Easy, Cheesy Breakfast Casserole

Serving breakfast to a crowd this holiday season? Looking for something quick, easy and delicious?  Well, look no further!  This simple-to-make breakfast casserole will have your guests coming back for more!

The best part about it is that it includes the two most important food groups; meat and cheese. Here is what you need:

  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 lb of pork sausage (ham or bacon also works)
  • 1 bag of thawed tator tots
  • 2 cups of cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Gather your ingredients and let’s have a little chat about cheese. Cheese is probably the greatest dairy product there is and I include cheese in just about every meal I cook! I can’t get enough of the stuff.

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Maybe this is because I am a dairy farmer from Wisconsin?

I dunno.

Cheese is a great, healthy snack when consumed in moderation. A one-ounce slice of cheese provides the same amount of protein as an 8-ounce glass of milk.

The problem is, I haven’t figured out this whole “moderation” thing yet.  In fact, the motto in our kitchen is “When in doubt, add more cheese”.

Which is probably why my pants are a bit tight.  But, hey, life is short.

Did you know that Wisconsin leads the nation in number of cheese plants and that there are over 600 varieties of cheese made in Wisconsin? For real, over 600 varieties of cheese…mind blown.

Ninety percent of Wisconsin’s milk is made into cheese. In fact, the milk from our farm is made into cheese.

We milk our herd of 550 cows three times per day and fill one of these tankers with milk every day. That comes out to about 95 lbs of milk per cow per day.  The milk is harvested from the cow, cooled and directly loaded into the tanker.

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Each morning, the milk hauler brings an empty tanker to our farm and picks up the full one( Every day; even on Christmas!). The tanker full of milk is brought to the creamery where it is weighed and tested.  A variety of tests –including antibiotic testing– are done to our load of milk to ensure safety and quality.

After passing the safety and quality tests, it is pasteurized and then made into cheese!

It takes 10 lbs of milk to make 1lb of cheese. By providing our cows with comfort, care and quality nutrition they are easily able to exceed the pounds of milk needed to make you a pound of cheese!

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Alright, enough cheese talk; let’s get crackin’. Get it, because one of the first steps is to crack the eggs?

I’m hilarious.

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Cook the sausage thoroughly and set it aside.
  • In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and 1 cup of cheese. Add salt and pepper.
  • Arrange tots on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Next, add the sausage. Finally pour the egg mixture on top.
  • Sprinkle on the remaining cup of cheese. Feel free to add more cheese. Remember our motto, “When in doubt, add more cheese”.
  • Cover and bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly.

This is a simple dish that can be made ahead of time. If you really want to cheat and save time, replace the sausage with precooked and cubed ham! #timesaver

Enjoy!

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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. 

Why I Farm

So often do we hear farmers say “Howdy, I am Farmer Brown from Wisconsin and we milk 125 cows and run 300 acres of land”.  Blah, Blah, Blah.  Farmers are really good at telling consumers what they do, but what we don’t commonly hear is why they do it.

Sure, it is always cool to learn how many cows your neighbor feeds and milks everyday or how many acres of corn he/she plans to harvest this fall, but wouldn’t you be more interested to know why they farm?  Wouldn’t you agree that it is easier to connect with someone when you understand their core values versus their business stats?  Farming is more than just numbers and trying to make a profit, it is a lifestyle.  Each farmer has their own set of reasons and values that drives them to work as hard as they do 365 day a year, and today I want to share my “why” with you. I will try not to get too sappy and sentimental on you

1. It is in my blood.

I was born into a dairy farming family and at a young age my sisters and I were on the farm feeding and caring for our family’s animals.

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I was lucky enough to work with and learn from, not only my parents and grandparents, but also my great-grandparents.  I was taught to be tough enough to take a kick in the leg from a rowdy heifer, but also to be gentle enough to care for newborn calf.  Strong enough to get through the bad days and how to find humor in them when you can.  I learned that a good night’s sleep comes after a hard day’s work and that to get respect, you have to give it.  It is the lessons that they taught me and the passion they showed me that made me want to carry on the family legacy of caring for the land and animals.  I farm because I want to make my family proud.

2. It is important.

People need to eat.  What I do everyday helps feed the world.

“My grandfather use to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher, but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.” -Brenda Schoepp

I know that my job means something and that I can help families all over the country and world.  I think it is really cool that what I do, what I work so hard for everyday, ends up on a dinner table somewhere and brings families together.  By caring for dairy cattle and producing milk I am able to provide nutrition for thousands of families.  I farm because I want to help people.

3. It is what I love.

I love that my job allows me to be outdoors and work with family.  I love that I get to care for animals.  I love that I don’t have to sit in a cubicle all day and that I don’t have to wait until dinner time to see my husband.  I love seeing my calves grow into strong milk cows.  I love that my cows can’t talk back to me. I love watching our fields turn from dirt to green waves of corn.  I love that my job requires brains and physical labor.  I love that I don’t have to do my hair every morning (Even though, sometimes, I still do).  I love seeing the fruits of my labor.  I love that I will be able to pass our farm onto our future children.  I love that every day is different.  I farm because I love it.

Long story short, I farm because I believe in hard work, agriculture and providing families with safe, affordable dairy products. I believe in family, love and passion and my job encompasses all of these values.  Why do you do what you do?

