Let’s Talk Sh*t

So my friend came over the other day to bake cookies with me. It was  basically just an excuse to get together and drink wine, but we ended up with a few batches of cookies.  I’m not much of a baker, so I stuck with the classic chocolate chip cookie.

I’m a wild one, alright.

My friend, Jill, brought ingredients to make what she calls, “Cow Pies”. It is a delicious chocolate cookie with a peppermint patty in the middle and, yes, it does resemble a cow pie.

This got my wheels turning….

“Hmmmm,” I thought to myself, “How can I share this recipe and relate it to dairy farming?”.

There was only one logical answer—-poop.

I’m going to give you the recipe for Cow Pie Cookies, but first we are going to quite literally talk sh*t.

Yup. Cow manure. My dad always said it smelled like money.

Why?

Because cow manure is very valuable to dairy farmers.  We capture the manure on our farm and reuse it as a natural fertilizer.  It is a great nutrient and it allows us to reduce our need for commercial fertilizers.  It is just one of the many practices farmers use to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

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You are probably wondering how I capture cow crap? Do I follow my cows around with a five gallon bucket? Not quite.

I’m not sure if you know this, but cows are not potty trained and they poop ALL over the place. So, three times a day -when the cows head to the milking parlor- we scrape away the manure in their pen.  We use a skidsteer and a giant scraper to push the poop toward our large holding pit.

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The manure is stored in the pit until the weather conditions allow us to spread it on a field.

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Timing and proper manure management is important when it comes to fertilizing fields.  We listen to the weatherman and avoid spreading manure when there is a possibility of rain.  Spreading on soggy fields or right before a rainstorm could result in manure runoff.

Nobody wants poop in their water.

We work with a professional who helps us evaluate our fields and determine how much manure to apply. The perfect amount of manure helps grow the crops we use to feed our cattle.

Now that we just finished talking about poop….who is ready for a cookie?!

These are quite simple to make and pretty tasty. My advice is to just plop them on the baking sheet and make them look like a cow pie to the best of your ability.

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Cow Pie Cookies

1 box of Devil’s Food Cake mix

2 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 box of peppermint patties

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease a baking sheet.

Mix the cake mix, eggs and oil in a large bowl to form a batter.

Wrap batter around the peppermint patty.

Bake for 9 minutes.

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When a Cow has a Baby: Part 1

You haven’t heard from me in awhile and are probably like, “MDFC, what’s the deal?”.  Here is the deal.  I have been working with someone to update the look and accessibility of my blog.  I was hoping to debut this post with my new look, but we hit a snag.  So, while we wait enjoy this post.

It is fairly well known that dairy farmers wear many hats.  They have a lot of tasks to tackle on a daily basis.  They have to be nutritionists, milkers, quaility control specialists, mechanics…the list goes on and on.  I do various things here at our family dairy farm, but my primary duty is to care for the cows that have just given birth and their newborn babies.

I know, it’s pretty cool.

So if we want to put a fancy title on this- because I like fancy names that make me sound really important-I guess you could say I am a dairy neonatal nurse.

I spend most of my time in what we call the “hospital barn”.  This barn includes two large pens that house the cows that are about to give birth and just gave birth.  It is important to the cows’ health that we keep a close eye on them for 2 weeks prior to calving and 2 weeks after calving.

This barn also includes several, smaller pens that are bedded with shavings and provide privacy for the cows in labor.  I keep a close eye on the momma-to-be and will assist her with the birth if needed.

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Once the calf has made its entrance into the world, I immediately step in.   I want to make sure the calf’s airway is clear of mucus and that he/she is breathing normally.  I then step back and wait to see if the mother will lick and dry the calf.

Most cows will begin to lick the calf due to the increased levels of hormones in their body and maternal instinct, but there are some cows who just don’t give a hoot about the baby.

They would rather just eat.

When this happens, I go back into the pen with the baby and mother and dry the calf off with a towel. It can be a wet, ooey-gooey job, but someone has got to do it.  I hear mucus is good for your skin…okay so that is just what I tell myself.

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Ya, you just go over and chow down, Bessie.  I got this.

My next task is to make sure the calf receives colostrum.  Colostrum is the mother’s first milking and provides the antibodies the calf needs to survive.  To ensure quality and consistency, we use a colostrum replacement.  It is important that the calf receives the colostrum within the first two hours of its life.

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Calves have a natural instinct to suckle and normally take to the bottle quickly.  It always amazes me how they just know to do that.

