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Cows, Antibitotics, and You

See this happy, healthy cow chowing down on some TMR?  Well, last week she wasn’t so happy…or healthy; she had mastitis.  Mastitis is an inflammatory response to infection causing visibly abnormal milk (clots, off-color). As the extent of the inflammation increases, changes in the udder (swelling, heat, pain, redness) may also occur. Mastitis is caused any bacterial or mycotic organism that can invade tissue and cause infection.  We do our best to keep our cows and their environment clean and dry, but occasionally mastitis occurs.  Especially in the summer months when warmer weather allows bacteria to grow and spread at a more rapid rate.  On average, we have a couple of cases of mastitis per month; some more or less severe than others.  Either way, it is no fun.  Last week, this gal was in rough shape and we were working extra hours to fight the infection and make her feel better.

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Luckily, we had antibiotics to help us.  We use antibiotics only when warranted and find them to be a great tool when it comes to a sick animal.  Antibiotics, plenty of fluids and a little TLC brought this cow back to health and I am happy to report that she is back to her old self!  Without antibiotics to fight the infection, I am not sure if this girl would have made it.

Do you have to worry about the antibiotics given to this cow invading your dairy products? Absolutely not.  When a cow is given antibiotics, she is identified with a colored leg band and her milk is discarded.  Her milk cannot and will not enter the general milk supply.  This is a mandatory practice on every dairy farm.   On our dairy farm, we identify cows treated with antibiotics by placing two pink leg bands around each hind leg and moving the cow into the hospital pen.  These leg bands signal to everyone on the farm that this cow must  be milked into a bucket so that the milk can be disposed.  The leg bands will stay on the  cow and her milk will continue to be dumped until her milk tests negative for antibiotics.  We sample the cow’s milk and test it using this handy, little contraption and special test strips.

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Now, what if someone makes a mistake?  What if someone has their head in their butt and milks the cow with the rest of the herd? You still don’t need to worry.  Every load of milk that leaves our dairy is tested for antibiotics when it reaches the creamery.  If the load tests positive for antibiotics, the ENTIRE load of milk will be disposed of and the farm will be out a lot of money.  No dairy farmer wants to lose thousands of dollars or produce an unsafe product, so farmers take antibiotics very seriously.  We use antibiotics when necessary and follow the label’s instructions.  Farmers use antibiotics to help sick animals, while still producing a safe, quality product. Farmers are extremely careful when it comes to cows, antibiotics and you.  Long story-short, all dairy products are safe and nutritious.  No matter what your choice is in the dairy case, know it is safe.

Quit Putting Fear in My Food.

Maybe it is because I just got done sorting cattle and a cow slipped and splattered manure all over me, but I sure am fired up today. First, I discover that The Original Muck Boot Company supports HSUS, a company that “claims to save animals”, but in reality only a small fraction of their profits goes to shelters. While this really cheeses me off, it is not what has my blood boiling. It is the Food Babe. Food Babe prides herself on spreading information on America’s food supply when, in reality, all she is spreading is fear. She targets large companies and uses popular food buzzwords to trick people into joining her “food babe army”. The Food Babe targets what she doesn’t understand. Whether it is a word she cannot pronounce or modern farm practice that she knows nothing about, the food babe attacks it. She claims to be an expert, but she has no experience or education in food safety, food science or agriculture. What she does have is a degree in computer science. Computer Science. Oh, and if you try to correct her or offer insight, she will block you from her site. (Yes, I have been blocked).

Her Facebook army consists of over 600,000 people who believe anything she says. This is alarming, but if folks would sit back and think before “liking” and believing every word, the Food Babe might have a few less in her army. And that is the goal of this post, folks; to make you think. Just because you don’t understand something or can’t pronounce a word, doesn’t mean it is bad. Do research, read credible sources or ask a farmer. Don’t fall victim to food buzzwords, scare tactics or misleading labels. Think things through.

Farmers are doing their best to deliver safe, quality products to your table. We feed our families the very food we produce and stand by our products. Don’t let the Food Babe or anyone else confuse you or put fear into your food. If you have any questions regarding food or farming that you think I might be able to help you with, feel free to ask!  While I am not an expert on everything, I am sure I can direct you to the right place. :) Here are some other sources that I recommend when it comes to food:

Common Ground

Food Integrity

Nurse Loves Farmer

Genetic Literacy Project

Dairy Doing More

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#FARMGIRLPROBLEMS

I am a proud farm girl and feel blessed to live such a lifestyle, but let’s be honest: the farm girl life ain’t always easy; we have our problems.  Problems only other farm girls can understand.  Let’s take a minute to show some sympathy for all the farm girls out there.

