June 17, 2011

Farm Foto Friday

Tekan - the overly happy dog

Flowering Yucca Plant - Really cool Green Flowers!!

More hanging out at the summer vacation home!

June 14, 2011

American Farms and Ranches NOT Open for the Public

I was recently chatting on a facebook post from HumanWatch.org. and they were asking for "ag" people to share their thoughts on some recent HSUS comments.  The comments from HSUS basically stated that "they wanted to improve animal agriculture".  My first responce on my thoughts were that I trust my veterinarian and sound science to tell me what is acceptable animal husbandry practices and care and what is not over a person who has never cared for a cow, chicken, or hog in their life.  I have a hard time believing that people who have never worked with livestock know more about how to properly care for them than people who have devoted their life, work and reasearch to these animals.  As a trained beef nutritionist who studied the science behind beef cattle nutrition I feel that I know more about what nutrients my cattle need at the different stages of their life than some man/woman in an suit in Washington DC. 
Anyways later in the discussion there was a comment posted saying in a nut shell that if ranchers, feedlots, and meat packers feel that they are doing good by the animal and are not "abusing" them that we should not be so afraid to let the public walk onto our land or into our packing house and see first hand what we do.  I responded back to him and discussed the importance of biosecurity as 1 reason I don't have an "open door policy".  But it is more than that.  Here are some reason that I came up with why we are not "OPEN for the Public"
1 - Biosecurity - diseases can be spread from 1 farm to another through people interaction.  For example if someone came onto my farm to see my cattle and happened to visit a farm earlier that had a bad case of scours.  Scours are caused by several different pathogens and result in diarrhea in cattle.  Young calves can be very susceptible to scours and it can be very deadly and costly to treat.  I know we don't hear much about scours on the nightly news but some diseases I have seen floating around the media include Foot and Mouth and Bird Flu.  I have no way of knowing where any person who may walk in for a tour has been, what they have been exposed to and if they could bring something in that would harm my cattle's health.  The only way I have to prevent this from happening keeping the number of people who enter my farm to a minimum and make sure that those people understand biosecurity.  Our farm is also BQA certified (beef quality assurance, I spoke about this previously) and part of being BQA certified is maintaining a biosecurity program to prevent the spread of dangerous diseases.  It includes managing not only the animals that enter our property but also vehicles and humans.
2 - My farm is also my home.  I guess this comes down to I would not walk into New York city and just expect to be allowed to walk into any one's home or backyard that I choose.  I would not expect that all home owners or renters for that would just allow anyone and everyone to enter and take a look around when ever they wanted.  One of our constitutional rights is the right to privacy. 
3 - My farm is also a place of business.  I think about it this way I would not want to walk into my favorite steak house and see customers wandering around back in the kitchen, behind the bar, or around the wait stations.  I don't walk into my local businesses and think that I should be given full reign of their office or work area.  In some businesses such as the local welding shop, there are hazards and dangers and the welding shop owner wouldn't want a customer to get injured.  To put into perspective of the meat packer, they are packing the meat that will be on the table for some family, they have strict sanitation guidelines and as a consumer I don't think I like the idea of random people wandering through the fabrication floor when the ribeyes that I will grill tomorrow night are being cut and packed.  They also have safety and hazardous areas that can be very dangerous and the liability for people who could get hurt is extremely large.
One of the great things about the Internet and new social technology is that if you have access to the Internet, or a smart phone (and a large percent of Americans do) you have access to farmers and rancher who share real life un-edited words, photos, and videos everyday in blogs, chat rooms, You Tube, face book, twitter, the list goes on and on.  Some of these farmers and ranchers offer web sites where you can buy their farm product direct from the farm.  These questions from my potential customers on why and how food gets from my farm/ranch to there plate is 1 reason why I started the blog.

