Why I Farm

So often do we hear farmers say “Howdy, I am Farmer Brown from Wisconsin and we milk 125 cows and run 300 acres of land”.  Blah, Blah, Blah.  Farmers are really good at telling consumers what they do, but what we don’t commonly hear is why they do it.

Sure, it is always cool to learn how many cows your neighbor feeds and milks everyday or how many acres of corn he/she plans to harvest this fall, but wouldn’t you be more interested to know why they farm?  Wouldn’t you agree that it is easier to connect with someone when you understand their core values versus their business stats?  Farming is more than just numbers and trying to make a profit, it is a lifestyle.  Each farmer has their own set of reasons and values that drives them to work as hard as they do 365 day a year, and today I want to share my “why” with you. I will try not to get too sappy and sentimental on you

1. It is in my blood.

I was born into a dairy farming family and at a young age my sisters and I were on the farm feeding and caring for our family’s animals.

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I was lucky enough to work with and learn from, not only my parents and grandparents, but also my great-grandparents.  I was taught to be tough enough to take a kick in the leg from a rowdy heifer, but also to be gentle enough to care for newborn calf.  Strong enough to get through the bad days and how to find humor in them when you can.  I learned that a good night’s sleep comes after a hard day’s work and that to get respect, you have to give it.  It is the lessons that they taught me and the passion they showed me that made me want to carry on the family legacy of caring for the land and animals.  I farm because I want to make my family proud.

2. It is important.

People need to eat.  What I do everyday helps feed the world.

“My grandfather use to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher, but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.” -Brenda Schoepp

I know that my job means something and that I can help families all over the country and world.  I think it is really cool that what I do, what I work so hard for everyday, ends up on a dinner table somewhere and brings families together.  By caring for dairy cattle and producing milk I am able to provide nutrition for thousands of families.  I farm because I want to help people.

3. It is what I love.

I love that my job allows me to be outdoors and work with family.  I love that I get to care for animals.  I love that I don’t have to sit in a cubicle all day and that I don’t have to wait until dinner time to see my husband.  I love seeing my calves grow into strong milk cows.  I love that my cows can’t talk back to me. I love watching our fields turn from dirt to green waves of corn.  I love that my job requires brains and physical labor.  I love that I don’t have to do my hair every morning (Even though, sometimes, I still do).  I love seeing the fruits of my labor.  I love that I will be able to pass our farm onto our future children.  I love that every day is different.  I farm because I love it.

Long story short, I farm because I believe in hard work, agriculture and providing families with safe, affordable dairy products. I believe in family, love and passion and my job encompasses all of these values.  Why do you do what you do?

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Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

Ahhhhh, what a perfect Saturday.  The sun peaked out and the temperature finally got up to 22 degrees.  It doesn’t sound like much, but after days of below zero weather, twenty-two felt like a heat wave.  It made morning chores much more enjoyable and the day oh so much better.  The pup and I went on a NEATure walk in the woods behind our house and then went home and made chicken and wild rice soup.  It was DE-lightful. :)  I thought I would share the recipe with you; it is fairly simple.  I took a bajillion pictures of my dog playing in the snow, but I did not take on single picture of the soup!  My apologies.

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Ingredients:

2 quarts of chicken broth

1 cup of whipping cream

1 cup of water

4 cups of shredded chicken

(I tore apart a rotisserie chicken.  It worked great, however I did find a few bones in my soup.  Ooops.)

1 cup of wild rice (uncooked)

1 package of fresh mushrooms

3 stalks of celery

2 carrots

2 tbsp of butter

2 tbsp of flour

Season as you go with garlic, onion powder, thyme, salt and pepper.  Or whatever else floats your boat.

Steps:

  1. Start by dicing up the carrots, celery and mushrooms.
  2. In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the veggies and sauté until almost tender.
  3. Add chicken broth and simmer for about 20 minutes. Don’t forget to season!
  4. Next, add the cup of water and bring to a boil. Throw in the rice and chicken and reduce heat to simmer on high for another 15 minutes or until the rice is tender.
  5. Lastly, add the cream. Thicken the soup with flour.

