Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A busy Wednesday

It looks as if we'll be running wide open today. After the heifers get fed and the cows are moved into a grazing pad, things will really get busy.

First of all, we have a milk pump problem to attend to. One of the circuit boards has malfunctioned and it won't automatically engage when it needs to. Dad had to spend the morning milking going back and forth between the parlor "pit" and the control box in the equipment room to manually engage the pump. We've got a circuit board from the control box that was in our old milking barn, so we'll see if that'll do the trick. Otherwise we'll be calling the equipment man.

While that's going on, someone will head over to our "big" hayfield near Mt. Pisgah church to begin cutting down rye/ryegrass. We cut and chopped about 6 acres out of the field yesterday, and should be able to get 10 today and the remaining 10 tomorrow. Based on the maturity level and the weather we're having, we think that the chopper can run about 3-4 hours behind the cutter and harvest it at an acceptable moisture level.

Yesterday's harvest also pretty brought our silage pit up to capacity. We'll have to seal it off this morning and then resume cleaning out our small reserve pit. That pit should hold everything left at Mt. Pisgah, the two hayfields near my house, and some of the 30 acres of ryegrass that will still be left (that we should get to next week). Whatever doesn't go into the reserve pit will likely be baled and wrapped for baleage.

Of course, all the above assumes that everything goes as planned. That's something you can never take for granted on a dairy farm!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Silage choppin' goin' good

My dad has been chopping the ryegrass/triticale I mowed down yesterday evening, and so far so good. It's looking like we're going to have quite a yield off of that 11 acre patch.

I'll be in the parlor this afternoon helping with the milking duties. Once we're finished I'll probably take over the job of packing the silage into the bunker from my great-uncle.

A lot can happen in an afternoon's time, but if our equipment will hold together we should finish the day with 25 dump wagon loads.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday morning update and cropping projections

It's a beautiful Sunday morning here on the farm, and I'm getting in a little rest while I can. With two employees and my father working this weekend I've been able to sleep in the last two mornings until about 5am. Between breakfast and church services my father and I will move the milking herd over into their daily grazing pasture, and then we'll get cranked back up and going about 1pm.

I expect I'll be in the barn this afternoon with our milk hand while one of our employees takes care of building and feeding the herd's TMR and my father dry bales the remaining ryegrass we have on the ground. Once we've finished with the cows, I'm planning on loading my son up in the tractor with me while I start cutting down the ryegrass/triticale in the ten acre field across the road from my house.

We'll start chopping silage again on Monday, but we'll be taking the JD 4255 off of the feedwagon to pull the forage harvester until we can get our International's injector pump problem solved. This game of musical tractors will find the Case taken off the cutter-conditioner and hooked to the JayLor.

We still have roughly 80 more acres of forage to harvest. After the ten acres in front of my house is harvested, we'll prioritze 40 acres of rye and volunteer ryegrass that is growing on bermudagrass hayfields. The remaining 30 acres is a combination of ryegrass, wheat, and triticale that's spread across two fields that we'll drill sudex on later this summer.

The wildcard in all of this (other than more mechanical problems) is our 60 acres in Yellow Creek bottom. Our window for planting corn in those fields runs through about mid-May. It has been so wet down there that it looks like we'll have to break the surface to get it in any sort of condition to plant. After a week of dry, hot weather and what's looking to be another just like it, it's probably going to finally be dry enough to run equipment over by the middle of this coming week. Depending on how the harvest is going and what the weather forecast says, we may stop what we're doing for a couple of days to get the ground opened up in the bottom. If so, we can go back as soon as the harvest is completed (and any rain between now and then has dried off) and lighly break and smooth the ground ahead of the planter.

By the way, the cows are still hanging in there pretty good. We'll probably dry off about a half-dozen this week but should still stay above 200 in milk for a little while longer.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Same song, different verse

We're having mechanical difficulties again, this time on the tractor that's pulling our forage harvester. All signs seem to point towards injector pump problems, so hopefully we can get it taken off properly and take it to the diesel repair place.

The good news of it is that we didn't have but maybe 8 acres left of cut forage in the field we're in. The baler has been hooked up and is running as I type. I came in for an early lunch to let them get a few bales made before I head to the field with the bale wrapper.

On the bright side, it's gonna be a great afternoon to be on an open-station tractor.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Still in the Field

Our spring forage harvest will continue today under blue skies and bright sunshine. We'll start cutting the ryegrass/tritcale mix in one of our fields in about an hour. The silage chopper is nearly repaired, so we're hoping that it's back up and running after lunch and can operate all afternoon without further problems. Otherwise, we'll use our hay baler and bale wrapper tomorrow to harvest the cut forage as baleage.

