March 29, 2012

Farm Foto Friday

Trying to get Brave enough to check out the 4-Wheeler

Supper Time for the Pairs

When mom eats it is un-supervised play time.  These 3 finally stood still
long enough I could get a picture

1 of our new Heifers!!  She is very photogenic!!

Enjoy'n some Distillers Grain and Hay!

March 28, 2012

Seeing Double

Just a few hours old...
  Cows generally give birth to 1 calf every year.  Twins are fairly un-common and triplets are extremely un-common.  Most ranchers don't want cows to have multiple calves each year.  They are prone to more calving difficulty and death rate is higher due to a high risk of 1 or both of the calves not being able to turn into the proper birthing position (front feet first with the bottom of the feet pointing toward the cows feet and head laying on front legs) or both calves trying to be born at the same time.  Cows with twins tend to need a more help to give birth safely.  The calves are usually much smaller than calves that don't have a twin brother or sister.  The cows will often only want to care for 1 calf and will not let the other nurse or may not have enough milk to provide for both of the calves.  Many ranchers will remove 1 calf (either the calf the cow rejects or the smaller of the 2) and feed them with a bottle or bucket.  Because of the risk and extra work of multiple births some ranchers would just prefer not to have them at all.
We didn't have any twins last year and the year before we had 3 sets of twins.  Out of those 3 sets our survival rate was 50%. 1 set was born pre-mature and could not live outside the uterus, 1 set we lost the 2nd calf born because he was backwards and did not make it out fast enough, the last set we had 2 healthy bull calves that the cow took care of.  We will let the cow raise both calves if she will let both nurse and if she will produce enough milk to keep them both healthy.  If we have a cow that losses a calf we will give her 1 of the twins to raise so that both cows only have 1 calf to care for.  By letting another mother raise 1 of the twins the calf will not have to share milk with his brother/sister and will have a chance to gain more weight before weaning time.  If we leave both calves with the cow we separate her from the rest of the herd so that we can give her more feed as she will need it to provide milk for both calves.  We can also monitor the calves to make sure that they are both getting enough to eat, if they are not we can immediately take over and give some supplemental milk.  
Got them to the Pen by the barn..  They are
tiny.. 40-50 lbs each. 
We had our first set of twins for the year yesterday morning.  The cow had cleaned them both off, let them both nurse and when Mark tagged them the cow was very intent on keeping them together.  By noon she had misplaced 1 of the calves.  Mark brought that calf to the barn till I could get home to help get the rest of the family to the barn.  Once we got them re-united she remembered that there was 2 of them and was back to making sure they were both fed and together!  We will keep an eye on them in the small pen by the barn for a few days till the calves are big enough to keep up with her then move them to a bigger pen with our heifers.  

While walking them toward the hay in the bunk, she
turned around and gave me another photo opp!!

March 27, 2012

Going Green on the Farm

Farmers have been apart of the "Going Green" movement since the beginning.  In fact we have been "Going Green" before it was thought to be Cool!!  Up until now it was thought of as just doing the best we could for the land and natural resources and cutting the cost of production enough to put food our their table and make food as affordable as possible for those who buy it.  Now that being environmental stewards has been coined with a more romantic sounding name I guess we have finally been joined the "cool kids group".  On our place my husband often says that we are going green every time a piece of red equipment is replaced with a piece of green equipment.  But the topic of which brand (or color) of equipment is preferred is one that will trigger more debate than I can cover in this blog post....  We focus on making sure that we keep in mind what is best for the land and those who inhabit it when ever we make a decisions on growing crops and managing the pastures.  While "going green" has such a romantic sound to it, the smell isn't always so romantic....  Like many other farmers we use organic fertilizer to help in putting back the nutrients that were removed from harvesting the hay and corn. 
The Biggest of the 4 piles.  Notice the
Peak of the barn barely sticking up over the
top of the pile!!
Organic fertilizer is a prettier sounding synonym for animal waste, manure, or many other more colorful terms.  We just call it poop in our house.  We stock pile our manure from the pens where our calves spend a few months of their lives in big piles.  These piles are more than just place to store the manure.  We leave these piles in the pens not so that our cattle can stand in their own waste but these piles provide a dry spot to lay down when it rains.  The piles are the first place in the pen to dry off.  The decomposition of the organic matter also releases heat in the winter it will help melt the snow off the pile and again will provide a dry place to sleep.  They are also a great place to play.  For some reason cattle find it great fun to run up and down the piles and fight over who gets to be the king for the moment! 