Farm Girl Problems:

1. It is not unlikely to go days, weeks, possibly months without doing your hair or make-up.

2. You have a closet full of beautiful clothes, but they only get worn once in a blue moon.  By the time you get a chance to wear all your summer clothes, clothing stores are coming out with their fall lines.

3. Operating a skidsteer or tractor requires a sports bra.  After a spring thaw and  freeze, you may want to double up.

4. If you wear mascara in the winter, it will freeze, thaw, melt down your face and leave you looking like a street-walker.

5. It is impossible to make plans too far in advance, because you never know when you will be making hay or harvesting.

6. After a long, hot, summer day on the farm you get home,look at yourself in the mirror and think, “Man, I got a nice tan today!”. After showering you realize that was all dirt and you are still as white as a ghost.

7. The tan lines you do have, are not the kind boys sing about in country songs.

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8.  At the end of the day, you find enough hay in your bra to produce a small square.

9. On average, you talk to animals more than people.

10. A manicure will NOT last more than one day, but you keep painting your nails to hide the dirt.  It is a vicious cycle.

11. Animals will mistake your hair for hay and try to eat it.

12. Your city friends think you are over-sharing when you say, “Swing into Fleet Farm, I need some rubbers.”.

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13. Your city friends fail to understand what shade of yellow resembles calf scours.

14. You must plan major events around planting, harvest and Expo.

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15. With so many layers, going to the bathroom in the winter is a twenty-minute process. Oh, and peeing outside? Been there, done that.

16. You lay awake in bed wondering if you locked the gate.

17. Running late for events is common and Freebreeze sometimes substitutes a shower.

18. Try and keep your vehicle clean; forget about it.

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19. Your pregnant city friends will say things like, “I’m in my second trimester.” and you will be screaming in your head, “What? Just tell me how many days carrying calf you are!”.

20. There will come a day when your favorite barn jeans will being hanging by a thread and have to be retired.  It will feel like the end of the world.

21. Callouses, cuts, scars…man hands.  Just man hands.

Okay, so maybe these aren’t major problems, but I think they are issues that only other farm girls can understand.  Being a farm girl ain’t easy, but some one has to do it!  Cheers to all the farm girls out there; FARM ON!

 

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Down on the Farm

I have gained many new followers, so I thought now would be a good time to introduce you to the family and show you around the farm.  Perhaps you caught my farm tour on Instagram via My Day in Ag, well here is a more thorough tour!  Be sure to click on the links as you read, the will connect you to more information on the topic.  And don’t be afraid to ask questions!  The best thing about this tour is that you won’t get any mud on your boots and you won’t stink up the joint after it is over!  Lets get started.

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My in-laws established the dairy in 1986, starting small and slowly progressing to our current size of 500 milking cows.  The four of us recently formed a LLC which allows all of us to be partners in the business.  We are family owned and operated, but also employ 7 full-time and 3 part time-employees.

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Our cows are housed in a free-stall barn which consists of sand bedded stalls for each cow, plenty of feed, easy access to water and proper ventilation.  The barn has large doors and tarp like curtains that can be rolled up or down, depending on the weather.  The barn also includes a sprinkler system and fans to keep the cows cool in the summer.  The cows are free to move about the pen as they please.

I would say our farm color is red.  We have lots of red trucks and red buildings.  Seriously, our farm slogan could be “We are the guys in the big, red trucks!”.  Here is an outside view of the free-stall barn:

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Our cows are milked three times per day in a double 8 parallel parlor.  This means we can milk 16 cows at one time.

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Front view of one side of the parlor

It takes about 7 hours to milk the entire herd and clean up.  By the time we are done, it is time to start milking again!  Check out this video of our cows entering the milking parlor:

 

While the cows are being milked and are away from their pen, we scrape away the manure, rake the beds of sand, clean the water tanks and provide plenty of feed.  This happens three times per day; I bet you don’t clean your room that often! Here are some cows resting in their freshly raked beds.  As you can see, there are already a few cow pies in the alley; it doesn’t take them long to dirty up their “room”!

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On average, there are two calves born everyday on our farm.  We sell all our bull calves as they can grow to be mean and dangerous.

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All the female babies are vaccinated, fed colostrum, given a set of “earrings” with an identification number and moved into their own hutch.  The hutch is bedded with shavings and also includes an outside area.  The hutch provides shelter and proper ventilation for the calf and allows us to keep a close eye on her in these first, critical weeks of life.  This will be the baby’s home for the next 7-8 weeks.

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Around 7 weeks of age, the calves are weaned off of milk and moved into a group pen.  Now, their diet consists of grain and water.  The girls will hang out here until they are 3 months old.  At 3 months, they are sent to our heifer raiser in a nearby town.  There, they will be introduced to hay and other forages and simply hang out.  They will be bred via artificial insemination around 14 months old and brought back to our dairy a couple of months before they are due to calve.   Here you can see the girls sunbathing outside.  What a rough life, huh?

