Tools of the Trade: Dairy Nutritionists

Hello all! Hope everything in whatever part of the world you are in is well! Did anyone watch the solar eclipse yesterday? Get any good pictures? Feel free to comment and share below!


Today’s post got inspired by Pinterest (yes, that black time-consuming hole has me by it’s talons!). On a list of blog topic ideas, there was one about what’s in your purse. So, I thought to myself, how can I translate that into agriculture! It dawned on me to discuss what would be in a dairy nutritionist’s “purse” (or toolbox for the men =) ). Some you might find suprising!

  1. Ziploc bags. To put feed and forage samples to send to a forage testing laboratory like mine!
  2. Rubber Overshoes. These large, rubber “shoes” go over top of the nutritionist’s shoes to help in biosecurity on dairy farms. More on that to follow with some other items on our list. The nutritionist will put them on at his/her vehicle and take them off after the visit around the dairy.
  3. A small bucket. This is to add water and a solution to to disinfect those rubber shoes – typically the nutritionist will clean the rubber shoes when they take them off after their visit.
  4. Disinfectant. This is important as it kills the bacteria on the rubber shoes in preparation for the next farm. That way, the nutritionist isn’t tracking potentially disease causing bacteria from one farm to another on his/her overshoes.
  5. Notebook/Pen. To write down observations of the cows, make a list, do inventories, etc.
  6. Laptop. Nutritionists have a special software on their computers that use the nutritional values a forage laboratory (like mine) give them for the feeds and forages they sample. The software enters all of these into complex algorithms and such to help the nutritionists come up with a  combination of different feeds and forages to get the most nutritional value for the lovely bovine ladies!
  7. Hay probe. This is an instrument used to pull a proper hay sample. It is important to get the most representative sample to test, or else it could skew results. Parts of a hay bale are more nutrient dense than others.
  8. Moisture monitoring device. These give a quick estimate of the amount of moisture versus dry matter. This is important because the nutritionist gives the farmer a paper that says the amount in pounds of each feed ingredient to mix for the cows’ ration, based on numbers the software give out – these are either on an “as is basis” (dry matter + moisture) or a “dry matter basis” (dry matter only). This matters because a pound of a wetter corn silage would have different nutrient concentrations versus a pound of a drier corn silage because there is a difference in how much moisture is making up that pound of feed. More moisture would equate to a lower concentration of dry matter that has all of the nutrients in it.
  9. TMR Particle Separator. Penn State has developed the one most widely used. Its a series of pans that have holes in the bottom like a strainer – the holes get smaller as you go down the stack. The TMR (total mixed ration) is placed in and shaken for a set amount of time (hey, free arm workout!) and the amount of particles in each pan is used to determine how particle size is affecting the digestibility of the TMR. Cows like a certain particle length to be able to digest their meals properly – and this helps the nutritionist make sure they are getting the right particle length!
  10. Coffee. Lots. Days travelling from farm to farm can be long and very tiresome. Just like most, nutritionists enjoy a cup o’ joe to start the day off right, and maybe as a pick-me-up in the middle of the day!

Until next time,

❤ Meg


A Dairy Good Time

Hey all!

April showers bring May flowers….right? Hopefully this nice weather will stick around – it seems like we have had all four seasons these past few weeks.


I have to ask – what would the perfect day look like to you? How much time would you spend sleeping? Eating? Where would you go? Where would you not go? There’s been research done on how cows like to spend their time. Why would that be important? When the cows are comfortable and in a good mood, they are more productive (in making milk) and in better moods! Happy cows = happy farmers!


Recently, I was reading an article from a dairy industry e-newsletter I get from Penn State (see the link to the exact article below) and they gave the breakdown on how cows like to spend their time in a 24 hour period:

  • Lying down/resting a minimum of 12 hours
  • Eating 3 – 5 hours
  • Drinking 1/2 hour
  • Social interaction with their herd mates 2 – 3 hours

Read the Full Article

So what do farmers do with this information? They ideally try to keep the times cows are diverted from this routine whether it be for milking or check-ups with the veterinarian, etc to the few hour window remaining out of those 24 hours.

