Tag Archives: farming

#FarmLove is All About the Love for the Farm

You may have seen several posts recently on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets using the hashtag #farmlove. I thought I’d take a few minutes to share what it’s all about and why we chose to pursue it.

First, #farmlove is all about farmers and those who love farming to share why they love farming. Let’s face it, farming is a tough business and not for the faint of heart. There have been a few days where even I have asked why it is that we are in it. Not only do farmers have the daily operations of keeping everything fed, healthy, running and humming but we also have a constant worry about making enough money to pay the bills and put food on our own table, let alone future stuff like who will take over the farm when we are gone.

And now we have more concerns arising from a shadow that has been cast by mainstream media. Every time an undercover video of animal abuse is released, animal ag takes a hit, even though that type of behavior is not tolerated on the vast majority farms. Certain terms like factory farm, industrial farm, GMOs and hormones are thrown around without any regard to context that they have taken on new meaning and their own negative light. Today’s farms are being scrutinized in everything they do from the types pens they raise their calves in to the type of corn seed they purchase or even if they grow corn by an uninformed, or worse, a partially informed, non-farming public.

So in a way, #farmlove is about connecting all farms together too. There are no labels when we’re using the #farmlove hashtag. Big farms, small farms, conventional farms, grass-based farms, hobby farms, organic farms can all use it. Because we are all in this together. We are all farmers. We all care for our animals and our land and just may have different ways of doing it.

Anyway, #farmlove is about just that. Sharing the love that we have for our farms, for our farm life. If you have any pictures or videos to share, feel free to start. February is a month for love, let’s make it for #farmlove.

FarmLove

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Filed under Agriculture, Dairy Care, Dairy Industry, Farm life

What Makes Farming Worth the Heartache?

Recently I can’t help but notice so many blog posts, articles and pictures of heartache related to farming and ranching. My heart goes out to those producers in South Dakota that lost so much to the recent unexpected October blizzard. So many cattle, horses, hours, years of building genetics, so much.

Another blogger recently wrote about wanting consumers to feel the struggle that we go through as farmers. I know we’ve had ours but I’m sure there are those that have it much worse.

And I’ve seen not just a few posts about city gals marrying farmers and what farm life means. Most of it seems like they’re bending and getting used to life on a farm, maybe even falling in love with it too, though capturing what can be isolating and heartbreaking as well.

So, what keeps farmers going? Why do we put up with the heartache  and uncertainty? I’ll admit I’ve looked at my own DF and asked, why can’t we just have a house in a town somewhere with 9-5 jobs and a paved driveway?

I think farmers are built a little differently. I think the wives or the husbands that fall in love with them accept that and move with them to where they need to be. You have to understand that you can’t change a person, no matter how many J Crew pants you buy them. (I’m still learning to love the tapered leg jeans my DF prefers.)

I’m not city. But I’m not totally country either. I’ve had the farming bug most of my life. I bought my first Jersey calf when I was nine years old. I had a little insight into the heartache and the responsibility that goes along with owning, caring for and loving animals. My very first calf, Annabelle, got sick when she was very young and we had to let her go. This experience, along with many others, led me to making this choice to farm with my husband with my eyes wide open.

And there has been heartache. There has been dearly loved old cows laid down to rest. Young heifers lost by a spell of bad luck. Days where two steps forward gets you three back. It doesn’t happen very often but when it does, it feels like a ton of bricks gently laid down on your chest.

But this writing isn’t about the heartache. My question is, what keeps people farming, if not financial return?

For me, it’s mostly about the animals. It’s the cow who somehow finds herself on the other side of the fence separated from the herd and shows up at the back of the house, bellowing as if she knows you’re in there and you can fix things. (This happened the morning I started writing this and I just shook my head with a little laugh.)

It’s the promise that a newborn baby calf brings, especially when she looks at you with those big brown eyes. The latest girl born here, Amaryllus, had a tough time walking on her back legs as she was a big calf and her dam (mama) had a difficult time birthing her. It’s the moment you realize she’s going to be just fine walking on her own.

It’s Towanda, age 6 now, who was born too early, in a cold, frozen free stall barn whose mama abandoned her that I nursed back to health with many towels, a hair dryer, some help from my brother and another friend and a lot of loving. She’s making the most milk of any of the jerseys now, though she’s still a peanut of a cow.