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We work with a custom harvester to grow and harvest corn and alfalfa on our land.  The corn and alfalfa are chopped and made into silage to feed the cows.  Hiring a custom harvester allows us to produce quality feed while not losing focus on the cows.  It would be easy to miss a sick calf or cow if we were stuck in the field during planting or harvest time.  By working with a custom harvester, we can stay in the barn and keep a close eye on all the girls!

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The cows are fed TMR twice per day.  TMR stands for Total Mixed Ration and is a cow version of a casserole. Every farmer’s “recipe” or ration is different, but are usually somewhat similar.  The ration we serve up to our girls is formulated by our farm nutritionist and  includes haylage, corn silage, dry hay, corn gluten, high moisture corn and a protein mixture.

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We throw all the ingredients into our mixer and deliver the feed to the bunk.

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Farm life is the best! I find my husband to be a pretty cool guy, so I feel blessed to be able to work with him all day, every day.

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I get to hang out with my trusty side-kick too!

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The tour wouldn’t be complete unless Judy made an appearance!  She is my favorite cow on the farm and is always getting into shenanigans.  She loves to people watch, stand in inconvenient places and pester my pup, Cash.  She has a real personality!

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This tour  never really ends; as long as I continue to blog you will receive farm updates!  Be sure to “like” Modern-day Farm Chick on Facebook, follow modfarmchick on Instagram and Twitter and sign up for email updates on my blog.

Thanks for following my modern-day farm life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SALSA

Watermelon Salsa

This stuff is as good as it looks and is the perfect summer snack.  I found a similar recipe from the Pioneer Woman, but changed it to my liking.  My husband can’t quite take the heat like the Pioneer Woman’s family, so I tamed the recipe.  Eat it with chips, serve as a side dish or top your chicken with it!  I served it with tortilla chips and paired it with BBQ Chicken & Pineapple Quesadillas and Blackberry Margaritas; DELISH! This recipe makes a lot, so if you don’t have a lot of friends, cut it in half.  But, I am sure you can find plenty of people to share it with.  :) Heck!  This watermelon salsa will probably make you some new friends!

Here is what you need:

  • Half of a small, seedless watermelon
  •  1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • Half of a red onion
  • A handful of cilantro
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

All you have to do is dice it all up, dump it in a serving dish,  squeeze in the juice, mix and ENJOY!

The dairy farm I grew up on. This dairy milk 1,500 cows .  It is where I was born and raised!

NO MORE “FACTORY FARMS”!

You know what label I am tired of hearing, “factory farm”.  What does that even mean?  “That farm has large barns and a lot of cows, so it must be a factory.”?  The term has such a negative association.  Have any of you used this term before and made an assumption that the cows aren’t happy and the farm isn’t family owned?  Have you ever stopped to talk to the farmers to find out why they chose to have a particular number of cows, why the cows are housed in large free-stall barns, or if the farm is family owned?

On our farm, we milk 500 cows and on the farm I grew up on, they milk 1,500 cows.  Due to their size and modern facilities, both would fit into the “factory farm” stereotype.  However, neither farm is anything like a factory.  Both dairy farms are family owned and operated.  Did you know 96% of farms are still family owned?  As our families grew, so did our farm.  We needed more cows to support our growing family and to allow all family members to be involved in the business.  By increasing the number of cows, we are able to do what we love and make a good living.  Another perk of having a larger dairy farm, is that we are able to take time off and enjoy other activities.  With more cows, comes more people.  Large dairy farms are able to involve multiple family members and employees while still remaining profitable.  We can count on each other to take care of the farm and cows while one is away.  It is nice to be able to get away from the farm and enjoy life, something that might not be possible if you had fifty cows and only a husband as a hired hand.

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So, you know why we grew in size, but what is the deal with these big free-stall barns?  Why aren’t the cows on pasture?  The modern dairy barn is termed a free-stall barn and consists of a barn with a stall for each cow, plenty of feed, easy access to water and proper ventilation. The cows are able to move about the pen; eating, drinking, and laying down whenever they please.  Our free-stall barn is able to comfortably house 360 cows; the remainder of the herd is housed in two, smaller green-house shaped barns.

The stalls provided are commonly bedded with sand, but mattresses, water beds, and dry solids can also be used.  We prefer sand on our dairy farm; it is easy to keep clean and provides adequate cushion when the cows get up and down.  Summers get hot and winters get cold.  Free stall barns have large, tarp-like curtains and doors that can be rolled down in the winter to keep cows warm and rolled up in the summer to keep cows cool.  Just like you and I, cows hate extreme temperatures; perfect cow weather is a breezy, fifty-five degree day.  Many free-stall barns also utilize giant fans and sprinkler systems to keep cows cool.   We do our best to keep cows comfortable and free-stall barns allow us to do this.

