Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Baytril & Bubbles

Meet calf T114.  Want to know something neat about T114?  He's a twin! (the reason for the "T" on his ear tag)  He and T115 are one of  6 sets of twins we had this past calving season (Crazy, I know!).  On the day of this photo, this little guy wasn't feeling the best.

As part of the protocol at our house, soon after calves are born, they and their mothers are moved into a pen of other pairs, sort of like a nursery.  This allows us to keep an extra close eye on them to ensure they "mother up", are eating well, and stay healthy.

This is our calving book.  This is where we keep ALL of our records - cow numbers, calving dates, calving score, the calf's sex and tag number.  This is also where we keep treatment records.  Bull calf T114 has a mild bacterial respiratory issue.  No worries though, it's easily treatable with an appropriate dose of antibiotics.  We're fortunate to have a large animal veterinarian close to home who's a great resource for us when we need help with animal health.  We have what's called a VCPR (Veterinary Client Patient Relationship) with Dr. Dan.  A VCPR is when your veterinarian knows your animals/operation well enough to be able to diagnose and treat any medical conditions your animals develop. I guess you could call him the animal version of our family doctor. His medical practice is also where we get any medications we need to treat our animals. 

Silage harvest 2015
These are the kidlings.  They're really not all that different from T114 and T115. (Except the obvious, they are not twins... or calves...)  They are pretty rock solid most days, but on occasion they get a case of the crud.  Just like T114, they've needed the appropriate dose of antibiotics to help them kick the crud heal.  We have a family doctor, just like most people do.  I guess you could say we have a VCPR or sorts with our family Dr. too.  He knows our family and our family history, which helps him make educated decision about our family's health. We value the relationship we have with both of these Doctors!

The many recent attempts to tarnish the reputation of animal agriculture have opened the flood gates to many emotions in our family.  Fear, anger, confusion, frustration - all of these emotions are a common theme for those who make their living in animal agriculture during these attempts. For me, the strongest of these emotions is fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of what felt like a direct attack on how we care for our animals, but mostly fear that what we, and the 3 generations before us. have worked so hard build has became so misunderstood by so many. The #1 reason we started this blog was to help document the trials and tribulations of trying to preserve a family business to pass it off to the next generation. We felt the story of T114 worth documenting as part of our plan going forward.

Education. This is exactly how we plan to ease the feeling of fear we're having such hard time shaking.

This summer I(Ashley) had an amazing opportunity to be part of a team that helped educate 1,500+ producers across the state on BQA (Beef Quality Assurance) best management practices. (One of the reasons for the 6 month "vacation" from our little 'ol blog here...)  Not only have these 1,500+ farmers and ranchers invested their time, energy and resources on improving their own farms and ranches, but they have also made a promise to produce a safe, healthy wholesome beef supply that our consumers expect and demand. What a great story to tell about how beef farmers and ranchers not only care about their animals, but also care about doing what they know is right!

Let's use these recent negative events to serve as a reminder to not only take time to educate consumers about what we do and why we do it, but to also educate ourselves about what tools we have to tell our story and preserve our way of life to pass on to the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

Until next time, keep telling your story!  

OH, and ps... T114 is still alive and well thanks in part to the implementation of best management practices on our farm, Dr. Dan, and the appropriate treatment for T114's illness.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Feedlot Friday - Meet my favorite feedlot owner/operator.

Happy Friday!  I should have known better than to be inspired and start a blog during one of the two busiest season on the farm... spring planting/calving!  Welcome back to those of you who tuned into my first two blog posts.  ENJOY and Happy Feedlot Friday!

 I would like to introduce my favorite feedlot owner/operator.
Meet Craig, my hard working dirt magnet!
Craig and I purchased the place where we now live in the fall of 2004.  Not only have WE changed and grown since we initially purchased the place, so has the size and scope of our farm.

Kohls Land & Cattle -  summer of 2009

The information below is the result of many years of love, trial and error, and hours of hard work. (Not the questions and answers, per say... those are the result of me twisting his arm until he agreed to answer these questions for me.  For those of you who know him, you'll understand how difficult that can be!  See question #8.) So... enjoy our friendly little conversation.

Question #1: When did you first know that you wanted to raise cattle?
     Answer: I've always had an interest in feeding cattle.  I guess I'm not sure when I made that decision.

We built our Monoslope in 2009 and added our first addition in 2012.
 Question #2:  Why do you do what you do?
    Answer: Because I enjoy it.  My family enjoys it.  It's a way to help teach our kids a good work ethic. ("When you teach a kid how to work hard, you teach him how to work through whatever’s hard." - I keep this in mind with my children every day! Sometimes they say I'm not fair, but I keep hoping they (or their future spouse) will thank me some say!)
Who loves this camera angle? She's not really petting the heifer...

Question #3:  What is your #1 goal for our farm?
   Answer:  To farm with our kids and for them to eventually take over. (Right on!!!)
Question #4:  What is your biggest challenge?
    Answer:  I would say the weather is defiantly my biggest challenge.  I hate mud!
During Cold weather, calving can be daunting... extra checks are needed to ensure calves are well cared for and thriving in the cold weather.
Question #5:  What would you say is the biggest challenge to the cattle industry today?
    Answer: EPA - over regulation.  Though we haven't had any issues with them, there are a number of people/places who have.
This picture has nothing to do with the EPA, but it should make you smile.

Question #6:  What is your favorite part of the cattle business?
    Answer: Shipping and receiving of cattle. I think it's enjoyable to start a new group of cattle on feed, and the shipping of a finished group of cattle is very rewarding.  I also really enjoy calving.  The excitement of the calving season is something that I really enjoy.
Calving season 2015.

Question #7: What is your least favorite part of the cattle business?
    Answer: Marketing.

