Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday farm tidbits

Happy Friday and happy June Dairy Month everyone!  Here are a few tidbits about what's been happening on and around Gilmer Dairy Farm:

It's HOT, Man! - The weather around here has been brutal this week as we've seen record-breaking temperatures push into the upper 90s with afternoon heat indexes well over 100.  We're running 8-10 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year, and trust me when I say you can definitely feel the difference.  The cows are feeling it too, despite our best efforts to keep them as cool as possible with fans & sprinklers. More on this in a moment.

the official drought is still to our south
It's DRY, too! - We aren't officially under drought conditions according to the latest US Drought Monitor, but we are eight days past our last rain and have only received a total of 0.4" over the past three weeks.  The soil moisture in our bottom land is still good enough to get our corn growing thanks to a wet winter and spring, but our fertilized hayfields and pastures are basically doing nothing.  We also can't begin planting our forage sorghum crop until we get enough rain to soften the soil.  If there is a bright spot in the dry weather, it is that it's better for the cows. Why? Throw in lots of moisture with this kind of heat, and cows will wallow-out mud holes in the pasture and run a higher risk of mammary infections.

the milk decline is udderly depressing
Milk production is FALLING! - The cows seem to be producing less and less milk every day. The heat is a major factor, but there are a couple of other factors as well. We're entering the summer with the youngest herd (based on avg. lactation number) we've had in 5 years, so our overall potential production isn't quite as high as it would be with older cows. Also, we have the highest average days-in-milk and days-pregnant we've had in 60 months. This means that an average cow in our herd has been milking for over seven months, is 5 months pregnant, and her milk production would naturally be in decline. The heat stress and related loss of feed intake (like most of us, cows don't eat as much when they're hot) speeds up that decline.  Our milking herd currently stands at 186 cows and will continue to shrink to 165-170 until we begin "freshening" more cows than we dry off sometime mid-Summer.

Nutrient & Pest Management - The dry weather has given an opportunity to spread fertilizer on hayfields and kill weeds in a few pastures earlier this week. The last couple of days we've been working on building a 3-point hitch mount for our 30-foot sprayer boom. If all goes well it will be field-ready by the end of the day, and I'll spend much of next week applying a post-emerge rate of Atrazine in our corn fields and glyphosate in our sorghum fields.

me & my boy
Tee-Ball & Graduation - In the "farm family" category, there are a few things that are coming to an end.  School is now out for the summer, so my wife will enjoy being able to stay home for a couple of months. On a side note, I hope this also means that I get a better quality lunch everyday for the next couple of months!  Secondly, our twice-weekly trips to the ball field will be on hold until next spring now that our 5 year old's tee-ball season is over. I had a lot of fun helping coach his team, and it was gratifying to see how much he and his friends improved over the past couple of months. Best of all (and most importantly at their age), the kids seemed to have fun from start to finish. And finally, our son will "graduate" from pre-school tonight, which just happens to be the 11th anniversary of mine & my wife's first date. I'll tell you what, time sure does fly when you're having fun!

I hope you all have a great weekend, and that the weather is agreeable to you wherever you are. Don't forget to celebrate June Dairy Month by enjoying lots and lots of nutritious, delicious dairy products!  And remember...there's only one more week to enter our farm's Milk Mustache Contest.  We've had some great winning photos in the past, and expect the same this year.  If your kid loves milk and you think he or she has what it takes to be our Milk Mustache "poster child" for the next year, hurry up and grab your camera, pour one more cold glass of milk, and get some photos coming my way!


Paul said...

Typical weather. You're drying up, we are under water. We can't get planting done. Rains every few days. Major floods heading our way again. Wish I could divert some your way.

Will Gilmer said...

@Paul - If you can figure out how to do that, mark me down for a couple of inches over a couple of days!

Viki Benefield said...

We'd have to get a little rain to even be dry... We're in a dust bowl here... And the cow & I both hate it...