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. 

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 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.

 

What Do Dairy Farmers Do On Holidays?

There are no days off on the farm.  Cows don’t care if it is Christmas and that you have eggnog to drink; they still need to be fed, milked and cared for.  It may be business as usual at the farm, but we still make time to celebrate with family and friends.  The whole crew works together to get chores done and we all find time to eat, drink and be merry.  Each year is different, but here is how Christmas went down at the farm this year.

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Christmas Eve morning started with all hands on deck.  My father-in-law fed the cows as usual, my mother-in-law and her helper fed calves, and my husband and I cared for the hospital cows,  newborn calves and their mothers.  Meanwhile, other employees worked in shifts to get the cows milked and pens cleaned.

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Morning chores were soon complete and things settled down.  Slowly, but surely, everyone was able to take a break and prepare for Christmas celebrations.  My husband and I left around noon and headed to my mother’s house a couple of hours north.  The farm would be in the good hands of my in-laws and a few others while we were away.

Every year my mom throws a big Christmas party for nearby friends, family and neighbors.  My sisters and I do our best to help her plan and prepare.  This year we presented a pasta bar to our guests!  Using recipes from the Pioneer Woman, we offered a variety of noodles and three different sauces: Marinara with Beef, Vodka Sauce with Chicken and Alfredo Sauce with veggies.  Oh, and of course plenty of cheese!  Brushetta, garlic-cheesy bread and other yummy appetizers were also on the menu.

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While the food is always delish, what our guests really come for is the holiday cheer.  And by cheer I mean booze.  We usually whoop it up pretty good at the Christmas party.

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Christmas morning quickly came, presents were opened and my husband and I trucked on back to the farm.  Morning chores were taken care of by the time we arrived home, but there were pens to clean and new calves to care for, as well as evening chores.

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  My mother in-law and I fed the baby calves a Christmas dinner of warm milk!

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By evening, my husband and I were cleaned up and ready for a cup of cheer!  Around these parts, the Christmas beverage of choice is a Tom & Jerry. It seems as though many folks are not familiar with this drink and that the mix cannot be found everywhere, but if you ever see it…BUY IT!  The directions are right on the container and they are easy to make.  Can’t find the mix? Make your own!  Be warned, these suckers will catch up with you quick!  My husband and I spent Christmas evening together organizing our brand spankin’ new house!

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Christmas celebrations and farming continued through the weekend as my husband’s sisters and their families arrived to town.  Friday was lunch with grandma followed by an evening with my husband’s family.  The entire crew worked to get things done quickly on Saturday so that we could open gifts and feast that night.  While there were a few snags along the way, we eventually all made it inside to see what Santa had brought.

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With one last Christmas/Packer celebration on Sunday, the Christmas week was complete!  While I enjoy the holidays and love seeing everyone, I am glad it is over.  Between moving into our new home, farming and celebrating, my husband and I stayed quite busy!  It will be nice to get back to the daily grind.

We are extremely thankful for all of our employees who help us care for the cows everyday and allow us to take time away from the farm.  If it wasn’t for the great team we have at our dairy farm, we wouldn’t be able to do all the things we love and enjoy.

Hope you all had a VERY Merry Christmas and made dairy part of your celebration

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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.