Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Keeping Cattle Warm

If you missed my post from last week about fat be sure to check it out. I did a little experiment to show how livestock stay warm in the winter months. 

Today I wanted to share a couple of pictures of some of the windbreaks we build in the winter time with our round hay bales. 

It's just another way of using all our resources to farm, and since we aren't feeding this hay quite yet why not build a "hay fence" To help keep out some of our South Dakota wind? 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Let's Talk About Fat

I think this is a great topic for the holiday season especially as we are half way through and everyone's pants are fitting a bit more snug after Thanksgiving.

But, I actually want to talk about fat on cattle. 

A pretty common question I get asked when people visit our farm, or even our home, is about whether our cattle are cold. 

Which is a really good question, because it's so cold here in South Dakota that we are constantly focused on keeping animals warm and in good health in order to ensure they make it through the winter season without getting sick.

So, I decided to do a little experiment to show how warm our cattle really are- even when it's cold out there, they can actually be quite comfortable. 

It's all about fat. And the fact that they have a pretty thick hide. 

I filled a metal bowl as full as it would go with ice and then on top of that I ran ice cold water. I set the bowl on the counter for a little bit to get nice and cold.

And then I asked my oh so willing babysitter to stick her hand in there and see how long she could keep it in the ice cold water. 

Not long at all, maybe 30 seconds top. And then I tried, and it was so cold I made it in even less time.

Then I brought out this huge tub of lard. And explained how I was going to coat my babysitter's hand in the lard and ask her to put her hand back in.

She is so trusting! And so willing!

At first I did a thin layer of lard and it didn't do anything. Then I really coated her up.

She held her hand in the water for at least ten minutes, and could have gone even longer, but we were getting bored just sitting there watching her hand in ice water. 

Her hand wasn't even cold, not even a little bit. I didn't believe her of course, so I had to try it myself. 

And she was right, no matter how long our hands were in the ice water as long as they were covered in the lard completely, nice and thick, our hands felt toasty like they were in a warm mitten.

This is a perfect demonstration of animals that live outside within the elements. Animals tend to grow a winter coat in preparation for the cold winter months, and tend to fatten themselves up.

The extra fur and the extra fat keep an animal pretty warm, even when it's too cold for us outside.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Food For Thought Friday: Thinking Outside Our Acreage

I have been pretty lucky in my life to get to travel. Out of the country and also inside the country.

Now that I am older and I am a farmer’s wife and I am a mom, I find myself appreciating our home and our land and the sense of security I have every time I lay my head down at night. 

As farmers sometimes it’s hard to think outside of our little (or big) acreage, but it’s so so so important that we do. Especially now that society is showing more and more interest in just where their food is coming from. 

Statistics show that consumers are now three generations removed from the farm. It may be hard to believe, but I know people that have never actually seen a cow up close. Let alone walk through a field of corn. But, in my opinion, it’s more important now, than ever before that we think outside of our own little place we call home. 

Over 1 billion people are starving in the world today. And while I know the life long saying of don’t just provide them with food, but teach them to grow, I also think as farmers we need to be thinking not just locally, but globally. 

By the year 2030, the population and income middle class is supposed to grow by 3 billion people. 

Global food challenges isn’t just something of the future, it’s something of the present and should be on the forefront of our minds. 

Consumption of food is increasing at 23% and the amount of crop produced per acre is only increasing at 9%. Do you see the problem? Lots of people eating, but not nearly as many people growing.

Just a little food for thought this Friday. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Facebook Official

Last week I made it "Facebook Official" so, now I am announcing on all my social media pages!

More of our story on IVF to continue, but until then....

Friday, November 7, 2014

Food For Thought: Shopping The Outside Of The Grocery Store

After spending nearly a week in Washington D.C. with some of my favorite farmer friends I have walked away with insight to so many topics from kids to raising cattle to spraying pesticides to GMO's. And you can't help but want to expand your mind to simply understand. 

Am I a biased person for being raised in a certain environment? Do I only see things from an upper middle class point of view? Can I really relate to poverty, or being hungry?
Can you?

I can't ever remember a time where I have gone hungry. But globally within our population there are people every day wondering how they are going to get just a little milk for their next baby's meal. 
Have you ever heard the line "shop around the outside of the grocery store". This essentially means that everything you are feeding your family is fresh. From fresh fruits to fresh breads to fresh dairy and meats. But, what about the families that can't?

I often times hear from consumers about how they think that all the food in the middle, or all the preserved food, is not good for you. But, here is something to think about...what about the people who can only afford the cheaper canned goods instead of the fresh fruits along the outside?
Every year as the hot topic of food gets bigger and bigger I can't help but think of how the poverty level seems to be getting bigger and bigger too. 

We are farming more on less land and we are doing our part to make food as affordable as possible, but it's still not a good feeling when you hear a story from a school board member about how some children's families simply sends them to the local gas station for a $1 slice of pizza, because they can't afford the drive to the grocery store or the product within that store. 

