Thursday, February 26, 2009

Random bits of farm info

I spent most of the morning cleaning and servicing equipment. Nothing exciting, but necessary. I split time this afternoon between milking cows and moving hay.

We have taken our 40 lowest producers off the TMR and are feeding them a reduced amount of grain and all the dry hay they can possibly eat.

Our milk shipment was down about 500 pounds (0.75lbs/cow/day), but they seemed to be hitting it pretty hard this afternoon.

Speaking of milk, the price we received on yesterday's paycheck was absolutely abysmal. We were expecting it, but expecting it really doesn't soften the blow. We're expecting poor prices for the next several months. For those of you outside the dairy biz who aren't familiar with cwt pricing, farmers are getting about 95cents per gallon of skim milk.

I'll feed the cows about 5:00am tomorrow morning and will call it quits for the work week. We're heading down to Montgomery for the Young Farmers Leadership Conference and will be back on the farm sometime Sunday.

DairyCast & YouTube

Since I only have a dial-up connection at my house, I never download podcasts or watch videos. But Scottish dairyman John drew my attention to DairyCast.

DairyCast offers audio clips of people speaking on a wide array of dairy issues. They have some really good stuff for those of you in the industry, and I believe I'll start asking my wife to carry my laptop to school with her once a week so she can download it for me. Of course, there's something on there that should draw the interest of all of you reading this interview in which I talk about this blog. A week ago I didn't even know that DairyCast existed (or that this interview was on it), so a big thanks goes out to John for letting me know.

And speaking of John, he has quite the collection of dairy videos at YouTube. Just look for "holsteincowboy".

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Live from the Lamar Co. Extension Service Center

I'm blogging live from the Lamar Co. Extension Service Center in Vernon, Alabama, where I have my laptop plugged in to the myDairy Advocates Webinar.
I just did my part of it and I hope it didn't come through too scatterbrained. I ran off and left my notes at home, so I wasn't nearly as smooth as I needed to be. Hopefully I got my point across, though.
Overall, there's been some really good information presented, and I think it's definitely going to help improve this blog. It's also going to help me coordinate Gilmer Dairy Farm's internet presence through this blog, our website, our Facebook page, and other social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube (as soon as I get broadband). It should be an interesting next few months as I try to implement some of these improvements/strategies.

DmB's Humpday Edition: 2/25/09

How about that Presidential Address last night, huh? I fell asleep in my chair about 8:30 (which happens almost every night) so I'm having to look up the high points on the 'net this morning. Are there people out there who can get excited about or buy into what any politician in Washington has to say about the whole economic mess? It's like believing a kid that throws a brick through a stained-glass window when he promises you he can fix it with Elmer's glue and masking tape.

But enough with the political commentary.

We received the preliminary report from our milk weighing yesterday afternoon, which indicated a herd milking average of just over 63 pounds. The thirty first-lactation cows we had grouped together averaged 63 pounds as well, so I think it's been well worth our time to feed them separately. We will mix them back into the main herd today, though, and pull out a group of lower producing cows. We believe we can give the low-enders a third less grain per day without significantly impacting their production. Lower feed cost + minimal sacrifice in milk production = profit, something that's going to be really tough to come by over these next few months considering how poor our milk price is right now.

An aside for those who have "edopted" one of our cows: Missy Moo finished with the second highest total, somewhere around 110 pounds. I should have the full results for each posted on the website after we get the final report sometime next week.

Finally, I'll be going to my county's extension service office this morning to plug into the broadband and connect to a webinar. Dairy Management, Inc., the national outfit that manages our dairy checkoff, is offering the webinar to give dairy farmers ideas about how they can use the internet to tell their stories and communicate with their customers. Provided we get the technical issues taken care of, I'll be an active participant during a segment of it talking about the blog you're reading right now.

Have a great morning, and make sure you get your three servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt in today!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good morning

Good morning to all you blog readers out there...I hope it's as good as mine has already been.

We weighed our cows' milk production this morning, and while we won't get the official results back for a few days, it seemed like they were really pouring it out this morning. We also finished about a half hour sooner than I expected, so that's a big, big plus.

