf was on it's way out. So I had to round them up from their pasture and move them into our working pen.

I helped the first deliver her calf without much difficulty, and moved on to the second one. It didn't take just a minute to realize that something was wrong with the way the calf was turned in her and that I would have to have help delivering it. I was able to get in touch with the veterinarian and he came over to take a look. After feeling of her, he made the decision that a c-section was the only way we would be able to deliver this calf. We prepped her for surgery and gave her anesthesia, then laid her down to work on her. The doctor was able to successfully deliver the fatally deformed calf and get the cow sewn back up (she's recovering nicely, by the way) about 8:30 Saturday evening. I came home, showered, ate supper, and went to bed.

I rolled out of bed about 2:20am on Sunday morning and headed back to the farm. No problems this time, it just took a little longer because our milkhand had the day off. I got home at 6:30am, cleaned up, we ate breakfast, and then started preparing a lesson (since I didn't do it the night before). We headed off to our church about 9:45, with me once again having replaced a nap with coffee.

We got home a little after noon, I ate my lunch, and got our milking equipment fired up about 1:00. By 4:00, dad had returned, the milking was done, the feeding was done, and it was time to close the book on the second weekend of July. I went home, took a shower, and took what my wife later described to me as a hibernation-like nap.

It's now Monday morning and I was able to "sleep in" until getting up at 5:00am to feed the cows. It's now time for me to fry up some bacon and eggs and then head on back and see what I can get accomplished this morning.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I've got my work cut out for me

There's always something to be done on the farm, and we have to constantly find ways to improve what we're doing.

One such non-farming activity I must improve in: my golf game.

Yes, I'm a dairy farmer and I'm interested in golf.

I ordered a set of clubs last week with the hope that I'd find the time to learn how to play. Now, in reality, I would probably at best find myself on a course 3-4 times a year, even though there's a 9-hole course not five minutes from our farm. But, I've got a big back yard and plenty of fields around that I can at least practice occasionally (there's no driving range around here). I've only actually played once, and that was ten years ago, so I'm a beginner in the truest form.

So I tee up a few wiffle balls yesterday evening. After missing completely on my first couple of swings, I managed to start making contact and could consistently hit the practice balls 5-10 feet.

Not good.

I decided to hit a few real balls into the hayfield next to the house. Of the ten I hit, only a couple could even be classified as decent. I had a few that I barely touched with the club that dribbled a few feet from the tee, and I had a few "worm-burners" that I hit hard but never got more than five feet off the ground. I even had one that sliced so bad it almost landed in the road (about 50 yards to my right).

I'll be playing a round at the end of the month when our State Young Farmers Committee gets together for our annual summer planning meeting. My goal between now and then is to move from "embarrassingly pathetic" to "simply terrible".

Golf tips are welcome via the comments box or email!