Thursday, August 27, 2009

Videos from the Hayfield

What happens when you take a dairy farmer out of the milking barn and put him in the hayfield? If he's armed with an over-active imagination and a camera phone, he might make a few short videos for you. The following range from informative to ridiculous, so sit back, enjoy, and share these cinematic masterpieces with your friends!

First up, find out how we roll (hay) at Gilmer Dairy Farm.

Next, I share a PSA-type thought with you.

Occasionally I'll drift into deep thought and come out with a very deep, very profound truth.

It's always a good idea to sing at the end of a job, though not necessarily on camera. This one is completely ridiculous, but doesn't hurt to have a little fun at your own expense every now and then.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In the hayfield, in the news

This week we're going to be hitting it hard in the hayfield. Right now we have 70 acres of bermudagrass on the ground waiting to be rolled up for hay. The lower temperatures over the weekend made our lives a little more comfortable, but the cut grass didn't dry down as well. We'll have to ted, or fluff, the hay to help dry it out. Half of it was tedded yesterday afternoon and we plan on doing the rest today. Our plan is to rake and bale at least 20 acres of it this afternoon, but as we know all too well plans sometimes get changed on a dairy farm. If all goes well, we should have all of the hay baled by the end of Thursday.

I've gotta get back over to the farm, so I'll leave you with a couple of links. There are two articles about our family farm that have recently been published online: One from The West Alabama Gazette and one from the Daily Mountain Eagle.

Have a great day!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Eat More Cheese...Borden Cheese!

No doubt, times are tough on the dairy farm right now. Really tough! Milk prices have remained sour and are just now showing signs of creeping higher, but I haven't seen anyone suggest that we'll see significant increases before we get well into next year.

But despite the depression that hits a dairyman when he looks at his farm's banking account these days, there are a few things to be positive about. One is that the public still holds us in high esteem, and people want to know that the money they spend on dairy products is finding its way to the farm.

Our farm is a member of the farmer-owned, milk marketing cooperative Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), and our membership in its predecessor co-ops goes back as far as I can remember. One of the big advantages to being a part of DFA is our ability to offer a wide variety of value-added products.

Take, for example, the Borden Cheese brand. Our co-op owns and processes Borden Cheese, which means everytime someone buys a package the proceeds come back to us instead of a big food corporation. The more often people buy Borden products, the more it helps cushion the blow for some 18,000 dairy farm farmilies across our country.

I've been fortunate over the past couple of weeks to speak with two of our county's three newspapers about the dairy industry and why our cooperative membership is so beneficial to our farm. One of those articles appears online at The West Alabama Gazette (the print edition included additional information about Borden). I expect to speak to at least two more newspapers and possibly even a television station or two within the next few days about these topics. With the dairy economy being such as it is, I'm very appreciative of the media giving me and other dairy farmers the opportunity to share about ways the consuming public can help us get out of this rut we're in.

If you would like to drink milk from our farm's cows, look for the processing plant code "0104-" stamped on the jug. There's a chance it might contain some of the milk produced by our cows. But if you want to help us out in another way, perhaps an even better way, buy dairy product brands that are 100% farmer owned. When you leave the grocery store, make sure you're taking Elsie home with you. Eat more cheese...Borden Cheese!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What they're saying about #moo

There have been several articles and blogs written about "#moo" after it trended on Twitter a couple of weeks ago. It's even got a little renewed publicity this week after "#oink" made its even more successful run this past Sunday. For your reading pleasure, I've added links to sites that mention the event. There are probably more articles out there, so please point me towards them via the comments section or on my Twitter account and I'll be happy to add them. Thanks!

Why is #moo trending on Twitter - California dairyman (and Twitter virtuoso @RayLinDairy) Ray Prock's blog informed over 1000 people of #moo's meaning during the trend on Sunday, August 2
Why is #Moo Trending? - the Hungry Garden Blog's take
Dairy Awareness #Moo -ving on up in Twitter - my explanation and thoughts about #moo on this blog from late that Sunday afternoon
The day Twitter said #Moo - my day after review and observations on the FB Blog (also released as a Focus on Agriculture article and reprinted in several publications/websites)
Birthday Wishes and Twitter Trends - on Jacob Edenfield's blog
#moo - a brief review on the Midwest Laboratories Blog
What's #Moo? - a brief explanation from USDA's National Agricultural Library blog
The day Twitter went #moo - recapfrom Dairy Herd Management
Special #Ag TOTW: The #Moo Story - the Field Assignment blog honors Mike Haley & Ray Prock for their efforts
Farmers use Web site todraw attention to dairy industry Woes - a very nice article by Jeannine Otto of AgriNews
With a Moo Moo Here and an Oink Oink There - The Fastline Blog recaps both trending topics
Twitter Dairy "Tweeps" - the Hoard's Dairyman "HD Notebook" mentions #moo and recommends more dairy families get involved w/ social media
Social Media Helps Spread the Word About Agriculture - from the Nebraska AgRelations Council

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Driveby entertainment

Sometime around mid-morning I was backing a tractor alongside the road in front of the farm when I noticed an oncoming car beginning to slow down. I started to throttle down as I saw the car continue to slow and the passenger window start to roll down.

"This guy's lost," I thought to myself because it's not unusual for people to stop and ask directions in rural Lamar County. Turns out this wasn't the case.

The man pulled onto the shoulder between the blacktop and my tractor as I killed the engine. Before I could ask if I could help him, he pointed to his two young grandsons in the back seat and said that they loved riding by our farm so they could see the cows and tractors. I waved at them and they grinned and waved back as the man pulled back onto the road and drove away.

