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

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

 

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

I Make Sure Cows Eat Better Than We Do!

Hey All!

I hope you all are enjoying this warm weather.  I know it’s been a scorcher the past week here in Ohio, but at the same time I’m so glad for some warm weather.  It does make it a challenge to keep all of the horses and cows cool, and even people too.  I don’t have AC in my truck and the central air is broken and will take some major $$$$ to fix in the house.  So blegh.  But you can’t help but smile seeing all of the sunshine, fields being planted, and flowers blooming!

I’m so excited to announce that I am now an independent consultant with Agri-Nutrition Consulting – I am now starting my journey as a dairy nutritionist!

So yes, dairy farmers have nutritionists for their cows.  And it’s exactly what it sounds like – someone comes to the farm and makes sure the cows are looking healthy and eating well, and they build the recipe the cows’ diets.  Can you imagine what it would be like if you had someone making sure you ate exactly what you needed to each meal to be in the healthiest shape!? To some of you it may sound bad, but it sure would take the worry and struggle out of eating healthy and you wouldn’t have to regret eating that extra cookie!

It’s really not simple to be a dairy nutritionist.  I’ve spent countless hours reading through material and on phone calls with specialists in the company to be taught the ropes.  I’ve also already been to Wisconsin twice in a matter of 6 weeks.  And I am no where to being close to being done training.  It will most likely be ongoing for the foreseeable future.

Cows have a 4 compartment stomach, so each ingredients needs to provide them with the nutrients needed to first, maintain basic body functions and grow a calf, and second, to make milk! It’s very tricky because each nutrient usually functions the best within a certain range, and some nutrients inversely affect others.  It’s all a careful balance, like a teeter totter!

 

Next time I would like to go over body condition scoring, basically if a cow is too skinny or too fat – obviously something I will be looking at a lot as a nutritionist!

Soak up some sun!

❤ Meg

Real Life Farming – What A Dump!

Hey All!

I hope your holiday season is merry and bright! I encourage you to get out in your communities and go to Christmas parades, craft shows, and light displays.  There’s alot of beauty to take in during this time of year!

Among the things at the top of Walmart list for the dairy farm I work at is something you might not expect: red duct tape.

What’s the red duct tape for? The cows that have been treated with antibiotics or other medications, and, for food supply safety, this is the indicator that the cow’s milk cannot be milked into the bulk tank until the withdrawal time is up.  Dairy farms may have different ways to indicate cows that are being treated, the red duct tape is just how the farm I work at personally does this.

Why is this so important? Because it ensures food safety.  Let me tell you a little story from a few weeks ago.

A group of  cows got out of their pen during the day at the dairy.  A cow that had the red band had accidentally gotten into the herd of milk cows.  She got brought into the milking parlor with a group and we attached the milkers as per usual.  A few minutes into the milking of that group and there is a loud shout from my boss.  None of the 3 of us had paid attention and attached the milker to the cow with the red band – thus, her milk was being put into the bulk tank.

There was a flurry of motion as the milkers were shut off and the spigot was opened on the tank to let some milk out, and much frantic discussion as to what was going to be done.  Why? Because if the milk in the tank was tested to be above a certain of level of antibiotics/medication, the WHOLE tank would have to be dumped.  This folks, means that is literally money down the drain for this family.  This is why your milk is safe – because if the milk does not meet regulations, it gets discarded and the families that rely on that milk check for their living lose their money.  Dairy families have blood, sweat, heart, and tears into their farms.  If the farm does not make a profit, the family loses their means of living.  It was heartbreaking to watch.

The family I work for had to take a sample of milk from the tank and take it to their cooperative representative that very night to have the milk tested.  Luckily, the milk passed and all was well.

 

I hope for everyone’s well being this holiday season and take a second to remember the dairy families that put their money and livelihoods on the line for your morning glass of milk is safe and healthy.

 

With love,

Meg

 

Dear Consumer

Hey All!

I hope you had a fun and safe Halloween with your families! And now that fall is approaching, I hope you all are enjoying your favorite fall time activities – feel free to share in the comments what yours is!

My dad is an avid Farm and Dairy reader.  The Farm and Dairy is a family-owned company that puts out newspaper publications both in print and online to rural communities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.  The Farm and Dairy is published every week.  Last week, Dad told me that I absolutely had to read one of the articles.  I found out rather quickly why he said that.

The article was written by Kate Lambert, a Missouri farmer that also works in the agrifinancial field.  She has a blog for her farm, Uptown Farms – http://www.uptownsheep.com.  Her article was entitled “Dear Consumer: They tell me not to get angry.  But sometimes I do. ” It was reprinted in the Farm and Dairy (with permission) from her blog.  The full article can be read here. Dear Consumer: They tell me not to get angry. But sometimes I do

The content of the article, I think, 1000% nailed why agriculturalists and farmers get so passionate and sometimes quite verbal when we see animal rights activists and certain restaurant  chains putting out their propaganda and animal welfare policies based on improper, incorrect information.  It’s been a hot topic of conversation, among especially the animal agriculture sector, that farmers need to get their stories out and properly educate consumers.

I just want to highlight and comment on some of the things she said in her article.

  • The marketing research tells me that I should focus on the positive when I address you….they tell me to only speak about things that directly impact you…the tell me not to talk about the science, because the emotional registers more.  They tell me not to talk too long or write too much, don’t have time.”

  • I get angry that marketing hides that all types of farming – from organic to conventional – use chemicals.  They do it SAFELY and minimally, but they use them.

