Wow, just wow.

So, I was WIDE awake last night from approximately midnight until 3 a.m.

I don’t know why.

It could have been Hubby’s snoring or the fact that the dog was being generous and giving me 5-inches of the bed. Every time I moved the dog would grumble.

I mean, really?

I decided to get up and fold laundry, go outside to push up feed and check on the cows.

It was all rather boring. I didn’t match the corners on the towels, it’s really quiet at that time of the morning and none of the cows looked ready to have a baby calf.

I played several games of Solitaire and didn’t win a single one.

I finally fell asleep a few hours before it was time to get my butt out of bed – 6:30 a.m.

Steve was going to a meeting and I wanted to send him off.

Surprisingly, I feel really good today.

I thought my day was moving along just fine – and it’s already 8 a.m.

That was until I decided to get ready to run into town to visit the accountant and banker.

I carefully put a quarter-sized dollop of hair gel into my left hand.

I then proceeded to rub it all over my face.

All the while thinking, “Hmm, that smells different this morning.”

Eee gad!

I may need a nap later, but at least my facial skin will hold it’s shape! (Yes, I did wash it off, but it feel like there may be a residual affect.)

Does my skin looked toned?
It should!

Let it snow, let it snow, LET IT SNOW!

There is nothing like a new snow fall, when doing chores, to  make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The first reason is this: if it is snowing, it means the temperature is moderate. I know less-than-moderate temperatures are coming, so I enjoy the snow when it comes.

The second reason this snow makes me warmer inside that a teenage-love affair, is that I think snow is amazing beautiful – especially before people mar it up with foot prints, cows muck it up with poo and the wind casts it’s spell and turns it into a brown, dirty mess.

This morning, while the temperature hovered around 20 degrees F, I couldn’t help but take pictures. My thumb was frozen. Of course, I did forget to take pictures of the excitable bull calf causing a brouhaha with the cows. Somehow the big bugger managed to escape his Polydome. He was out for a while too; he was almost licked to death by pseudo-momma cows. He was so full of cow saliva, even my gloves were wet by the time I finished, which is why my thumb almost froze off and fell into the snow, while taking pictures.

Too Sweet!
I caught this image while I was watching the gates for Russell. Zach, our herdsman, was petting his Jersey heifer Cassidy.
There's gold in that there milk house.
Who says we don’t have class. Even the milk house has a golden faucet. I give it about a week before it looks icky. I took this picture just before I came into the house for breakfast.
Tubby
This is Tiny, the small Angus beef calf I purchased from our son Joe. I should change her name to Tubby as she is getting kind of fat. Today she was fed a different ration in an attempt to keep her lean and svelte.

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This is my, OK, our favorite dog since our Chocolate Lab Bob passed away last year. Ole is a pit bull-cross and one of the smartest and sweetest dogs I have ever owned. I owe it to the person we adopted him from. She trained him well and he loves it here on the farm.

Sadly, I lost a video I had of Gaston, the goat. He was just giddy in the snow! He was literally bouncing off the walls in his open-front pen by Tiny Tubby. So you will have to accept this image of defiance. He actually did his stunts just after I snapped this image. We love Gaston!

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Stalkers!

20150331_074210 20150331_074156Dr. Phil always say, “Follow your gut feeling.”

Today I felt like I was being stalked and look what I found.

The brown one is Amberbosa. (Yes, Amberbosa) I don’t know who the other one is, but I know she’s going to have TWINS! That’s why she has a red ear tag.

Testing for pathogens

mastitis samplingWe are still working on getting our somatic cell count lower.

Somatic cells are indicators of an infection in the udder.

 Each time a cow contracts mastitis, I take a sample of her milk and put it in the incubator.

If I did it correctly, I will get a result in 12 – 24 hours.

Then I know which medication to use for treatment.

I will post my results later.

Just call me Scientist Kerry!

Breeding is good

Every item I mention in my story is pictured here.
Every item I mention in my story is pictured here.