The momma is usually standing nearby as I feed the calf.  She may decide to eat or continue to lick the calf.  Occasionally, I find myself being licked.  Thanks, Bessie.

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After the calf is fed, I vaccinate her and dip her navel with iodine.  The iodine will protect the navel and dry out the umbilical cord so that it falls off naturally.  At this time, the calf also receives an eartag with an identification number.  This number will be entered into our computer system and help us track every event that this calf has throughout her life!

Now, we are not quite done with momma and baby.  There is still more work to do!  I hope you will stay tuned for When A Cow has a Baby: Part 2!

What is With All The Freakin’ Tires?

We have been preeeetty busy around here. We harvested our 4th crop of haylage the first week of September and soon after that we began corn silage harvest. Which is probably why you haven’t heard from me in awhile.

Well, that and my addiction to reality TV…I just cannot get enough of those housewives and the crazy things the say!

WIFE

If you cruise by our farm or just about any other dairy farm, you might notice big piles with white plastic and A LOT of tires. You are like, “What is with all the freakin’ tires?!”. Well, it is your lucky day because I’m going to tell you all about those dang tires!

On our farm, we grow and harvest hay and corn to feed our cattle. But it is not dry hay or shelled corn we are feeding the cattle, what we do is a little different.

I know….this isn’t a real exciting topic. Hay! Stay with me, I will try to add some corny jokes.

  • Haylage is produced by chopping hay at a high moisture level and sealing it air tight to allow fermentation to occur.
  • Corn silage is produced by chopping the entire stalk of corn and sealing it air tight to allow fermentation to occur.

The harvest process is pretty similar for both haylage and corn silage. Both plants are chopped and blown into dump-like trucks or wagons and then transported to the farm’s feed storage area. It takes quite a few trucks to keep up with the chopper, so there is usually a bit more traffic around our farm during harvest.

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During corn silage harvest, it is important to watch out for “stalkers”.

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I promised you corny jokes, didn’t I?

When the feedstuff gets to the farm, the truck driver dumps the load in a pile and then returns to the field for the next load. We use three, large tractors to sculpt and pack the feed into a pretty, little pile.

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Actually, it’s not little at all. It ends up being a pretty BIG pile.

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It is important to pack the silage to prevent mold and spoilage.

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It is long, tedious work, but we want the best for Bessie, so we keep on packin’!

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Once we are all done and the pile is nicely packed, the plastic and tires come into play. We cover the finished pile with a sheet of white plastic with an oxygen barrier and then tires, side-by-side, on the entire surface. In the absence of oxygen, the feed ferments and mold growth is kept to a minimum. A tight seal is key to quality feed!

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Years past, dairy farmers stored their haylage and corn silage in upright silos (vertical storage). Now, a majority of dairy feed is stored in drive-over feed piles, bunker silos or plastic bags (horizontal storage). The learning curve of experience has taught us that in order to maintain feed quality during storage, we need weight (tires) on the entire plastic-covered surface of a feed pile.

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If you are ever looking for a good workout, come hang out with me when it is time to cover the pile. I’m basically a tire-throwin’ machine.

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A concern is that tires that hold water are a perfect breeding habitat for some species of mosquitoes. We manage our tires to eliminate water collection in the tires, thereby interrupting mosquito egg and larva development into adult mosquitoes.

All of our tires have a sidewall removed, so when we position them on a feed pile, they don’t hold water for mosquitoes to breed in. When the tires pulled off the piles at feeding, they are stacked open side wall down, to prevent them from holding water.

We finished covering the corn silage pile Tuesday evening and I am pretty jazzed that my tire throwin’ days are over for the year. It is always a good feeling when the job is complete and you can relax!

Drinks taste best when you are sweaty, dirty and attracting flies.

pile

Oh, wait.

What’s that? We are going to start making 5th crop haylage tomorrow?

Sigh.

Alright, let me go get my work gloves……

A Wild Morning

Most of my mornings can be summed up with the words “coffee” and “cow pies”, but this morning was something else.  A wild morning, if you will. While some days can be tough, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


Here is a little glimpse into my life as a farm chick:

5:15- Alarm goes off, I immediately hit snooze. Pretty typical.  I never use to be a snooze button person; I blame my husband for this habit.

5:23-Alarm goes off, I actually get out of bed.

5:24-Walk like a zombie to the coffee. Drink it.

5:27-Open the fridge and find nothing to eat, damn.

