Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Visiting Vernon 1st Graders

This past Friday I had the opportunity to read "Oh Say Can You Seed" to the first graders at Vernon Elementary. The original plan was just to read to my wife's class, but as she told the other teachers about it they wanted in on the deal. I was happy to oblige.

I'll have to admit, having 90 six-year-olds sitting in the floor looking up at you can be a little unnerving because you don't exactly know what to expect. But the kids were very attentive and interested in the book and asked several good questions about my farm afterwards.

I don't think I could stress enough how important it is to directly engage the public, especially kids, about agriculture. With so few having a direct connection to the day-in, day-out activities on the farm, it's no surprise that so many people are falling prey to the misinformation and dangerous ideology touted by groups and individuals who want modern agriculture to fail. And even though most of my "advocate" hours and activities are spent on the internet, nothing can replace the value of telling your story in person. Seeing the kids take a genuine interest in what I was talking about made my week, and I would encourage all farmers to take the time to visit a local classroom. It's a win-win-win-win propostion...for the kids, for the farmer, and for agriculture, and for America.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pass Safely

As I was hauling bovine-generated organic fertilizer to the hayfield this morning, I encountered three drivers who were short on patience, courtesy, and common sense. On two different occasions I was passed after I had turned on my left-turn signals and had began slowing down to pull into the field. Sandwiched in between those two episodes, someone in a car with a state government tag whipped across the double-yellow lines and passed me in the middle of a sharp curve. Luckily, I never had that problem again after I wrote a little reminder on the back of the honeywagon.

Events like these aren't just frustrating, they are very dangerous for the drivers, for the farmer, and for any oncoming traffic the driver may not see. When you're driving down the highway and come up behind moving farm machinery, please be patient. As long as you keep enough distance so that we can see you in our mirrors, we'll move over and slow down the best we can when the coast is clear for you to make your pass.

Let's all practice a little patience, courtesy, and common sense out there on the roadway so we can all live to drive another day!

A quick update on a beautiful morning

Good morning, yall! I've only got a few minutes before heading back over to the dairy, so let me get you up to speed with a few simple bullet points:

On Gilmer Dairy Farm...
  • The weather is great...sunny, mild, breezy, and dry. It's been good for our animals and for the ground surface as well.
  • We baled and wrapped the last of our ryegrass Tuesday. Soon we'll be turning our attention to planting and growing our summer forage crops (sorghum and sudex) and managing our bermudagrass hayfields and pastures.
  • Milk production continues has dropped as our cows get further along into their lactation curve. We're down around 57lbs/cow/day now. That will probably improve once our silage is ready to feed. We're still grazing the cows daily, but the grass is getting mature and losing quality (therefore the cows produce less milk).
  • We expect to get the final revised drawings for our new feeding barn from our engineer in the next few days. Hopefully construction will begin next month.
  • I spent most of yesterday and should spend most of today applying bovine-generated organic fertilizer to bermudagrass.
In the dairy industry:
  • Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) announced last week that over 100,000 cows will be removed from the national milking herd in an effort to help curb oversupply.
  • Current milk prices and futures remain too low for many dairies to sustain long-term operations.
  • The idea of a mandatory, nation-wide supply management program is picking up steam. Several individuals and industry groups have proposed different plans. Pretty much every dairyman I know is sick and tired of our price volatility, so a plan like this may actually have a chance at acceptance. There will have to be a whole lot of give-and-take on the details, though.

Friday, May 15, 2009

2009 Milk Mustache Contest

We will be accepting entries for our 2009 Milk Mustache Contest through June 10. Among other things, the winner will receive a Gilmer Dairy Farm logo shirt, and you just can't put a pricetag on that!

For more info, please click to our Milk Mustache Contest page on our website.

Winding down the week

The cows have been milked and fed, and in another hour we'll get back to business trying to get all of our loose ends tied up before the weekend.

