Sparkling clean!

1426770389966-1190329860The inspector that inspects our milk coop, (AMPI) stopped at our farm yesterday. He was checking on the places where AMPI purchases their milk, to make sure it’s amazing milk and that it is produced in a clean and friendly environment.

According to Steve, the inspector  said, “The milking parlor looks amazing!”

Who pressure washes the parlor?

This chick!

Who nags on  fellow employees to always do a super-dee-duper wash job after milking?

This chick!

In the end, it’s all worth it!

To have an inspector compliment us on a clean parlor, makes me give all of our employees a pat on the back.

 

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.

cropped-cropped-20140506_152255_android.jpg

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.

It’s a Debbie-downer kind of day

20150213_084923

This is me this morning after milking chores. It’s not always fun and frolic, sometimes it can be quite stressful working side-by-side with your husband. (This photo has not been Photoshopped, obviously!)

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.

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!)

High stake bets in the milking parlor

One of our most curious cows has earned the name Snoop Dog!

One of our most curious cows has earned the name Snoop Dog! (Old photo, Snoop is no longer with us.)

 

Steve and I have a huge bet laying out on the line.

Whomever loses the bet has to take the other person out to supper at
George’s Fine Steaks; plus pay the other person $100 on top of that.

I hope I win. I could use that money!

I don’t have that much cash lying around in the bottom of my purse. If I
counted the money hiding in all the black crevasses of my
bag, I would probably have 25 cents.

Here’s the dealio.

Two weeks ago, we switched our pre- and post- dip solutions.

Previously, we were using an iodine solution for both procedures.

The pre-dip was, and still is, designed to kill all the germs on the teat.

The post-dip was and still is, designed to disinfect the milk residue left on the teat after milking.

The post-dip also has an amazing emollient which keeps the teats nice and soft and in great condition.

Years ago, we tested our bedding to see exactly what kind of germs are in thriving in the moist warm sawdust and
we determined the iodine solution is the perfect solution to ending the live of nasty bacteria.

So, our new dip is made from peroxide. It’s kind of cool. Once we
dip the teat, it dip foams, in much the same way it does when it was used on fresh wounds.

Does anyone else remember, as a child, screaming bloody murder when your Mother
would come into the bathroom carrying the dreaded brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide to clean up a scraped knee.

I recall screaming so much it was like I thought my lower leg was
going to drop off as soon and the fizzing started. I also remember, after
settling down and realizing my leg was still
in one piece, thinking, “Man, this is really cool to watch. Can you put
some more on my owie?” I also remember that
consequent boo-boos also had the exact same scenario play out!

So, back to the cows.

They don’t scream bloody murder when I dip their sensitive teats in iodine. They don’t even flinch.

Well, most of them don’t; some do.

The pre-dip foams, I scrub the teats and then I dry them with a very soft,
light-blue microfiber towel.

We then post-dip with a very sticky, liquid orange post-dip. This dip is called a
barrier dip because it sort of seals off theopening on the end of the teat.

It smells amazing and if it was any thinner, we may be tempted to drink it, because it looks like and smells like a Dreamsicle .

So, since we have been using the new peroxide, we have seen an uptick in the number of cows that have sub-clinical cases
of mastitis. We know this because the milk tester came Monday and we have all the individual somatic cell counts for each
individual cow.

We also know the percent of the total cell count to the bulk tank milk
that each individual cow contributes.

I consider a cow that is less than 2 percent of the tank is subclinical – in my opinion.

A cow that is 9 or 10 percent of the tank should be looked at, possible treated and
her milk should be separated. More than likely, she is a clinical case and
may need to meat the butcher in the sky. (Misspelling intended!)

Since switching the dips, the number of new cases has increased by 50 percent and so
has the cell count. From a nice, acceptable average count of 180,000 per full tank of milk, the count has also risen more than double to an average of 270,000.

Drives me crazy! I hate having a cell count of 200,000-plus. It frustrates me every single day when I walk into the milking parlor.

So Steve and I were “discussing” our cell count Friday morning.

He wants to continue using the peroxide dip and Dreamsicle-orange post
dip.I want to go back to my trusted and effective iodine dipping procedure.

We had to negotiate.

I hate negotiating.

Steve has one month to prove to me that the peroxide will be an effective dip.That means, he has to maintain the cell count
we currently have and see very few new clinical cases.

I will then have one month to prove that iodine is the better option. I
have to prove that when we switch to the iodine, the cell count will drop and we will see a decrease in the number of new cases and new infections.

