How to Raise Calves

The calves are here!  The calves are here!

Last summer, we started the tradition of getting a few calves from our dairy for the kids to raise.  CHORES!!

On a normal morning, heifer calves get picked up from our dairy and go to a farm 5 miles south of our main site.  Along with the calves, all of our ‘dump milk’  gets picked up too.  (Any milk from a cow that is receiving medicine cannot be sold, but it certainly doesn’t go to waste.)  I really need to break down and get a smartphone, because the vehicle that our heifer grower uses is an old ambulance.  I would have loved to have a camera to catch a photo of that!

So, anyhow, this was not a normal morning!  The calves were going home with us.

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Liv, meeting her calf for the first time.

First, Vince and I (along with long-time employee, Eddie) had some vaccinating to do on some 20-24 month old heifers, but I will blog about that some other time.

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The first milk a calf receives is called colostrum. A mother is able to pass immunity to offspring in this manner.

Tonight, our calves will receive milk replacer.  It would be really good if we could feed them dump milk from the dairy, but this is so much more convenient.  I guess milk replacer for calves could be compared to formula for babies.

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The shirt of a calf feeding boy!

At our dairy, we typically have 2 heifer calves each day.  Can you even imagine naming 700 calves???  We don’t.  As kids, we named all the calves on our farm, and I can still remember paging through a baby-names book.

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Vince brushing his calf. He named her ‘Crazy’, because she was so rambunctious for only being 15 hours old.

Chores, for now, begin with using a pitchfork to move any manure from the pen to a wheelbarrow.  Then, the calves each get a bottle of milk.  At this young age, a calf can be very hungry for one feeding and not very hungry at all the next.   The work increases in a week or two when they will need water and feed, as well.

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After hearing what her brother named his calf, and seeing the calm demeanor of her own, she thought the name “Lazy” was fitting. So there you have it, Crazy and Lazy.

I will post updates as our chores will change as the calves grow and mature.  We will keep them until the school year starts again, at which point they will join the rest of their herd-mates.

Do you have any questions about how we farm?  I am really looking forward to June Dairy Month, and would love to have all my posts in June be “answers” to your “questions”.  So yes, that definitely means I would love for you to ask me a question!!!

Also, I invite you to see some other farm photos through Midwest Dairy’s PinTourist contest, running now through the end of June at Pinterest.  One random ‘tourist’ will be chosen to receive a $200 grocery gift card, as well as a prize pack from Midwest Dairy.

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Why and How I Cloth Diaper

8 years ago, I began researching cloth diapering as I was expecting my first child.  This research was done using *gasp* dial-up internet, so it was a bit time-intensive.  Ultimately, I decided to try it out and am glad that I did.

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I love when I can hang my diapers on the line. Sunshine is a great way to get diapers really white again.  In the background, our beautiful tree in bloom and heifers checking out the happenings on the yard.

In a way, cloth vs. disposable diapers can be compared to silverware vs. plastic forks and spoons.  I much prefer using the real stuff, but at times the plastic will just have to do.  I almost always use cloth diapers at home, but if a child is going to be in the church nursery or with a babysitter, then I pull out the disposables.  Or, as my older children call them, fake diapers.

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Ava rockin’ a cloth diaper and tons of heartburn-inducing hair.

I have tried tons of different types over the years, but my favorites are Fuzzibunz.  If someone from Fuzzibunz wants to send me a check for endorsing their product, please leave a comment below:)  I use cloth wipes and a cloth diaper pail liner and wash it as one big load.  One of the most fantastic parts of cloth diapering is that I stumbled upon Charlie’s Soap as a laundry detergent.  Now, I use it for all our laundry.  It works so well on farm clothes.  Charlie’s Soap is the detergent of choice for a huge number of cloth diaper users, mostly because it rinses clean and is free of scents, dyes, enzymes, softeners, and other additives.

I know some people who have tried cloth diapering and changed their minds.  It certainly isn’t for everyone.  Both Mom and Dad have to be on board.  That being said, I have loaned out my newborn diapers to at least 10 people over the years, and quite a few have stuck with it.