  • I get angry that you do not understand that farmers only provide raw product and that once it leaves our farm, we are not responsible for what the food processors do to it.

  • I get angry that you try to compare the decisions you make about your garden, to the management decisions my family has to make for our farm.

  • If your garden has a bad crop, you go to the store.  If we have a bad crop, we stand to lose our farm, our house, our source of income.

  • I get angry when you talk to a guy at the farmers market, who grows 40 organic tomato plants in his backyard where his eight free range chickens live, and decide his opinion on agriculture policy is more trustworthy than mine.

  • I get angry that you think my cattle herd needs the same treatment as your toy poodle

  • I get angry that you want the latest and greatest gadgets in every aspect of your life, and then expect me to put on overalls and grab a pitchfork, and farm the way someone told you that your great-grandfather did in the 1940s.

And then she goes on to say that she knows that modern agriculture has failed to tell our story, that there is an overwhelming amount of information to digest and process fact from fiction, that nothing sells in the media more than fear, and, lastly, she calls on agriculture once more to continue the movement to share our stories in a positive way.

I wish I could have been the one to write that so eloquently.  I actually cut this article out of the Farm and Dairy, and, I’m not sure what I am going to do with it yet, but I wanted to save it.  It not only nails what brews inside our hearts as agriculturalists, but it also serves as a gentle  call to action to shape up as farmers and producers and fix how the world views agriculture.  I wish everyone could read this article, both farmers and consumers, and it might cause a few to stop and think.  It might cause some consumers to ask more questions, connect with more farmers.  It might cause some farmers to finally boot up that laptop computer and type up what their day is like. Just one small change at a time.

Throughout history, we have seen what the power of word can do to the masses, let’s not make agriculture an exception.  Speak up, get out, tell all.

See ya next time,

❤ Meg

A Dairy Good Job

Hey All!

I hope the transition from summer to fall saw all of you well. I know in my area, it has been quite rainy and dreary the past few days.  I’ve had a big change in my life recently – I quit my job at Hord Livestock and moved back to my hometown in Northeast Ohio.  I now hold a position at a family dairy farm as  herdsman.

I am excited for this new opportunity in a new industry, thrilled to learn as much as I can to build a satisfying professional career.  I view my current position as a learning experience to build on in the future.

I left my position at Hord Livestock because it simply wasn’t the kind of work I wanted to do or build a career out of.  The company is wonderful, the people I worked with were wonderful, and yet the job duties and the position itself would not, in my mind, lead me to a career of passion and satisfaction.  I could not find my passion in what I was doing.

Now, on the dairy farm, I look forward to going to work every day, and being at work relaxes me and brings me joy.  That is the most important thing.  You know you have found the right industry and the right job when you look forward to going to work and being there.  I believe there are so many people that go to a job every day and dread it, and hate every second. As much time we spend each day, and over our lifetimes, working, why not enjoy it? The majority of lives are spent working, it’s a sad truth that most people spend that time unhappy.

Now, I look forward to a lifelong career in the dairy industry, and continuing to rise up to the challenge of new and more advanced positions as the time comes.  For now, I will enjoy being greeted by the moos of calves and the kind eyes of the cows being milked.

I encourage everyone to find their true calling and find a career that can allow them to be passionate and excited on that morning commute to the workday.

Until next time!

❤ Meg

Fair, Oh Fair – It’s That Time of Year Again!

Hey All!

I hope you all are having a wonderful end to your summer! I know for most, fall approaching means halloween decorations in stores, hot chocolate, sweaters, and pumpkin everything (any Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte fanatics out there?)! But for me and many others, fall approaching is synonymous with fair season.  My boyfriend and his family show their Clydesdales at 4 – 5 area fairs a year, and this year I have been lucky enough to help them out! Due to personal circumstances, I left my job at Hord Livestock and moved back to my hometown, where now I am happy to say I work on a dairy farm!

Nevertheless, fair season (my personal favorite season), is upon us, and I wanted to make a list for this post.  So, my list is the Top 5 Things Fair Goers Should Do At The Fair.  And this list is in order for fair goers to get the most out of the agricultural side of the fair and really learn more about what the animals and the kids have brought to the fair to make it such a wonderful experience.  Here goes.

  1.  Walk through ALL of the livestock and horse barns – that way, you can see each and every one of the animals.  You never know who you might run across – a friend, a coworker’s child, all of whom are perfect candidates to talk to to ask questions! Which, brings me to my next item.
  2. Ask the kids (or parents of the kids) about their animals – these kids have worked all year round to work with their animal and learn more about raising their animal – they will be more than happy to share their knowledge about their favorite pet with you! This is the time to get to know exactly how animals are raised in today’s society, all the while making a young child’s day!
  3. Watch the cows being milked at the milking parlor – most fairs allow fair goers to watch the dairy cattle being milked, or they will even have a milking demonstration.  You can learn alot about where your morning glass of milk comes from!
  4. Buy a milkshake at the dairy stand – there is almost always a dairy stand at the fair that is run by and supports local dairy farmers. Support them and you get a delicious milkshake out of it! They are usually the best milkshakes you can get!
  5. And lastly, stop in at a livestock or horse show – you can learn alot about the animals by watching how they are shown and what is expected of them.  Often, at the livestock shows such as beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, and sheep, the judge will say exactly why he placed a class of animals the way he did.  Another great way to learn!

There is alot to learn and see at a county fair, take full advantage! Until next time, enjoy your Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and learn some about agriculture!

Bye all!

Meg ❤