Monday, July 15, 2013

Spa Week on the Farm

It is the week before our County Fair, and we are very busy getting prepared!  The calves have been given a daily bath or two along with brushing, blow drying and styling since sometime in May.  They spend their days in the barn being pampered in their stall area on fans to keep them cool.

Last week the calves went for a little ride to get their "nails" done.  They actually got their hooves trimmed.  Sometimes their hooves grow quite large and curve a bit.  When you have them trimmed, it makes it easier for them to walk.

They also got their first haircut this week.  Since they are kept cool during the day, they grow a lot of hair.  This hair is great for grooming them for the show ring.  They do need to be trimmed up a bit in order to looked groomed and not shaggy.  We have a few "styling" products that we will use on show day to pretty them up even more.

JM is excited to head to the fair next Monday.  He really enjoys working with his calves and showing them.  Fair is a great learning experience!!  He made some great new friends last year, and got to enjoy the full 4-H experience.  It is not about the awards and ribbons that makes the fair great for him.  It is about the experiences with the work of getting to the fair and enjoying the satisfaction of showing off that hard work in the ring.  The relationships are unforgettable - from the animals that become part of your family to the new friends you make!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

4-H Pen Project

We have been preparing our 2013 4-H projects since last fall, and tonight was the "Evaluation Night" for JM's Advanced Cattle Feeders Pen Project.  This project consists of choosing 4 steers to feed out as a competition.  They have a points system which measures rate of gain (the pounds each calf gains each day), their feed conversion (the rate at which they turn the feed they eat into pounds of gain), how they grade at the packer, the amount of money that the pen of four makes, and they have a component in there for hedging (which includes feed products i.e. corn).  Each "pen" competes against the other "pens" to be the top performer.  Each pen is fed at their own farm using whatever feed products they wish to use.  We submit feed sheets showing the feed  ration and pounds of feed fed to the cattle twice a month.  The pen of four were first weighed in at the end of November.

These "little" guys weighed in at an average of 628 pounds in November.  JM's pen project had full run of one side of the barn plus an outside pen.  They were fed the same ration as our other feeder cattle.  The four cattle that were chosen for JM's project were all home raised calves.  Three of them were from our own cows, and one came from a neighbor's cow.

Each 4-H member had the opportunity to talk about how their cattle are fed and chose 2 cattle out of their pen of four that they think will yield the best at the packer.  It is always fun to see just how much these cattle grow and change during this project.

JM's cattle were weighed in tonight with an average weight of 1523 pounds each.  One of his calves even weighed 1625 pounds.  Incredible!!  They had an average rate of gain of 4.32 pounds per day.  JM will have to wait until next week to learn how they grade and yield at the packer to find out the overall outcome of his project.

This type of project teaches the kids about what goes into feeding cattle for a living.  They have to know about feed rations and ingredients as well as the cost of those products.  The kids learn about the cost of the cattle and what price they have to have back in order to make a profit on their project.  It also teaches them work ethic.  Those cattle rely on them every day to be fed and watered.  We had a great group of kids there tonight that should be very proud of their accomplishments.  The kids learn something every year with this type of project no matter which place your project falls in the ranking.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dairy Fun!

Since June is Dairy Month, one of our local dairies held a tour of their facility tonight.  We thought it would be fun to head over there and see their Dairy.  The tour was held at Jones Family Dairy Farm which is located east of Fostoria, Iowa.

Jones Dairy milks about 700 Jersey cows per day.  The cows are milked in three different shifts.  The shifts each take about 6.5 hours to complete.  Each cow gives about 7 gallons of milk per day.

As each cow comes into the milking parlor, their tag is read by the computer, and the tag number displays on the digital screen as they are being milked.  Each cow's daily milk production is recorded in the computer.  They can tell how much milk each cow gave at each milking shift every day.

The cows are very relaxed and calm as they come into the milking parlor.  Each cow is cleaned before and after milking.  This is both for the cleanliness of the milk product and for the well being of the cow.  The fresh milk is transferred into a holding tank.  On the way to the holding tank, the milk is cooled by using cool ground water.  The milk is cooled by the water until it reaches about 55 degrees before going to the holding tank to be cooled the rest of the way to 37 degrees.  The water used to cool the milk is then recycled to drinking water for the cows.  The cows prefer the warmer water over the cool water to drink.