My sister's dog watches Mark load the
Manure Spreader!  She had a great time
riding in the tractor

We use this renewable organic form of fertilizer on our fields to help replace the nutrients removed during corn harvest.  We replace the nutrients taken away in the form of corn various ways (leave stock residue in the field, commercial fertilizer, and manure).  We have a company that we consult with on making our crop management decisions.  They take soil samples every year and know how much of each nutrient needs to be replaced in order for our farm ground to remain productive and sustainable.  If we don't replace what we took out we will see a decrease in production but on the other hand if we put to much back on the fields we are wasting money and can have some negative impacts on the land and ground water.  It is a very delicate balance of give and take.  We give back what we took and we recycle our nutrients from the hay we produce and feed and the distillers grain we feed (our corn is used to make ethanol and distillers grain) in the form of organic fertilizer.  Our place may smell for a few days but we know we are doing the best for our land by applying our homemade fertilizer.
Heading out the field with another load!! 

This is what it kind of looks like when
the "S&%t hits the fan"!! 
 I am sure Going Green will soon be a "buzz" word not too many speak about someday as the fad to go green fades.  We will then be out of date and out of style because we will still be Going Green even when it is not "Cool".  In my own mind Going Green on the Farm is like that little black dress that NEVER goes out of style!!!

We can see the Barn again!!!! 

March 20, 2012

Presenting our Message to our Consumers

I think most of us in agriculture have a tendency to defend what is ours.  We all have such pride in what we do and we have a tendency to feel threatened by anyone who wishes to take that away from us.  We see this over and over again especially as technology has changed and we are starting to come face to face (or computer screen to computer screen) with our customers and those who are skeptical of what and how we produce food.  We have become so distant from our customers I think mainly because of our commitment to our livestock and our land and the distance between where we live and where our consumers live.  I will admit I do not get to the "big city" much.  I will see Omaha a couple of times a yr, Lincoln a few more times than Omaha and for Mark it is even less.  It is no big secret that our state Governor Heineman is not a big fan of the HSUS and other animal rights groups who are running political agendas to harm our way of life financially and smear our good name and reputation to our consumers.  He has been very open about not allowing them to create ballot initiatives in our state that could impact the way we run our farms/ranches that could have severe financial burden and unknown results to our livestock.  He believes that those of us with first hand experience caring for livestock, veterinarians, nutritionist, animal scientists, and other professionals involved with agriculture know what is best for the animals in terms of health, humane care, and nutrition.  He also believes that the people who know what is best for the state of Nebraska are those of us who call Nebraska home and not people from other states. 
This week Humane Watch has asked Nebraska ranchers and farmers to submit a picture of them doing what we do and a little story.  To check it out click this link

(I did submit a pic it is the one of the rainbow and cattle grazing if you care to look at it again, pretty sure I included it in a post last summer)

Let me tell you I never thought a picture of a rancher standing over a new born calf would raise such a stink so fast.  The man was nudging the calf with is foot (appeared to me as he was doing so gently) to get the calf to stand as his mother who appeared to be a little overly protective stood by a few feet away waiting for him to give her a chance to take him.  Those who have had first hand experience with testy mothers know that bending over to help the calf up is a dangerous thing to do as 1-you can lose sight of the cow and 2 - you are portraying yourself as more of a threat to the cow.  However I can see as those who have never been around livestock could see this man as "kicking, stomping, standing on" and any other act of un-kindness and harm to this calf.  The comments eventually turned extremely unkind and with very colorful language and as a consequence the post was deleted.  
I think it is true with anything that we have to be very careful when presenting information to the public especially when this info is at the grasp of those you don't believe that we should use animals for anything (food, fiber, pets, search and rescue, medicine).  It is easy to take a comment or picture and turn something as innocent as a child standing next to a group of calves into child abuse because he/she is near "wild" cows.  I don't think that we need to stop telling our stories because we are fearful of the unintended and twisted comments by those who don't believe in our choice to consume meat.  I think we need to be careful in our words, deliberate in our pictures, and clear in our messages.  When responding to ridicule it is easy to fire back and with anger and frustration in our words but we need to remember to respect others opinions just as we have our opinions but we need to be well armed with facts, data and statistics that can defend what we do is done with the well being of our livestock coming first and foremost.  There are "bad guys" in every industry trying to make a quick buck at the expense of everything and everyone in their way.  These people are the minority and there are state and national laws protecting animals from abuse (some states it is a felony if convicted), but like catching and convicting a murderer it takes time to get enough evidance and support to make a clear cut case that will win in court.

Here is the picture to look for!!  One of my personal favorites!