There are a lot of people and organizations that have some distrust for how farmers care for their animals, and I would like to be a voice that paints a different picture. When you think of all of the time and money that universities put into research – they certainly wouldn’t spend it on something that wouldn’t provide value to the industry or wouldn’t be influential among farmers. Farmers DO care about their cows, and they want to be provided with the best information possible to achieve that goal.


Until next time,

❤ Meg

Hartzler Dairy
Hartzler Dairy Ice Cream Shoppe, Wooster, OH

Top 5 Survival Tips for Trade Shows

Gah sorry guys I’ve been a terrible blogger this past little bit. I’ve still been getting used to the new job and out reppin’ as much as  I can. So in all that comes my next blog post to you! My survival tips for trade shows as an exhibitor/vendor. And man, have I learned some lessons.


1. Be sure to have one of those portable battery packs. I’ve done 2 trade shows now and for the first,  I was the only present for my company. And the booth I was in had no outlet. So it meant limping the battery along all. day. Those battery packs hold like 4 charges, so you can even help a friend in need!

2. Be sure to have PLENTY of business cards. When you think you have enough, grab more. Better to come home with extra business cards than be standing in front of a potential contact, or worse, customer, and not have a business card to give them. It will go like this: smile, intro name, handshake, exchange business cards. 100 times over. These are great networking events, not only with people that come to the trade show, but also other vendors. Which leads me to my next tip.

3. Be sure to have somewhere that you can put all the business cards you collect. Whether its an envelope or a special holder, you will collect a lot and you will need all of them for immediate follow ups and who knows when in the future. I also have a few colleagues who use business card storage apps where they take a picture of the business card with their phones and it automatically logs it into their contacts.

4. Write notes. Jot a few notes about each person you speak with, especially if you need to follow up with them about something. The more detail you can come out of the trade show with, the better your next connection with these people will be. My boss even writes a few key words on the back of the business cards to help remind him of who they are. Great idea, I’m just an obsessive note taker so I had a notebook. Whatever suits your style!

5.  Don’t forget to explore the city you are in! Especially if it’s one you have never been to before, take some time to enjoy life a little and visit some of the sights and sounds of where you are. My colleagues and I caught the tail end of a minor league baseball game. Those are some good memories I will take with me, more so even than all the people that filed in front of me during trade show ours. Take time to live a little.


It’s finally warming up! It was so nice to walk around not all bundled up at the trade show I was at last week. What have been your favorite trade shows/business trips? Are you enjoying the weather?


Until next time (and hopefully it’s not this long),

❤ Meg

Picky Eaters….Cows Can Be Too!

Hey all!

HAPPY SPRING! Finally. I’m ready for the joys of spring, even the mud. I’m no winter gal.

What are your favorite spring and (upcoming) summer foods? I love romaine hearts on the grill with a special dressing! Yay for Pinterest finds! Speaking of,  let’s jump right onto today’s topic.

Dairy cattle get a TMR. Sounds fancy, but it stands for Total Mixed Ration, and, as the name suggests, it is a mixture of feedstuffs to make their breakfast/lunch/dinner. Meaning, they eat like all you who mix your food together on your plate – those of the philosophy that “it all gets mixed together in the end anyway.” I’m not in that camp, I’m in the keep-everything-strictly-separate group. But, I digress. We can argue that later.


So, along with a TMR comes your picky eatin’ gals. And these gals will just eat the bits they like. Like when you were a kid and would slip those nasty green beans to the pooch begging under the table and tell your ma you did, in fact, eat all of your dinner. Some of our bovine friends are just the same way. This has a really fancy name….sorting.  So if you ever hear of any agriculturalist talk about cows “sorting” they’re really talking about the picky eaters in the barn.

Now, it’s not as detrimental in humans, but when cows don’t eat everything they are supposed to, it can cause some health issues and issues for them to produce the milk they should.  TMRs are put together so that each “ingredient”, or feedstuff, has it’s purpose, whether that be for energy/fat, protein, or fiber. That way, these gals have a nice, balanced diet! So, if they’re being picky, and eating only certain things, they can be missing majorly in one of these nutrient departments.

There actually have been a lot of studies done on this, and some of what can lead to sorting is dry matter content (too wet, too dry), the particle size of all the feed stuffs (think if all of your food was cut to about the same size), and number of meals they get each day (some farmers will deliver fresh feed to the gals 3-4 times a day, some 2 times a day). Some discovered that cows will even sort based on their mood and how they feel that day!