BOOM.  You made chicken and wild rice soup!  I am a figure-it-out-as-you-go kind of cook, but this is good general recipe. I sure am glad we have some leftovers; the weatherman is saying 30 below zero with the wind-chill for tonight!  Yikes.

Milk Fever

Milk Fever.  No, it is not the intense craving you get for a glass of ice-cold milk or the belly ache you feel after competing in a milk drinking contest at the county fair.  Milk fever is a metabolic disorder caused by a low blood calcium level and is common among cows who are close to calving or recently gave birth.  We do our best to prevent the occurrence of milk fever, but occasionally it happens. In fact, it just happened yesterday.

Most  cases occur within one day of calving because milk and colostrum production drain calcium (and other substances) from the blood, and some cows are unable to replace the calcium quickly enough.  Other factors that put cows at risk for milk fever are:

  • Age. Heifers are rarely affected.  Older cows are at higher risk because they produce more milk and are less able to replace blood calcium.
  • Size. Fat cows have higher feed and calcium intakes putting them at risk.  That is why I always tell my pregnant cows to stay active while on maternity leave.  I have been thinking about offering cow yoga to the girls, but I doubt it will go over well.
  • Production. Cows that produce high yields of milk are likely to develop milk fever.
  • Dry Cow Management. The feeding management of dry cows in the 2 weeks before calving is very important, because it affects both the amount of calcium available to replace blood calcium and the efficiency with which the available calcium can be used.  We work closely with our nutritionist to formulate a specific ration to avoid milk fever.

We noticed 4054 was in labor and moved her into a calving pen.  Old 4054 was a textbook case of a cow with milk fever; she is an older cow in her 5th lactation, a bit overweight, and was a high yielding milk producer last lactation.  Like a said, a classic case.  On her way to the calving pen she fell down and wasn’t able to get back up, a common sign of milk fever.  Other signs include:

  • cold ears
  • low body temp
  • muscle tremors
  •  drowsiness.

Luckily this disorder is easily treatable and we were prepared.  My husband quickly began warming up a bottle of Calcium gluconate  and prepared to IV the down cow.  By administering calcium intravenously we were able to replace her blood calcium level and within minutes she was back on her feet.  Cows normally respond to the treatment very quickly.

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A couple of hours later 4054 gave birth to a healthy heifer calf and both are doing well today.  I am happy my husband and I were able to help this momma and  get her back to health.  Cows truly are domestic creatures and it makes me happy knowing we have a great herd of cattle that trust us to care for them and help them when they need it.

#Milk Truth

Has your newsfeed been filled with #milktruth posts?  Maybe you have seen something in the newspaper or on television. For some reason, milk has been under attack. Critics are saying don’t drink milk – it’s unneeded, unnatural, and bad for you. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Dairy farmers and milk supporters everywhere are setting the record straight and sharing the truth about milk. Dairy farmers work hard, day and night, caring for their animals to make sure that a safe, nutritious product is delivered to your table. Get to know your farmers and ask them any questions you might have. Not everything you read about milk is true. Decades of nutrition research show how valuable milk is – so don’t let skeptics lead you astray. Learn the truth about milk; visit the Milk Truth page and join the movement!

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MILK IS REAL, WHOLESOME AND LOCAL
Milk is one of the original local, farm-to-table foods. It’s a product from farm families that care about their cows.

 

An Ode to Judy

Ugh.  Not a good start to my week.  Let’s start this story from the beginning…  This past weekend I went back to my hometown to visit family and help a good friend of mine pick out her wedding gown.  I was ecstatic early Saturday morning when I received a picture message from my husband informing me that my favorite cow, Judy, had gone into labor.  If you follow me on Facebook, you are likely very familiar with Judy.  She is truly a one of a kind cow and has real personality.  Judy was even Employee of the Month a time or two!