5:28-Open the pantry and find nothing to eat, damn.

5:29: Decide I will just drink coffee for breakfast and eat double at lunch. I like lunch food better anyway.

5:30-Try and tame my hair that is a wild mess from going to sleep with a wet head.

5:40-Decide it’s pointless and just get dressed. #Can’tTameThisMane

6:00-Arrive at the farm and am greeted by my dog who is only being cute because he is hungry and wants to be fed.

6:05-Discover that we have a cow that fell down while giving birth and cannot get back up. I jump in the skidsteer and help my husband maneuver the cow into the bucket of the skidsteer. We move her onto a patch of grass and give her plenty of fluids, feed and TLC. We hope she will get up on her own soon.

  
6:20- I bring fresh feed to the hospital barn and make my husband shovel it all into the manger.

6:30- Head out to the calf hutches to paste the three newest calves. They had just eaten breakfast, so they didn’t squirm much. It was an easy job today. You can read more about how and why we dehorn calves here.

6:40- Walk to the back row of hutches to help my mother-in-law finish bedding calves. Realize I lucked out because she only has four left. Yahtzee.

7:00- Move a newborn bull calf out of the calving pen and into a pen of his own.  He is a big son of a gun, but its nothing these pipes of mine can’t handle.

7:10- Make the list of cows that will recieve rBST today. Yup, we use rBST. You can read more about that here.

7:17- Grab the list of cows that need to be dried up today and track down my husband.

7:20-Find my husband. He is drenching a fresh cow (cow that recently gave birth) with fluids and isn’t ready to sort cows yet, so I begin turning on all the fans in the barn.  Feels like its going to be a hot one today.

7:25-Notice I am being followed by a heifer in heat. I try to lose her, but she’s too quick. She licks my pants while I’m turning on fans and rips a bigger hole in my jeans. I take out my phone and snapchat this ordeal to my friends.

  
7:30-My husband and I sort out the cows that need to dried off and take them to the milking parlor.

7:46-Realize the cows we just sorted are running around outside because someone left the gate open. Are you kidding me?!

7:47- I start running after the cows with my husband, in-laws and other employees.

…30 seconds later….

Stop running and just begin walking really fast because I am out of shape and don’t run.

8:10-Finally get all the cows wrangled and back into the barn.

8:17-Get a little mad at my husband for something stupid.

8:18-I get over it because my husband is a cool dude and life is too short to stay mad.

8:20-We vaccinate and milk the dry cows one last time before sending them on “maternity leave” at the farm down the road. We will bring them back in 50-60 days when they are ready to calve.  What to know what to expect when your cow is expecting? Read this old post.

8:40- I throw on a little Miranda Lambert to calm my nerves and make a list of cows that will need to have their hooves trimmed tomorrow.

9:00-Help my husband sort a cow that needs to be bred.

9:10-Stroll on over to the calf hutches to vaccinate calves.

9:15-Get calf crap on my freshly washed jeans. Aaaargh!

  
9:30-Check on the down cow. She drank all her water and ate all her feed so I give her some more. This is a good sign and I’m feeling hopeful that she will be on her feet soon.

9:40- Enter my calf vaccinations into the computer and begin gagging because the calf crap on my pants is engulfing our small office with a rancid smell.

9:50-Realize I’m hungry ( which seems odd due to the gawd-awful smell radiating off of my jeans) I hope my hunger doesn’t turn into hanger (hunger+anger).

10:00 Call my sister to tell her how crazy this morning has been.

10:10- Do a walk through and see what is going on. Notice things seem to be slowing down. Cows seem happy, calving pens are clean, cows are being milked, dogs are basking in the sun. 

Life is good.

The rest of my day was a little less crazy, but still fairly interesting.  That’s a story for another day.

 How was your day?  Do you prefer the slow days or the busy days?  If you are anything like me you long for the busy days when you are bored and wish it was a slow day when you are running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

🙂

Summer Essentials For The Busy Girl

Short on time, but still wanna look good while you try to beat the heat?

I may be a farm girl who isn’t afraid to get down and dirty buuuuuut, I want to look good while doing it. (Well, at least a step up from the just-rolled-out-of-bed look). Being a dairy farmer that gets up at the a$$ crack of dawn doesn’t give you with much time to primp and polish in the morning; you gotta work fast.

I know what you are thinking, “Whaaaat? You don’t just wake up that beautiful?!”. Believe it or not, I have to paint my pretty on.

