Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Back from Chicago, rested and recharged

My wife and I returned home last night after a five day visit to Chicago with the AFBF's Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. And boy-oh-boy was it a getaway I needed! While there was plenty of committee business to attend to while in Chicago, it was a nice break from the day-in, day-out dairy routine. In addition to the business discussed, team building exercises, and public relations training, we also had time to take in a White Sox game, tour Case IH facilities in Racine, look out upon the city from the observation deck of the Willis (Sears) Tower, and visit the CME Group in the historic Chicago Board of Trade building.

The highlight of the trip though was developing and deepening relationships with others who share a love and passion for agriculture and are committed to advancing its cause. We all face challenges, some shared and some unique to our own farms or ranches, but the "good vibes" that are generated when groups such as this come together give you the energy you need to keep on pushing forward.

I'm back on the farm now where low milk prices and unpredictable weather will cause plenty of headaches for the foreseeable future, but I'm back well rested and with a recharged battery. Whatever challenges might come this way will be overcome, and I've never been happier to share my story or do what I can to help others share theirs. American agriculture is on solid ground and is moving towards an even brighter future thanks to the grit, determination, and innovation of farmers and ranchers all across this country, and I for one am proud to be counted in their number.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer in full swing

Hello, blog readers. Nice to see you. It's been a long time!

The last couple of weeks have really been something. We've just about got our sorghum crop in the ground and plan on planting the last 38 acres today or tomorrow. We'll be looking to cut and chop the sorghum for silage sometime in mid-to-late September and start feeding it to the cows in November. We don't have the best stand of sudex, but what's there looks pretty good. I'm hoping we'll have those two fields paddocked by this time next week so we can begin strip grazing the milk cows early in the mornings before the heat gets to bad.

We've also been dealing with our first bermuda hay of the season. Last week we cut and baled 35 acres that yielded six 750lb. bales per acre. We cut our remaining 32 acres yesterday and will have it baled up, equipment willing, by the end of the week.

The cows have been up and down over the last two weeks. We had a few days of really high humidty that really put a strain on their production, but last week the humidity was down and the cows responded positively. Even though we have areas that use fans and sprinklers to keep the cows cool, they are still subject to heat-stress since they aren't in a confinement system. They typically leave the pasture to come to the fans around mid-morning, but in the evenings they usually return to pasture by 5:00. We're set for some real scorching weather over the next few days, so it'll be interesting to see if the cows decide to spend a little more time in the barn.

The state of the dairy economy still isn't very good. In fact, "still isn't very good" paints a very rosey picture compared to reality. Most of us who dairy for a living are just trying to hold on to the rope right now, controlling costs on our farms the best we can as we try to survive this Death Valley of low income/high expense. I suspect there will be some changes made within our industry to try to prevent this from happening again (at least to this extreme), but until then our best hope for recovery is you the consumer. Everytime you purchase dairy products you help us by helping yourself to a safe, nutritious, tasty food or beverage.

What does the future hold for the dairy industry? I don't think anyone really knows right now. But as far as Gilmer Dairy Farm is concerned, we're gonna keep on hammering away with good management, hard work, and prayer with the expectation that we'll eventually be able to see profitable days somewhere on the horizon.