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Soon after the first picture message, I received another; Judy had given birth to a healthy baby girl!  Everything was going well and when my husband joined me at my grandma’s house for a belated Christmas celebration, he told me that Judy and baby seemed to be doing great.  I didn’t think much about it the rest of the weekend and was looking forward to Monday when I would get to meet the new calf and give ole’ Judy a pat on the butt.

Sadly, I never got to give Judy that pat on the butt.  It seems that after my husband left, Judy started to go downhill.  Post baby (or “post fresh” in the dairy world) is a critical time for dairy cows.  It is important that the new mothers are provided with the best comfort, care and nutrition.  We do our best, but sometimes cows fall ill and/or don’t make it.  It doesn’t happen a lot, but there are occasions when new mamas require critical care or have to be put down.  We aren’t exactly sure what was wrong with Judy, but she didn’t make it.  I found out when I arrived to the farm this morning and am heartbroken.  I know that it is part of the farm life, but it really sucks when it is one of your favorite animals.  My dad always said, “Where there is livestock, there is deadstock”.  Life happens; cows get sick, they get hurt, they get old, etc.  We do our best to make sure that our cattle live a long, happy and healthy life, but there isn’t a happy ending every time.

I’m really bummed that this happened to Judy and am sad I wasn’t around to help her or give her a scratch goodbye.

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There is a silver lining, Judy’s baby, whom I think I will name Janet, is doing great!  She has made a cozy home in a little hutch and is an awesome bottle drinker.  In a day or two we will begin to teach her how to drink from a pail and introduce her to grain.  I will be keeping a close eye on baby Janet and am hopeful that she has Judy’s quirky personality. Based upon this photo, I think she will be one sassy gal! Judy and Janet definitely look alike :)

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How to Respond When Your Farming Practices Are Attacked

I have been blogging and sharing stories from my farm life for a little over a year now.  I am a proud 5th generation dairy farmer and my goal is to share the truth about modern agriculture with dairy consumers.  With so many misconceptions about the dairy industry, I find it extremely important to show consumers exactly what goes on at a dairy farm.  Every decision a farmer makes is for the better of the farm and/or animals.  Raising food and fiber ethically and sustainably is not only our duty as farmers, but also ensures a better life for all.  Farming is our way of life, our livelihood and is absolutely a business.  Those of us in the agriculture industry understand this, but there are many who do not.  Most of my followers are perceptive and genuinely interested in what I have to share, but there are always a few who disagree or don’t fully understand each practice. Then, of course there are the activists. (sigh) Go ahead, just pour yourself a glass of alcohol now.

I had my first run-in with a few animal rights activists just last week.  I couldn’t believe how rude and disrespectful some people could be!  I was being called every nasty name in the book and told to “get a real job” (Is there any job more “real” than farming?).  Many of these commenters were immediately banned from my page.  Cyber bullying…ain’t nobody got time for that.  However, I didn’t want to ban everyone just because they had a difference in opinion.  So, if the person was polite I would engage in a conversation with them.

Getting your message across on such an emotional and passionate topic can be tricky, but here are a few tips that work for me.  I am no expert, but I hope you find these tips useful the next time you find yourself in a conversation with a disagreeing party.

1. Stay calm.

Getting fired up and chewing their head off is not going to solve anything.  If you want respect, you have to give it.  While it may be tempting to fire back after being accused of untruths, don’t.  Having passion and pride in what you do is great, but leave it out of the conversation.  Arguing (especially on the internet) never ends well for anyone.

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photo 1 (2)2.Understand where the person is coming from.

This person is entitled to his/her opinions and concerns.  It is up to you to understand and address the concerns.  Find common ground and ensure them that you aren’t so different from one another.  Maybe you are a mother or father, just like they are?  Perhaps a school board member of a soccer coach?  Find commonality.

3. Keep it simple.

You could go on and on about why your farm adopts certain practices, but too much detail can be confusing and stir up more questions and emotions.  An outsider who does not see what happens on a farm everyday may find your specific details difficult to understand.

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4. Know when to end it.