Towanda, on the left with the white patch, had a little help getting along with pen-mate Lucky Girl when she was really little. Towanda was such a pipsqueak back then - Lucky Girl was an average size calf; Towanda was about half her size.

Towanda, on the left with the white patch, had some help getting along with pen-mate Lucky Girl when she was really little. Towanda was such a pipsqueak – Lucky Girl was an average size calf; Towanda was about half her size.

 

It’s the rush you feel when all the cows surround you in the pasture as you walk out to greet them.

It’s the beauty of the place around you and the sun on your face on a crisp October afternoon while your son is on your lap and you take a spin around a few fields on the gator.

It’s the fact that your son’s first word was “tractor” and the greatest thing on Earth is to ride in his daddy’s lap while he gets the day’s feed for the cows.

Maybe we need the heartache. Maybe it makes these things all that much more endearing; entwining our beings with the farm life so that you have no choice but to give it your best. All your best.

Some people are born into farming, some have the seed planted early in life, like me, and still some are bitten by the bug much later in life. Whatever the case, it sure is hard to shake!

Care to share what keeps you farming despite the heartache it can bring?

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Filed under Agriculture, Dairy Care, Farm life, Life Balance

It’s a Good Day to Put the Old Girl Down

Yesterday, my husband came into the house after he finished milking as he sometimes does to get something to eat and said, “You’ll have to say your goodbyes to Liesel.” Liesel (pronounced “Lee-sell” as I found out after I started calling “Leezl” like diesel fuel) was one of my jersey cows. So I said okay, put my boots on and headed to the barn.

As I walked down there, I noticed what a beautiful day it was. It was really bright out as the sun was out and against the snow it made you feel like you were walking in a dream almost. It wasn’t too cold, but crisp, and you could feel the freshness in your lungs as you breathed in. Altogether it made you feel that much more awake and I thought to myself, “you know, it’s a good day to put the old girl down.”

Truth be told, Liesel wasn’t really all that old as far as cows go. She was 7 1/2. The problem was she somehow developed arthritis in her hips which made it difficult for her to get her 1400 pound frame up and down. Despite all the aspirin we gave her to help with the pain, she wasn’t getting any better and only began to get worse. 

She was a bigger jersey, not exceptionally tall but boy could that cow eat!! Some cows sort their feed and pick out the things they want to eat first and then maybe eat what’s left, (we feed a “TMR” – total mixed ration that contains grass silage, grain, corn, minerals, etc.) Not Liesel, she was like a vacuum, usually exhaling the feed in front of her. When she was big with calf, she was as wide as a house. I used to marvel at it and wonder if we had the right calving or due date for her. I now know a little about how it feels to be as big as a house when you’re carrying a baby!

I showed her when she was younger and in fact she was grand champion at the Woodstock Fair one year. Unfortunately that was the same year we were involved in a barn accident that involved a really mad loose Mama Simental cow trying to get back to her baby. That cow didn’t care what was in her path, including Liesel and a few of our other cows as she stepped on them while they were laying down. Our girls and the people involved ended up being okay but the cow and her calf went right home after that to avoid another accident. The folks who had them weren’t experienced in showing cattle and didn’t realize how crazy a beef cow will get when separated from her calf if it’s not weaned. Regardless, it was a crazy experience and we were lucky no one including the cows was hurt.

People say that putting an animal down is one of the most humane things you can do for it. Even though I’ve been through it several times before, it doesn’t get easier. When I got to the barn that beautiful morning, I scraped down behind the girls, pushed up their feed so they could reach it a bit easier and then took some time to scratch Liesel’s head, behind her ears and under her muzzle. I said my goodbyes and told her how she was going to a better place and she wouldn’t be in pain anymore. I felt kind of silly, like a little 4-Her still, as even now tears well up as I write this. Her dam (mama-cow) was the first cow I bought as an adult. Her first calf was the first I delivered by myself. I never particularly cared for broken-colored jerseys until she came along. She’s always been a good worker and pleasant in the barn. So the last thing I said to Liesel was simply, “thank you.”

Circle S Hallmark Liesel

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Filed under Jersey Cows