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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Do You Have Cows?

When someone asks what type of farm we live on I always rattle off, "corn, soybeans, and beef cattle."  Then they usually ask, "Do you have cows?"


The answer is, no.  We have a feeder calf operation which means, so we don't have cows.  We buy our calves from another farmer (who has cows and calves) when they are about 600 pounds or about 6 months old.   We then feed them out for about another year until they reach market weight, which is about 1200 pounds.  I explain what exactly we feed our calves in this post.



Several years ago (before I was in the picture;)) my husband's family had cows and calves on pasture.  For economical reasons, that pasture has since been turned into farm land.  For several years, we didn't have any cattle, but my husband loooves taking care of cattle, so we bought some and eventually our herd tripled in size.


At one time, we can have about 200 head of cattle that we are feeding.  My friend Marybeth at Alarm Clock Wars does have cows and calves.  She and her husband John She recently wrote this post on Alarm Clock Wars that talks about how old their cows really are.

Like I said above, my husband absolutely loves to feed cattle.  His passion is farming and raising good quality cattle that produce good, quality meat, so the next time you enjoy a juicy steak or cheeseburger at your favorite steak restaurant, it very well could have come from our farm.









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Thursday, March 3, 2016

When is the Right Time to Start Planting?

It's March and while the conditions are far from favorable to start planting, it's about this time every year when farmers start to get the "itch" to start planting season. In the Midwest, we can be spoiled with 70 degree weather one day and then be hit with 30 degree weather the next.  So, when is the right time to start planting?



Probably to most important factor is ground condition.  The ground needs to reach 50 degrees before it is suitable for planting.  If the ground is too cold, then it prevents the seed from germinating, which can cause it to rot in the ground.  If this happens, the field will have to be planted again and seed isn't cheap!  If the ground temperature is too cold it can also result in uneven germination.

I love flip flops....I know. I know.  What do flip flops have to do with planting.  When I was younger, I used to break out those flip flops on the first 70 degree day(you know the one that will be followed by a 30 degree day?:))  It would drive Brad nuts and he would always say, "If I can't plant corn, then you can't wear flip flops."  Well, I've gotten a little wiser in my older days;), but the girls still try to sneak on those open toed shoes on that first warm day and he tells them the same thing!  "Even though the air is warm, the ground is still cold."  So, in our house flip flop season doesn't start until that first seed goes in the ground and then we celebrate!!!


Also, the ground can't be too wet.  This too will possibly cause the seed to rot before it germinates.



Farmers are constantly watching the weather and don't you dare talk while the weather is on:).  The weather is on in 15 minute increments during the news and they will watch it every single time because it could definitely change in 15 minutes;)  While the ground can't be too wet, it's also best to not plant before a lot of rain.  This can cause the ground to become hard which will make it hard for the plant to break through the ground.  Soybeans will simply "break their necks" trying to push through the soil if it is too hard, resulting in a need for replant.  However a nice gentle rain on a newly planted field can help immensely.


There's also a window of time to plant.  Research shows that window is from April 20th to May 10th to maximize yields.  Anything planted before or after that date has a potential to produce less.  While the "books" say this is the best time to plant, it doesn't always work out this way because of weather conditions.  This is why my husband says that he doesn't need to go to a casino to gamble because he gambles every day!

So, while the ground currently looks like this....




the planter is nice and cozy in the shop waiting to make its debut and we anxiously await the start of Plant16.






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Friday, January 29, 2016

Hay or Straw...What's the Difference?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between hay and straw, or what their different purposes on the farm are?  In the picture below, straw is on the left and hay is on the right.  What is one difference that you see?


Every wondered what the difference is between hay and straw?  Check out this post to find out the answer to a common question.


 You might have first noticed that the straw (left) is yellow, while the hay (right) is green.  That is one of the biggest differences.  When you take a hay ride, it is actually probably a "straw ride."  The girls always ask me why it isn't just called a straw ride and I really don't have an answer for that other than hay ride just sounds better.;)

Another difference is how they are grown.  Straw comes from wheat.
Every wondered what the difference is between hay and straw?  Check out this post to find out the answer to a common question.