June 9, 2011

Haying Season is Here

The beginning of haying season is a sign that summer is here.  We grow forages (grass and alfalfa) during the summer and harvest them to be stored for winter feed.  The whole process is a work of art and weather everything to do with how much hay we can make in a summer and what the nutritional quality of the hay will be.  This time of year we check and recheck the weather 100 times a day looking at current forecast and the extended 10 day forecasts.  We need no rain from the time we cut the hay till we get it baled, but we need rain as soon as we get the hay baled and off the field so that the next crop will be plentiful.  Then there is the time window of when the forages are at the right stage of maturity to give us not just large quantities but also the right nutrient content.  In this part of Nebraska we will get 3-4 cuttings of hay on non-irrigated fields and up to 5 cuttings on irrigated fields.  On our farm we have some hay under pivot irrigation, some dry land (non-irrigated fields) and we have a sub-irrigated meadow.  In Nebraska portions of the state have areas where the underground water table is high enough that the roots of the plants can reach it and "water themselves". 
We have several steps to insure we put up good quality hay for our cattle. 
Step 1 - we use a machine called a Swather to cut the hay and put into windrows (long strips of piled hay).
Step 2- we wait and let mother nature preserve the hay by drying it down (we target (14-18% moisture).  To dry and it turns to dust in the baler, too wet and it will mold and spoil.
Step 3 - we rake 2 windrows together to make bigger windrows.  This cuts down on the number of times the tractor and baler have to through the field.  This allows us to cut down on fuel use because it takes much less fuel to rake than to bale.  It also makes it easier to bale.

Windrows of hay being raked together.
 Step 4 - We roll the windrows up into a round bale.  The bales weigh around 1200-1400 pounds and have a little bit of twine wrapped around the outside to hold them together.  These bales are what we will feed the cattle and horses next winter.  There are several types of bales small square (40-100 lbs), large square (500-800 lbs or bigger 1200-1400 lbs) and round bales.  We bale most of our hay in round bales, but we do put up some small squares to put in the barn when we need to only feed a few animals at a time.
Step 5 - Remove the bales from the field and stack them together.  We have stack yards near our fields.  

Freshly made bale of Hay.
 This all has to be done quickly (2-5 days) and we need days of hot dry weather to dry the hay, and mother nature doesn't always play fair. 
We let the hay dry during the day, but then if it gets too dry we have to wait till night to bale so that we don't turn it to dust.  But if we get too much dew then it makes it too wet and the hay will mold.  We spend a lot of nights out in the fields till 1 am to get the hay put up right!!

June 3, 2011

Fun Foto Friday

Relaxing at her summer vacation home

This baby Robin picked the hydrolic lines of the feed wagon to take a nap.  He didn't even notice I took his picture... twice!!

My view while we hauled cows and calves to grass..  Mark had a trailer load of momma's and I had babies in the front and a few more momma's in the back...

We had some bad storms roll threw last Monday evening.  This stop sign has a wooden road stake through it!!!

June 2, 2011

Spring has flown by

Spring has gone by us at warp speed again and we will soon begin our summer routine.  We are almost done with calving and most of the cows and their new calves have been moved out to their summer vacation homes.  We will work the last group of calves in the next few days and get them moved to summer pasture as well.  The corn has been planted and has emerged from the ground in the past week or to.  We have had some pretty good rains the past few weeks and the hay fields are growing quickly.  We will begin the summer ritual of cutting the hay and rolling it up in bales to feed next winter.  I have started my "after work" job of stopping by each of the pastures (on my way home from the office) to check the cows and calves at least once a week, sometimes more if needed.  During the summer the cows are pretty self sufficient and don't need much attention but in the case of bad storms or no wind for a few days they will need looked at more often.  We rely on windmills to pump water for the cows and if we don't get enough wind they will run out of water and we then have to haul water to them.  We turned the bull in with the heifers a few days ago and will turn the rest of the bulls out with the cows next week.  Seems like we just started calving a few days ago and here we are starting the next generation already.  We will soon be in the full summer routine of fixing/building fence that need redone before we bring cows home again, putting up hay, irrigating the corn, checking cows on the pastures, and working on all the tasks that we couldn't get done when the ground was frozen or it was just to cold.  Check back tomorrow for Fun Foto Friday!!