When Vince was a newborn 7 years ago, the nurse at the doctor’s office saw his diaper and declared me a “brave mama”.  I am certain it was the first time she had seen a cloth diaper.  I know that nurse today as a fellow mom — I should ask her if she remembers that.  Although that was ages ago….way back in the era of dial-up internet!  I am confident that we will all see more and more cloth diapering in the future.

Lastly, thanks so much for reading!  Yesterday, I hit 5,000 views and am so honored to have so many people viewing my writing.  I really appreciate it.

Time for planting corn

Farmers everywhere are out in the fields right now.  Those that grow corn and soybeans always start by planting corn, then soybeans.  During harvest, the order is reversed.  Soybeans don’t take nearly as many days to mature.

Having enough days to mature is definitely a concern now.  Last year, everybody was in the field early and finished planting very soon.  This year, corn planting is WAY behind schedule.  The soil was just too wet and cool.  Last Tuesday, on May 7, my husband planted 80 acres of corn and then it began to rain.  It rained on Wednesday and Thursday and then took 2 days to dry out.  We don’t roll on Sundays, so you can imagine the hurry to get going on Monday.

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It wasn’t much of a photo shoot…one click of the camera and into the tractor they went!

On a great day with minimal break-downs, Joe can plant 450 acres.  This means no breakfast, lunch or dinner with the family, but we understand.  It also means not watching your daughter sing and do finger-plays for her preschool graduation.

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I simply cannot believe this little girl is off to kindergarten in the fall.

Right now, there is a 60% chance of rain here tonight and 60% chance on Sunday.  Eek!  One of the most difficult things about farming is that you are at the mercy of the weather.  I can’t imagine trying to be a farmer without trusting that the Lord will care for you and that He always knows your needs.

Speaking of the weather, I was reading a publication called The Farmer (creative, right?)  http://magissues.farmprogress.com/MOR/MR05May13/mor015.pdf and their weatherman is predicting June and July to have lots of rain showers and thunderstorms from Minnesota south to Missouri, and off to the Northeast.  The drought is supposed to show significant improvement in those areas.  In Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, the temperatures during June-July are supposed to be below average.

Right here in Worthington, Minnesota, the city has imposed a ban on non-essential water use.  This includes watering trees, flowers, and gardens.  No washing out your dog kennel or washing your car in your front drive.  No flower baskets along downtown streets and no landscaping around the new Events Center.

Hopefully, if that weatherman is correct, things can get back to normal for the city residents soon.  Joe would sure like to get that corn seed in the ground first, though:)

P.S.  I just published this blog post and realized that it definitely reads as though my husband is a one-man show.  Which is very far from the truth.  It is just that I capture more photos of him, and he usually is the one in the tractor with the planter!  His dad, along with 3 other dedicated employees, work hard to ‘prepare the way’.  That includes things like picking rock, spraying, digging, and hauling seed.

Kids at our Farm! Ocheda Dairy Tour.

It’s a pretty fantastic day at Ocheda Dairy — we are having 2 tour groups.  The photos below are from the tour this morning.

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They are here! Yippee!

I never tire of seeing a school bus pull up to our farm.  There is so much misinformation about farming out there, and when I have the opportunity to show kids and parents around our farm and let them ask questions…..well, that is just going to be a wonderful time.

This morning, I sent out a text message to some of our main employees to let them know little people would be touring.  Just a small safety measure.  Then, I showed up 30 minutes early to quickly scrub the break room floors (our employees always need breaks and don’t usually take their boots off) and unload my car.  But that is it.  I am so proud that we can simply open our doors and say, “Welcome!”.  What the tour group sees is exactly what goes on everyday.

So, what did they see?

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This is the translator explaining how the cows lay in the stalls.

We started in the barn looking at a group of heifers that will all have their first calf in the next 3 months.  Someone asked me if they were all females.  Yes!!  Nothing we can do to convince a male to give us milk.  Then, the question about how they could possibly get pregnant.  The language barrier made it interesting to explain artificial insemination, to say the least!  I tried to keep it as simple as possible by saying there are bull farms that collect semen, we buy small straws of it, and then inseminate the cow with a pipette when she is at the proper time in her cycle.  I am hopeful the message got across correctly!

