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!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sweet summer rain

0.6 inches of rain fell on our farm yesterday afternoon, which I'm pretty sure is more than fell the whole month of June. The best part is that we've got several more chances over the next few days. Let it rain!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July

It's Independence Day, and that means we're only planning on working a "short" full day.

We've already milked the cows this morning and will go back after breakfast to feed heifers and clean the place up a little bit. I'm hoping we'll be done somewhere between 10:00-10:30. After lunch, we'll come back and milk the cows again but that should be about it. We'll probably be done about 3:30, which will give me a little time to rest before firing up the grill for tonight.

Looking forward a little bit, our rain chances over the next ten days are a little more promising. There's no promise of how much we might get, but right now there's enough chances that surely we'll get one thunderstorm to rain on us. We desperately need it, and not just for our hay and pastures. Once we get some moisture, we'll be able to plant our sorghum-sudangrass (sudex) crop.

Speaking of hay, dad finished baling our first "pure" cutting of bermudagrass late yesterday morning. We had 63 bales of Russell bermudagrass off of 13 acres and 146 bales of Tifton 44 off of 31 acres. Not bad considering how dry its been. We have another 20 acres or so of Russell that's ready to be cut as soon as the weather forecast is favorable.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Quick update

  • It's getting very dry and starting to look like last summer all over again.
  • We weighed milk this morning, and the cows seemed to be producing a tad bit heaver than what they've been doing lately.
  • Dad and I cut about 45 acres of bermudagrass over the last two days. The first we cut was already dry enough to bale so we started rolling it this afternoon. Barring any major setbacks, we should have it all baled by the 4th.