I don't know where I'll be today...on the tractor, in the shop, or in the barn (this afternoon). I'll try to "tweet" a few times if my hands are free and I have a spare minute now and then. You can follow gilmerdairy if you use Twitter, otherwise just look to the right-hand column of this page.

Have a great day and make sure you enjoy three healthy, delicious servings of dairy products today!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, the day we turn our attention and social consciousness toward the many issues that face our planet. Students will take a few moments to pick up litter scattered around their school grounds, adults will make short-lived pledges to themselves to live more eco-friendly, and buzzwords like "green", "carbon footprint", "climate change", and "sustainability" will be thrown out by every pundit with a platform from which to preach. And while designating April 22nd as Earth Day may be necessary to bring about a heightened public awareness to our home planet's health, there's at least one group that celebrates the spirit of Earth Day every day...America's farming families.

Agriculture has been and always will be linked directly to our environment. Those of us who raise our nation's food and fiber continually refine our farming methods to grow our crops and livestock more efficiently. This commitment results in the increased conservation of soil, water, and fossil fuels, thereby preserving our precious natural resources for years to come. We have a responsibility to balance the nutritional needs of a growing global population with the needs of our sensitive environment, and we are able to do both without sacrificing one for the other. We continue to protect and improve the quality of our soil, water, and air, develop agri-based alternative energy solutions, and find more ways to productively process our livestock and crop residues. These issues aren't just important to our financial bottom line, beacuse the bottom line is that environmental stewardship is critically important to the health and well-being of both our own families and the public we serve.

So as you celebrate Earth Day and do your part to "save the planet", take time to thank conservationalists, environmentalists, and sustainability experts for all the contributions they are making to keep the Earth healthy and viable for generations to come. And can thank all three by thanking a farmer!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another full day on the dairy farm

The morning has already gotten off to a pretty good start. Our monthly DHIA test was this morning, so our cows each had their milk production measured and sampled for quality. We'll clean and remove the milk meters first thing after breakfast and move the herd from their feeding area into a grazing paddock. Then it'll be off to the field!

I cut forage most of the day yesterday and will probably do so at least all morning. I finished cutting the rye early yesterday afternoon and moved into a ryegrass/tritcale mix. The new crop isn''t nearly as tall but is very thick and leafy, so it'll probably match the rye on tonnage and beat it on quality.

We should have all our employees here today, so we'll be able to continue harvesting while a couple of people get the cows milked. I'll probably be in the parlor this afternoon if I can cover alot of ground this morning. If that's the case, I'll rejoin the harvest effort sometime around 4:00pm and run for another 2-3 hours.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday morning update: 4/19/09

It's been a couple of days since I've posted, so let me take just a minute to catch you up to speed...

We started chopping rye for silage on Wednesday. So far so good, and since it looks like we're going to avoid most of the rain this weekend we should be able to start again tomorrow afternoon. If the weather (and equipment) holds, we'll finish the rye on Tuesday and start moving into a tricale/ryegrass mixture. We should have one silage pit filled by the end of the week and will have to decide whether or not to start in another or harvest the remaining forage as baleage.

Dad and I attended a meeting at the Upper Coastal Plain experiment station near Winfield on Friday about dairy stabilization. Several other area dairymen, as well as folks from the Ala. Farmers Federation and Auburn, were on hand to meet with Rep. William Thigpen about the issue. As much as we need relief right now, everyone agreed that we need take the time to construct a win-win proposal that will help both our dairy industry and our consumers. We hope to have proposed legislation in hand and ready to go by the start of next year's state legislative session.

The cows are still doing pretty good and are holding their production levels. We're going to weigh milk on Tuesday and will be able to make some decisions about a few cows once the results come back.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mettings missed, made, and yet to come

Aside from beginning our spring silage harvest and dealing with unexpected power outages and storm damage, this week will go in the books as a pretty busy one on account of some important meetings that have been scheduled.

I had to miss the first one due to the aforementioned storm problems. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) holds an annual town hall meeting in all the state's counties and was in Vernon this past Monday afternoon. I had planned on attending but we got so far behind on work that day I wasn't able to shake loose quick enough to clean up and head to town. I had planned to ask him his view on the Uniform Trucking Bill (S639), but I suppose I'll have to do that through his office since I missed the personal opportunity.

