Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday morning breakfast bites

Good morning, everyone! I've been in from the dairy farm just long enough to eat a bowl of cereal (w/ milk, of course) and think I'll be able to catch you up on the latest happenings before I fall asleep in my office chair. So here we go...

The big news in the dairy industry this past week related to the release an undercover video filmed at a dairy in Ohio. Over the course of about a month from what I understand, one of the employees filmed another engaging in numerous acts of animal cruelty towards the cows and calves on the farm. Many of my fellow farm bloggers have expressed their disgust and outrage about the malicious treatment of the animals seen in the video. Many of them also point out that the person filming should have reported the employee in question sooner or at least stepped in to stop the abuse. Considering the video was released by a veganist animal rights group, I guess the videographer wanted to gather as much footage as possible to advance their agenda. The cows on that farm must have been considered "collateral damage" in their wider war against animal agriculture. I won't go much more into this because, as I said, several other like-minded folks have done an excellent job expressing their emotions on this issue. There's simply no excuse nor room for animal abuse. None. Period.

On a more positive note, it's been a fairly productive week on our farm. We've finished giving annual vaccination boosters to all of our animals, and we had the veterinarian over yesterday to determine pregnancies on about 100 head. Among the cows, 42 of 60 were pregnant which isn't bad considering several within the group have been historically hard to breed. We didn't fare as well with the heifers though, as only 19 of 36 were pregnant by AI breeding. These percentages are much lower than our last herd check, but if you average the two together I guess we'd be coming out about normal.

Finally, I had a neat opportunity this past Thursday evening as I was invited to deliver the commencement address at Lamar County High School's graduation ceremony. I was amazed at how many people were there for a class of only 45 graduates. I shouldn't have been though, because people in small communities really feel connected to events such as this, even if they don't have a friend or family member directly involved. I don't think it was the best speech I've ever written and my delivery had its share of flubs and flat spots, but it was well received and that's what matters. If you have 11 minutes to kill or need a cure for insomnia, you can download an mp4 audio file of the speech here.

Don't forget...there's only one week left for you to enter our annual Milk Mustache Contest!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gilmer Dairy Farm in the FNS Newsletter

Every month, a Food, Nutrition, & Science Newsletter is published by The Lempert Report. One of their monthly features is a Q&A with a farmer, which I was fortunate enough to be the subject of last month.

This month they have added a video feature in which a farmer walks the audience through a typical day on his or her farm. And, you guessed it, I'm the lucky guy this month.

I hope you'll check out my Q&A and video, and I encourage you to subscribe to the newsletter so you can learn about new farmers every month!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Vacationing" in Auburn

After a long week on the farm, I'm "vacationing" down in Auburn. Actually, I've been invited to participate in a discussion about social media and agriculture at the 2010 National Extension Technology Conference. I'll be talking about the how's and why's of "telling my story" and engaging the public about modern agriculture by using tools like this blog, my Twitter account, the farm's Facebook page, and my YouTube channel.

The session I'm participating in will wrap up around 10am tomorrow. Afterwards I may take a little time just to tour around the Auburn campus, which by most accounts is really nice (but it ain't no Mississippi State). Hopefully things will work out to have lunch with one of my old high school friends who now lives in these parts (check out his blog!). I'll be heading home early afternoon, doing my best to avoid the rush hour nightmare from Hwy 280 all the way through to downtown Birmingham.

Even though two days does not a real vacation make, the break from the farm will give me a chance to catch my breath and get a little rest. I'm gonna need it, too, because we're going to be running just as hard as the weather will allow this week.

Monday, May 17, 2010

MooTube Minute: Crop Update

I took a few minutes this evening to film a new MooTube Minute, which takes a look at our corn and bermudagrass hay fields. Also, my son makes his video debut in a supporting role.

What to make of the Peterson video?

You may recall a couple of weeks ago I invited three of the candidates for Alabama's Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries to submit a guest post on the topic of their choosing. Of the three, Glen Zorn was the lone Democrat seeking the office, with Dorman Grace and John McMillan the front runners for the GOP nomination.

Absent (but not noticeably judging by the lack of inquiries) was long-shot candidate Dale Peterson, who is also running on the Republican ticket.

