Saturday, December 26, 2009

Working on Christmas

I hope you all have had a Merry Christmas and that you are enjoying any time off work that you might have. I know that many businesses close for several days before and after Christmas, but a dairy farm is one business that doesn't have that luxury. Whether it's Christmas, Easter, Independence Day, or any holiday, the cows have to be milked, fed, and attended to.

My father has worked every Christmas day as far back as I can remember, and I've been right there as well since I was about 15. It can keep you from traveling to the in-laws if they have their gatherings on Christmas instead of before (like mine) or after, but all the Gilmer family gatherings happen here on the farm. It's really not that bad of a deal, either. We typically work a "weekend" schedule on holidays and take care of chores before breakfast and then again after lunch. Our milkhand usually likes to work the early shift on holidays, and did so again yesterday. Dad and I were also joined by another employee yesterday afternoon who decided he needed a few hours away from his in-laws.

So whether you're enjoying a holiday feast or just snacking any other day of the year, savor it happily and know that a farmer's commitment to care for his animals and to provide you with quality food never takes a day off!

And in closing, here is a new episode of our MooTube Minute in which I give you a quick tour of our "milk room". Enjoy!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Full-Throttle Monday

It's going to be a full-throttle Monday here on the farm to kick-off Christmas week. Luckily we're going to have good weather today, so we are going to accomplish as much as we possible can.

Our cows have already been milked and fed once and will be again this afternoon. The heifers, dry cows, and calves are being fed right now, and in about half an hour we'll begin trying to catch some of our youngest stock and move them into a new pasture. After that, things will really start picking up. We have 7-8 calves that need to be vaccinated and moved into a weaning pasture. Several bales of hay need to be distributed to pastures around the farm and at least two loads of baleage need to be hauled from the stackyard to have on hand for grinding in our feed wagon. Throw in some "cleaning up" chores and the inevitable Monday surprise, and we'll have plenty to keep us busy today.

I'll "tweet" about our activities as I get time (and my cold fingers allow), so if you don't have a Twitter account you can simply look over on the sidebar to find my posts. Meanwhile, you can check out our newest MooTube Minute and get a quick tour of our milking parlor.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Gilmer Dairy Farm Christmas Song

Did I ever tell you about the time Santa Clause milked our cows early one Christmas Day? Well, watch the video below and listen to the story. Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings from Gilmer Dairy Farm...have a "dairy" merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gilmer Dairy Farm Update, 12/10/09

Both my father and I spent a couple of nervous nights off the farm a few days ago while we attended the Alabama Farmers Federation's Annual Meeting in Mobile. Even though we have good, capable employees who we know can handle all the chores when we're both gone, it's always a little nerve-wracking worrying about the things that could go wrong on the farm while you're away. I'm happy to report that the farm was still here and functioning properly when we got home.

My return home was delayed a little on Tuesday as I stopped by the Precision Agriculture & Field Crops Conference in Atmore to speak to the attendees about using social media to proactively tell the story of agriculture. One of the things I shared with them is how taking the time to tell our stories is much like paying the insurance premiums for our farm policies. You can read more about what I mean on the FB Blog.

Back on the farm, we had around 6 inches of rain fall on Tuesday, mostly from late afternoon through the night. Yesterday was beautiful but very windy, and the forecast for today and tomorrow call for clear skies and cold temperatures. As always, we'll find plenty to do to keep us busy. We now have 23 breeding-age heifers we have pastured next to our barn and will be observing them each for signs of estrus. We also have a Select Sires representative coming this afternoon to look over a group of 30 first-lactation cows. He'll look at their physical traits and genetics and will then recommend which bulls' semen we should use to AI each of them.

As it is getting colder we're also feeding alot more hay to our drycows and heifers. You can learn a little more about that in our latest GDF MooTube Minute. Y'all have a "dairy" good day!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Keeping busy in cold December

Today is the third day of December, and I'm still waiting to see the sun shine this month. A drier-than-normal (hallelujah!) November ended on a wet note, and all week we've had overcast skies and cold winds. The weather has put a temporary stop to spring forage planting, but we already have about 2/3 of the crop planted. That includes all of the ground we intend to graze, so we're not in too big of a rush to finish the remaining acreage.

As our field work has slowed down, our time in the milking barn is steadily increasing. We've been freshening cows and heifers nearly every day over the last two weeks, giving us 197 currently in the milking herd. We don't expect to have more than a handful of calves born over the next 10 days, but they'll start coming hard and heavy from mid-December through the first of the year. In fact, we'll most likely top our own record for most cows milking (232) the first week of January. It also looks like we're going to try and sell some of our heifers due to calve in January to another dairy (anyone interested?) to keep from having more than we can properly handle.

In closing, please keep something in mind as you shop for holiday gifts this month: nothing says "I love you" like a gift of cheese!