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.

babe3

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.

babe4

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.

babe6.jpg

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.

babe5

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!

Advertisements

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……

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! 😉

c1
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.

BerryOatBreakfastSmoothie_512x273
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!

If Your Belly is Full, Give Thanks.

These days it seems that just about everybody has an opinion on how their food should be grown and produced. Organic vs. Conventional, GMO vs. non-GMO. etc.  With so many food buzzwords, misconceptions and various opinions, debates tend to get heated. I often wonder if folks would have less to say about the food on their plate if their bellies weren’t so full.  I am not saying that you shouldn’t care about how your food is grown or that you don’t have the right to choose.  I think it is extremely important to understand how your food is grown and visit farms whenever you have the opportunity!  But, can we be honest and say that some food requests get a little ridiculous?  “Excuse me, I would like the chicken parmesan, but only if the chicken is free-range and organic.  I would like the noodles to be gluten-free and the cheese to come from cattle that haven’t been treated with hormones.  Oh, and could you tell me if the chicken was on an all vegetarian diet?”.  Seriously people, just eat the damn chicken.   If we offered the hungry children of Africa a meal of chicken and corn, do you think they would care if the chicken was free-range or if the corn was derived from a genetically modified seed?  Probably not.

 These sound like topics of luxury, discussed by a nation who pushes away from the table with a full belly.

– Ashwani Gujral, CEO of an Integrated poultry company in India.

Sure, it would be great if everyone could just grow their own food in whatever way they desire, but that is not reality.  Not everyone has the time, land or resources to grow their own corn or milk their own cow.  The reality is that the population is quickly growing and we have more and more mouths to feed each day.  In the U.S. alone, 15.8 million children live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.  Estimates indicate the world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050, including middle class growth of 3 billion.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts a 60-percent increase in demand for meat, milk and eggs by 2050.  More than ever, we need farmers.

How lucky are we to live in a country that not only has plenty of readily available foods, but also a variety of choices?!  You want a free-range turkey this year for your Thanksgiving feast, well by golly, get yourself one!  Need some fresh tomatoes in January?  Perhaps some strawberries for a Valentines Day dessert?  Not a problem here in the United States!  It is awesome that at any time of the year we have access to a plethora of affordable foods, whether they are in season or not.  I hope you never stop caring about where your food comes from, but the next time you feel the urge to bite a farmer’s head off because he/she chooses to utilize farming practices that you don’t quite understand or agree with, can you just remember that your belly is full.  Full of foods that many don’t have access to or will ever be able to experience.  We may not all agree, but be respectful to each other.

Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

-Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty

Know that farmers are doing their best to ethically produce a safe, quality product for your table   This year I am thankful for my full belly and my right to choose.