Well, Mr. Peterson's name recognition has gone WAY up thanks in part to this recently released campaign video:

What to make of this video? It's...interesting. Different, too, that's for sure. Without knowing the man personally it's hard for me to judge if this is an over-the-top act or his true persona (like comments on other sites claim it is). Is his Marine/cop/cowboy tough-guy approach genuine and does he think it would be an effective way to lead Alabama's Ag Dept. in helping create opportunities for the state's farmers and agribusinesses? Is this a "whoever makes the most noise will win" campaign tactic? Is it somewhere in the middle?

I'd love to know your take on it. If you're an Alabamian, does this video make you more or less likely to vote for him and why? And if you're one of my readers from beyond the borders of Alabama the Beautiful, does Mr. Peterson embody what you would like to have in an Ag Commissioner/Secretary?

And even though I doubt Mr. Peterson will be getting "The Dairyman's Blog" endorsement, I'd be tickled to death to have just 1% of his video views on my next MooTube Minute!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hump Day Farm Update

There's less than an hour left in Wednesday, so let me quickly catch you up to speed on what's been happening:
  • We've had three heifers give birth to their first calves this week. Their addition to the milking herd gives us 205 going through the barn twice a day.
  • After Monday's rain pushed everything back, we finally finished baling and wrapping our wheat and ryegrass. We yielded out 201 bales on roughly 20 acres...not bad!
  • We have a thin 7 acre patch of ryegrass that we intend to dry bale tomorrow.
  • The co-op began spreading fertilizer and lime on our hay fields this afternoon.
  • And speaking of co-ops, you can read my post on the Capper-Volstead Act and agricultural cooperatives on the Farm Bureau blog
Time to grab the milk jug and take a big swig before I crawl into bed. Have a "dairy" good night everyone!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The week that was, the week(s) to come

We managed to do a little field work this week. Specifically, we had two disks running in our fields down in the Yellow Creek bottom. They guys ran Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, turning about 33 of the 48 acres. If we can manage to get through tonight with little or no rain, the remaining ground will probably be dry enough to disk by mid-week and we could possibly be planting corn down there by week after next. If the rainfall doesn't work in our favor, we'll most likely plant sorghum-sudangrass down there sometime in June.

Last year we lost our entire forage sorghum crop down in those fields. The steady rain that fell through September kept us from being able to get into the field, and by the time it might have dried enough to do so the sorghum had already died and lodged. These fields generally provide our best yields due to the ground's ability to retain moisture throughout the summer, and we're hoping that will hold true this year.

We also have about 30 acres of wheat and ryegrass to harvest this coming week. I'll be cutting 8 acres worth of once-grazed ryegrass tomorrow and we anticipate dry baling it on Monday. The remainder will be harvested as baleage.

Our bermudagrass hay fields will be getting a good dose of lime and fertilizer next week as well, so we should be baling some good-quality dry hay by the first week of June.

And lest I forget about our animals...we have 201 cows currently milking, and we will be implementing fly control and giving annual vaccination boosters throughout the whole herd over the next few weeks.

New Leadership for a New Decade...guest blog by Glen Zorn

We all hear political rhetoric about how government needs to be downsized and red tape reduced, and it’s something you should expect from leadership. But during the past few years we’ve already downsized the Department, and it will probably shrink even more as long as our state’s economy suffers and the state’s budget remains tight. I intend to look for ways to eliminate duplication of services between what we do and what other agencies do, as well as partnering with our colleges and universities to get the job done.

However, there are some things we do at that we shouldn’t be willing to throw away for the sake of reducing government. For example, we check to make sure that the scale at the grocery store cash register is calibrated to weigh your meats and vegetables; we inspect gas stations to make sure you are getting your dollar’s worth; we license your pest control companies. Are we really willing to sacrifice the sense of security we have as consumers for the sake of “reducing government”

We have fought the battles of food labeling – so you would know where your food comes from; we stopped fish and consumer products from entering this country because of harmful ingredients and chemicals; we expanded trade of Alabama agricultural products around the globe; we championed the development and use of alternative fuels in this state when no one else was talking about ethanol and bio-diesel. I don’t think we can or should stop doing those things that help every consumer in this state every day.

