Thursday, February 26, 2009

Twins 'R' Us

Aurora calved yesterday morning – with our sixth set of twins in the past 12 months. And that's not including the three sets of twins that were lost mid-gestation.

Of course, Aurora didn't deliver twin heifer calves. I'd have titled this entry 'Yippee!' if that had been the case. (Only two sets of our twins have been both heifers.) No, she produced a good sized heifer calf and a eensy-weensy little bull calf.

So, now we're faced with the decision every farmer faces in this situation: do we test the heifer calf in hopes of keeping her, or do we just be thankful for a live calf and hope for the best at the sale barn?

We'd like to know if any of you reading this have had any luck blood testing potential freemartins. We've heard of farms that blood test every female born twin to a male. How many times do you actually get to keep a heifer? Did that heifer actually go on to be fertile?

We're seriously considering testing this heifer, even though we've never had a heifer checked before. This is the only heifer Aurora has ever calved and she's one of the 'special' cows in the barn. We realize the odds are stacked against this calf not being a freemartin, but maybe it's worth knowing for sure.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Good help

"It's hard to find good help."

If I had a penny for every time I heard my dad mutter that phrase while growing up, I wouldn't have to worry about the milk price.

Right about now, Glen is probably thinking the same thing my father did, but dares not say it aloud.

I'm about as unreliable as farm help can get, even if I am unreliable for a very important reason. It's a good thing I can't be fired. And a good thing we have someone reliable to help with chores for a couple evenings each week.

Derek started working for us just before Monika was born. After his first night, when I asked Glen how it went, the smile that crept across his face said it all:

"Do you know how lucky we are to find someone who already knows how to shake straw and scrape the walk... And doesn't have to be told more than once what should be done next?"

Most of the farm kids around here have responsibilities on their own farms, so they aren't available. Derek's parents farmed until this past spring.

We are lucky. Derek has become a great help – for Glen and for me. At least for three nights of the week I don't feel quite as guilty when I can't be outside helping. For Glen, Derek's help means he can take a nap or attend a meeting without worrying about starting chores too late. I understand now why farmers have big families – the tasks pass a lot faster when there are several hands helping.

We only wish we had room in the budget to have Derek here every night.

It's nice to have good help.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A frog prince?

The first thing you need to understand before reading the rest of this entry is that I love frogs just as much as I love cows. As a young girl, I used to spend my summers catching frogs and keeping them in containers on my dresser. I'm not sure how this adoration developed, but I believe it was innate. Maybe I was a frog in a previous life – the possibility would help explain my love of being in the water as well.

So, anyway, I love frogs.

Well, last night I brought some empty jars down to the little cellar room where I store them between uses. As I opened the door, I saw that the floor was wet, as sometimes happens after a heavy rain. Who'd have thought there'd be water in our basement in the middle of February!

Most of the water had already dried, leaving a white line to indicate the high water mark. There was some water left, though, under a pail sitting in the corner. I moved the pail so that area would dry and was about to go for my bucket of bi-carb (the one I keep in the house for drying up and deodorizing basement puddles; it also works wonders in the washing machine).

As I turned, I noticed a little lump in the puddle where the bucket had been. I bent closer to look (which, at this point in my pregnancy, is becoming a little difficult). The little brown lump was a frog! At first I thought it was dead, but then it moved. How on earth do we have a living frog in our basement in mid-February? Where did it come from? Does that mean there's a crack in our basement wall big enough for a frog to wash in through?

[Western Chorus Frog — from my photo collection]

And what am I supposed to do with this frog? I can't put it outside. I can't kill it. So now I have a frog in a bucket. The irony of finding a live frog on Valentine's Day only hit me as I scooped the little guy into the bucket. Who knows, maybe he's a prince!

Happy belated Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Giving back

This past week brought two great opportunities to give back to the dairy industry. Last Saturday I spent some time helping our county's dairy princess candidates prepare for judging and the year of dairy promotion that awaits those who are crowned. Between my time as a dairy princess and a dairy ambassador, I accumulated seven years of dairy promotion experience. The skills and knowledge I gained during those years are still with me today. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to share some of that knowledge. I hope the dairy princesses in our county found Saturday's social helpful and work towards becoming the best promoters of the dairy industry they can be.

Then, on Tuesday, I spent the day in St. Paul for Minnesota Milk's Dairy Day at the Capitol. Glen was planning on coming along as well, but a couple of our close-up heifers (bred with sexed semen) looked like they would be calving sooner rather than later, so he decided it was best for him to stay home.

Dairy Day at the Capitol was full of meetings with legislators, a visit with Governor Pawlenty, and house and senate committee hearings. In light of the state's budget deficit it was challenging at times to ask legislators to keep programs like the Dairy Development and Profitability Enhancement Program (the program which coordinates Dairy Profit Teams and Planning Grants), but I was reminded again and again by other dairy farmers that agriculture is the foundation of our state's economy.

Our legislators have a challenging session in front of them. I hope they'll keep our conversations in mind as they choose which programs to fund and which to cut.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thrifty Dipper or not?

Between reviewing last year's income and expenses and trying to prepare ourselves for $10.00 milk, we're taking a closer look at ways we can improve our efficiency. We don't feel like we currently use an excessive amount of pre- or post-dip, but we're wondering if a Thrifty Dipper could help us use dip more economically.

Does anyone have experience using a Thrifty Dipper? Did you see any change in teat skin condition or teat end health with its use? Did you actually reduce your dip usage? Do you use it for pre- and post-dip or just post-dip? Would you recommend a Thrifty Dipper?