Why I Agvocate and why you should too

Post after post. Picture after picture. My socal media is completely filled with farmers who are tired. They’re broke. They’re scared. They’re sad.  And for many of us, this is our whole newsfeed. And through social media we have come together to share our stories, to comfort each other, to offer suggestions and ideas. But let’s face it, most people tend to stick to the same friends, the same interests, the same stories and pages. They don’t venture off much to hear about what’s happening with a different group of people. And I’m guilty of that too. But that needs to change. 

There are quite a few farmers out there who share their stories, both happy and sad, for everyone to know. They share their barns, you get to know their animals. They tell you about their kids and how 2 year old Johnny suddenly decided he will only eat hotdogs cut into star shapes and that is all, because toddlers are picky regardless of what their parents do. They open their homes and show you pictures of their Christmas tree and their lazy dog sleeping by the fire. They post angry faces when it starts snowing yet again  for what has to be the longest spring in the history of the world. (Seriously though-I’m pretty sure it is). They show you that they are the same as you. 

Why do this? Why, when someone is on their feet working 12+ hour days, would they want to go home and put all this time into showing you about their life? Why would they want to reach into your circle on Facebook and get you to know what it’s like for a different group of people? Why take the risk of getting death threats or being called names? Why spend all this time just to be beaten down? Does it even matter?

YES. It always matters. Where your food comes from should always be on your mind. How it’s produced, who’s producing it, when and where and why, all those questions should be on your mind each time you are at the grocery store. Just think for a minute of alllllll the professions in this world. You probably have dealt with a banker. You ask him mortgage questions and loan rates.You have a lawyer, maybe to help you write your will. You have a doctor for those times Google told you you have a rare tropical disease even though you have never been south of Pennsylvania. You have a mechanic for those stretched-to-far-in-between oil changes. All these people in your life you know. You trust. You ask advice because they are experts in their field. You ask questions, they give answers. They back it up with research and tell you where to go if you want more information. However, no one wants to talk to farmers. Even though farmers probably practice their profession more than anyone else on the planet, they aren’t trusted. These experts are being disregarded for Dr Google. But think, how often do you contact your banker or lawyer? Now one more question, how often do you eat?

I have a pretty good idea why people started not trusting farmers, and it began with social media. It started when activists who have never been within 50 miles of a cow decided they knew what was better for cows than farmers, who spend their whole life taking care of them. Then the backyard gardener made you afraid of conventional products. They scared you with big long words and told you farmer’s were trying to poison you. And then started the anti GMO group. Because science has never invented anything useful. 

And through social media, people became scared of what’s in their food. These documentaries have been made explaining farming, so they have to be true right? 


This is one reason why I agvocate. I put myself, my farm, my family out there to be world to explain how and why things are done like they are. Should I have to? Do you question why your mortgage rate has gone up? Do you argue with the mechanic when he tells you you need new brakes? Probably not. But if I need to explain every single thing I do then I will. I will talk to you till I am blue in the face about procedures. I will show you research and give you other people to talk to. I may be biased, after all it is what I do for a living, but I will back it up with documented unbiased information. Can those other groups, the one putting the fear of God into you, say that?

Why else do I do this? It’s for me. It’s for my friends. For my family. For that less than 2% of the population that spends long, back breaking day after long, back breaking day to feed us. It’s to stand up for what I believe in and for myself. To say, hey, here I am, just a person working my butt off for nothing. Stop hating me. Trust in me. 

Many people may not realize the rapid rate at which we are losing dairy farms. There’s roughly one dairy farm per over 8,000 people. And the numbers are dwindling fast. Farmers get paid per hundredweight of milk. Most need at the very, very least around $16 to break even. Our last milk check was for $14. So we obviously aren’t doing this for the money. But still you won’t trust us. But what happens when there aren’t any farms left? Instead of standing in the grocery store saying, “oh look, this milk is from farms right here in my area, and probably got here within a day or two from the cow”, you could be saying “oh look, how nice another shipment of milk just arrived from China”. Your choice. If you like the sound of the first one better than maybe you should be advocating too. 

So what am I asking you to do? First, follow a farmer or two on social media. They’re not hard to find. Learn what REALLY happens on a dairy. Second, stand up for us. For yourself and your food. If you see something. If you read something that doesn’t seem right, if you over hear something, call the person out. Ask where they learned that information and what research is behind it. Ask if they have ever been to a farm or have experience working with livestock. 


Lastly, I ask for your trust. I ask that you go back to trusting us farmers and what we do and why we do it. We eat the same food you do. We feed our kids the same milk. We need your support. But it’s not just for us, it’s for your good too. I mean unlike those other professions you put your trust into, you need a farmer several times a day, every single day. This is your health and your food too afterall. So don’t do it for me. Do it for you. Before it’s too late. 

Let’s talk cow(tipping)

Hi everyone! There is absolutely no denying that cows are one of the most loved animals. And for many, it starts from a very early age. Go through any baby books, toys, nursery decor…you’re bound to be overwhelmed with how much “cow” there is. But really can you blame them?? From the big, loving eyes all the way down to their um…tail… and everything in between, there is nothing to not love about cows! Today I thought it would be fun to share some cool facts about our bovine besties.

Bos Taurus-Cattle as we like to call them have over 800 breeds under that affiliation. Buffalo, bison or brown Swiss all these beauts fall under classification.