After we move our cows into their grazing pasture, we'll be turning our attention towards are harvest again. A couple of flat tires ended yesterday's fieldwork a little prematurely, so we have a little catching up to do first thing. There are about 18 green bales ready to be wrapped (shouldn't take but 45 minutes) and about 15-20 bales worth of material on the ground ready to be baled and then wrapped. We still have probably 5 acres of ryegrass left to cut in the field, but we've opted to wait until Monday due to the growing chance of rain this evening and tomorrow.

After we finish things in the field, we'll load up a couple of truckloads of oat baleage from the stack behind my house and haul to the farm to grind as part of our cows' TMR over the weekend. There are also a couple of other maintenance jobs we need to do, such as reinstalling the injectors and injector pump on one of our tractors.

This afternoon should follow the normal script of milking and feeding, as will tomorrow morning. After finish Saturday morning's duties, we'll be traveling to my sister's house in central Mississippi for a family event. Hopefully nothing unforseen will hapen until we get back on Sunday afternoon!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sick weather, sick kid

Yesterday we started cutting our remaining ryegrass. The lunchtime weather forecast looked like we could get through until Thursday without much chance of rain. We baled and wrapped about half of what we cut, but decided the rest was thick enough to let lay overnight without worrying about it drying out.

Well, now we need it to dry out.

Unexpected thunderstorms rolled through late last night and made everything even more damp. The skies remain cloudy and there's a fair chance of rain for this afternoon and tomorrow. We'll be able to bale and wrap what has been cut, but we may have to hold off on mowing any more acreage. Time will tell.

I'm personally not going to be involved in any of it, or at least not this morning. My son has what looks to be a stomach bug and I'm taking him to the doctor in a little while. Of course this would happen on my wife's first day back at work!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday update, 5/10/09

First of all, Happy Mothers Day to all of you ladies out there who have ever been a mother or a mother-figure to someone. As the old song goes, "There ought to be a hall of fame for mamas..."

The mommas on my farm, all 240 of them, are quite healthy and have enjoyed the cooler weather this weekend has brought. Unfortunately, it's getting to be the time of year where our cows begin dropping their milk production. That's a result of several factors. First of all, a good many of them are getting "late in their lactation curve". In other words, a majority of the cows that are currently milking have been doing so for over 150 days and are gradually lowering their production. We also have many that are close to or have entered the second half of their pregnancy (cows carry a calf for 9 months) which means that more of what they eat is going towards growing a calf at the expense of making milk. The increasing heat and humidity is also another factor that diminishes milk production.

This past week we finally finished chopping our spring forages for silage. We had several mechanical problems that slowed the process, but we did finally chop most everything we intended to. We still have several acres of ryegrass left to harvest, but we will cut it, green bale it, and then silage wrap each individual bale to make baleage. Speaking of which, baleage will be the primary forage our cows get over the next couple of weeks. Our summer grain sorghum silage will run out tomorrow and the silage we just packed hasn't quite had time to complete the ensilation process. We did harvest some rye as baleage about half-way through harvest and it is ready to feed. So, we'll grind 2-3 bales of the stuff for each feed batch and add in cottonhulls and our dairy feed. We'll continue to graze the cows in the mornings (weather permitting) to help supplement their TMR.

There are alot more things happening around the farm, and a whole host of very serious, challenging issues facing our dairy industry. I'm going to try and be a little more dedicated to the blog this week and will probably post about several of these topics. So check back soon and make sure in the meantime that you're getting your three daily servings of dairy products. And once you do, do me a favor and have 2-3 more servings because it tastes so good!

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's wet!

The farm had been getting a little dry, but that's no longer a concern after better than 3 inches of rain fell over the the weekend. It'll be a game changer for us today because we won't be able to resume chopping silage until at least tomorrow. More critical though is the thought that we probably won't be able to plant corn this year due to the wet ground.

We should find plenty to do today, though. There are a couple of cows to AI, lots of equipment needs servicing, and we may move some close-to-calving dry cows to a pasture closer to the milking barn.

Our cows will also be getting a new forage in their TMR late this week. We've almost feed all of our sorghum silage from last summer and will have to replace it with rye baleage until our new silage crop has ensiled. It will be interesting to see the impact it has on their milk produciton.