Breeding is very important on a dairy farm.

Maybe, I should reword that to read, “Breeding cows is very important on a dairy farm.”

Yes, I think that sounds better.

So, when a cow has reproductive issues and Steve and Zach have a hard time getting a cow pregnant, they call in the expert.

That would be me. I consider myself an expert, but the “others” just laugh at me when I say that.

(OK, seriously, I am not an expert, but my numbers are impressive.)

I have a 50 percent conception rate when I artificially inseminate cows.

Seriously! That’s an amazing number!

On average, most people who artificially inseminate cows to get them pregnant will have approximately a 30 percent conception rate.

I am very proud that I have successfully impregnated three of six cows.

Such is the case with our Jersey cow Amy.

Both Steve and Zach were having a hard time getting her to settle. (That’s what we call it when a cow is confirmed pregnant.) If a cow doesn’t get pregnant when she should it costs us in lost semen and lost milk production down the road because she will be so many days in milk. The longer a cow is milked, the less milk she produces.

Believe me, getting Amy pregnant was no easy task for me either. I made several rookie mistakes.

I had absolutely no problem getting prepared for artificially inseminating Amy. I warmed the semen straw in the automatic heater. I tucked the insemination gun in the front of my pants to get it warm.

I don’t know why the tool is called a gun. It’s more like a really thin and long syringe and has no capability of “shooting” the semen into the cow. There is no gun powder involved when inseminating a cow. Rest assured no animals were harmed during this entire breeding process.

A long tube of plastic is also shoved down the front of my Carhartt jeans. This time, if I recall correctly, I shoved all the equipment that needs to be kept warm, through my sports bra and into my pants. Hey, it was super cold outside and cold equipment kills those invaluable little sperm. The temperature of all the equipment needs to be body temperature.

Amy was in the perfect spot when I walked into the housing barn – first stall by the gate. I carefully cleaned her back-end with paper towels. (I think cows need Cottenelle. I mean the bears on television have Charmin.)

I inserted the insemination gun into her girl-cow parts and yelled, “Bang.”

Just kidding. If i did that she would probably haul off and kick me.

Once I had properly inserted the insemination gun containing the semen I had to work the tool through the through the cervix. A cow’s cervix is all lumpy and wavy and, if you lucky, it’s not what they call “tipped.”

Because I was manipulating the gun with my right arm, my left arm was in Amy’s rectum, which makes it possible to feel for her cervix. Amy’s cervix was tipped toward the ground, and a bit to the right.

The key to successfully getting a cow pregnant using artificial insemination is getting the semen in the correct area.

A cow’s cervix and uterus are shaped like the letter “Y.” The semen needs to be deposited right where the “arms” of the “Y” reach for the sky. That’s now a lot of space. Using my left hand to feel around, you can tell when you pass through the cervix, then you pull the gun back and sloooooowly deposit the semen using the plunger on the gun.

I was struggling a bit, so I called Steve over to see if he could help me out. Believe me, that’s the last thing I wanted to do.

“Um honey,” he said. “The plunger on the gun is pushed in. You need to start over.” Essentially, I deposited the semen long before I reached the “Y” in the road.

I trudged all the way back to the milk house and prepared another straw of semen, a pipette and the gun for the second time.

I trudged back to the barn and proceeded to start the insemination process all over again.

It again took me a while, but I managed to accomplish the deposition of the semen in the correct spot.

But something still felt kind of funny in my pants. Remember, I kept all my equipment in there.

I pulled it out and it was the first straw of semen that I assumed I had placed inside the cow.

The bad news…this semen cost 25 dollars per one-quarter cc straw. The other bad news…it was actually Zach that had purchased this expensive straw of semen to use on his cows. More bad news? The semen was actually sexed semen, which means the boys have been separated from the girls.

I could do nothing but hope and pray that Amy settled.

And by golly, Monday morning the vet confirmed with an ultrasound that Amy is just over one month into her pregnancy.