If things get out of hand, if name-calling begins, just stop.  Be open to those who have genuine questions and concerns, but know when to draw the line.   If you are having the conversation online, you have the ability to moderate the conversation.  It is your choice to ban and delete anyone or any comment that you deem inappropriate. Many activists don’t care what you have to share and are just using your page as a platform to spread their views.

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If your conversation is face-to-face, agree to disagree and politely excuse yourself.  It is a waste of your time to try to change the view of someone who is anti-whatever.  Remember who your audience is and who you are trying to convey your message to.  It is the folks who consume your product that you want to share with; put your time and energy in with them.

5. Don’t give up.

Agvocating and sharing your story can be frustrating and there WILL  be people who will make you want to pull your hair out.  Don’t give up.  I guarantee that for every negative response you get, there are ten more positive responses.  It can be easy to focus on the negative comments, but don’t forget about all the folks who appreciate what you do.  Most importantly, FARM ON!

 farm on

 

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What Do Dairy Farmers Do On Holidays?

There are no days off on the farm.  Cows don’t care if it is Christmas and that you have eggnog to drink; they still need to be fed, milked and cared for.  It may be business as usual at the farm, but we still make time to celebrate with family and friends.  The whole crew works together to get chores done and we all find time to eat, drink and be merry.  Each year is different, but here is how Christmas went down at the farm this year.

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Christmas Eve morning started with all hands on deck.  My father-in-law fed the cows as usual, my mother-in-law and her helper fed calves, and my husband and I cared for the hospital cows,  newborn calves and their mothers.  Meanwhile, other employees worked in shifts to get the cows milked and pens cleaned.

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Morning chores were soon complete and things settled down.  Slowly, but surely, everyone was able to take a break and prepare for Christmas celebrations.  My husband and I left around noon and headed to my mother’s house a couple of hours north.  The farm would be in the good hands of my in-laws and a few others while we were away.

Every year my mom throws a big Christmas party for nearby friends, family and neighbors.  My sisters and I do our best to help her plan and prepare.  This year we presented a pasta bar to our guests!  Using recipes from the Pioneer Woman, we offered a variety of noodles and three different sauces: Marinara with Beef, Vodka Sauce with Chicken and Alfredo Sauce with veggies.  Oh, and of course plenty of cheese!  Brushetta, garlic-cheesy bread and other yummy appetizers were also on the menu.

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While the food is always delish, what our guests really come for is the holiday cheer.  And by cheer I mean booze.  We usually whoop it up pretty good at the Christmas party.

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Christmas morning quickly came, presents were opened and my husband and I trucked on back to the farm.  Morning chores were taken care of by the time we arrived home, but there were pens to clean and new calves to care for, as well as evening chores.

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  My mother in-law and I fed the baby calves a Christmas dinner of warm milk!

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By evening, my husband and I were cleaned up and ready for a cup of cheer!  Around these parts, the Christmas beverage of choice is a Tom & Jerry. It seems as though many folks are not familiar with this drink and that the mix cannot be found everywhere, but if you ever see it…BUY IT!  The directions are right on the container and they are easy to make.  Can’t find the mix? Make your own!  Be warned, these suckers will catch up with you quick!  My husband and I spent Christmas evening together organizing our brand spankin’ new house!

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Christmas celebrations and farming continued through the weekend as my husband’s sisters and their families arrived to town.  Friday was lunch with grandma followed by an evening with my husband’s family.  The entire crew worked to get things done quickly on Saturday so that we could open gifts and feast that night.  While there were a few snags along the way, we eventually all made it inside to see what Santa had brought.

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With one last Christmas/Packer celebration on Sunday, the Christmas week was complete!  While I enjoy the holidays and love seeing everyone, I am glad it is over.  Between moving into our new home, farming and celebrating, my husband and I stayed quite busy!  It will be nice to get back to the daily grind.

We are extremely thankful for all of our employees who help us care for the cows everyday and allow us to take time away from the farm.  If it wasn’t for the great team we have at our dairy farm, we wouldn’t be able to do all the things we love and enjoy.

Hope you all had a VERY Merry Christmas and made dairy part of your celebration

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