Over the years, I have found a few products and tricks that keep me looking presentable while I sling manure, deliver baby calves and shovel feed. You know, just the basic activities every girl wants to look cute at while doing.

Here are a few of my favorite things that keep me lookin’ fresh all summer long.

1. Aveeno Tinted Moisturizer

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I have reached that point in my life when I actually have to start worrying about sunscreen and wrinkles.

“You moisturize and spend less time tanning”, as Miranda Lambert sings.

That is one of the many reasons I LOVE this moisturizer. This tinted moisturizer with SPF 30 protects and helps hide skin imperfections.  It is super easy to apply in the morning and gives my skin a great, natural glow.  You can find it at just about any drugstore for  $13.99.

This moisturizer, some good mascara and a little blush (if you have the time), will have you lookin’ good and out of the house in minutes.

2. Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray

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If you are looking for a quick hair fix, give this stuff a try.  It works really well on my naturally wavy hair and helps hold curl and texture, even in the humidity.  Put it on damp or dry hair.

Bonus: it smells delightful.

It can be found at various drugstores for $5.99.

3. A cute bandana

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Whether you are running errands, heading to a neighborhood BBQ, or farmin’, you need a cute bandana.  It’s too hot for hats and ponytails can get boring. Tying a bandana in your hair is quick, effortless and super cute.  I have been rockin’ mine all summer long and love how it comfortably keeps my hair out of my face.

There are various ways to wear bandanas, see more here.

4. Baby Lips Moisturizing Lip Balm

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I like to keep my lips moisturized, but I also like to have a little color.  A little lip color makes me feel more put together and polished, but I don’t have time to whip out some colored lip gloss or lipstick every ten minutes.

Baby Lips Lip Balm has been a lifesaver.

It looks just like any ordinary chapstick, but it adds color.  I love it because when I use it I look like some cool, low-maintenance chick just moisturizing her lips. In reality, I’m painting on my lips.

Now you know my secret.

There are a few different colors that can be purchased at any drugstore for $2.84.  My favorite shade is “Cherry Me”.

5. A fun pair of stud earrings.

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I don’t really have time to put on jewelry in the morning, nor do I want things dangling off of me while I’m trying to get stuff done.  But a fun pair of studs adds a bit of flair and are comfortable enough to sleep in and wear throughout the day.

You can never go wrong with turquoise. Just sayin’.

6. Good Beer

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Okay busy girl, it has been a long day.  You have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off; it is time to relax.

It wouldn’t be summertime without an ice-cold beer!

I have two summertime favorites that help me keep cool, New Glarus Spotted Cow and Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy.  You will have to visit Wisconsin to get your hands on some Spotted Cow (which would be totally worth the trip, by the way), but Summer Shandy can be found just about everywhere.

Cheers to you, busy girl!

What tips or tricks do you have that keep yourself looking fab when you are in a hurry?

 

10 Ways to Celebrate Dairy Month

“It is the most wonderful time of the year!”. June is Dairy month, do you know what that means? Time to celebrate cows, farmers, cheese and ALL things dairy related!  There are so many great ways to celebrate this month; here are a few! Most of these activities are kid-friendly; if you are looking for an adult version, just add booze.

  1. Host a game night featuring Dairy TriviaHere and here are some trivia questions.
  2. Visit a local dairy farm. If you live in a rural area or know a dairy farmer, pay them a visit!  I am sure they would love to show you around their farm and introduce you to a few cows. Be careful, they might put you to work! 😉

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3. Make fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. Here is a list of fun recipes.
4. Throw a Wine & Cheese PartyFollow the link for some great tips.
5. Attend a Dairy Breakfast on the Farm. Depending on where you are, you might have the opportunity to attend a dairy breakfast!  They are so much fun and great way to meet dairy farmers and their cows. Here is a list of Wisconsin dairy events going on this summer and here is a list of dairy events happening in the Midwest!

Photo by Cadillac News

Photo by Cadillac News

  1. Go out for ice cream or have an ice cream sundae bar at home.
  2. Try this yogurt smoothie recipe for breakfast or a snack.

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8. Go for a run or walk and then refuel with some chocolate milk.
9. Build your own pizza for dinner; Don’t forget the cheese!
10.Have a milk mustache contest and take silly pictures.

milkmoustacheThis oughta keep you busy, but if you are looking for even more activities, visit these pages:
National Agriculture in the Classroom
Dairy Doing More
Fuel Up to Play60

HAPPY JUNE DAIRY MONTH!