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My daughter, Ava, is wearing the pink coat. The lady carrying her is a friend of mine from Liv’s dance class. She loves to hold kids and Ava loves to be held, so they get along quite well. Ava was pretty excited to see her come off the bus!

Currently at the dairy, we have some extra space.  It worked out so nicely for the tour.  I told the kids we were going to pretend to be cows and we walked into the one new pen that hasn’t had any cows in it yet.  It makes it easier to explain how the cows drink water and lay in the stalls when they are standing right next to the water trough or jumping in the sand of the stall.

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On average day, we have 3 calves born at our dairy.

Next, we checked out the calf pen.  The kids loved this part.  The 6 calves in the pen were 0-2 days old.  One was so new it was still a bit wet.  A teacher asked me if the calves get cold, and I was happy to tell her that there is heat under the floor for our calves.  I apologize that the photo is not better.  Kids were excited and swarming all around me!

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Then, we headed to the milking parlor.  Whenever I give a tour, the reaction to this part is pure amazement.  Honestly, people would watch and stare for hours if I let them.

IMG_4848We finished up by heading to the break room.  The kids washed their hands while I told them the importance of consuming 3 servings of dairy a day to build strong bodies.  We had samples of milk, yogurt and cheese to help kids make the connection of “farm to fork”.

In other news on the farm, corn planting started on Tuesday.  Joe finished up 80 acres before it started sprinkling rain that night.  It is still raining now, so the earliest to get back at it would possibly be Saturday.  It is getting late and farmers everywhere around here are getting pretty anxious.  So, while we are appreciative of the rain, we can’t wait for the wheels to start rolling again.

What to Expect

When I was pregnant with my first-born, I read the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” week by week.  I knew each detail of what part of baby was developing and all the reasons for the symptoms I had.  Now that that baby is 7 years old, I really could use a book entitled, “What to Expect of That Child You Had Expected”.

I, along with Farmer Joe, have been giving a lot of thought lately as to what we should expect from our children.  What can a five-year-old and seven-year-old bring to the table?  (And while we’re at it, to what extent can we forgive a two-year-old for pulling everything back off of that table?)

Is it enough for a child to get good grades in school?  Then, are they exempt from doing chores around the house?  Some moms and I kicked this question around the table at a discussion on parenting recently.  The resounding answer was “no”.  Nobody thought that was enough.  We definitely want our children to know how to do laundry, cook, scrub floors, balance a checkbook, etc, when they graduate from high school.  What do we need to do to achieve all these things?  It is definitely another item that parents have to juggle.

I have been failing my son in this area.  He comes home from school, does his homework, practices piano on a good day, and that is it.  On most Saturdays, Joe does a great job of putting him to work so I do feel good about that.  However, I know that my son could do a ton more than he does.  He CAN unload the dishwasher but he might drop the plates, knives could cut him, and I may never find my potato peeler again.  Also, it is a morning task and he does it loudly enough to wake up the neighbors (which is extra-impressive when you consider we live in the country).  He can pick up books, but doesn’t put them in the order that I do.  I cringe to see him sweep the floor because Cheerios are being swept under the stove and only half of what does get swept up makes it from the dustpan into the garbage.

I need to lower my standards about HOW things are done and raise my standards about HOW MUCH is done.  I definitely admit that.  

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Can’t you just see the pride?

I have one small success story.  Last year, on the first day of summer break, I had Vince and Liv each pick out a day-old calf to call their own.  The kids were in charge of bottle-feeding them milk twice a day and cleaning their pen.  They took a ton of pride in their work and any visitor to our farm HAD to go see them.  We are definitely doing that again this year.

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Vince training her to lead at the fair.

Yet, that is just one small thing and I need to expect more.  I would love to hear your real-life experience.  What do you think we can expect from our kids?  If you have older kids and could go back and do it again, what would you do differently?  Do you remember what was expected of you when you were growing up?  I would appreciate any advice.

 

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Perhaps the reason that Minnesotans are always described as being ‘nice’, is that we always have a conversation starter:  the weather.

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The bus was 15 minutes late this morning!

The last day of school has been moved from the 16th of May to the 20th.  I think Vince may get in quite a bit of planting beans.  A spring to remember.