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.

chop

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

corny

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.

blade

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

pile2

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

pile6

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

pile5

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!

pile4

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.

pile3

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.

pile

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……

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.

photo (15)

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.

COWfessions: Stories From the Barnyard

Growing up on a dairy farm has taught me many things.  One of them being that funny, embarrassing things happen and the best thing you can do is laugh about it.  Life is too short not to laugh!  I asked my Facebook followers to share their crazy farm stories with me and now I share them with you.  Do you have a funny farm story? Please share it!

photo (11)

“When we were still milking in our tie stall barn, my sister-in-law and a friend were over chatting with me when I was milking. I have a space between my front teeth. I went to say something at the same time the cow I was squatting next to hit me in the face with her tail and a dingleberry on her switch got stuck between my front teeth! Needless to say…I have a great immune system :-)”
-Kris, NY dairy farmer


As a kid, nothing was quite as funny as seeing my dad get kicked in the balls.”

  -Dirk, WI business owner


“I was feeding calves and pigs a few weeks ago and things were hectic, we were chopping corn and I was in a hurry to get back to scrape the barn and get the next group of cows for the milker. I was carrying a full bucket of milk for the pigs and tripped on a root. I fell, landed on my forehead and my wrist. Now I’m on my knees and laughing and crying. I have a very sensitive vagus nerve and tend to get light-headed and nauseous when I get suddenly hurt so I was staying down till I got my bearings. My partner in crime looks back, not realizing I had hurt myself, and asks me (while holding back her laughter) if I was crying over the spilt milk or had I gotten hurt? We still break out laughing when retelling the story!”
-Corinne, NY dairy farmer


“We were out doing calf chores and I caught my daughter, Taylor, letting a calf lick her stomach. She was totally oblivious to the fact I took her picture because she had her shirt over her head.”

lick

-Macy, WI dairy farmer


“When I was a little kid, we had a bull named Lucky.  I would be out in the woods and Lucky would see me, take off running and bucking his head toward me. He would stop right in front of me and want me to scratch, rub, and play with his head.  He did this to my dad once and later that day he was gone. I was sad and told dad he just wanted to play, we do it all the time. Lucky wasn’t so lucky after all.”
Chris, WI dairy farmer


“I was feeding calves at a small dairy during college and  was normally in and out within two hours, so having to use the bathroom was never much of an issue. Well, one day I had to pee and I was not even close to done with my chores. I didn’t feel comfortable going into their house to use the bathroom, so I  decided to pee in a pen, which I certainly had done before, except this time  one of their sons walked in the barn and kept calling for me to see if I needed help.  It was not easy getting my jeans and  bibs up without him noticing… just a little awkward!!!!!”

-Angela, WI nurse


“My brother’s heifer would mount him whenever he bent over.  I am certain it was her way of hugging him back.”.
photo (9)
-Jillian, WI dairy farmer

“I was training a heifer to lead for the show season.  She was a heifer that spooked easily, but didn’t cause me too many problems, up to this point.  I was leading her around the yard by a rope halter and everything was going fine.  I don’t recall what spooked her, but the heifer all of a sudden took off, running like a bat out of hell.  Well, you know the saying “Never let go of the rope”?  That is what I was trying to do…not let go of the rope!  So this heifer is running and I am keeping up until she meets the footbath that lays right in front of the barn door. The heifer suddenly stops, takes a flying leap over the footbath and jumps into the barn; meanwhile, I am still holding on to the rope! When she jumped, I was jerked  forward and I took a nose dive into the FULL foot bath.  At that point, the heifer got away from me and was running around the barn.  I turn around (while still in the footbath, mind you) and my dad, who watched this whole thing, says “Well, go get up and get her!”  And so I did!”
Ashley, WI dairy farmer

 “I was “cow sitting” for two wonderful fair heifers. Being a city girl turned ag student, I was fairly familiar with how to act around animals and what to expect. What I was not prepared for was a crazy jersey that came into heat during my care. I started piecing it together after hearing some awesome bellaring at night. However, the next day solidified it when I went out to feed them and the Jersey decided to mount me. Nothing says hands-on learning like being taken to the ground by a hormonal teenage heifer. Let’s just say it now makes a great story to tell my students about heat detection.”
-Kellie, WI teacher

 “I once witnessed my dad give mouth-to-mouth CPR to a dying calf. It lived.”
-Gena, MN student

 “As a nine-year-old 4-H’er, my grandpa had picked out a special calf from his herd for me to bring home to our farm. After chores that night, it was time for our very first leading lesson. It was going well until the calf took off, and I tripped. I did my best, holding on the the rope and remembering “NEVER LET GO!” That is, until the calf came to the bench in our front yard. She sailed over it, but I wasn’t so lucky.  Fortunately, it didn’t dampen my love of showing, even though that girl didn’t make it to the fair that year!”
-Heather, Iowa dairy farmer

“This was in the office at a dairy I worked at.  A cow got out of a pen and managed to open the door of the office and the fridge. Never found out how good her DC-305 skills were as new employee!”
cow
-Wiebe, WI dairy farmer

“Forty-five years ago we had a lot to the west of our barn containing steers. As it sometimes happens, we had a sick steer out there that needed some attention. Well, Mom and I follow Dad, who is carrying a lasso out into the lot to where the steer was laying. We wanted to get him into the barn to separate it from the others and to treat him. We walk up to the steer and he does not move. Dad slips the lasso around his neck so we can lead it to the barn. Dad gives a little tug on the rope, the steer launches to his feet at about 15 or 20 mile an hour, Dad grabs hold of the rope. Dad becomes one of the fastest distance runners on record hanging on to this rope, attached to a steer which is now running at full speed.  After the first lap, the steer and Dad pass Mom and I, who have now turned into spectators, “Grab the end of the rope!” dad hollers. I am thinking, “Yeah, Right”. By the time Steer and Dad made the second lap around it was, “What the Hell you guys laughing at, grab the rope.” Mom and I were in hysterics watching this steer tow this large man behind.  Suddenly the steer turns around and knocks Dad on his back and proceeds to put a hoof just outside the four corners of the imaginary box that my Dad is now in and does this dance with his head down looking between its legs, mud and manure flying from all four, but never so much as touched my Dad.”
Oh, Dad let go of the rope….
Tregan, Nebraska beef farmer

When me and my brother(Ben) were young, every Saturday morning we would go down to our neighbor’s (Todd) dairy farm and do chores. Well, this Saturday wasn’t any ordinary one! Todd and I were waiting for the feed cart to fill and Ben was cleaning the mangers.  Todd and I were standing there and all of a sudden he yelled, “Behind you!”. I  turned around and saw a big rat crawling on the extension cords! I jumped out of the way as Todd whacked it with a broom! It fell down and ran through a crack in the wall! We ran around to the other side where Ben was sweeping the mangers. He asked, “what are you doing?”. We told him there’s a rat under the hay bale! As Ben grabbed a cat and Todd with a broom they told me to pull the bale away! I decided well why not! So I pulled half the bale away and jumped back! The rat started to run down the walk-way with Ben and Todd in hot pursuit! As the rat made a U-turn, Ben stopped and Todd collided with him! In all the mix up somehow Todd got in front of the rat as I turned to grab a shovel as a weapon! The rat ran at Todd and went up his leg inside his jeans. He started shaking his leg! With a big kick he got it out as it flew through the air and hit me right on my back pocket! As it held on for dear life I was jumping and shaking trying to get it off! Eventually it fell off  and was hit with the broom! It felt like an hour long scenario,  but was likely only a few seconds!
-Luke, WI student