Of course I ran around the farm like Rocky and claimed to be the champion cow breeder. I even did what I refer to as the “Expert Dance.”

“If you’re so good, you can breed Pontiac this Thursday,” Zach said.

I’m all in. Pontiac is Joey’s cow and I am going to work my magic. Besides, I want to my dance again.

I need your feedback

So, I recently attended a Champions of Dairy workshop in the Windy City.

It’s good to go gather with industry professionals to talk and learn about all the fun interesting things dairy producers are doing to promote the dairy industry. I mean, who knew I had to go to Chicago to be the registered dietitian from Hy-Vee in Mankato, a town just a few miles down the road from our farm.

During the workshops, I felt a bit…..I’m not sure what i felt. I wasn’t angry, happy, disappointed.

Confused maybe?

If you know me, you know I am very upfront about a lot of ideas and feelings.

If you have a piece of food sitting smack-dab in the middle of your chin, you can bet I will tell you Mr. Pizza Bit is taking all the attention away from your beautiful face.

I mean, really, if you come upon someone that has a Pizza Bit on his or her face, that’s all you can see while holding a conversation. You feel bad because you know he or she has absolutely no clue this horrendous, ugly bit is hanging around and being an attention-getting hog.You realize that if it were you that had that disturbing little bit of food on your chin, you would want to know.

I respect anyone that has the guts to say, “Hey Kerry, you have a huge smudge of ketchup on your left cheek.”

I say huge, because, with me there is no such thing as a small smudge of ketchup on my face. And it’s probably not just on my face, it’s more than likely also going to be on my favorite white shirt.

I trust people who can say it like it is.

So I was a bit confused by what I was learning at this workshop. Seems many of them think there are topics that should be avoided unless someone brings it forward.

We were discussing farm tours. We host so many visitors out here, I may as well purchase a tour bus and deck it out like I’m as famous as Tim McGraw and need a bus to match.

Imagine the bling! It gives me bling-ching…it’s a chill that makes me want to Bedazzle everything!

Anyway, during this workshop several farmers were telling their story of giving tours. They didn’t like to take people into their milking parlor, because cows poop in the parlor.

They don’t talk about treating a sick animal with antibiotics.

They don’t talk about boosting their economic base with the use of rBGH. (Although,we are considering not using this on our cows because it is becoming economically unfeasible. It’s very expensive to use.)

They don’t talk about cows that are lying on the ground and unable to get up.

That is, unless someone on the tour asks about these touchy subjects.

Aren’t all of these topics in the forefront? Don’t you, the consumer want to know exactly this type of information?

If you have ever been on a tour our here on the splendid grounds of SKH, Inc., you know I don’t mince my words.

I tell you we treat cows with antibiotics and I also show you how we segregate milk produced from those treated cows.

I tell you that you shouldn’t work on a dairy farm if you don’t like being crapped on while putting the milking unit on a certain cow. If you don’t like getting splattered with cow pee, don’t take a job harvesting white gold.

I also explain how we keep our parlor clean, even during the milking process with water hoses and pressure washing. We have to our milk inspector that comes unannounced says we have to…it’s the law.

I tell you that I drink milk from my bulk tank because I trust the milk that I am producing and I know I won’t get ill. I also tell you that you shouldn’t drink milk from my bulk tank because you don’t work with my cows. I have immunity from being splattered with aforementioned manure and such.

I am very transparent.

So what I am looking for is guidance from all my readers and from those that have been on tours on our farm.

Do you like that I am very transparent and that you get to see life on the farm as it is, or should I tame it down a bit?

What do, or did, you like about the tours we have given?

Please be gentle on Steve. I know he gives the extended version of tours and I give the quick tours, and that’s OK. Those of you that want details would thoroughly enjoy a “Steve Tour.”

Please give me your feed back. I have another tour coming up and I want to know how I should shape our presentation.

Dogs rock

1406237609350Not only do dogs provide us with love on the farm, they also provide fun and rodent control.