Yes, we will have the scientific data to prove the case one way or the
other. That’s why the milk tester comes 11 or 12
times a year.

I am going to win. If, and when, I win…I mean, I will rub it in like crazy.

When I lose…I will say nothing.

But just in case, I better get into the house and start contributing to my
change containers, so i can meet my possible $200 losses.

With age comes issues

Steve and I were a sight for sore eyes Tuesday morning while we milked together.

As we find ourselves getting older, we find that we are much slower at many things than we used to be when we were youngsters in our 20s.

Being tied down to the couch because of illness isn’t just a one day ordeal anymore. Heck, when we were young we still worked like mad when we were ill.

Hacking because of a cough, didn’t slow down the well-oiled machines we were.

A sprained ankle? Forget about!

Cast on the foot? Cover that baby with a bread bag.

We had to carry milking units between cows, throw feed to the cows using a silage fork-I miss seeing my biceps bulge – and unloaded 13 wagons of small-square bales one at a time.

Five loads with almost 200 bales on it were wimp-work for us.

Being out of our prime became very apparent this particular Tuesday morning.

Steve was feeling under the weather. His cold was throwing him under the John Deere tractor in our shed.

He finished milking with me and even helped finish all the chores after milking. He felt “good enough” to help with cleaning the manure out of the holding area. We put fresh bedding in the second barn.

His body allowed him to attend a meeting in the morning with the Farm Business Management lady.

He sounded like crap when he talked. His voice was all gargley. I told him he should not go to the teachers house; she probably didn’t want him spreading sick germs anywhere near her young children.

They had their meeting in the garage!

I can’t say too much.

I wasn’t in all that great of shape Tuesday a.m. either.

While milking, during his moments of cold-induced weakness, a cow kicked the teat-dip cup out of Steve’s hand. It flew toward the front of the cow, just out of arm’s length.

“Here, just a minute,”I said, “I will get it for you.”

I tossed the water hose, with a spray nozzle on the end, near the teat dipper. It’s very handy to use the handle on the nozzle as a hook.

Just as I tossed it forward, the cow kicked in the perfect direction to land her foot directly on the top of my arm.

This happens quite frequently in the milking parlor. Most of the time the 1800-pound beast will feel the uneven ground and step off my forearm.

No harm done.

It just so happens that in this particular melee, Steve was standing right next to me, and he gave this beast a shove.

He shoved her as hard as he could.

Well, if you don’t know cows like I know cows, here’s what happens when you push a cow.

She pushes back with all her might. When you stop pushing, she stops pushing. One time, an employee was pinned between a cow and a post and he yelled for me to help him. I just looked at him and calmly said, “Quit pushing her.”

She quit trying to turn him into a pancake and he walked away a little red in the face.

So…when my doting husband tried to push the beast off the love of his life, well she dug in – right into my forearm. and I mean she dug and tried extra hard by grinding her left hoof into my skin.

All I could do was scream, “Ow! Ow! Ow!”

My arm was toast. It felt like ground-up toast.

I have no idea what ground-up toast feels like, but my arm really hurt.

My right arm was out of commission. Steve was slower than molasses.

We were a sad sight, but with no other bodies them to help finish, we were stuck with each other gimping along.

It’s several days later and my forearm is the size of the sausage stick I saw in the deli case at Cashwise. It’s probably going to turn the same color too.

Age sure makes illness and injury a problem.

Till next time…HUGS!

This writing could be refreshing!

I announced my retirement from column writing, after 18 years.

Many, many people have asked me, “What are you going to do now?”

I think i may have come up with a little something.

This morning I wrote my thoughts on my blog “Getting Kerry’d Away.”

It was so refreshing to be able to use words like “pissed off” and “hell.”

That’s the real Kerry.

When I wrote for the small-town newspapers, I often had to censer myself. I couldn’t mention this store, because that store would get upset and pull its advertising. I couldn’t use naughty words, because the ears of some of my readers might not have stomachs for it. Words like “puke,” “shit,” and the “f-bomb” were banned. Well, I can understand the last two words being a bit offensive, but puke?

So I am going to focus on writing for this blog. When I have an urge to write, I am going to write. I better have some sort of portable electronics with me at all times. Thank goodness for the iPad Mini and the Samsung Galaxy S5. (I love technology.)

I hope you follow me. Besides, it’s free. I will also share my Twitter account and Instagram info at a later time. Right now my technology is all upstairs, and I am too lazy to go retrieve it.

Have a great Sunday!