March 16, 2012

Farm Foto Friday

This is been a week a little harder than most...  I have offically been to 3 funerals in the past 6 days.  On Sat I attended the funeral for my Uncle who was born, raised, and lived the life of a cowboy, animal care giver, and loved family member.  While I was driving to that funeral Mark was at home with our vet laying to rest my first horse.  I made the call to the vet a few days earlier and told him to stop by the next time he was up near our place.  Que (pronounced "Kay") was 24 years old and was starting to develope arthritis in her joints.  Mom and Dad gave her to me when I was 9 after I had snuck out to the pen enough times and halter broke her when she was a baby all by myself.  She was a sucker for a little extra grain or hay and I was eager to do what it took to convince her to let me put a halter on her and lead her around.  Not to mention I needed a 4-H project!!  Yesterday I attended another funeral for a dear friend.  I met him and his family while I was attending graduate school and worked at a local bar and grill to make some extra cash.  Folks in small rural communities are so willing to accept new comers and make you a part of their family!!  I am close to his family as his granddaughter was in our wedding and I am the godmother to her oldest son. 
So to shed some happiness on a sad week.  Farm Foto Friday is all about new life!!!  I put a few more pictures than normal too!! 

1st baby calf of the year!!! 

After a slow start the heifers are finally figuring out that this is what they are suppose to do!!! 

Babies enjoying a little snack!!

Heifer and her new day old baby.. He was loving the photo shoot! 

Relaxing in the afternoon sun after a rough morning.  It is hard
work being born!!

Que a few years (OK a few more than a few) ago with "Frog"

March 14, 2012

Corn Beef and Cabbage

I really like to cook and I love to try new recipes.  The problem is my hubby is a strictly meat and potatoes guy.....  He in fact is the most picky eaters I have probably ever met.  I on the other hand love to eat a variety of foods and will try almost anything at least once.  I really like corn beef and cabbage...  Here is the recipe that I will be trying out on Saturday!! 

5 lbs corned beef (pickled yourself or buy it already brined)
5 cloves garlic (smashed a little bit)
10 peppercorns
4 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
12 ounces of stout beer (anything cooked in beer is good!!)
1 c beef broth
4 yellow onions (wedged)
1 yellow or sweet onion sliced (I substitute leeks for onions)
3 carrots (peeled and chunked)
6 med potatoes (I leave out and make creamy mashed taters instead)
1 med head green cabbage (quartered and cored)
4 tb butter

Put meat, bouquet garni (garlic, peppercorns, thyme, bay leaves) in pot.  Add beer, stock and enough water to cover the meat by a couple of inches.  Bring to boil on med heat, then reduce heat to simmer for 4 hrs covered and stir occasionally.

After 4 hrs add onion and carrots and continue simmer for 1/2 hr.  Add potatoes and cabbage and continue cooking till cabbage is tender (not limp).  Remove cabbage and let remaining ingredients cooking until meat is tender.

In separate saute pan, heat butter and add slice onion, pinch of salt and saute till tender and beginning to brown.  Slice cabbage thinly and add to saute pan, mix well and cook till cabbages begins to brown.

Remove and slice meat.  Tip - beef brisket is not a tender cut of meat and should always be sliced against the grain to increase the tenderness and eating experience!!!  Serve meat and veg.  The broth can be served on the side if desired.

Happy St. Patrick's day!!!

March 9, 2012

Farm Foto Friday

Bottle calf hanging out in the garage while I made his bottle.  He loves to get out of the pen and go for a walk!!  Maybe he will have some friends his size soon....

So in anticipation of the new calves arival here are some pictures of last years calves.  Not sure if I shared all of these previously or not.  Tekan still loves to go for rides on the 4 wheeler!!  Once the cows start calving she will have to stay in the yard when we check cows.  Mamma cow + un trained cow dog = 1 very large mess!!!  Safer for everyone involved if Tekan stays at the house!

March 7, 2012

National Ag WEEK!!

I remember National Ag week being a huge deal when I was in high school.  Like many kids in rural America I was in the FFA.  We celebrated national Ag week in style with a weeks worth of Ag related activities.  We hosted a petting zoo for some of the elementary children.  Many of us brought in our some of the animals that were our projects for the year.  There were show steers, cows and baby calves, horses, sheep, pigs, etc.  I remember the year I was on the committee that hosted the event, I got the bright idea to buy some baby chickens and ducks for the event being that no one in our chapter had chickens or ducks.  At the end of the event I ended up bring them home because nobody else would take them home!!  They were cute and the children loved petting them.  We hosted a breakfast for the local farmers/ranchers. 

We had to wear our blue and gold jackets all week to school (yes we proudly wore them in class!!).  But out of all the events I think that bring your tractor to school day was always a highlight!!  I remember the year that 1 of my senior classmates decided to show up with the idea of "go big or go home" and brought the combine to school.  Now bringing the equipment to school meant that we all had to leave for school way before dawn since max speed is in the low 20's if we were lucky and it did require some special parking skills!!!  Out of all my years of being in the FFA 1 of the best moments was the day I was going through some of the old scrap books and discovered a picture of me at the petting zoo during National Ag Week not as the host but as the guest. 
What do you all do to celebrate National Ag Week??  This year we celebrated by filling the freezer full of beef!!!