There is something I will breathe new life into – and that’s learning how to manage our water resources. It is going to take some bold leadership. It will take input from production agriculture, from agribusiness and from consumers. We have enough water; we need to learn how to make it available when we need it. I have made this the centerpiece of my campaign. If we can put a man on the moon, as we did more than 40 years ago, surely we can figure out how to manage our water resources!

With 40 years experience in business, some great years giving back to my community as mayor, and serving in the capacity I have at the Department, I’m ready for the job of Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries in 2010 and I ask for your support.

Thank you.


bio (provided): I’ve been a farmer nearly all my adult life; my brothers and I own an agribusiness in Covington County which includes one of the only privately operated grain elevators in Alabama. We raise peanuts, cotton and pine trees – and we understand what it means to compete. I was elected to two terms as mayor of my hometown, Florala, and I’ve served as Deputy and Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries for the last seven years. I’m ready to lead our state as Commissioner.

As Assistant Commissioner I have been director of The Center for Alternative Fuels, Light Weights & Measures, Heavy Weights & Measures and Plant Protection divisions within the Department. I have been a Certified Crop Advisor for decades. I know agriculture, I know the Department, I will lead us into the next decade. I ask for your support in November.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Making the Connection...guest post by Dorman Grace

As Commissioner, I’ll make the department work for farmers and small businesses by cutting regulations and red tape. I’ll protect our farms, wildlife, environment, rural areas, and if elected as the Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries I will lead the department in an effort to help Alabama’s farmers keep the agricultural industry viable. The agricultural industry makes significant contributions to Alabama in several areas…
  • Economy
  • Labor force
  • Food supply
  • Environmental quality
  • and Quality of life.
Because of these factors, we know that the public generally holds positive views about agriculture, but fails to understand its issues or see how it relates to their daily lives. That's where I want to make a change. It's up to us, as professionals in agriculture and its supporting industries, to help make that connection for the benefit of all Alabamians.

It is time for Alabama’s agricultural industry to speak with one voice, communicating messages that directly affect us all, both as farmers and the general public. This effort will be a key to raising awareness and motivating action. I want to ensure that the public understands that today’s farmers are businessmen; they have to be able to understand farm economics and farm politics.

I want to help the general public understand that they as consumers only spend about a dime of each dollar they earn for food and of that dime the farmer gets to keep less than a penny. Eight cents goes for processing, transportation, packaging, and advertising. The other penny goes for purchased inputs. We need to get the message across that farmers are price-takers in the marketplace. We produce standardized commodities, and have no influence over the prices we receive. One farmer’s wheat is the same as another’s, which means that no farmer can get a price higher than any other. Therefore, we need to help the general public understand that our profitability must increase or the nation and the state will face the ugly truth that we will be importing our food from other countries.
With this campaign we will bring a greater awareness of Alabama farmers’ hard work and achievements, stronger backing of our needs for growth, and a more secure future for our industry. Our future depends on it.

Bio (provided): [website] My name is Dorman Grace and I’m a third-generation family farmer, not a career politician. I live on my Walker County farm with my wife, Susan, and two sons where we farm poultry, cattle and timber. I am running for Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries because I want to use my 30 years of experience as a successful agri-businessman to reduce spending, cut regulations, protect our food supply, and create new jobs in the agricultural industry. The state’s largest agricultural group, the Alabama Farmers Federation, has endorsed me. So with the support of our state’s farmers and the ability to earn the support of the general public I believe I am the best choice for the next Commissioner of Agriculture in Alabama. I would appreciate your support and your vote.

Conserving Alabama's Water Resources: guest blog by John McMillan

One of the issues I have stressed during my campaign for Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries has been the need for more conservation and planning related to Alabama’s water resources.

We have taken the ample supply of water in our state for granted. This can no longer be the case as we face threats to our water supply from neighboring states as well as demands created by population growth, farming, manufacturing, and from other freshwater consumption.

Unlike some forms of energy, water does not have substitutes. We must take steps to better measure our water usage and educate our consumers on volume and cost.

There are also great opportunities available for water conservation in the area of treating wastewater. Great savings can be obtained by focusing efforts on recycling wastewater on-site at points of high-volume usage rather than moving these waters off-site for treatment.

Water conservation can be improved by monitoring soil moisture in urban parks, golf courses, and farm irrigation systems.