After milking, the cows are returned to a free stall barn where they have feed and water in front of them 24 hours a day.  They have clean bedding to lay on in the barn as well.

It was a very interesting tour tonight.  Jones Dairy did a nice job of showcasing their farm and family business.  I commend the Jones Family for their time and the effort given in caring for their cows. If you get a chance, please "like" their Facebook page at Jones Dairy and also check out their website:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Little Sprouts

Our spring has been a little challenging to say the least.  Cold weather, snow storms and rain have delayed what we usually call a "normal" spring.  As of today, we still have area farmers trying to get their corn and bean crops in before the next rain which is forecast for tomorrow.

I walked out to the field tonight to check on the progress of our corn crop.  The corn is up and looking very good.  It was nice to have the sun out today.  Today's sunshine did wonders for the crops as well as the farmers needing to return to the field.

The stand in the field looks very good.  The nice rains that we have had make the soil in very good condition for crop emergence.

The other nicely emerging crop is our new lawn.  It was seeded last Wednesday and is coming up nicely.  We can thank Mother Nature for the timely rains and a good sprinkler to help this new grass seed do its magic.

Our Memorial Day weekend sounds like rain again.  The delays in getting our crops in means a possibility of decreased yields at harvest.  Hopefully, today and tomorrow will be enough of a window for some area farmers to finish up planting their crops.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day Weekend in Review...

Mother's Day weekend was full of action for our little family.  It started off with a fairly quiet Friday night.  We just did a short family road trip to another Pioneer dealer to pick up some seed for one of our customers.  Roger and I started laying out our plan of attack for the weekend as soon as we got home.  Saturday morning would be off to an early start for all of us.

Things started by getting hooked up and ready to get started planting corn!  Roger was very busy at the seed store, and JM and I began with a trip to Spencer with the livestock trailer to switch things out.  Then home to change clothes and attend our niece's bridal shower in town.  Next, we went back to Spencer to pick up some plants for the flower bed and some pots.  I wanted to plant my Mother's Day planter to take to the cemetery and the pots by the garage.  After returning home, we took our carpet cleaner to our old house and cleaned the carpets.  The next task was to actually get the planting done.  With the help of my aunt, we completed our planting.  We moved all the new plantings inside since it was supposed to freeze Saturday night.  We were all finished in time to make supper and get it to the guys in the field.  Roger and I saw each other long enough to make a plan for Sunday......Mother's Day.

My wonderful husband managed to make a late Saturday night trip to get some flowers for me for Mother's Day.  Who knew that you could find flowers in our little neck of the woods at 11:00 p.m.?  We both knew that Mother's Day was going be a little hectic.

Roger's day started out with chores and heading back to the seed store.  JM and I started our day with church and making dinner for the guys in the field.  Between getting seed for customers and running back and forth to our own fields things were a little crazy.  JM and I loaded up the lawn mower and started mowing lawns.  JM has a summer job of mowing a neighbors lawn, and we started there.  Next, we moved up to Jacob's acreage (the guy who works for us) and mowed his lawn since he has been busy with field work.  Lastly, we moved to our old acreage to mow.  JM hopped on the mower, and I took the loader tractor to the garage and started cleaning!  Not fun, but it has to be done.  Our day ended with the corn planting finished, lawns mowed and a trip to the Taco House at Okoboji to pick up supper and meet Roger at home.  He managed to grab a quick bite with us before heading back to the seed store to load customers.

We had quite a busy weekend!  No pampering or being taken out, but we all got to do what we loved.....farming!!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Busy Spring is rolling...

The craziness of spring on our farm got into full swing this weekend.  It started at our seed store with getting deliveries done.  Then the elevator spread fertilizer on our fields which meant the field cultivators were on the move.  At last, the corn planter started rolling and got a few fields of corn planted.  Sounds pretty easy, right?  Well...this managed to keep JM and I on the run all weekend.  We made parts runs, delivered seed, got groceries so we could take meals to the field, went on a seed run to another dealer to have extra seed on hand, and managed to get a few things done at home.

JM and I took a few hours to clean up the yard.  We had some large branches and sticks down from our last ice storm to get picked up.  The yard got raked as well as cleaning out the window wells and around the retaining walls.  JM and I got to play with the big toys (a.k.a. the payloader, log chains, and skid loader) since the boys were all out in the field!

Before we had to make supper to take to the field, JM and I took some time to make a fairy garden for our front porch.  It was a really fun project for us!

The field cultivator gets a rest tonight since we are waiting for some more adverse weather to come our way.  We are expecting rain and snow for the rest of the week.  At least the seed that is in the ground will be tucked nicely in the ground until this weather event is over.

We also took the opportunity tonight to move some more dirt around our house.  Hopefully, we will have a lawn to mow yet this year.

Although I love this time of year, it does get a little crazy for our family. Some days it is hard to keep up with where everyone is or needs to be.  It just means that our family meals may be with the three of us sitting in a tractor.

Monday, April 8, 2013

4-H Field Trip

Last Thursday evening, Roger and I had the pleasure of accompanying JM's 4-H group on their field trip.  We traveled south of Hartley about 15 miles to the town of Sutherland to tour JTV Manufacturing.

JTV is co-owned by a friend of ours, Brent Thorn.  Brent was our gracious host for the evening's tour.  We had a fairly large group of  kids for the tour as well as some of the parents.  I think the big kids enjoyed the tour just as much as the 4-H members.  Brent talked to the group about how their company began.  They began as 3 partners manufacturing their products and have grown to have about 80 employees.  JTV makes parts for companies such as John Deere, Case IH, and AGCO.

 JTV manufactures parts from steel.  They use these big lasers to cut the parts from the sheets of steel.  It was very interesting to see the lasers in action.  The lasers that JTV use can cut through sheets of steel that are 1 1/2 inches thick.  They also have plasma cutters and a torch system that can cut through steel up to 8 inches thick.

The parts are cut with great precision, and there is very little waste on from a sheet of steel.  All the little "left over" pieces from the cut sheets is recycled and may return in a new sheet of steel.

JTV has computer programmed "metal brakes" that bend the steel parts to whatever angle is called for.  They also have the capability to machine the parts as needed as well.  Welders can also weld parts together prior to delivery. JTV has semi trucks to deliver the parts or they can ship out by UPS.

Mr. Thorn answered the kids' questions after the tour concluded.  His company makes and ships thousands of steel parts across the country every day.  Everyone appreciated the opportunity to see how JTV operates.  We are proud to have a successful company like JTV Manufacturing in our area!

JTV Manufacturing, Sutherland, Iowa

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Snowy Day

We awoke this morning to beautiful snow falling and...................blowing!  The weekend began with rain on Friday night and all day Saturday.  No complaints here as we badly need the moisture.  The rain turned to snow overnight which also means that this beautiful snow also had a layer of ice underneath.  We had to take care as we traveled between farms and through the cattle yards today.

Our morning view!
Most people enjoy their relaxing snow days.  They tuck in under a blanket, watch a movie or just enjoy their family time.  For those of us with livestock, it looks much different.  We got right out there this morning and starting feeding the cattle.  Then we checked the cows and calves to make sure everyone was doing well, and also checked for new babies (who seem to like this type of weather to make their appearance.)  The next step is to bed all the pens so they cattle have a warm and dry place to lay down.

The view hadn't changed much when we went back out to do evening chores.  We have a nice grove around our house, and I was surprised at how much the snow was still blowing as we got past the yard.

In spite of the snow storm, the cattle were still glad to see the feeder wagon again this evening.  Even though we didn't get to enjoy our "snow day" tucked in out of the elements, we did have some good family time making sure our livestock were well taken care of.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Our cutie...

Calving season is notorious for it's surprise packages - whether they be good or bad.  This year we have a group of new heifers to calve out, and you just never know what the surprise of the day will be with them.  A couple of weeks ago, we were surprised with the first heifer having her calf two weeks early.  Since this was her first time becoming a mother, we just never know quite how the heifer will react.  Well...her reaction was not quite as we had hoped, and she did not take to being a mother very well.  When this happens, we keep them together in a calving pen for a few days, and usually, they fall in love with each other when they figure things out.  In this case, she had no intentions of changing her mind.  So, after a few days of milking her out and feeding the calf, we decided to just move our little Lucy to the barn and bottle feed her ourselves.  She has become a fun part of the family!  Anytime we go into the barn, she hops up and runs over to us.  She is just a little sweetheart!  JM is really enjoying feeding her morning and night.

JM even got a kiss from her this afternoon.!  Lucy has a special place in all of our hearts.  She is a wonderful new addition to our farm family!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tucking in the kids

Our Iowa winters always seem to have a variety of conditions for us to work around, and this year is no exception.  We woke up to a nice little ice storm this morning.  Although we welcome the moisture, ice brings many challenges to chore time.  We are not allowed the luxury of waiting for the storm to pass before we go out to do chores.  Roger got right out there this morning and fired up the feeder wagon to get everyone fed.  We have pens of cattle at two other farm places as well as where we live so we started with the road trips first.  Traveling on the roads was the easy part - the hard part was making sure the tractor didn't slide into the bunks.  Fortunately, the temperatures hung right around the freezing mark today.  The cattle actually thought it was a pretty nice day - they were jumping and playing around as we fed.

We always make sure that the cattle have a warm and dry place to lay down.  That is especially important when the weather isn't at it's best.  So, this afternoon, every pen received fresh bedding to lay on.

We have a bale shredder that distributes the bales around the pen.  All the pens have mounds that we bed outside on, as well as having bedding in the sheds for them.  When the temperatures are as warm as they were today, the cattle prefer to be outside.

It doesn't take them long to start sifting through the fresh bedding.  After they finish eating their supper, they will make their way to the new bedding and tuck in for the night.  And...we will start our process all over again tomorrow.  This time of year takes a lot of extra bedding, but we want to make sure our "kids" are warm and comfortable.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Show Season Begins!

We officially kicked off cattle show season this past Thursday at the Sioux Empire Farm Show in Sioux Falls, SD.  JM got to "skip" school for the day in order to be part of the show.  Roger and JM headed to Sioux Falls right after morning chores were done.  They loaded Emily, the show box and grooming chute in the trailer and were ready for some fun!  They had to be checked in by 11:00 a.m., and the show was at 6:00 p.m. that night.  They had some free time after getting set up to check out the farm show.  I, however, had to work, but hopped in the car right after work to make the show.

JM was nervous for his first show of the season.  This was a new show for him, and he wasn't quite sure how things went at this show.  He was also a little worried that I might not make it to Sioux Falls in time to see him show. he entered the ring, he saw me and all was well!  I made it just in time.  He was in the third class of the show, and I made it there half way through the second class.

JM and Emily worked very well together.  She did a great job in the ring and so did JM.  Emily has been "in training" for this lead thing, but this was her first opportunity to show off  what she has learned.

JM has a great time in the ring.  He loves his calves and showing them.  We were very proud of both Emily and JM.  When JM walks out of the ring with a smile on his face, we know it was a successful show no matter what place the calf gets!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

In Training

Cattle show season is quickly approaching so it is time to start training.  That is... training the new calves to lead and re-training the rest of the family to get into the washing, grooming and showing groove.  We all enjoy the calves a lot so it does not take much to get us back into the spirit of things.

First of all, the calves have to get used to the halters.  The four new calves have been wearing halters since about the middle of December.  After they get used to having the halters on, then we start to tie them up for little periods of time in the barn.  Then we start to lead them around with the halter on.  After a week or so of "training", they understand the person holding onto the halter is the one who tells them where they need to go.  Even on the coldest days, we still go out and work with them.  We are also starting to wash them to get them used to that process as well.  Since it is SO cold out, we are washing and drying them in our heated shop.  That way everyone is comfortable and healthy!

Another part of the "training" is to have them get used to being groomed.  Emily, JM's heifer, is getting the opportunity to go to the Sioux Empire Farm Show so she also gets a haircut in addition to the usual routine.  We have been washing her and blowing out her hair as well as combing her a lot to get her used to how things will go at the show.  The calves prefer no big surprises if we want things to go smoothly.  

The new calves are doing very well.  Another part of their training as well as JM's, we are going to take them to a few shows to give them practice before it is county fair time. The whole family enjoys the shows.  We get to meet a lot of great people, and it is fun to cheer everyone on as they go into the ring.