Three Myths About Food & Farming

More than ever, consumers have a growing interest in where their food comes from and how it is produced…which is great!  Folks should care about where their food originates from and it makes my job as a farmer so much more important. But, I don’t ever want consumers to feel “food shamed” or have fear when it comes to grocery shopping.  I always encourage people to seize the opportunity to visit a local farm and to get to know the farmers and their practices, but since that isn’t always possible, I blog. 🙂

I wanted to better understand my consumers and open up a conversation about food and farming.  With so many food buzzwords, Ag misconceptions and bad information on the internet, I think it is pretty common for consumers to have some concerns. So,  I sent out a questionnaire to a few of my non-Ag friends and did some creeping on social media to understand how consumers make their food purchasing decisions.  What I found led me to produce this list:

Three Common Myths About Food and Farming

Myth #1: Organic products are safer and more nutritious

The Truth: Organic products are just as safe and nutritious as conventionally grown products.

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When it comes to safety and nutrition, food is food. Organic is just another farming method, not a safety or quality term.  So what is the difference (besides price)? In my opinion, not much.  In fact, you might be surprised to learn that even organic farmers can use certified chemicals on their crops.   The chemical must be derived from a natural source rather than synthetic, but a chemical is a chemical.  There are different rules and regulations farmers must follow in order to be certified organic, but all farmers have the same goal.   Whether we choose to farm organically or conventionally, farmers are dedicated to producing safe, quality products and caring for the land. Here is an article written by an organic farmer that does a great job of defining organic practices.  Read this!

I support ALL farmers and understand that it takes all kinds of kinds to feed the world. I also understand that organic methods cannot yield the quantity needed to feed the growing population.  We cannot feed the world with just organic methods, nor can a majority of the population afford it!  It is all about consumer choice; no matter what your choice is or what you can afford, know it is safe.

Myth #2: Food with labels = greater quality.

The Truth: A label doesn’t mean diddly squat and for the most part, is nothing more than a marketing scheme.

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“Grass-fed”, “Natural”, “free-range”, “Country”, “Home-grown”, the list goes on and on.  You have seen these labels, perhaps you even base your purchasing choices around them.  Truth be told, with or without a label all food is equal and comes from farmers who care.  These labels are marketing tools that influence you to pay more for a product with a label compared to one without.  (Cough, Cough, Chipotle)  These feel-good buzzwords lead consumers to believe that the product comes from loving farmers who produce a greater product and implies that the label-less products are of poorer quality or come from “mean, factory farms”.   In reality, a packaging label tells consumers little to nothing about where the product originated from or how the animals were raised.

For example, the cows on my family farm are not grass-fed, but I know for a fact that they are provided with plenty of space, feed, shelter and care.  I also know that ALL milk and meat is antibiotic free, but labels lead you to believe otherwise.  Buy what makes you happy, but don’t pay more for a silly label.  If you truly want to know how your food was grown or raised, ask a farmer.

Myth #3: Smaller farms are family owned and provide better care compared to larger farms.

The Truth: 93% of farms are family owned and operated.

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I think there is a misconception that large farms are run by men in suits that pack their animals into a barn and treat them like a commodity.  They have so many animals, how could they possibly provide proper care for each, individual animal?!

As a farm girl who grew up on a 1,500 cow dairy farm and who currently works with her husband and in-laws to milk 500 cows,  I know that farmers love what they do and pay close attention to their animals.   Farmers may choose to grow their herd and their business, but they take the necessary steps to ensure that every animal and piece of land is provided with proper care and attention.  For many, this means incorporating more family members or hiring employees, using technology to help monitor animals and setting up strict protocols. When your livelihood depends on the health and happiness of an animal, you take it seriously and do everything possible to run a prosperous farm.

There are bad farms that are small, good farms that are big and vice versa.  Size has nothing to do with it.  Most farms, no matter their size, are run by farm families who care for their land, animals, and community.

Knowing that consumers have a growing interest in animal welfare, many farmers have been participating in the F.A.R.M. (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program.  It is a nationwide program that helps ensure consumers that farmers are using sustainable practices and treating animals with respect.

As a farmer, I want to thank you, the consumer, for caring.  Thank you for caring about the food you eat and the farmers who grow it.  Thank you for wanting to learn and grow with your farmer.  It is because of great consumers, like you, that keep me and my family in the business of doing what we love.