Well, speaking of, time for me to find my evening TMR. I hope you all are getting a chance to experience some wonderful spring weather! Let me know in the comment below what kind of eater you are and some of your favorite seasonal dishes!


Until next time,

< Meg

Morning Milking Musings: Beauty Routine Part 2 – Bovine Edition

Hello all!

My last post discussed beauty hacks for farm gals, this post is going to continue with beauty hacks, but this time for our bovine friends.  Yes, dairy cows have a beauty routine as well.

To start, a great many farms have put in mechanical cow brushes – large, heavy bristled brushes that spin so a cow can stand up against it to get a good scratch! Some barns have other products that are on the market that are attachable to a sturdy post, to do the same job.

Farmers also use different kinds of bedding, all of which reduce the amount of dirt and manure that stick to the girls! Bedding material options include straw, sand, and sawdust.  Bedding material choice is also affected by how comfortable it is for the cows and how easy it is for the farmer to work with.

The cows also get their hooves trimmed regularly – most importantly for health reasons, but also for cow comfort and keeping her able to move around freely!

Until next time,

❤ Meg


Does This Cow S@!*t Count As A Cleansing Face Mask?

This Gal Has Her Own Beauty Routine!Hey all!

Our urban counterparts think they have it rough radiating beauty and femininity, ag babes have to do so in all weather conditions and through nature’s most organic substances!

So I thought I would share some of my overall tips on beauty care that I’ve discovered being a farm gal.  Now, I’m not claiming to be a beauty and skin care expert by any means, also, I am not here to promote any particular brand or company.  I’m not paid by anyone to mention any brand/company.  Also, this isn’t a one way conversation – feel free to comment your own beauty and skin care tips! The gal pictured right is in the middle of her own beauty routine!

Without further ado, here’s my top 5 farmHer beauty hacks:

  1. Wet wipes, wet wipes, wet wipes.  I keep wet wipes in my truck in the event I need to wipe my face or hands off or my truck seat off! Helps keep things clean and myself presentable if I have to go out in public before heading home!
  2. Dry shampoo is your best friend. There are so many different kinds of dry shampoo on the market, I can’t say the best one. I’ve tried a lot of different kinds, and it all comes down to what you feel is best for your hair.  Right now, I really really like BedHeads RockAHolic Dirty Secret Dry Shampoo.  It takes the greasy look out of my hair completely and gives my hair a nice texture to be able to style. I’ve heard it’s healthier to not wash your hair every day, but I know sometimes that’s hard if a cow takes a well aimed shot with her hind end.  On the days your hair isn’t splattered, dry shampoo is a life saver!
  3. Going deep to get that grit out. Most of you darlings probably already do, but getting yourself a good deep cleaning face wash is always a good idea. I know I sit there in the milking parlor sometimes and go “Yep, I can feel that soaking into my face.” I usually can’t wait to get home and get some face wash on.  I would also suggest an additional face cleansing/moisturizing product – an astringent or blackhead remover. I’ve heard some pretty rave reviews on the Rodan and Fields products, I personally use Neutrogena wash (I also have an Avon wash) and an Avon blackhead remover.
  4. Hand JiveAs you probably well know, winters are brutal on your hands – dry skin to the point of cracking.  I use Bag Balm for both my hands and chapped lips.  Just the other day, the Women In Ag Facebook group I am part of had a post about this very topic, so I’ll share with you what some women from across the globe use: Vaseline, lanolin, Working Hands lotion/O’Keefe’s, coconut oil, and vitamin e oil.
  5. Painting The Town….After Chores. So, what happens when you have a family get together or a night out in the evening after the work is done but you’re short on time to get glammed up? Which, let’s be honest, is what happens every time an outing comes up. Ah, the struggles of ag life.  So, I’ll share what I do to make the process go smoother.  Obviously, I be sure to know what I am going to wear as well as what I am doing with my hair.  With my hair, I make sure it is simple and something I already know how to do.  Before I go to milk, I’ll put some mousse in my hair and either put it in a french braid or tie it in a bun.  When I take a french braid out, it gives my hair a little volume and slight curl for added glam. To avoid hair bumps after I take the bun out, I gather my hair at the top of my head, twist it, then wrap it around itself and put the hair tie around it.  The twist sometimes gives a little volume to my hair, depending on how long the bun is in.