It's kind of neat knowing that some people get enjoyment from catching brief glimpses of our day-to-day routine as they ride by our farm. It's also means I probably should start keeping the place a little more presentable! But seriously, it just goes to show there's something special about farming that can catch the interest and imagination more so than many other businesses.

Lots of Sudex

We planted nearly 45 acres of sudex (sorghum-sudangrass) this year for our milking herd to graze. Thanks to a dry spell earlier this summer it was very slow to come up, but once the rains started coming the sudex started growing. And growing, and growing! Due to the heat, we can only graze our cows for about two hours each morning after milking, and night-time grazing in our sudex paddocks is out of the question since they are across the road from our barn (not safe to move cows across a public road at 3am). Between the rapid growth and the narrow grazing window, the cows haven't been able to keep up with it.

We've already cut, green baled, and silage wrapped around 175 bales of the sudex that had grown too tall for the cows to graze. In fact, we still have approximately 30 more to bale later today. All of this has come from a 26 acre field the cows have been in only twice. We're also starting to bush-hog the 18 acres worth of paddocks they've regularly been grazing. The sudex there has also grown too tall for them as they've been stripping off the leaves but not eating the stems. Cutting it off about 6 inches tall should stimulate more nutritious regrowth.

Even though our sorghum crop (which we'll chop for silage) is "hit or miss" depending on which field it's in, our sudex grazing/hay and bermudagrass hay crops have really done well so far this summer. With milk prices so low and feed costs so high, growing quality forage is an absolute must on our farm. Thankfully we've had the weather to do it for most of the summer.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lots to do today

We've got plenty of tasks lined up for us today on the farm.

I'll be hooking up our spray wagon before much longer and head for the sorghum fields. We didn't get a very good control on broadleaf weeds at planting time, so I'm going to attack the morning glory, sicklepod, and cuckleburr that's beginning to plague our forage.

My dad started replanting some of our crop yesterday evening and will hopefully get finished with that today. Roughly 20 acres of sorghum in one field was destroyed by worms over the weekend and will be completely replanted with sudex (sorghum-sudangrass). He will also be doing some "spot" replanting in a few fields where our sorghum stand is not very good.

Meanwhile, the other guys will start off feeding all the heifers and will then build a fence to create a couple of new grazing paddocks. Later they will start getting the haying equipment tooled up so we can bale the few acres of sudex we cut yesterday afternoon.

And of course, there are 174 cows that will need to be milked around 1:00pm.

Here's to another hot, humid, busy, and hopefully productive day on the farm!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dairy awareness #moo -ving on up in Twitter


To those of you unfamiliar with the micro-blogging service Twitter, #moo has become quite the topic this Sunday afternoon. Words preceded by the # symbol are known as hashtags in Twitter lingo and are used as a label to help people find topics they are interested when searching through "tweets".

So what's the big deal about #moo?

Early last week, dairy families across our country received another painfully low milk check. Many of us thought that by the middle of summer we would have seen a price improvement, but that has yet to materialize. As bills pile up and losses mount due to the dairy pricing crisis, many of us have started feeling the emotional strain. As a way to do something silly and cheer ourselves up, a few dairymen with Twitter accounts suggested people use the #moo hashtag in their posts as a shout-out in support of America's dairy farm families. It caught on within the tweeting ag community and pretty soon #moo started showing up regularly within our discussions.

Then a farmer from Ohio, @FarmerHaley to be exact, raised it to a whole new level. Around mid-week, he stated his simple birthday wish: that people would use #moo in their posts on Sunday afternoon to support and bring awareness to America's dairy farmers. His wish was retweeted (repeated) many, many times and once Sunday afternoon rolled around #moo did indeed become a trending, or popular, topic on Twitter.

Not only have farmers and agricultural enthusiasts helped make #moo so popular, but its popularity has caught on with the tweeting public-at-large. And several folks, including fellow tweeting dairyman @RayLinDairy and @JPlovesCotton have worked diligently all afternoon to make people aware of what #moo is all about.

As a dairy farmer, I am very appreciative of the efforts that have been made to bring awareness to the situation our nation's dairy farm families are facing. I'm also thankful for all the people who aren't involved in agriculture who have taken time to simply explore what this afternoon's hot topic is all about. It's been a tough few months and the next several will continue to be challenging, but knowing there are people out there supporting you and appreciative of what you do really motivates a person to keep pressing forward.

So again, thanks to all of you who #moo! Keep it up, and keep on purchasing delicious, healthy dairy products!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Talking weather

It's the first day of August and all of our cropland, hay fields, and pastures are green. And a healthy green at that! It's not always been like this over the last few years, but so far this year we've gotten the rains we've needed to grow forage for our cows and heifers.

One of the toughest things about farming is knowing that you can't control what's often the biggest variable in your bottom line: the weather. Sure, a farmer can manage his or her operation based on historical patterns and select crops accordingly. One could hedge against the weather with irrigation, windbreaks, etc. Despite our best laid plans, though, a combination of prayer and damage control are often our only remedies when Mother Nature goes extreme on us.

Weather conditions at planting or harvest can cause delays that effect the yield and quality of a crop, not to mention weather's obvious effect on the crop during it's growing stage. And really good crops can often be destroyed in a matter of minutes by severe weather. Many heartland farmers have recently had crops destroyed by hail. One of our best corn silage crops ever was hurt by the howling winds of Hurricane Ivan several years ago when it hit us halfway through harvest. And then every once in a while, you get favorable weather all the way through which leads to thanksgiving and celebration (and a big sigh of relief).

Through it all...drought, wind, hail, floods, frost...the American farmer keeps on producing, holding on the the belief that no matter how good or bad this year has been, the next will be even better. And while we will never be able to conquer the weather, our nation's agricultural production proves that the weather hasn't yet conquered us.