Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Thankfulness

I have many, many things to be thankful for and know I have been blessed beyond measure. I have a great family, make a comfortable living doing what I love, and have a strong faith in God. I don't know if there are enough hours in the day for me to fully count my blessings and name them one by one as the old hymn instructs.

Other than trying to list all the things I'm thankful for on this blog post, I'll simply give you one that's proved to be very important today. I am thankful that our farmhands (and my brother-in-law) wanted to come work on the farm this morning.  Otherwise, my dad and I would still be trying to dismantle and remove this old, collapsed roof off of the cows' feed trough.

We spent several hours on Wednesday tearing out the old wooden trough underneath this roof and replacing it with the concrete bunks you see in the photo. The roof's bracing was weakened in the process, but we thought it would stay in place until we could tear it down next week. We were wrong, as the photo clearly shows.  Luckily (or "thankfully") none of our cows were injured when it fell last night.

It took the five of us about two hours (and two tractors,  three chains, a sledgehammer, crowbars, and a chainsaw) to break the roof into pieces and clear it out of the way. I hope by this time tomorrow I can be thankful for no flat tractor or feed wagon tires due to old nails that we might not have gotten up.

Before I sign off, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one more thing I'm thankful for, and that's all of you. Thank you for being interested enough to read about what happens on my family's farm, and more importantly thank you for your overall support of American farmers.

May God bestow his richest blessings upon you and your family, today and always. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dedicated to Dairy

If you follow this blog, my twitter account, or our farm's facebook page, you probably understand that it takes a lot of dedication to be a successful dairy farmer. That dedication is not just about the amount of hours spent working as it extends to how carefully we care for and manage everything about our farm.  Our dedication to our cows, our milk, and our land has enabled our farm to operate for nearly sixty years, and that same dedication will allow us to continue dairying for as long as there are Gilmers who want to make their living on the farm.

All dairy farmers share the values of responsibility and good stewardship, and we all work hard to do the best we can with what we have been entrusted with.  And though our dedication and values are the same, we each have our own stories to tell.

Our regional dairy check-off program recently launched the "Dedicated to Dairy" campaign to help Southeastern dairy farmers give consumers a closer look at how and why we do what we do. The D2D website has lots of good information ranging from cow nutrition to milk quality to conservation. My favorite part of the website is the "Videos" section, where you can actually see and hear dairy families from around the Southeast talking about their farms and their dedication.  I highly recommend you check out the video of me and my father, as it is of much higher quality than what you're used to seeing on our YouTube channel!

I hope you'll spend some time perusing the Dedicated to Dairy website, and follow along on Facebook/Twitter so you'll know when new content is being added.  And, of course, don't forget to check out our own social media accounts or to learn how my family is dedicated to dairy: our cows, our milk, and our land.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Emergency Surgery in the Cow Pasture

This morning's after-breakfast "to do" list included feeding the heifers and dry cows, moving seven cows from the milking herd to the dry pasture, and replacing a small but crucial piece of equipment (a pulsator) in the milking barn.

Performing an emergency c-section wasn't on the list.

One of our dry cows didn't show up at the feed trough this morning. After searching for her for nearly an hour, we found her on the ground with rear leg paralysis. We helped her up with a front-end loader, but she could not stand under her own power. After working with her for a while, we all agreed that she had very little chance of recovery. She was in obvious distress and pain, and we decided the most humane course of action was to euthanize her.

our newly delivered calf enjoying its hay bed
The cow had been only three weeks away from her due date, so we quickly attempted a c-section.  We didn't have any equipment except for a utility knife, but that would prove to be good enough. My dad made the incisions, our two farmhands and I pulled, and in a matter of minutes we were loading a living, breathing calf into the back of the pickup truck. We got it back to the dairy, cleaned it up, laid it in a bed of hay, and fed it a half-gallon of colostrum milk. By the time we finished working today, it was doing as well as we would expect any newborn calf to be doing.

There are times you have to make decisions you would rather not have to make, and this morning was a prime example of that. But this time, at least, there was a silver lining in an otherwise dark cloud.

my dad looks down at the calf he delivered via c-section

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A long overdue farm update

A person might interpret my month-long hiatus from blogging as evidence that we've run out of things to do on the dairy farm. Well, I can assure you that is not the case. The days may be getting shorter, but we're cramming as much work into the daylight (and pre-dawn) hours as we possibly can. I'll try to catch you up on a few of the things that have been happening over the last couple of weeks.

heifers standing at their hayring
With summer pasture grasses now dormant and unavailable for grazing, our heifers and dry cows are receiving hay bales and mineral blocks in their pastures to supplement their pelleted feed.  Competition for forage is much higher around a hay ring than it is in an open pasture, so we've made sure all our heifers are grouped with others their own size. This will help prevent bigger heifers from "hogging" all the hay at the smaller heifers' expense.

Our milking herd climbed as high as 194 cows last week, but we've since dried off ten pregnant milkers and sent four low producing cows to the cattle sale. We still have several cows to dry off before the end of the month, and we won't be calving in more than we're drying off until mid-December. As it stands, I expect we'll climb to and surpass 200 cows in milk by the second week of January.

In addition to milking and herd management chores, we've had plenty to keep us busy out in the fields. I spent several days the week before last applying both slurry and N-sol fertilizer to fescue pastures. I've recently planted 50 ares of oats and ryegrass into the milking herd's spring grazing paddocks, and I hope to have an additional 90 acres of cropland planted in ryegrass by the end of next week.

I'll try to do a better job of keeping this blog updated through the winter, but remember to follow my Twitter account (@gilmerdairy) or "like" our farm's facebook page to keep up with the daily happenings on our family farm. As always, thanks for your time and have a "dairy" good day!