Thursday, February 27, 2014

There's Hope

     Let's take a vote, who is fed up with all this cold weather. Here we are almost into March and still having day's with a high of below zero and wind chill warnings. My kids are starting to stare out the window asking if it is ever going to get warm enough to go outside again.  I can only guess the teachers at school are getting tired of inside recess.
      Our third calf of the year was born last night and it appears like he will forever carry the badge of a calf born in such cold weather, frozen ear tips.  We sure are glad that we have pushed back calving this year to the first of March so we only have three of those little guys on the ground with this cold, and not 15 times that many. It is amazing how well the cows handle the cold. Here is an earlier post I did on the cows in the cold.
       To help warm up this cold day and remind me that there is hope that warmer weather is on the way I gathered some pictures of what spring/summer means on the farm.




          I don't know if looking at these pictures helped my spring fever or just made me more anxious for warm weather. For now I will just have to bundle up a bit more and watch for those signs of spring that I hope will be showing up soon.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ask the Experts

     Yesterday while I was folding laundry, which I feel I do often with 5 kids, the kids and I chose a movie on Netflix to watch. We decided on a movie about a cute pig called Gordy. As I watched this movie I was appalled by the gross inaccuracies about agriculture. I know that it is ment to be a cute movie for kids but there were many blatantly wrong portrayal of pigs.
      57% of Minnesotans don't know a farmer personally. If the majority of people don't know a farmer or what a farmer does they might just believe what they see. This movie paints a picture of a pig that remains small enough for a child to carry around like a pet for many months. At the climax the mother pig and her small piglets are taken to the sausage factory where they are saved at the last minute. It also makes all the farmers look like bad people who only care about money and don't care what happens to the pigs.
       The facts are that pigs grow very fast.  They grow from a couple pounds at birth to 280lbs, market weight, in just 5 1/2 months. Only grown pigs are taken to market, and these places are sanitary, unlike in the movie.  The most important fact is that farmers take very good care of their animals. The farmer spends lots of time and energy making sure the animals are healthy, comfortable, and safe. Farmers are some of the hardest working and caring people I know.
       It is important that when looking for information you ask the people who are the experts in the area. If I wanted to know what it is like to live in the rain forest I wouldn't ask someone who lives in the desert. They would have no idea and might give me false information. The same is true for farming. There are many people who think they know what farming is like, but if they are not a farmer I don't think they have the expertise to talk on the subject.
       If you don't know a farmer and would like a farmer friend you have come to the right place. Let me help you experience the family farm and answer questions you may have. Farming is a wonderful lifestyle and I would love to share it with you.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Boys will be Boys


         On Monday when my husband went out to do chores he was checking over the animals and found some blood on the ground. He looked through the herd and found the source was one of the bulls with an injured hind leg. During this time of year the bulls are reestablishing dominance. Like in nature shows the male animals feel a need to prove themselves prior to breeding. Their hormones are raging and they go out looking for someone to challenge to a fight. We know that this is going to happen so we make every effort to keep them, and the rest of the herd, as safe as possible. Some might ask why we don't just keep them away from each other? We have had bulls break down fences to get to each other, and we just don't have enough space on the farm yard to keep them all separated. We do choose our bulls looking for animals that are calm and not aggressive for two reasons. One, for our safety while working with these huge animals, and two, to hopefully avoid injuries during this time of year.
         An injury to a bulls hind leg can be very serious. The bulls purpose on the farm is to breed and to do this he must be able to jump on the back of the cows, putting all his weight on his hind legs.  When a full grown bull weights 1800 lbs that is a lot of weight. The bull also needs to breed sometimes 40-50 cows within a few month time period. He needs to be on the top of his game.We did have the vet come to the farm and evaluate the injury and we are making every effort to heal the animal. We have separated him from the herd and will continue to treat his leg. It is unknown at this time if he will be able to breed again, and if he is not he will be sent to market and we will be looking for a replacement for him.

Friday, February 14, 2014


         We are not color blind on our farm. We see both red and green, meaning both John Deere and Case IH. We use to have only red while I was growing up but then we got a green combine, which is always big news when a farmer changes colors, and green has slowly been creeping into our farm.
As a result my sons, who think tractors are the best part of the farm, love both red and green the same. So for Valentine's Day I created a Valentines that honor both.

Will you be my DEERE Valentine?
Happy Valentine's Day


In CASE you were wondering,
I Love You.
Happy Valentine’s Day



Thursday, February 13, 2014


        Today my husband had the opportunity to feed the cows.  During these winter months Paul is busy with his off farm job and my father who lives on the farm site with the animals is usually in charge of the daily chores. Currently my father is gone on a trip and so it is Paul who steps in and takes over. Paul enjoys working with the cattle and will often spend any spare moments checking on the cows and looks forward for these times where he gets to do the chores.  
        Today Paul got up and over to the farm before the sun was up. He had ahead of him a full day at work and wanted to make sure the cattle were fed and taken care of before he headed off to town.  He allowed himself a few hours to get the chores taken care of, and that should have been enough time if things went well.  There are many things that can spoil a well planed job on the farm from the animals, to the machinery, and at this time of year the weather. Today's issue involved Paul having difficulty getting the feed wagon through a gate due to ice and snow. The snow causing the loaded feed wagon to slip and approach the gate at the incorrect angle. Paul explained that he had to unhook the wagon and use the tractor to maneuver it into place then reattach it to the tractor, and not only once but twice.  A job that should have taken a few hours took twice that long.  This delay caused him to be late for his first scheduled meeting of the day. Luckily his clients are farmers themselves and know all to well the issues that can come up on the farm. 
         In the end the cattle are fed, the chores are done, and Paul is off to his day job.  And if you wound ask him if he is looking forward to doing the chores again tomorrow he would say yes with a smile.  Farm life is all about flexibility and even though there may be some frustration along the way there are so many more positives. Farming is more than just a job, it is a passion and a way of life.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Guy

 Meet Adonis (1. name of a Greek god  2. Handsome young man) 
Kids call him Donut
      With the hope that spring is around the corner,  here on the farm we are planning for the next breeding season. My husband Paul and my father have been increasing our cattle heard over the last few years as my husband has gotten more involved. It is a gradual proses and one of the limiting factors in our area is the availability of pasture land during the summer months.  This coming summer we have gotten the chance to rent a new pasture to us.  This is great for increasing the heard size but brings up the need for another bull to be in that pasture.
     Paul is excited because ofter much looking and debating they found the right one.  Here is Paul explaining what was involved in choosing this bull.