The two cups of coffee and three mini-Moon Pies I feasted on early this morning have played out, so I'm gonna go fry up some sausage and eggs and drink a tall glass of milk before heading back to the dairy. It looks like I'll be spreading captured organic fertilizer most of the day.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The weekend is over

Another weekend is in the books. It's been pretty uneventful...just the way I like it!

I'll be pretty busy this coming week. Weather permitting on Monday and Tuesday, I intend to pump down our SlurryStore and run the honeywagon over some of our oats and ryegrass. We'll also be weighing milk during the Tuesday morning milking shift. I'm supposed to participate in a dairy webinar late Wednesday morning, and my family and I will be traveling to Montgomery on Friday for our state's Young Farmers Leadership Conference.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ask a farmer

All across this nation, America's farmers are working hard to ensure that our citizens have the safest, most affordable, most readily available food supply in the world. Unfortunately, our methods of production come under attack from various special interest groups who claim that the ends don't justify the means. This puts the vast majority of Americans somewhere in the middle, listening to two very different stories from people with two very different viewpoints.

There's a seemingly unending list of websites and blogs you could visit to read thoughts, commentary, and "facts" about why modern agriculture is bad for you, bad for our society, and bad for our planet. While I'm sure that some (but definitely not all) of the folks behind these ideas are good, well-intentioned people, they simply don't have the same real-world viewpoint that someone with dirt under their fingernails and manure on their boots has about these issues.

Auto mechanics aren't asked to mastermind military strategy...generals are. Lawyers aren't qualified to perform heart surgery...doctors are. Celebrities aren't experts on modern food are.

At some point in the coming months and years, you will likely be asked to sign a petition, cast a vote, or in some way make a decision that will have an effect on the way America's farmers produce your food. Please take the time to get a farmer's perspective before making your choice. If you're willing to listen and consider our side of the story, I'm pretty confident you'll agree that we're taking good care of you while also being good stewards of the resources entrusted to us.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Milk Mustache Contest - 2009

We're now accepting photos for our annual Milk Mustache Contest. Go to our farm website, Gilmer Dairy, for more details.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Midweek-Midday update

It's a warm, windy day here on Gilmer Dairy Farm. We're supposed to have a cold front come through tonight, though, and drop the temperature about 40 degrees.

We've not had a whole lot going on today. After the normal milking and feeding duties, dad I and spent time servicing some of our milking equipment while a couple of our employees cleaned the parlor. After we finished that, I spent a little better than an hour loading and unloading hay and baleage off a truck. Not terribly exiting, I know, but necessary.

It looks like I'll be handling all of the feeding duties this evening. We're also supposed to have at least one contractor come by to take a look at the feeding barn construction project we've got planned. I'm not terribly excited about the prospect of a building project as bad as our milk price is right now, but if we can get something built by summer we may save a good bit of money in the long run.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A quick lunchtime update

We spent most of the morning re-grouping and moving heifers and dry cows between pastures.

We also took a few minutes to scout the massive network of dams a colony of beavers has constructed that has backed up lots of water into one of our pastures. It's going to take a good bit of time to tear those things out, and we'll probably have to use a boat to access some of them. I'm not sure when we'll get around to the demolition, but it had better happen before it warms up very much...the snakes in that bottom are large and numerous.

This afternoon we'll be separating a group of heifers from our milking cows as we pull them off the grazing. Afterward, it looks like we'll just be doing our typically milking and feeding.

Have a good afternoon!

It's Monday

We're starting off a little on the cool side this morning, as our temperatures dropped a couple of degrees below freezing for the first time in a few days (I know, we're spoiled here in the South). The cows milked pretty good over the weekend and continued to do so this morning.

For the last couple of weeks we've had our 30 freshest 1st lactation cows (in other words, cows who have recently had their first calf) segregated from the rest of the herd. We've been feeding them dairy feed and dry bermudagrass hay, and they have really improved their milk production and body condition. Grouping based on age/size and stage of lactation is a common practice within the dairy industry, but we simply have not had the facilities to do it efficiently except on a small scale. Once we build our new feeding barn...and I'm expecting to talk with contractors this week...we should be able to split the milking herd into at least two groups and design a feeding program that is targeted to the needs of each specific group.