Another area for conservation of our water resources is in developing crops that need less water than current seed strains. Steps can be taken to avoid crops that are more moisture demanding in some areas of the state.

Alabama is also positioned to take advantage of our salt water access as desalination becomes more economically feasible.

As our state becomes more and more “thirsty” we need elected officials who will provide reasoned leadership in addressing the water issue to avoid unpleasant consequences and assure Alabama consumers, agribusiness, manufacturers, and recreational users of safe, economical and adequate water resources.

As Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries I will work to initiate the planning and conservation steps needed to address water resources through working with the Governor, legislature, state agencies, and other stakeholders.

Our campaign website ( provides information on other important issues the next commissioner will face. I hope you will review my qualifications and positions and “hire” me with your vote and support to lead the department.

bio (excerpts from website): Alabama has been home to my family for six generations, and I am blessed with a legacy of strong people who have worked the land and enjoyed the many natural resources our state has to offer. My wife Kathryn and I met in high school and, this past July, celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary. We have two sons, Murphy and William, and our wonderful daughter-in-law Beth. Murphy and Beth are the parents of our two grandchildren, El, 11 and John, 6, who continue to amaze us and make us proud. My life’s work has centered on agri-business, forest products, wildlife protection, natural resource management and the protection of private property rights. I love hunting, fishing and enjoying God’s good earth. And, one of my great joys now, is guiding young John toward the same love of the outdoors.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Guest Blogs by Ag Commish Candidates

One of the most important, and maybe most overlooked, positions within the State of Alabama is that of Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries. The Commissioner and his Department aren't only responsible to the agricultural producers of our state, but to all consumers as well. Ag promotion, alternative fuels, animal health, and food inspection and safety are just a few of the many issues and responsibilities handled by the Dept. of Ag & Industries.

With so much attention this election season going towards the races for Governor, Attorney General, and others, I thought I would try to do something that would hopefully get people to stop and think for a moment about the Commissioner's race. A couple of weeks ago I invited the three leading candidates for the position to submit a guest post for my blog on an issue of their choosing. They have all been gracious enough to take time out of their campaigns to contribute an article. It is my hope that reading their comments on my blog will lead you to visit their websites to learn more about who they are and the positions they hold on other issues.

The guest blogs will be published as written (with additional biographical info added) and in the order in which I received them. John McMillan will be the featured guest on Tuesday, with Dorman Grace following on Wednesday. According to The Alabama Line, these two gentlemen are the front runners for the Republican Party's nomination heading into the June 1 primary. Glen Zorn, the lone Democrat seeking the position, will be featured on Friday*.

Please return on Tuesday to read Mr. McMillan's thoughts, and then do the same on Wednesday for Mr. Grace's. I hope you will share these guest blog posts with your friends, and I encourage you to add your thoughts and comments about what these gentlemen have to say.

Have a "dairy" good day!
*logistical issues will prevent Mr. Zorn's article from appearing apologies to all.

I am dairyman Will Gilmer, and I approved this message.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Spring silage harvest...done.

We filled up a silage pit last week with about 63 acres worth of chopped rye, and so this week we prepared another pit and set out to harvest our remaining 17 acres.

We started mowing the rye down on Tuesday afternoon and put the chopper in the field late Wednesday morning. After only about 3 acres, my father (who was operating the chopper) started noticing an out-of-place squeaking noise. After investigating, he found that we had a bearing on the verge of going out. To remedy the situation, he poked a hole in the bearing's seal and injected oil into it with a syringe and needle after every couple of loads. That seemed to do the job, and he was able to keep the chopper going the rest of the day.

We weren't quite as lucky on Thursday. After three acres with five more to go, a different bearing locked up and ended our chopping for the day. We decided to hook up the hay baler and the wrapper so we could harvest the remaining rye as baleage.

All told, we averaged harvesting seven tons of rye per acre (at 68% moisture). The silage is sealed up in both pits and should be ready to be fed to our cows once our sorghum silage from last Fall runs out in 3-4 weeks. I think we should have plenty of rye silage to last until we have harvested our corn and it is ready to feed early this Fall.

If you'd like to see what our recently planted cornfields are looking like and hear a little more about our rye harvest, you can check out this GDF MooTube Minute below: