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.