The point I am trying to make here is to simply think about how lucky you are if you are that mom that can afford to shop the "outside of the grocery store", but when you are knocking on all the "middle food" try to think of that mom that can only afford to feed her child canned vegetables. 
It's just something to think about this Friday, a little food for thought. And especially as we enter the holidays a nice reminder to say a little prayer for how lucky we are!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Food For Thought: Positive Attitudes

Just a little Food For Thought this Friday!

One thing I can’t speak often enough about is change. And how it’s inevitable. I know I have talked before about how important it is to be flexible, because you never know what mother nature or the bank is going to throw at you on any given year. 

But one thing I don’t talk about enough is having a positive attitude about change on the farm. 

A few months back I spent the morning touring a farm near the Chesapeake Bay area and one of the speakers was talking about his conversation with an older gentleman and how he had the secret to growing good corn. His response, a positive attitude.

It really got me thinking. Sometimes change can be hard, it can be scary, and it can seem overwhelming, or unfair. But, it’s inevitable. Technology is only getting better, the number of farms smaller, and the dynamics on the farm changing. Whether it’s buying a new piece of equipment that has a brand new shiny GPS system in it. Or stepping back so the next generation can learn. Change can be hard. But having a positive attitude is sometimes even harder. 

I know I sometimes I struggle with this. I get a little bitter sometimes when my daughter has been an absolute terror and my husband is still cutting hay at 9 PM. I sometimes get a little bitter when everything we spend our money on is something farm related. It’s hard not to. Life revolves around our farm. Our farm is our life. 

One thing I know I need to work on is a positive attitude. And having it all the time instead of just the days that go smoothly. 

Couldn’t we all really work on a positive attitude? Isn’t it something we can bring into our homes, our farms, every day? Just think how much better every day can be is you look at the bright side of everything. 

So, the take away….Be open to change. And keep a positive attitude. It can make a world of difference I think in any situation. 

And if you really want the secret to growing a good crop of corn....try keeping a positive attitude all season long! You never know, it just might be the key.

Monday, October 27, 2014

We Were Rolling With Soybeans

And before I knew it we were done! 

It seemed to fly by this year, but maybe my husband would disagree, the weather didn't cooperate for a few days in there so that put us out of the field. But, a few weeks ago we finished the last of our soybeans. 


To farmers sustainability is really important. I really believe in using what we grow and eating what we raise and using their resources (manure) to continue to grow our crops. I like using every resource we have, it's what makes us sustainable.

If you remember from my posts on corn silage we chop corn silage for feed in the winter time to feed our cattle. We also fill our bunkers with corn for the winter too. But, soybeans are a little different. 

We don't feed soybeans on our farm, although some farmers do feed soybeans to cattle it's not a very practice in our area. The two industries that use soybeans the most are the poultry and pork industries. 

So, why plant soybeans?

Do you ever plan out your garden before the season gets here? How often do you plant things in the exact same spot as last year? Some crops you might, but for the most part everything I have ever learned, or read, has said how important it is to rotate your plants around in your garden and how it can help you produce more efficiently with the nutrients in your soil. Different plants all have different nutrient needs. So, if a plant needs a lot of nutrients it's going to pull a whole lot of nutrients from the soil. Like corn. If you continue to plant corn over and over in a field then the nitrogen levels will start to deplete in that field, which will mean more fertilizer application will be needed to have healthy plant growth.

Soybeans are called a nitrogen fixating plant. Meaning that instead of just taking nutrients out of the soil, like a lot of plants, it actually puts some nutrients back in. Crop rotation is a really good plan to help cut down on the fertilizer that's applied to the soil, which also cuts down on un-needed fertilizers costs. And let me tell you, fertilizer is not cheap. I promise. 

Organic farmers tend to use some sort of crop rotation on their farm in order to spread less fertilizer and spray less pesticides, however, keep in mind that they are also allowed to use over 20 different types of fertilizers and pesticides on their farm as approved by the USDA. It's all about the origin of those pesticides, or where they come from.

We do farm conventionally, but crop rotation is a practice that we use. A crop rotation could be every other year. Meaning a farm might plant corn this year in a field and next year plant soybeans in the same field. But, for the most part, if I remember correctly, it's more common to see farms on a two year crop rotation plan. Meaning they might plant corn for two years and then soybeans for two years. But, crop rotation can also depend heavily on the soil in the region where you live.

So, instead of feeding soybeans to our cattle we typically sell soybeans to be used for livestock feeds, soy foods, biodiesels, lubricants, and I am sure there are a million other things too. If we don't sell them right away we will store them in a grain bin and sell them later in the year. 

And, since we finished soybeans we didn't waste any time before we swapped out our combine for corn and got rolling with that!

Happy Harvest! And I hope all my farmers and farmwives out there are being safe!