Yesterday after work I had a very interesting meeting with a researcher working in connection to Alabama's rural broadband development efforts. Going into it I knew that I was one of twenty-something interviewees (from all across the state and from different business sectors) that would be asked to talk about how broadband connection would have an impact on my business and local economy. What I expected was a lot of standard Q&A, but it was much different that that. Dr. Gillis presented it basically as three different conversations. The first was based upon my current day goals for the future but assumed we were talking in the year 2020 and I was reflecting on how those goals had been accomplished on my farm, in my industry, and within the local & state economies. This was by far the longest part of the interview. The next conversation was similar but was based upon my current worries as I again "looked back" in 2o2o and opined all the negatives that we had been effected by in ten years time. My thoughts as to how the availability of high-speed communication technology impacted both the optomistic and pessimistic view of the future reality were intertwined through both conversations. Lastly, we talked about the real current day and near-term issues that would steer the future towards either my positive or negative outlook.

I hope that my nearly three hour session with Dr. Gillis will ultimately help my fellow farmers and rural residents of Alabama to get reliable, affordable high-speed communications. But if not, at least I will have benefited from the visioning process I went through. While goal setting isn't all that unfamiliar to me, I had never approached it from the standpoint of being in the future looking back on why my goals were or were not accomplished. It gave me a very interesting, very different perspective and I would encourage folks to give that exercise a try!

Lastly, dad and I will be attending a meeting on Friday morning with State Representative William Thigpen and several other dairy farmers from a three-county area to discuss a dairy industry stabilization bill we would like to see intruduced in the Alabama Legislature. I'll blog more info about the proposal and the meeting in the days to come.

Have a great day everyone, and help a dairy farmer out...make sure you, your family, and your co-workers all get their three servings of milk, cheese, or yougurt today. Not only will it help us out here on the farm, but it'll provide you with some power-packed tasty nutrition!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's been a long few days

Strong winds Easter evening wreaked havoc on Lamar County's power grid, but we've finally been re-electrified all across the farm. We had to milk one shift off of generator power before the juice started flowing about 12 hours post-storm. Our house and my parents house are less than a half mile away from the parlor, but we're on a different line and didn't get power to this evening.

Plenty has happened while the lights have been out, though. Hopefully a good night's sleep in my own bed (we spent last night with my grandmother) will give me enough energy to start blogging about it tomorrow morning. Until then, have a great evening.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Gilmer Dairy Farm on internet video?

I haven't had an uninterrupted night's sleep for several days thanks to our newborn, and I've spent several hours alone on the tractor over that same time period. That combination has led to an idea that keeps spinning around in my head: The Gilmer Dairy Farm "MooTube Minute".

That's right, an internet video series from here on the farm. I've thought it might be neat to show and talk about what we do on our farm, occasionally address industry issues, have a "vocowbulary" segment from my wife's elem. school classroom, and maybe even sprinkle in a guest now and then.

There are a lot of challenges standing in the way to make this happen. First of all, I really have no comprehension about the time it would take to film, edit, and publish. A digital video camera would probably be better suited for it than the Hi-8 I have now, and I would have to find a broadband connection somewhere to upload the video.

While I try to figure out all the technical issues, I'm working on a simple slideshow video that will announce the MooTube Minute's future arrival. I'll also try to get a pilot show put together within the next couple of months. If it looks like something I can handle and enough people show interest in it, I hope to start cranking them out every 2-4 weeks starting this fall.

Who knows? Maybe it'll have some appeal and become so popular I can line up corporate sponsorship for it! Or perhaps it'll be a massive FAIL! I guess I won't know until I try.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Back on the Blog

The Dairyman's Blog returns today after a few days of inactivity. For some reason, sleep's been hard to come by at night around here and post-milking, pre-breakfast "blog time" has been replaced by "nap time" lately.

We're looking at a pretty cool day here on the farm. Overnight temps dropped down around the freezing mark and we're not supposed to get much over 50 degrees by mid-afternoon. We'll be cold again tonight before highs climb back into the 70's tomorrow. Rain possible for Thursday and Friday. And there's your weather, lets throw it back to the news desk.

I had hoped we would begin harvesting some of our spring forage this week, but it's looking doubtful. If the rain chances are knocked down a notch by tonight I'll probably pump down our captured nutrients and fertilize some of the milking herd's grazing land to stimulate some regrowth.

The cows are still holding daily production around 63 pounds each and are in really good condition. We only have 5 in our maternity pen right now, and only three heifer calves that haven't been weaned yet (which will happen later this week). We have a group of 18 breeding-sized heifers next to the barn that we're watching for natural heat, and so far we've bred six of them.

That's about all I have to report before heading back over to the dairy. Remember, you can learn more about life on Gilmer Dairy Farm from three other sources: our farm website, Facebook fan page, and Twitter.

Have a great day, and make sure that three servings of dairy products are part of it!

Friday, April 3, 2009

My Teat Dip Cup Runneth Over

Times are tough, folks, but my teat dip cup runneth over! What am I talking about? Read my second contribution to the AFBF Blog and you'll know what I mean.