Monday, August 27, 2012

Calving heavy and waiting on Isaac

Early last week our milking herd "bottomed out" at 140 cows. That number marked not only our lowest herd count of the summer but also of the past nine years. There are several reasons for the larger-than-normal summertime dip, including our decisions to send several older cows to the beef market this past Spring and to "dry off" some of our lower producing pregnant cows a little earlier than normal. We are seeing that number start to climb now, however, as we have come to the beginning of a long calving season.

Since last Wednesday, we've had six different cows and heifers calve and join the milking herd. Another 23 are due within the next two weeks, with another 20 due the second half of September. The fun doesn't stop there, though, as we expect near-steady calving activity through the early part of December. Yes, we'll still be drying off some cows and culling a few others along the way, but our climb back up to 200ish cows in milk has officially begun.

While we're keeping a close eye on the maternity pasture, we're also paying close attention to weather forecasts associated with soon-to-be Hurricane Isaac. Based on the current projections, it looks like the storm will be far enough west of us not to worry about any damage, but the rain associated with is a real issue. Our silage corn is ready to chop, and with a little luck we could be in the field harvesting sometime tomorrow...COULD be in the field. If mid-week looks to be a washout, there's really no point in trying to chop for a day with the expectation that we wouldn't be able to harvest again until next week. I have yet to see any rain forecasts agree on when we should expect it and how much we should expect to get, so our planning is currently stuck in neutral. Hopefully we'll have a clearer picture by tomorrow morning.

In closing, I'd like to ask that you continue to keep all of our country's farmers and ranchers in your prayers. Unfavorable weather, economics, politics, etc. have made it a difficult year for many, many farm families across America, and your support is needed and appreciated now as much as ever.

God bless, and have a "dairy" good day!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rain makes the crops grow

Timely and adequate rainfall over the past few weeks really helped our silage crops, hay fields, and pastures, even while much of the country is still suffering through one of the worst droughts in many years. 

After a slow start, the corn and forage sorghum we planted late-May/early-June has really come along and isn't too far away from being ready to chop for silage.  With 65 acres worth of hay planned to harvest over the next six weeks, we're only 60 round bales away from matching all of last year's total. And even though it still has a long way to go, the forage sorghum and sudex we planted in mid-July is off to a good start and should prove to be a good crop if we can get "normal" weather conditions over the next 2-3 months.

our forage sorghum is averaging between 6'-7' in height and is beginning to  head

we have a good stand of silage corn, though we're expecting it to yield less tonnage than last year

Flat Aggie's visit to Gilmer Dairy Farm

We had the honor of hosting a visitor named Flat Aggie a few weeks ago. If you have never heard of him, perhaps you have heard of his cousin, Flat Stanley. Flat Aggie is originally from California and is currently making a series of farm visits all across the country. In fact, he had just learned about cotton, peanuts, and poultry at Miller Farms in Boaz, Alabama, before coming our way.

I'd like to show you a few photos of Flat Aggie on our farm. As you will see, he made himself very useful and I'm glad to have had both his company and his assistance!

Flat Aggie endeared himself to me right from the start. We begin milking our cows at 3:00am each morning, and he already had a cup of coffee waiting for me the first morning of his visit.

In the milking parlor, Flat Aggie found a good spot where he could observe the whole process. He watched us clean and sanitize the cows' teats, attach the milking machines, and apply a protective dip to their teats once they were finished.

Before all the cows had been milked, Flat Aggie stepped out of the barn with me so we could put the cows' feed in their trough. We fed the cows a breakfast consisting of a mix of ryegrass silage, bermudagrass hay, and a corn/soy-based dairy feed.

After we had our own breakfast, The local large-animal veterinarian came to the farm to examine several cows for pregnancies. Flat Aggie had a good view of the Vet and his ultrasound machine.

Later on in the day, Flat Aggie and I prepared to apply herbicide to a field of forage sorghum. We didn't have any protective gear small enough to fit Aggie, so he had to stay in the tractor while I filled up the tanks.

Once we got to the field, Flat Aggie was a big help...I did the diving and he turned the sprayer switches on and off for me. We made quite the team!

Flat Aggie spent another couple of days visiting Gilmer Dairy Farm before heading off to the next stop on his grand adventure. I'm not sure where exactly he'll end up next, but he did mention that he would love to see a little bit of the Mississippi Delta now that he could check Lamar County, Alabama, off his list.

Safe travels, Flat Aggie!