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.