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Meeting New Farmers

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Our family farm is a member/owner of Northwest Dairy Association ~ aka “Darigold”.  Our farm has been a part of this coop since the early 1960’s.  There are many benefits to belonging to our coop and one of the biggest benefits is the Young Cooperators “YC” program.  My husband and I have been participating in this program for over 12 years.  The YC meetings have taken us all over the Pacific Northwest ~ Boise, Twin Falls, Portland, Spokane, Sacramento, Tulare, and Bellingham.

The YC program is a great opportunity to meet young dairy farmers within our coop.  The cool thing is many times you meet fellow dairy farmers that are living very similar situations to yourself.  Kids in diapers?  Pregnant with Baby #?  Working through a transition of farm ownership?  Many times you meet at least one or two fellow dairy farmers experiencing the same kind of events in their life as you.

As my time in the YC program comes to an end, I will treasure the many friends and experiences that I have had over the past 12 years.  I encourage all young dairy farmers to take advantage of this amazing program.  But do not just attend.  Get involved and become a leader within the program!!  You will learn so many skills that will benefit you down the road.

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Hotel Bellwether ~ Beautiful location for the 2017 Spring Darigold YC Meeting

 

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2015 Expectations

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It is hard to believe I am sitting here looking at my expectations for 2015.  My husband was remembering the last time we celebrated the New Year in Reno (a former  annual tradition).  It was the 2000 Millennium.  We watched as we marched into a new century and it is amazing that was 15 years ago.  So much in our life has changed, changes we never anticipated, changes we hope for, and changes we wanted to make.  But now as I stare at a new blank 2015 year of “365 days” (what I have seen ALL over FB posts), I am putting together my expectations for the coming year. Why expectations??  I think goals leave room for failure or an excuse for when you don’t achieve them.  To me “expectations” mean I expect to accomplish, achieve, or finish these goals.  So here are a few expectations for 2015:

1.  Let some things go.  I know this may sound cheezy but I need to let some things just “GO”.  I want to take this year and try to repair or rekindle some relationships I had in the past.  Things happen.  People say and do things.  You never know why someone does something to you, but I need to just “Let it go” and try to move on (Darn Disney movie…)

2.  Increase number of heifers calves born on our farm.  This is the way we expand internally and now with our new calf barn, this will be so much easier.  A good calf raising facility makes raising calves easier for everyone!!

Chocolate at 2 days old

Of course I want a few more of these cuties!!

3.  Learn to Artificially Inseminate Dairy Cows.  I want to learn this for a variety of reason.  A few a obvious – 1.  Help increase the number of pregnant cows in the herd.  2.  Help my husband.  3.  Because I want to be able to say “I Can Do It!!”.  This one will be a tough one to accomplish.  It involves time away from the family but if I can swing it I want to learn.

4.  Increase the visibility of the farm.  This is the year to start the publicity for the farm.  I’ve got the farm logo, now it is time to take the next steps.  It is going to be fun to see where we can take this.  Luckily I have kids that help this “techie” challenged mom and hopefully do it right!!

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So as we steam into 2015, I hope all your dreams come true.  As for me and our family, we will be hard at work trying to meet or surpass my expectations for the year!!  Lots of hard work ahead but I would definitely not have it any other way!!

Why I love the Jersey Cow

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If you ever need a reason (I don’t think you do) to love the jersey breed the picture says it all!!

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Farm Tours – I love showing off our farm!!

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I love when people come to visit our farm!!  It is so easy to get focused on all the day to day things it takes to run a successful organic dairy.  Healthy calves, clean barns, accurate and up to date paperwork, and on……  It is very easy to lose sight of the fact that so many people are 2-3 generations removed from agriculture.  Many people have never seen a “live” cow.  For me, I can not imagine that.  But I must remember that it is not necessary to be acquainted with your local farmer in order to eat.  Everything you need to provide good nutritious food for your family is in the grocery store, farmer’s market, or big box store.

