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.