Ask Squirt what she want's to when she grows up and she'll tell you Dentist, Cowgirl & Ninja Warrior. 

Question #8:  What is one thing you wish people knew about you?
    Answer: I'm kind of a private individual...
Lucky for Craig, most tractors only have one seat.

Question #9:  Who would you say is your biggest influencer?
    Answer:  As an overall mentor, I would say my dad is my first stop when it comes to making all business decisions.  When it comes to the feedlot side of the operation I would say there are many people on my "management team" that I consult when I need to make decisions.
Planting season 2015, Craig's dad Ron. 

Question #10:  If you could upgrade or change any building or piece of equipment on the place, what would it be and why?
    Answer:  I would like to streamline my feed storage and mixing area.  I don't currently have a commodity shed, our feed ingredients are kept in different locations on the farm.  Our working and loading facility could also be upgraded.  These are items that were also retrofitted to buildings and facilities original to the place.

Adding wetcake to the TMR.  Our next building project will include a commodity shed and upgraded mixing area.
Question #11: Who's your most favorite, bestest wife ever???
    Answer: Ok, I didn't really ask that question... no point in asking a question you already know the answer to. 

I hope you enjoyed getting to know the backbone of our cattle farm and my first edition of "Feedlot Friday".  Stay tuned for future editions about feedlot stories and facts.

P.S. - Happy May BEEF Month!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Just another day in the life of a 2 year old cattle feeder...

Something we have always made sure of is that our kiddos know where their food comes from.  But, for some reason, our kiddos also find great excitement in knowing where their food's food comes from.  It's fun to think back to Squirty's first show and tell day in preschool.  While sitting around the table for supper, we asked her what she wanted to bring to school the next day.  Without ANY hesitation, she said silage, mom.  It was a super proud mommy moment to hear her explain the contents of each plastic bag of feedstuffs. Fast forward to today... Mr. B decided this morning that we should play in the check feed while checking pens.

First Stop of our feed tour, checking cows...
Naturally, one uses pink binoculars to look for new calves that just so happen to be right in front of you!

Next stop, wetcake...
Wetcake is wet and sticky and 1,000 times more fun to play in than sand.  Wetcake, also called distillers grain, is a byproduct of the ethanol industry and is a great high protein livestock feed.  Interested in learning more about the ethanol industry?  Check out our friends over at the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.
  HEY, I mean HAY (good lookin') It's hard to find something that smells better than freshly ground hay.

Not all hay is created equal!  Our feedlot critters are able to utilize lower quality hay than our friends over in the dairy industry. The highest quality hay (in terms of protein and other nutrients) is needed for lactating dairy cows, this type of hay would be too rich for most horses or beef cattle.

Mommy, you eat it!

I take that back, there's nothing better then the smell of freshly chopped silage! 
Corn silage is the whole corn plant "chopped" while it is still green, rather than allowed to ripen and only harvested for the ear for grain.  There are many options of preserving silage, at our farm we chose to pack it into large plastic bags.

 Once all of the previous ingredients are loaded into the TMR (Total Mixed Ration) Mixer, a special blend of minerals is added, it's kind of like daily vitamins for the cattle.
Mom, can we go get my loader so I can scoop this?

I think we've looked at everything mom.

I'm hungry...

Just another day in the life of a two year old cattle feeder...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Food Scientist Flashbacks.

Welcome, I'm excited to share with you our stories of life, love and the pursuit of passing our farm to the next generation!  I hope you find my topics of conversation interesting and relevant to your day to day happenings.

In a former life, I had the opportunity to work in the Quality Control/ Quality Assurance department of a top notch cheese manufacturing cooperative in central Minnesota.  I was lucky (though, it didn't seem so at the time) to have had the opportunity to be actively involved with many different levels and types of audits from regulatory to 3rd party, and everything in-between. These experiences in the auditing and processing sector of food production have often led to implementing various types of best management practices on our own cattle farm.

Once you've work on "both sides of the fence" it's easy to see how there is a real need for farmers and ranchers to have some level of auditing or verification processes for their operations. This recent blog post by Feedyard Foodie about audits and 3rd party verification inspired me to reflect on the importance of "doing what you say and saying what you do" and how that relates into not only added value for your products, but increasing consumer trust.

Walmart, Target, Kraft, McDonalds... the list goes on and on of companies who are large drivers of why and how specific best management practices are implemented in food processing and manufacturing plants around the country.  With massive brands like those, the need to protect that brand is of vital importance to their future. (Don't we, as farmers, have our own brand to protect?) As we progress in our efforts to improve food safety and quality, there is a growing level of need to implement similar best management practices on the farm level.  Just as an F.Y.I. - in order for food processors satisfy the supplier requirements in many of these 3rd party audits, the farmer supplying raw materials to the processing or packing plant must have certain best management practices in place as well.

So, let's talk about audits...  (The idea of being audited is enough to send chills up even the most seasoned veterans back.)  We, in the beef industry, are still in the drivers seat when it comes to implementing an audit strategy on our operations.  For the time being, voluntary auditing schemes are acceptable and readily available to our industry; we also still have the option to self assess.  The National Cattlemen's Beef Association in cooperation with many industry stakeholders, has developed a series of  assessments through the Checkoff funded BQA program.  Completion of self assessments puts your operation ahead of the curve and displays a commitment to safety, quality and transparency. 

Not interested in self assessment?  OR is the processing plant purchasing your product requiring something else?  There are many options for 3rd party audits or in some cases, the beef council within your state has staff available to conduct the BQA assessments with you! The right option is really up to you and how you plan to market your product.

The take home message this:  We need to be proactive in implementing audit strategies on our beef/dairy operations.  If we voluntarily implement the programs already available, we will greatly reduce the chance of being required to complete an audit that is not common sense or efficient.