I love to show people what we do everyday.  If they get a 1st hand experience of where their organic milk comes from, chances are they will make the decision to buy milk, cheese, or butter on their next trip to the grocery store.  As the dairy industry struggles to find ways to increase dairy consumption, I believe opening our farms to the public can be part of the solution.  It is scary because you always worry you may end up on YouTube or whatever website is featuring the negative aspects of dairy farming.  We have a great story to tell!!  Do not be afraid!!  Open your farm to the public and help get people connected to agriculture again.  Let me know if you ever are interested in a tour!!

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Talking about the Flood of 2007 in our parlor.

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My son with his show cow.

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YoYo the Jersey.

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Calves are always the cutest part of the tour!!

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Explaining commodities.

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Looking at our 300 cow Free Stall Barn.

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Preemie “Chocolate” Update

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A few weeks ago I addressed the issue that dairy farms occasionally have premature calves.  We were lucky enough to have the cutest premature calf who had a will to live.  My kids named this adorable little guy “Chocolate”.  Since that post, I have had questions about him and his status.  It was a tough day when I realized Chocolate was starting to have problems.  Premature dairy calves face many of the same problems human babies do – Pneumonia.  Their lungs are not fully developed and this presents a huge challenge.  It was hard to watch him struggle and eventually  succumb to the effects of Pneumonia.  He was such an adorable little calf and it is always tough to lose an animal I have spent so much time caring for.

"Chocolate"

“Chocolate”

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I am sooooooo adorable!!

 

Bucket List Item #1 “Fertilizer Buggy Driver”

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As a dairy farmer, we tend to have bucket list items that include amazing vacations to amazing destinations, meeting important people in our industry, or achieving an important recognition from our peers.  I have a “Bucket List Item” I added a few years ago.

Fertilizer Applicator Buggy Driver

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Wilco Fertilizer Applicator

Look at this awesome thing!!  Who wouldn’t want to drive this cool piece of equipment for a few days.  It doesn’t get stuck, it is HUGE, and no one would mess with the woman driving it!!

So why is this amazing piece of equipment parked at the farm.  In the fall, we apply hydrated lime to our fields.  When we transitioned to organic dairy farming, it became crucial to manage our pastures as best as we could.  The traditional practice of manure application did not supply enough nutrients to encourage good grass growth.  We tried fish manure – so smelly and disgusting that I made my husband strip in the garage, wash his own clothes, and then maybe I would cook him dinner.  The spreader was lame and IT SMELLED AWFUL TOO!!!  By far the hydrated lime has work quite nicely on all of our fields.  So one day I hope to convince one of the nice Wilco guys to give me a crash driving course.  This is one bucket list item that shouldn’t cost me much and will keep me close to home!!

Calf Care – Why it is my passion

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Raising calves on an organic dairy farm in Western Washington is challenging.  We have been certified organic since 2006.  It has been a total reeducation raising calves.  We did a great job raising calves when we were conventional, but we had so many tools at our fingertips to help us care for calves who became sick.  When we transitioned to organic, we quickly realized things were different. We quickly learned that prevention is the “Key”!!  You know that product “Airborne”??  The commercials recommend taking it before a trip on a plane because it will help you to prevent getting sick.  Well, we needed to adopt that similar philosophy but on a daily basis.  The keys to raising healthy organic dairy calves are simple.

1.  Environment – clean and dry bedding and good ventilation

2.  Vaccinations – Vaccinations help to prevent disease so get a good schedule and stick to it!!

3.  Colostrum – The first 2 feedings should be 2 bottles of good quality Colostrum.  No questions, no excuses.

It is pretty simple but like everyone, I get busy and short cut steps.  When this does happen, I quickly begin to experience problems.  But if I get back to these simple steps, I get quickly back on track.  I am so excited to raise my calves in my new calf barn we have been busy building of the last year.  Check out the amazing pictures.  The amazing Calf Tel pens, group pens, flush system, and curtains.  It is going to be a great place to raise organic dairy calves in the future.

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Group Pens – Each pen has 5-6 calves

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20 Calf Tel Pens

The doors we uses to move in and out with tractors.

The curtains move up and down. It allows control of the air flow through the barn.

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The doors roll up and allow our large loader tractors in and out easily.

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