       Before we started our search for a bull, we first needed to write down a “job description” for our new prospect in the herd.  Although it may seem obvious what his job is on the farm, we don’t just want a bull, we want the right bull.  We use artificial insemination (AI) on many of our top quality cows that then produce replacement females for our herd.  Through the use of AI, we are able to get the highest quality sire (father) for the price we determine.  Also, we don’t have to feed him throughout the year, we just have to keep the liquid nitrogen in the semen tank full!  For those cows that do not settle (get pregnant), we want to be sure that they are bred to produce a calf for the following year.  For that reason, we need a herd bull.  We know that an AI bull can be worth tens of thousands of dollars but we are not able to pay that much, since his ‘genetic footprint’ will only be in our herd.  We determined that we wanted our bull to have the following traits:
  -          Fast growing!  This bull’s calves will likely find their way to the feedlot to produce beef  for you,  the consumer. 
-          Big weight at one year of age!  Our calves are usually sold to market at 14 months of age.  More pounds = more money.
-          Will make calves with black hair!  Sounds crazy but consumers pay a premium for cattle with black hair (it can be sold as Certified Angus Beef).
-          No potential for horns!  Horns are not safe for the surrounding animals or our family.
-          Be a good price!  We have to make money to keep farming for years to come.
        The bull we selected meets all of these criteria and then some.  We found out that he is very calm, which is an important trait since we don’t have ranch cattle like some of our cattle friends in Montana.  Our animals feed on grassed areas that are too rough to farm in an environmentally friendly manner.  Animals in our pastures come in more contact with humans and we will often keep them in with a few strands of wire that has a small electrical warning shock (it feels like sticking your tongue on a 9 volt battery.  You remember it, but it doesn’t create long term harm). The bull we selected has genetic potential for higher calving weights.  Because we know this, we will not use him to breed our younger cattle in the herd.  The older cows are able to pass a calf that is a few pounds heavier because they have already had a calf.
         We determined that we would be looking for a Simmental and Angus crossed bull this year.  We decided to go with a local cattle breeder that I worked with in high school who is known nationally for his quality genetics.  We first looked at the catalog online.  After evaluating the bulls who had the resume of traits we were seeking, we decided to technology interview the bulls by watching their videos online.  After we had the bulls narrowed down even more, we decided to go out to the farm to observe them first hand since they were so close. 
      We are very excited to bring our bull home this spring and see his calves next spring!

Monday, February 10, 2014

First calf of the year is an early arrival

           A couple nights ago in the negative degree weather our first calf of the year was born. The rest of the cows are not scheduled to calf until closer to March 1st when the weather should be a little milder. Last spring the bulls got though a fence and got in with the cows and this calf is a result of this get together. We did have the mother cow separated out because we start to watch the cows closely as calving time nears just in case there are any early ones like this. As a cow gets close to the time she is going to calf her back end, vaginal area, becomes loose looking, as if it is starting to dilate. Her utter will also begin to fill. My father and husband are experts at seeing these settle signs after working with cows for many  years. Cows that they feel are close to calving we will separate from the herd and put in the calving barn. This barn is nicely bedded and protects the animals from the wind. This barn is not like the old style red ones you see on farms, but more like a shed that had large doors that open to the south the let the sunshine in.
         The cow had her calf all by herself in the middle of the night with no complications. Even though it was very cold outside, being out of the wind and in nice bedding allowed the calf to dry off and in the morning my dad went to the barn and found it frisking around. My mother decided to name this calf Hot Cocoa since he was born on such a cold night and was able to warm up and thrive.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Grandma with the Pigs and Grandma with the Cows

        Since my last post I have worked 4 12hr shifts at the hospital.  I love my job as an RN but with 5 kids I leave behind a busy household. While mom is at work it is all hands on deck and I am very blessed to have both of my kids grandparents close at hand and willing to help.
        Both Paul and I grew up in this area of farms. Myself on a cow/calf farm, and Paul on a farrow to finish hog farm. When the children were little they couldn't always remember which name went with which grandparent so they started calling them grandma with the pigs and grandma with the cows and the names stuck. 

 Grandma with the pigs watches the kids while I am at work. There have been times where I will come home and find the stove top cleaned and a pile of books that she has read to the kids. She is very patient and just a wonderful person. Even though she no longer has the farrow to finish farm she is still known in the family as the best one at farrowing a pig and getting the piglets out alive. She does still have some pigs on her farm that she and grandpa with the pigs help raise for Paul's younger brother. The kids love going out and seeing the pigs as they grow bigger.
Grandma with the cows also get her time with the kids while I am working at the hospital and Paul is helping out on the farm. My mother is known for always having her camera at the ready and her favorite subject is kids and farm life. She loves taking the kids on adventures on the farm and capturing all the cute and exciting moments that are sure to come.


        I feel so blessed that my children are able to experience farm life all around them. My children love learning about the farm and it has become part of their everyday life. Even the people that my children dearly love get names that reflect their part in agriculture. What a badge of honor.