That’s all I’ve got – I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!

Until next time,

❤ Meg

Morning Milking Musings: 2017 KickOff Edition

Hey All!

Happy New Year – 2017! Hoping you all are off to a great start. New Year’s Day was on a Sunday this year, fitting, because I feel Sundays are the New Year’s Days of the week.

I would venture to say that New Year’s Day is the same for just about everyone – whether you indulged in the “spirits” of NYE or not because you are either actually hungover, or have  a “sleep hangover”….or both.  NYE causes a great many people to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, pretending they’ll be able to bounce back the next day just like they did in high school (seriously, I feel like in high school I could twirl a half time performance on 2 hours of sleep and a few pop tarts – when did this magical power go away???).

However, we most certainly cannot bounce back like we did in our teen years, which leads many of us to spend the first day of the new year watching TV with heavily-lidded eyes and a plateful of the remnants and last cookie crumbles of NYE and possible Christmas too.  When we aren’t sleeping, that is.

That also means that our New Year’s Resolutions start on January 2nd, because eating better/being fitter  just takes way too much energy after a night of laughter, drinks, and party food. Plus you have to eat the junk food so its not in the fridge to tempt you when you do start your resolution…tomorrow. I’m personally hoping each of you does find whatever mojo it takes to achieve your resolutions in this new year though!

So, what does this have to do with agriculture? Well, after spending yesterday morning leaning against posts, buckets, and calves while I was working at the dairy running on 2 hours of sleep and feeling the wrath of the drinks I had the night before,  I started wishing I was a dairy cow.  I realized every day to a dairy cow is kind of like New Year’s Day.  No, not the light sensitivity and headaches and weariness, but the fact they spend the day sleeping, and, when they feel like it, ambling up to a delicious buffet of food and unlimited water supply.  Plus, if they’re feeling frisky, maybe a lap around the barn with their gal pal from the herd.  Sounds like the schedule of the day on New Year’s Day.


So here’s to a new year and achieving all of your dreams and goals in this bright new year!


Love always,

❤ Meg

Morning Milking Musings: Magic 8 (GMO)Ball

Hello All!

I hope your Christmas was wonderful and that you all enjoyed delicious treats! Did any of those delicious treats contain GMOs?

I see so many labels that say “GMO free” on them, even things that are not food items.  There are a lot of articles out there that are meant to scare you, the consumer, away from GMOs. There are a lot of articles out there that also explain why GMOs, in fact, will not harm your health.  Given this is a morning musing, and is meant to be quick and to the point, I will not go into those details.

I will say, however, that some of the labels that read “GMO free” are about as useful as those that read “contains milk” on a gallon of 2%. Why? Because there are only 8 GMOs.

  1. Corn
  2. Cotton
  3. Canola
  4. Alfalfa
  5. Sugar Beets
  6. Papaya
  7. Squash
  8. Soybeans

Have a Happy New Year!

❤ Meg

A House Is Not A Home…

Hey all!

I don’t know about you, but where I live, its in the teens with a wind chill in the negatives. So, needless to say, I’m very thankful to be in my cozy house today with a hot cup of coffee (or 3).  In the winter, I love curling under a blanket with my fleece leggings on while either watching Criminal Minds (my guilty pleasure) or reading a magazine or good book.  We have a space heater that keeps the living room toasty, and sometimes I like to light candles around the house for a little smell good glow! What makes your house cozy in the cold snap of winter?

So – on to a dairy calf’s house.  I’ve seen a few posts on social media lately with a picture of a dairy calf in a hutch, a small shelter surrounded by a wire enclosure that the calf usually stays in until weaning. Most dairy farms house their calves in these hutches, and for good reason! And first and foremost, pictures of calves in hutches are not veal calves to be sold for meat.  They are the future generation of that farm’s dairy herd!

One of the ladies on a dairy girl Facebook group I am apart of explains it excellently: The calves in their hutches are like babies in a nursery.  That’s exactly the stage in their life they are at.  And so each calf has their own “bassinet” (their hutch) just like each human baby would in a nursery.

