Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Water 'n Poo: a retrospective

It was a beautiful late-September day in 2009, and the air was alive with the sounds and smells of the dairy farm. I was engaged in the rather monotonous job of filling our honeywagon up with manure at our storage tank, discharging it on hay fields, and returning for another round. With no working radio in the tractor to distract me from my boredom, I began to entertain myself by making up song lyrics describing what I was doing. As word after word, line after line started coming together to an old country music tune, I realized that I was crafting something that could potentially entertain and educate people about what I was doing in the field that day. After a couple of hours of  thoughtful composition and rehearsal I pulled into a field with a full load, pulled out my smartphone, pressed the "record" button on its video camera, and the rest is history.

Three years later, I just smile and shake my head when I think about "Water 'n Poo". While I thought a few people might enjoy the novelty of it, I never expected it to be more popular than the other farm videos I had posted in the previous months. And while it easily accounts today for far more "views" than any other video I have ever published, the statistics aren't the measuring stick by which  I gauge its impact.

I cannot tell you how many times I've been asked, "You're that Water 'n Poo guy, aren't you?"...I swear I've met at least a quarter of the people who have seen it! I have been told many times via text and Twitter (as recently as today, in fact) that so-and-so was showing it as part of his or her presentation to such-and-such group. And I figure it is at least indirectly responsible for half of the interview and speaking requests I've received since I published it. So for better or worse, me and that video are pretty well tied together in people's minds.  And based on the feedback I've received, it's been relatively successful in accomplishing the two primary goals of all of my videos: showing folks the good things that are happening on my farm and encouraging other farmers to do the same. 

For all the attention "Water 'n Poo" has brought my way, it has about run its course and will eventually reside in that dusty corner of the internet where it will only be seen by folks who accidentally happen upon it. I'm afraid it doesn't have enough "depth of message" to enjoy the same staying power of some farm videos or the glitzy production value and mainstream appeal of some others. But it is what it is: raw, simple, and genuine. It reminds me of a time when using social media seemed more like an exciting exploration than a routine obligation, and I had a blast making it! I want to thank all you folks who have taken 2 minutes and 32 seconds out of your busy lives to watch it, and I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about nutrient management along the way.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chopping & Baling

Heavy rain earlier this week forced us to shut down our harvesting for a couple of days, but we're back in business on two fronts: sudex and bermudagrass.

We started harvesting the sudex (sorghum-sudangrass) on Monday morning, hitting the field just an hour before the rain started falling. Harvesting this tall, thin, and densely-planted crop requires it to be mowed with a hay conditioner before being run through the silage chopper (as we're doing) or hay baler. Timing wise, it's providing us with a transition crop between the June-planted forage sorghum we finished harvesting last week and the almost-ready-to-harvest sorghum we planted in July. We resumed chopping on Wednesday, and should finish with the sudex either Monday or Tuesday of next week before switching back to sorghum.

We're also in the hay fields this week. Early Friday afternoon of last week we started noticing an unusually high number of crows flying around. Upon further investigation, our worst fears were confirmed: army worms! We decided we wouldn't be able to spray quickly enough to avoid major damage, so my father and I cut four hay fields Friday night and Saturday morning. As expected, Monday's rain came before the hay could dry enough to bale, but we "fluffed" it to dry it out yesterday. Lots of sunshine and low humidity did the trick, and we're raking and baling half this evening and the other half tomorrow afternoon. 

If you'd like a couple of more details click "play" on our latest GDF MooTube Minute below. And just one quick little note about our cows, we're currently milking 163 after the latest round of calvings/dry-offs/culls. I'm gonna go roll up some hay bales now...y'all have a "dairy" good evening!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Finished with the corn silage harvest

I disengaged the silage chopper as a dump truck carried out the last load of corn silage from our bottomland at 3:00pm this afternoon. After 74 loads cut off of 45 acres over the course of 15 days, I was glad to finally be able to close the book on the 2012 corn crop.

chopping corn silage
When considering what many other farmers across the country have suffered through this summer, I shouldn't be too disappointed with the result. After all, a marginal crop is much, much better than no crop at all. But it really was a sub-par yield for us, probably around 75% of our average yield and only 60% of last year's exceptional crop. Taking 15 calendar days to get in 6 actual days of harvesting (due to rain/wet ground) certainly didn't help the forage quality either, as the last third of the crop had matured and dried down significantly by the time we could chop it.  As I said though, it's not great but it is something. The crop didn't burn up to a complete loss due to drought, and it wasn't so wet in the bottom that we couldn't harvest it at all (as was the case with our sorghum in '09). 

fully-harvested corn field
So now we turn our harvesting attention squarely to our forage sorghum, and then on to sudex and bermudagrass hay. Will we go into the winter carrying as much total forage as last year? I dunno...I kind of doubt it. But we'll do the best we can with what we have to keep our cows and heifers healthy and happy, all so we can continue to provide you with high-quality milk and keep on doing what we love.  It's not always easy, but it's worth the fight!