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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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Friday, December 4, 2015

We Are an Elf on the Shelf Household...

We have an Elf on the Shelf.  In fact, we have three.  Crazy, I know!  One is enough, trust me, but there's a reason we have three and I'll get to that in a second.  The Elf on the Shelf has gotten a lot of slack in the social media world.  It happens every year.  For some people it just seems silly to have an elf come in to your home for four weeks out of the year to make sure kids behave.  For others it's just good ole Christmas fun.  And now psychologists are saying that we are teaching our kids that it's OK for the government to spy on them.

Below is a picture of our three elves taken by B on the morning of their return this year.  (L to R): Snowflake, Charlie, and Maddie




Elf on the shelf marshmallow idea with woody from toystory - snowball fight!:
source

For us?

It's tradition.
It's seeing the look on the girls' faces each morning when they finally find them.
It's fun.
It's a special part of Christmas for us.
It doesn't take the place of discipline in our house.


Our girls know that they are expected to behave at all times.  The Elf on the Shelf is just an added bonus.



Elf on the shelf ideas. This mom even created a facebook page for their elf. Lots of cute pics. This one is hilarious to me for some reason.:
source

Our first Elf on The Shelf arrived about 5 years ago on Black Friday.  B and Mel were super excited.  Through the last five years he has toilet papered our Christmas tree, hung upside down from a kitchen light, found his way into the Nativity scene, taped himself to the wall, found a straw and helped himself to a bottle of syrup, and many more things.  When he's not into mischief he is just hanging out on a shelf somewhere in our home.

Last year, two more elves joined our family.  Why?  Maybe I'm crazy...and trust me, at 11:00 at night when I not only have to move 1, but 3 elves I think I'm crazy too, but my kids look forward to this every year.  It's become a tradition, so I thought someday when the girls leave home and start their own families (I'm not trying to rush time), they may want to carry on this tradition with their own kids.  So, while the magic of Christmas may fade as they get older, hopefully this is just one of the many Christmas traditions that we do as a family each year that they will hold in their hearts forever.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Grass Fed VS Grain Fed

I love a good juicy cheeseburger or a steak straight off the grill in the summer!  There's a lot of questions from consumers about grass fed and corn feed beef.  Which is better?  Which is healthy?  Which is safer to eat?  These are also all questions that I have been asked personally as well.

First off, let me start by saying, (in case you are new  to This Farm Family's life or just stopping by, if so then welcome;)  we are beef farmers who feed our cattle grain.  They are given a balanced ration of haylage, dry hay, corn silage, and corn.  That being said, I am not judging one way versus the other.  All cattle at one point in their lives are grass fed.  Many of them begin on pasture and are finished out in feed lot type settings while reaching market weight.



All beef is rich in 10 essential nutrients: protein, selenium, B12, zinc, niacin, B6, phosphorus, choline, iron, and riboflavin.  Grain fed has proven to be higher in monosaturated fat which is the same heart healthy fat found in olive oil while grass fed is higher in omega 3 fatty acids.

Another question that consumers are asking is which type is safer to eat?  They are both safe to eat.  Grass or grain fed are both great quality meat that are safe as long as they are cooked properly.





A calf that is grain fed will reach market weight faster than one that is grass fed.  Grass fed beef also costs more per pound.   Research has also shown that corn fed beef provides more tender and tastier meat and creates better marbeling in steaks and such.  


Land base is quickly decreasing because of urban growth while corn yields keep increasing because of advancements in technology.


Lastly, a researcher at Texas A&M university states that grass fed beef is not as healthy, nor grain fed beef as harmful as some reports have suggested.

Corn fed or grass fed.  You be the judge and pick which one is better for your family.  If you prefer grass fed and it fits into your budget, then go for it.  If you prefer corn fed, then go for it!







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Friday, October 30, 2015

Why Aren't Soybeans Harvested When They Are Green?

 It's a question that I've heard many times.  Why aren't soybeans harvested when they are green?  We pick green beans in the garden when they are green, so why are soybeans harvested when they are brown and the plants appear to be dead?

In the following picture you can see green beans...

green beans for our June 2 Recipe Box. (Please skip the green bean ...
and in this picture, are soybeans...



Why Aren't Soybeans Harvested When They Are Green? 


If you or I waited to harvest the produce from our garden when the plants were dead, like we do with our field crops, there probably wouldn't be anything left to produce.  Sure, it would probably be there, but the quality wouldn't.  When you plant a garden, you aren't actually growing grain like we are.  While they appear to be dead, they are actually ripe!


Grain crops such as corn and soybeans are harvested when they are ripened which means their green tissue has turned brown, or dried down as we call it.  Crops have a long storage life, so they have to be dry so they don't get moldy.  No one likes moldy food, just like animals don't like moldy food if the crops are being used for animal feed.




Another reason that we let the plants dry down naturally is because if the grain is hauled into a grain elevator, to be shipped elsewhere and made into certain foods or other things, it needs to be at or below a certain moisture, so that it can be stored for long periods without going bad.  The moisture for soybeans needs to be at or below 13%.  If it is above that percentage we are docked in the price.

Here you can see the soybeans coming out of the grain cart auger. 






We are able to dry our grain, specifically our corn.  Most of the time we let Mother Nature handle the soybeans and they are able to be hauled straight to the elevator.  If they are too wet, we put them in a grain bin with a large fan to help dry them out before they are hauled to the elevator.  It's a little more difficult to get corn to dry down enough to haul straight to the elevator from the field, so we use our grain dryer most of the time for corn.

The grain dryer system is another post in itself, so I will have to fill you in on that at another time;)+





Ever wonder why field soybeans are harvested when they are brown,but garden green beans are picked when they are green?  Find out in this post.










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