Anyway, I'm about finished with my breakfast so that means it's time to quit blogging about farming and go out there and actually do it. If you haven't do so already, make sure you check out the AFBF's new consumer info section on their website, YourAg. Have a great morning!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Be a Fan

While I'm still relatively new to the Facebook scene, I have created a profile for Gilmer Dairy Farm. Check it out, and consider becoming a fan!

On an unrelated note, I have more evidence that we in agriculture must constantly educate the public about what we do and about what agriculture is all about. Someone landed on our farm website today after typing this into a search engine: "do male cows have udders". Wow!

It's good to be home again

After being on the road for two outstanding conferences, the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Conference in Sacramento and DFA's Grazing Conference in Memphis, it is really good to be home again. We're going to have great farming weather today...mild temperature, calm wind, and lots of sunshine. Speaking of sunshine, it's really making the green, growing grass in the field across from my house sparkle this morning.

I'm thinking we'll spend a good bit of time fence building this morning, but you never know with certainty what may come your way on a dairy farm. Hopefully we'll avoid any "Friday the 13th" bad luck.

I hope you are all as excited to get to work as I am and have as good of a day as I'm intending to have.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A good meeting in Memphis

I'm up in my room at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis during a long break of what's so far been a very good conference. My dairy cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America, is sponsoring the event to give producers more information about the opportunities that are available in a grazing-based system.
I doubt Gilmer Dairy Farm converts its forage management to an intensive grazing model, but I do see a lot of room for growth in the area. I think we could definitely find some ways to incorporate more managed grazing into our overall feed and management strategy.
The meeting will be resuming in a few minutes, and we'll have a networking dinner afterwards with another morning session tomorrow. I'll be back home about this time tomorrow I suspect.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Home for a night

I'm back home from the Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Conference in Sacramento, and must say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I was able to attend several sessions/workshops, and learned some valuable tips on subjects ranging from advocacy to economics to organization. I even learned a couple of other things, like never leg wrestle a South Dakotan without properly stretching first (thanks, Troy).

The best part of a Young Farmers and Ranchers conference, though, is the relationships you develop with other folks from all around the country. And regardless of the differences in our operations, we're all tied together by a strong work ethic, the determination to be successful, and a dedication to provide our nation with the very best products we can produce. I promise you, being around the best and brightest of your peers will certainly recharge your batteries and get you ready to take on the myriad of challenges that we are and will be faced with.

I'll put in a brief appearance on the farm tomorrow morning to put out our milking herd's TMR feed and do a little catch-up on paperwork. Then it's off to Memphis for a grazing conference sponsored by Dairy Farmers of America. I'll be back Thursday afternoon and should be back in my "regular" routine on Friday.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Live from Sacramento

It's been a few days since I've been able to blog. I've had internet connection problems at home, and it's been a struggle just to download my email.
Anyway, everything has gone well at the farm. Since I last posted we've had a rather "routine" week. We also had a veterinarian out to the farm on Friday to do a routine herd check.
I'm now off the farm and will be for several days. I'm currently attending the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Conference in Sacramento, California. I'll be flying home on Tuesday, and will be turning right around on Wednesday to drive to a grazing conference in Memphis.
I'll try to get a post or two in here or there, but until then remember to keep dairy products an essential part of your healthy, balanced diet!

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Damp Start to the Week

We're starting this week out on a damp note, as about an inch of rain has fallen since a little before 3am. We should see the sky start to clear within the next hour, but our working conditions will be pretty muddy today. On the bright side, this rain will make it easier to dig holes for the ten trees I intend on planting around our yard this week.

I suspect I'll spend most of my time this morning hauling and distributing hay. All of our dry cows and heifers will be needing fresh bales in their pastures. We'll also be hauling more baleage out of our storage yard to have on hand for grinding in our feed wagon.

I'm taking off this afternoon so I can accompany my wife to her doctor. He's ordered an ultrasound be done today to see if perhaps our baby will be coming sooner than expected. Right now we're looking at the first of April, but from the way it sounds that could get bumped up a couple of weeks. I suppose we'll have a better idea later today.