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The cows are milked three times per day, but they are never away from their pen for more than three hours a day.  We bring the cows to the parlor in groups; we start with pen 1 and work our way through the barn.  Our parlor is able to milk 16 cows in a matter of minutes and the entire pen in an hour.  While the cows are being milked and the pen is empty, we scrape away the manure and rake the beds of sand.  We also make sure they have clean water and plenty of feed.  It only takes 10-15 minutes to milk the first group of cows in a pen, but it takes us a half hour to clean the pen, so the cows must patiently wait in the cow yard until we are done.  The cow yard is provided with water, shade, and salt blocks to keep the cows happy while they wait.  It doesn’t take long and the cows are back up to their pen where they can eat, lay down and do cow stuff.

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I still haven’t answered the question, “Why aren’t they out on pasture?”.  Mother Nature is hard to control and so are pastures.  If you are even able to find enough land for your cows to graze, a lot of upkeep comes with pastures.  Pastures need to provide proper vegetation and need to be rotated.  If a group of cows is on a particular pasture for too long, they will eat it down to dirt.  You also want to make sure your pasture isn’t to rocky or have obstacles that could increase Bessie’s chance of somehow injuring herself.  What about when it rains, gets really hot, or gets really cold?  Is Bessie close to a shelter area?  What if Bessie gets sick on the edge of the pasture that is miles from the barn?  How quickly will you be able to track her down?   Cows are domestic creatures and need to be cared for; they won’t thrive on their own.  You cannot just kick Bessie out the door and say “Have fun!”.  Whether your cows are in a barn or out on pasture, there is a lot of work to do to keep them happy.  For us, and many others, free-stall barns allow us to keep our cows happy and well cared for.  In fact, I sometimes think our cows prefer their barn over the outdoors!  There have been multiple times when the cows have managed to open their gate and run around (little rascals), but I never get too worried.  After the excitement of finding new territory dwindles down, the cows quickly find themselves back in or near the barn.  The barn is the perfect temperature, has food, water and comfy beds of sand…I wouldn’t want to leave either!

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Just because our barns are big and we milk a large number of cows, doesn’t mean our animals aren’t properly cared for or make us a factory.  We are simply a family that is passionate about dairy farming and wants to continue to grow and evolve.  The saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, well, don’t judge a farm by its size.  Big, small, organic, conventional; all types are vital to the dairy industry and are doing their best to keep cows happy and produce quality milk.  So, lets quit using the term “factory farm” and just call them what they are…large family farms.

 

 

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Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Aren’t Just For Kids!

In honor of June being Dairy Month (and because I LOVE cheese), I thought I would put together a list of grilled cheese sandwiches to try.  These aren’t just your plain, old American cheese on white bread sandwiches, these ooey-gooey delights are master pieces!  Click on the link for the recipe and celebrate Dairy Month with some vigor!

1. The Flat Iron

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Wisconsin Brie, crispy bacon, hash browns, and a fried egg on French toast -start your morning off with this deliciousness.

2. Bleu Cheese & Onion

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Rye bread, muenster cheese, bleu cheese and caramelized onions….probably not going to get your kids to eat this one.  Mmmmm, but it sounds divine to me!

3. Bacon & Pickles

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I never would have thought to add pickles to a grilled cheese sandwich!  Now it is all I can think about.  Cheese, bacon, pickles…what could go wrong?

4. Honey Basil Grilled Cheese

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Mozzarella, fontina, fresh basil, tomatoes and honey.  Feed your Italian side with this creation.

5. Grilled Portobello & Cheese

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I am a big mushroom fan, so this one excites me. Boursin and provolone cheeses, roasted tomato and Portobello mushrooms.  However, I have never heard of Boursin cheese; going to have to look that one up.

6. Gruyere with Caramelized Onions 

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Oh baby, this one has my name written all over it. Gruyere cheese and caramelized onions.  Simple enough.

7. Grilled Apple & Swiss

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A few of Wisconsin’s finest products, apples and cheese. Not sure how I feel about this one, but I love Swiss cheese.  It is worth a try!  Perhaps add some bacon?

8. The Dagwood

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Smoked ham, Swiss & American cheese, tomato and red onion on sourdough; what’s not to like?

9. The Biloxi

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This sandwich features fontina cheese,  pulled barbecue pork, and creamy coleslaw.  My mouth is watering.  Get. in. my. belly.

10.  Grilled Avacodo & Pepper Jack Sandwich

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I’m not a Pepper Jack fan, so you won’t find me chowing down on this one.  Grilled avocado, tomato, sweet onions and Pepper Jack cheese on sourdough. I have a few family members who are wild about this spicy cheese, so I felt I better include old Pepper Jack in the list.

 

How many will you try?  What is your favorite??