Between Lilly, the black and white Great Dane; Ole, the rust-colored Pit Bull and Bob the Chocolate Lab, there is always something going on. Ole has such an expressive face. Lilly is just a big doof and Bob is always fairly serious; she’s a senior citizen.

These three dogs love to go swimming in the river. Not that Lilly and Ole are any good at it, but they do have fun. Bob still loves to do the infamous doggy paddle.

Our dogs keep away rats, cats and any other varmint that wanders to close to the farm. I KNOW THEY keep skunks at bay too. They come home smelling like Peppy le Pew often enough.

We love our dogs as if they are family because they are family.

Riff – raff returns to our area

Well, I thought I lived on the safe side of the Minnesota River.

I mean, I know that the area of St. George is considered “God’s Country,” but I didn’t think the area around Searles was too far behind the land of amazing corn and soybean harvests.

We have pretty good harvests in our neighborhood too. By the way, a neighborhood in rural terms encompasses everything within a 10-mile radius of a farmer’s homestead.

It’s true, I have friends that live near Sigel ballpark that I consider neighbors. I would like to think Sigel residents feel the same way.

But I digress, which happens a lot to me when I sit down at my computer. Back to the matter at hand.

I feel like I live in a rather unassuming area. There is very little riff-raff that enters my expansive circle. If there were, I would have to create Steven Spielberg’s story “Under the Dome.”

Sure, we have the occasional wayward soul that seems to think it’s OK to dump garbage, animal carcasses and appliances in the neighborhood, but even that ugly activity has decreased as time moves forward.

My two theories concerning the decrease in riff-raff activity is this: 1. They are too old to lift the appliances out of the pickup bed; 2. We have actually caught one of these souls dumping garbage and he ended up getting ticketed for something way worse that littering. I bet word spreads fast in their “neighborhoods” on safe dumping grounds.

So, the other day, when I decided to take my two capable dogs for a run, using my bike, I was a bit dismayed at what happened to me.

I have one rather large Great Dane, who needs to diet and exercise. According to the latest dog medical magazine, Lilly is 20 percent overweight and obese. She passed that milestone over the winter. I tried to hide the story from her, but she is too tall and she managed to see all those pictures of overweight dogs.

All she could do was look at me with those sad-dog eyes.

“I’m obese?”

On  the other hand, I just adopted a pitbull-lab cross, and he has problems with too much energy. He subscribes to Dog Fit magazine. Ole needs to always have somewhere expansive to run and play. Usually he chooses to visit the Schlumpberger residence, which is only one mile away from the home fort in my 10-mile circle, to play with their rat terrier.

In an effort to appease both dogs, I hopped on my bike and took off down the road. Not soon enough. Steve came driving up behind me in his pickup and told me I had a flat tire.

No wonder it was taking all my energy to pedal my bike.

I was sweating like a dog! You do know dogs sweat by panting, right?

I hopped off my bike, laid it in the ditch for later retrieval and kept walking with my dogs.

Soon enough, Russell came by in his Jeep. He had our chocolate lab Bob in the backseat. He said, “Bob wanted to go for a walk too.” (She’s old and very slow.)

“Just wait,” I said, “I’m riding with you and running the dogs like city-folk do.”

I stuck my head out the window and offered cheers of support for both Lilly and Ole, while the wind blew through my summer-blonde hair.

Bob sat in the back seat happily panting as the breeze blew through her Hershey-colored dog hair. She was in heaven. This appeared to be her favorite walk EVER!

We ventured to Grandma Tadpole’s house and visited with Steve, Grandma, Russell, myself and three tired dogs.

One the way back home, I hopped into Steve’s pickup, because I wanted to pick up my bike on the drive home.

I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t find my bike. Within that hour, someone had lifted my bike!

Riff raff!

I’m OK with that. I figure once the person uses it, they will put it back in the ditch.

If said riff-raff wants to return my bike, believe me, the only question I will ask, is this, “Why did you have to bring it back?”

 

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