 If you've driven through the Midwest at all during the summer, then you've probably seen several fields of the gorgeous golden amber waves of grain.  Wheat harvest is my friend Jent's most favorite time of year.  You can read all about it on her blog.

The combine cuts the wheat and saves the seed which is then turned into cereal, bread, flour, and many more delicious foods.  The field is only harvested once.  Some farmers choose to plant double crop beans in the wheat stubble.  Double cropping means to harvest two crops from one field in one season.
Every wondered what the difference is between hay and straw?  Check out this post to find out the answer to a common question.

The combine leaves all the other parts of the plant in the field.  It is then baled in to square bales (they are actually rectangle, but everyone calls them square;)), or round bales.
Every wondered what the difference is between hay and straw?  Check out this post to find out the answer to a common question.

These bales are used for bedding to keep our cattle nice and comfy and warm when they lie down.
Every wondered what the difference is between hay and straw?  Check out this post to find out the answer to a common question.


Hay comes from a grass, mainly alfalfa or clover.  It is also harvested in the summer months.  Just like the grass grows in your yard after you mow it, so does hay.  Unlike wheat, we usually get 3-4 cuttings (or mowing) of hay a season.  We don't use a combine to mow the hay, but instead use a hay bine.  It works the same way as a lawn mower.  After the hay is cut, we let it dry for a day or two depending on weather conditions, then it is raked into rows and then baled.

Every wondered what the difference is between hay and straw?  Check out this post to find out the answer to a common question.

Like wheat, the hay is baled into square bales or round bales.  Here is a short video that shows the baling process.  The implement behind the tractor is called an accumulator.  It stacks the bales nice and neat to be picked up later.

Every wondered what the difference is between hay and straw?  Check out this post to find out the answer to a common question.

The hay is used to feed our cattle.  To find out what we feed our cattle, check out this post.

Every wondered what the difference is between hay and straw?  Check out this post to find out the answer to a common question.


So, there you have it!  Hopefully that clears up the question, "What's the difference between hay and straw?"

Every wondered what the difference is between hay and straw?  Check out this post to find out the answer to a common question.


Every wondered what the difference is between hay and straw?  Check out this post to find out the answer to a common question.













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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How Do Cows Stay Warm in the Winter?

I am definitely not a winter person.  I prefer the warmth and sunshine over cold and snow.  I'm sure you've driven by farms and have seen cows with a light dusting of snow.  Have you ever wondered how cows stay warm in the winter?




While some people think that it is best to keep them indoors, it's actually the opposite.  Beef cattle are able to produce a lot of muscle and fat, unlike dairy cows who are great at making milk, but have very little muscle and fat.  This muscle and fat serves as an "insulator" for the cooler temperatures.  Luckily, since they are outside all the time, they have a chance to adapt to the changing temperatures.  While the weather in the Midwest can be very moody, very rarely do we go from 85 degrees one day to 25 degrees the next.  It's a gradual change, so they have a chance to adapt.  Also, just like other animals, cows develop a winter coat in late fall and early winter to help keep them warm.  They will also huddle together in a group to stay warm.



So, what do we do in winter to make sure the calves are comfortable?



We check there water and feed several times a day.  We want to make sure the water doesn't freeze.  There are heaters on the water tanks to help prevent this from happening, but just like everything else, sometimes these break.  Also, if we have had a substantial amount of snowfall before feeding time, the bunks are shoveled out before the cattle are fed.  We like for them to have a clean dry plate to eat off of.  

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Since they are using more energy to stay warm, there feeding rations may be changed to accommodate them. 

We've had a very mild winter thus far, but it has also been very wet.  We make sure that the barn is kept clean by removing as much manure as possible.  Also, dry bedding is a must.  When it is wet, the cattle are given fresh straw in the barn often.  As my husband says, "I like to have clean, dry sheets on my bed."  There you have it.  Our cattle are treated just as well, if not better than we are!



The calves have a barn that provides shelter to get them out of the elements.  It is an open sided barn and you can see the windows in the back.  Those help provide a breeze in the hot summer months while the barn provides shade.  We also have an older barn that some of our calves are able to seek shelter in.

Cattle are able to adapt to the cold weather, much better than I can adapt to it!  Stay warm everyone!




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