Each hutch allows the farmer or calf caretaker to give specific individual care to each calf as they stop by each one.  You can check how much they have eaten and how much water they have had to drink, how they are looking, and if they are feeling good. Just like if you were to feed a bunch of toddlers out of one bowl, you couldn’t see how much each one ate, right? And when all of the kids that play together in a daycare get sick, its hard to figure who was the first, right? Hence, why its easier  for dairy farmers to watch each calf’s health and well-being if they are each in their own individual hutch.

Also, as you well know, kids in daycare spread germs because they are touching each other and the same inanimate objects all day long, thus once one gets sick, they all do.  After calves drink their milk, they like to suck on everything around them in addition to each other  – spreading germs the same way young children do.  Living in individualized hutches keeps calves from doing that so they have less of a risk of getting sick.

Continuing with the disease prevention goal, obviously cleanliness is important too.  It takes less time and is easier to clean one room than it does the whole house, correct? Same with hutches.  The hutches are also usually made of heavy duty plastic with a perimeter of wire fencing, both of which are easy to move around, making cleaning all the more easier.

These hutches also have vents on the sides and top for nice ventilation – no one likes a stuffy house!

And because each calf has a their own little space, they can choose to go outside and soak up some sunshine or play in some rain, or stay inside their hutch and lay down all day.

Now, I’m not pretending hutches are the perfect calf house.  It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t explain all sides to the story and I want this blog to be open about agriculture.  The industry is looking at other ways to house calves because each farm is different and some things can be better done in a different housing situation.

Hutches are harder to keep warmer in the winter – farmers usually pile the straw inside heavy or maybe even have heat lamps and also put calf coats on the calves (yes, they have winter coats too!).  Also, if a calf is not feeling like coming out of her hutch, someone has to go get her when it’s meal time, and those hutches aren’t easy to get into (unless you are bite sized like me), and that’s also after you have already climbed over the wire fence. Now, multiply that by say 10 calves that need to be looked at closer than from outside the hutch.  Is anyone else seeing a little P90x action going on?

Furthermore, each hutch will have to have it’s own set of buckets for food and water, and its more labor intensive to feed row after row of calves their bottles of milk.  Some of the bigger dairy farms can have 50 – 100 + calves to feed at a time – you can easily see the struggle.  Plus, in winter, you can imagine how fun (I say this with the heaviest sarcasm) it would be to trudge around outside feeding calves and probably also getting a little path shoveling in between hutches as well (P90x part 2 coming at ya!).  That cup of coffee and those fleecy pants would be well earned!

The farm I work for doesn’t have hutches – they have individual stalls much like at a horse stable for their calves.  But I still have to do the trudging back to the calf barn along the Great Ice Path!

Whew, that was a lot longer than I thought. I’m glad  I didn’t make it a Morning Milking Musing – its half a novel, not just a quick musing!


Happy snowy blowy trails, all!

❤ Meg


Morning Milking Musings: Somewhere On A Beach…..

As we are buried under like half a foot of snow and more to come until tomorrow afternoon in addition to the start of temperatures under 30 degrees, I’m dreaming of those hot summer days where I was sweating through my shirt wishing for cooler ones.  During the dog days of summer I’m always reminding myself the sweat and scorching sun is what I’ll be wishing for on days like today. I’m always right.

So what’s the perfect day outside you dream of? Laying out on a beautiful beach drinking a margarita? That’s the group I’m part of! Are you part of the group that thrives on a chilly winter’s day out on the slopes followed by an evening with your hands wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate curled up by the fire?

What do you think a cow’s perfect day outside consists of? On a farm, most milk cows hang out all day inside a barn in order to be able to lay down peacefully and comfortably, in addition to their feed not more than a walk a few feet away.  However, sometimes different groups of non-milking cows or younger cows (a post on the different groups will be written later – be on the lookout!) hang out at least partially outside.  So is their perfect day a balmy 70 degrees Farenheit? No, remember cows have a body full of hair, so that would be like wearing a heavier coat all the time.  That would be a bit too toasty. So is it a cool 25 degrees Farenheit?   Also no, just like us, cows get cold and can use a lot of energy to stay warm, energy that therefore is not there to be used to make milk.  Just like when you feel drained of energy after spending time outside.

So what is the perfect temperature for our bovine friends? 50 – 60 degrees Farenheit.


There’s your bovine fact of the day! Stay warm and stay safe!

❤ Meg