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.

It’s a Debbie-Downer kind of day

20150213_084923
This is me immediately after milking the cows this morning. It’s not always fun and games being a dairy farmer. Today I am frustrated. Continue reading to see what’s up in my world.

If you recall, last week (Well, I think it was last week.) Steve and I had placed a bet in the milking parlor regarding the quality of our milk.

He switched the teat dip we use on the cow before and after they are milked. Remember, the post dip smells like a Dreamsicle.

It still does and that color of orange that it is, well that’s enough to make a person smile every morning.

Well, it appears to me that I am winning the bet. I haven’t started counting my money jars and loose change at the bottom of my purse.

Even though I am ahead in the contest, I couldn’t be more frustrated.

I am the kind of girl that says, “Well, that’s not working. Let’s move on. Can we switch back to the iodine dips now?”

“No. I want information. We are waiting until the milk tester comes in 10 days to see what is going on,” Steve said. “If there are a bunch of new infections in cows, we will switch.”

That’s what I find so frustrating.

We’ve been through teat-dip experiments before and they all end up the same way.

To me, it’s blatantly obvious the foaming pre-dip and popsicle-like post dip are not working. The filter that keeps all the gobledy-gook out of the bulk tank was full of infection indicators. Those little indicators look like curdled milk.

Icky!

Through a piece of paper in front of me that contains a bunch of numbers and other information and it’s like my mind freezes up.

I don’t have time to analyze all that info.

We have tested the milking equipment and that has been adjusted accordingly. Apparently, the vacuum, which is needed to collect the milk from the cow and send it through the pipeline, was set a bit low for the speed at which our cows were letting their milk down.

Oh, they have little computers they can hook up to individual units that measure all the intricacies of a milking unit.

If you thought milking was just about putting a unit on the cow and chatting or discussing the low down on politicians, children and supper, think again.

That was the old days; back when Steve and I were young. Now we are old and there is no time for standing around in the milking parlor.

So, here it is mid-experiment, I have to deal with 10 more days of cows getting mastitis.

And that directly affects my personal goal of keeping the quality of our milk well ahead of where it is right now.

You see, it’s not all fun and laughter out here on the farm.

It’s hard working with your spouse, especially when two people have such different personalities.

Every day I find myself trying my hardest not to get into a full-blown “discussion” with my favorite man in the whole wide world.

So this morning, he went his way.

And I am going mine.

Steve, Russell, our herdsman Zachery, my father and several others are working on cleaning out the compost barn. This involves two full days of moving compost out of the barn and spreading it on the field.

Our compost is amazing. Not only does it have a ton of food for this next year’s crops, it doesn’t smell all that much either.

Oh, living on the farm place allows one to totally appreciate the smell of organic fertilizer.

Those that live around the field where that fertilizer is spread can hardly smell anything.

Believe me, that is a relief to Steve and I. We don’t need to upset our neighbors.

We do our best to keep them all happy.

(I know I promised a story on my construction project here at home – still working on it. Will share soon. Patience is a virtue and is one that i don’t possess!)

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?”

 

Time to exercise, but not this way

Saturday night I felt a bit guilty for eating three full-sized graham crackers covered with left-over cheesecake filling before I sauntered upstairs to watch Netflix on my iPad.

I kind of swore that I wouldn’t partake in snacking before go up to relax in bed.

I puffed my pillows and settled into bed with my earphones in my ears.

I just about hit the ceiling when I felt some very strong fingers grab ahold of my foot. I was so enthralled in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, I was a bit freaked out.

Those hands were my husbands and I instantly knew it was going to be bad. He never grabs my feet any other time.

“There are beef cows and black and white Holsteins running around in your yard,” Steve said.

That’s like hearing, “Code blue!” “S.O.S.” or “Mayday!” or “He’s in v-tach!”

There’s no time to ask questions, or get answers for that matter, because Steve gives these long drawn-out answers. And by-god, those cows are ripping up my new grass seeding!

I quickly removed my pajamas and put on my smelly, dirty chores clothes. Grabbed my wool vest and was out the door before Steve even had socks on.

Yep. The cows were obliterating my new grass in front of the house. Oddly enough, the small electric-fence I created to keep the dogs off my lawn had trapped a big beef cow. She was on the inside of the fence and couldn’t figure out how to get on the outside of the fence. Cows can be so dumb.

I jumped on my super-sonic bicycle and started herding cows back toward the “escape tunnel.”

They ruined the fence right by the north-end of the barn.

Steve and I herded the all but one of the wild beasts into the correct pasture. Then we had to figure out how one other rogue cow trapped herself into another pasture area and bring her back to the other group.

Well, herding her worked as well as trying to catch a greased pig in a County Fair contest.

She managed to jump through a fence, and run through knee-high mud and manure and hide herself in the group of cows that are not being milked.

Steve, being the insane cow herder that he is, thought we should try to get her out of that group. I, being the sane cow herder, thought we should wait until morning.

I lost and I was headed into the mud and manure.

I stood in front of a vast mud hole. I pondered how I was going to cross and the only thought that came to my mind was to follow the cows’ tracks.

Well, that worked as slick as trying to catch two greased pigs at the County Fair.

Before I knew it, my rubber boots were making this awful sucking sound as I tried to take steps. My feet were coming out of my boots and my boots were disappearing in the brown goo.

By the time I weaseled my way out of my gooey mess, I had removed my boots and stuck my feet into the cold goo. My hands were also full of it, as I had to balance when I tried to pull my boots out of the mud.

They still stink.

Eventually I removed myself from the abysmal mud and started to walk to the milk house for a proper dousing in the large stainless steel sinks.

My feet were cold, manure and mud had squished between my toes and my hands were just as icky.

After I returned to the house, I thought, “Well, I don’t have to feel bad for snacking before I had gone to bed. I had worked it all off. In one hour I road my bike at super speed, ran around the grain bins like I was on a merry-go-round and used every muscle in my body to unstick myself from the manure-mud mixture.

Yep. I think I burned off the cheesecake filling.

It’s good to live on a farm.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at kahoffman@newulmtel.net

 

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