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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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!

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.

🙂

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. 

#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.

 

How to Respond When Your Farming Practices Are Attacked

I have been blogging and sharing stories from my farm life for a little over a year now.  I am a proud 5th generation dairy farmer and my goal is to share the truth about modern agriculture with dairy consumers.  With so many misconceptions about the dairy industry, I find it extremely important to show consumers exactly what goes on at a dairy farm.  Every decision a farmer makes is for the better of the farm and/or animals.  Raising food and fiber ethically and sustainably is not only our duty as farmers, but also ensures a better life for all.  Farming is our way of life, our livelihood and is absolutely a business.  Those of us in the agriculture industry understand this, but there are many who do not.  Most of my followers are perceptive and genuinely interested in what I have to share, but there are always a few who disagree or don’t fully understand each practice. Then, of course there are the activists. (sigh) Go ahead, just pour yourself a glass of alcohol now.

I had my first run-in with a few animal rights activists just last week.  I couldn’t believe how rude and disrespectful some people could be!  I was being called every nasty name in the book and told to “get a real job” (Is there any job more “real” than farming?).  Many of these commenters were immediately banned from my page.  Cyber bullying…ain’t nobody got time for that.  However, I didn’t want to ban everyone just because they had a difference in opinion.  So, if the person was polite I would engage in a conversation with them.

Getting your message across on such an emotional and passionate topic can be tricky, but here are a few tips that work for me.  I am no expert, but I hope you find these tips useful the next time you find yourself in a conversation with a disagreeing party.

1. Stay calm.

Getting fired up and chewing their head off is not going to solve anything.  If you want respect, you have to give it.  While it may be tempting to fire back after being accused of untruths, don’t.  Having passion and pride in what you do is great, but leave it out of the conversation.  Arguing (especially on the internet) never ends well for anyone.

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photo 1 (2)2.Understand where the person is coming from.

This person is entitled to his/her opinions and concerns.  It is up to you to understand and address the concerns.  Find common ground and ensure them that you aren’t so different from one another.  Maybe you are a mother or father, just like they are?  Perhaps a school board member of a soccer coach?  Find commonality.

3. Keep it simple.

You could go on and on about why your farm adopts certain practices, but too much detail can be confusing and stir up more questions and emotions.  An outsider who does not see what happens on a farm everyday may find your specific details difficult to understand.

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4. Know when to end it.

If things get out of hand, if name-calling begins, just stop.  Be open to those who have genuine questions and concerns, but know when to draw the line.   If you are having the conversation online, you have the ability to moderate the conversation.  It is your choice to ban and delete anyone or any comment that you deem inappropriate. Many activists don’t care what you have to share and are just using your page as a platform to spread their views.

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If your conversation is face-to-face, agree to disagree and politely excuse yourself.  It is a waste of your time to try to change the view of someone who is anti-whatever.  Remember who your audience is and who you are trying to convey your message to.  It is the folks who consume your product that you want to share with; put your time and energy in with them.

5. Don’t give up.

Agvocating and sharing your story can be frustrating and there WILL  be people who will make you want to pull your hair out.  Don’t give up.  I guarantee that for every negative response you get, there are ten more positive responses.  It can be easy to focus on the negative comments, but don’t forget about all the folks who appreciate what you do.  Most importantly, FARM ON!

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