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Milk Fever

Milk Fever.  No, it is not the intense craving you get for a glass of ice-cold milk or the belly ache you feel after competing in a milk drinking contest at the county fair.  Milk fever is a metabolic disorder caused by a low blood calcium level and is common among cows who are close to calving or recently gave birth.  We do our best to prevent the occurrence of milk fever, but occasionally it happens. In fact, it just happened yesterday.

Most  cases occur within one day of calving because milk and colostrum production drain calcium (and other substances) from the blood, and some cows are unable to replace the calcium quickly enough.  Other factors that put cows at risk for milk fever are:

  • Age. Heifers are rarely affected.  Older cows are at higher risk because they produce more milk and are less able to replace blood calcium.
  • Size. Fat cows have higher feed and calcium intakes putting them at risk.  That is why I always tell my pregnant cows to stay active while on maternity leave.  I have been thinking about offering cow yoga to the girls, but I doubt it will go over well.
  • Production. Cows that produce high yields of milk are likely to develop milk fever.
  • Dry Cow Management. The feeding management of dry cows in the 2 weeks before calving is very important, because it affects both the amount of calcium available to replace blood calcium and the efficiency with which the available calcium can be used.  We work closely with our nutritionist to formulate a specific ration to avoid milk fever.

We noticed 4054 was in labor and moved her into a calving pen.  Old 4054 was a textbook case of a cow with milk fever; she is an older cow in her 5th lactation, a bit overweight, and was a high yielding milk producer last lactation.  Like a said, a classic case.  On her way to the calving pen she fell down and wasn’t able to get back up, a common sign of milk fever.  Other signs include:

  • cold ears
  • low body temp
  • muscle tremors
  •  drowsiness.

Luckily this disorder is easily treatable and we were prepared.  My husband quickly began warming up a bottle of Calcium gluconate  and prepared to IV the down cow.  By administering calcium intravenously we were able to replace her blood calcium level and within minutes she was back on her feet.  Cows normally respond to the treatment very quickly.

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A couple of hours later 4054 gave birth to a healthy heifer calf and both are doing well today.  I am happy my husband and I were able to help this momma and  get her back to health.  Cows truly are domestic creatures and it makes me happy knowing we have a great herd of cattle that trust us to care for them and help them when they need it.

#Milk Truth

Has your newsfeed been filled with #milktruth posts?  Maybe you have seen something in the newspaper or on television. For some reason, milk has been under attack. Critics are saying don’t drink milk – it’s unneeded, unnatural, and bad for you. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Dairy farmers and milk supporters everywhere are setting the record straight and sharing the truth about milk. Dairy farmers work hard, day and night, caring for their animals to make sure that a safe, nutritious product is delivered to your table. Get to know your farmers and ask them any questions you might have. Not everything you read about milk is true. Decades of nutrition research show how valuable milk is – so don’t let skeptics lead you astray. Learn the truth about milk; visit the Milk Truth page and join the movement!

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MILK IS REAL, WHOLESOME AND LOCAL
Milk is one of the original local, farm-to-table foods. It’s a product from farm families that care about their cows.

 

An Ode to Judy

Ugh.  Not a good start to my week.  Let’s start this story from the beginning…  This past weekend I went back to my hometown to visit family and help a good friend of mine pick out her wedding gown.  I was ecstatic early Saturday morning when I received a picture message from my husband informing me that my favorite cow, Judy, had gone into labor.  If you follow me on Facebook, you are likely very familiar with Judy.  She is truly a one of a kind cow and has real personality.  Judy was even Employee of the Month a time or two!

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Soon after the first picture message, I received another; Judy had given birth to a healthy baby girl!  Everything was going well and when my husband joined me at my grandma’s house for a belated Christmas celebration, he told me that Judy and baby seemed to be doing great.  I didn’t think much about it the rest of the weekend and was looking forward to Monday when I would get to meet the new calf and give ole’ Judy a pat on the butt.

Sadly, I never got to give Judy that pat on the butt.  It seems that after my husband left, Judy started to go downhill.  Post baby (or “post fresh” in the dairy world) is a critical time for dairy cows.  It is important that the new mothers are provided with the best comfort, care and nutrition.  We do our best, but sometimes cows fall ill and/or don’t make it.  It doesn’t happen a lot, but there are occasions when new mamas require critical care or have to be put down.  We aren’t exactly sure what was wrong with Judy, but she didn’t make it.  I found out when I arrived to the farm this morning and am heartbroken.  I know that it is part of the farm life, but it really sucks when it is one of your favorite animals.  My dad always said, “Where there is livestock, there is deadstock”.  Life happens; cows get sick, they get hurt, they get old, etc.  We do our best to make sure that our cattle live a long, happy and healthy life, but there isn’t a happy ending every time.

I’m really bummed that this happened to Judy and am sad I wasn’t around to help her or give her a scratch goodbye.

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There is a silver lining, Judy’s baby, whom I think I will name Janet, is doing great!  She has made a cozy home in a little hutch and is an awesome bottle drinker.  In a day or two we will begin to teach her how to drink from a pail and introduce her to grain.  I will be keeping a close eye on baby Janet and am hopeful that she has Judy’s quirky personality. Based upon this photo, I think she will be one sassy gal! Judy and Janet definitely look alike 🙂

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