Cattle are quadruped mammals with cloven hooves. What does this mean? They walk on all fours and their hooves are split into two “toes”. Goats, sheep and pigs all also fall in the cloven hoof pack, animals like donkeys and horses have one. 

Cows spend between 10-14 hours of their day lying down. They will only spend about 4 of that actually sleeping(the rest of their rest is thinking of ways to cause trouble). Cows do have REM state(just like people)and although none of them have ever said, I’m pretty sure they dream. If you happen to catch a cow in their REM state, you’ll see ears twitching, mouth quivering, eyes rolling back in their heads…kind of seizure-like but just like your dog when he’s dreaming he finally caught that rascally rabbit. 


Some cows will lie flat out when they sleep, especially if it’s a nice sunny day and they’re stretched out outside. This will then give the poor farmer a heart attack and he will yell “hey are you alive???” And she will slowly wake up and turn her head to the farmer and give him the dirtiest look you can ever imagine and then go back to sleeping. Oh, and since we’re on the topic, cows don’t sleep standing up. I’ve caught a few on occasion leaning their heads against a pipe or board and they were “resting their eyes” but if you plan on being a pro cow tipper you may need a back up plan. If a cow is napping, she will wake up when you touch her. If she’s not, she’s not going to let you just come up to her and start pushing. In fact, she will probably not only push back but also win. There is actually a whole science behind cow tipping(who knew?!) and it takes something like 6 full grown men to exert enough force to actually tip a cow. That’s without her fighting back. Not sure why you’d want to anyways? That is NOT how milkshakes are made!

Since we’re talking about cows being outside, a cows ideal temperature is right around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it hits that, you’ll see farmers start opening up the barn doors and curtains and letting spring into the barn. (Cows internal temp? 101.5)

So let’s go back to the cow tipping for a minute. So you have your 6 burly men and you’ve managed to sneak into the pasture(shame on you for trespassing into the cows home!!!), the only way a cow won’t see you coming is directly behind her. Cows have 300 degree vision, so unless you’re at her derrière (haha get it? Dairy??) she will see you coming. Oh, and you better have rolled in some of her manure(about 115lbs of it per day are produced by a larger Holstein-jerseys are much more petitie and lady like so less poo) because cows can smell up to 6 miles away! Not related to cow tipping, cows are also red-green color blind, so when the bull fighter is waving his red flag, it’s not the red that gets the bull going but the waving. Oh and also, cows can get easily scared so if so much as a blade of grass twitches the wrong way, it’ll send some one off bucking to the barn, and the rest will follow.

The rest will follow because cows are herd animals. What does this mean? It means some animals like the solo independent life, like tigers and some are herd animals and stick close together. Cows even have friends. Most of the time cows will have a friend(normally someone who was a calf with them) and they tend to stick together all the time. We have quite a few pairs who when you see one, you see the other. Interestingly in that pair, normally one is more dominant and the other more laid back. Farmers have also noticed cows may know their family members. There’s several farmers I’ve talked to who have noticed moms and daughters or sisters hanging together. On the flip side, cows also have enemies. You can’t blame them, I mean we all have at least one person we don’t like working with. There is also a pecking order in the barn and as soon as a new animal arrives, she must quickly learn what the order is. 

Since we touched a little on the poo factor, we’all talk about food. Cows are ruminants. They have one stomach with 4 separate compartments. Cows eat and their food goes down into their rumen, where it mixes with some acidic juices and forms cud, and it is then regurgitated and chewed. And chewed. And chewed. For like 8 hours a day(not continuous, but after each meal.) Can you even imagine chewing for 8 HOURS a day??? I guess if your lying down for 14 you need something to do! Anyways, once the cud is properly chewed, it is sent back down to the other parts of the stomach. What are they doing all that chewing with? 32 teeth(people have 32 also!!) but they are different kinds, more molars and none on the front top. That’s just a pad. So if you see a cow smile, you won’t be seeing pearly whites up front. 

Cows eat around 100lbs of food per day, bigger the cow, or the more they milk, the more they eat. Most cows are fed a mix of grain, corn silegae and haylage. Cows will drink between 30-50 gallons of water per day(to the moms out there that have breastfed-you know you are thirsty. All. The. Time.) 


What else about cows? Cows are pregnant for 9 months(just like humans). Their cycle is a little shorter, around 21 days. When a cow comes into heat, she will very pleasantly inform you by bellowing as loud as she can 24 hours a day, chasing her friends around and trying to…do things with them which they can’t since they’re girls. But they try. We will leave it at that. (Any breeding questions feel free to check out my last blog). You can see Icy in the pic below concentrating very intently and giving her best go at breeding her fellow cow. It didn’t work. 


Let’s just talk a little terminology. First you have a calf. That’s a baby. They can either be a bull(boy) or a heifer(girl). (Or both-it does happen on rare occasions). So a heifer is a young, immature female. Once she has a baby, she becomes a cow. Most farmers will still refer to them as heifers that first year of milking, kind of as a warning to others since they tend to be a little crazy. So that bull calf, if he keeps his manhood will always be called a bull. If his manhood is no longer entact, he is called a steer. 

Lastly, let’s talk about dairy cows since that’s why we’re here. There’s 6 main breeds of cows that are our main dairy girls:

 Holsteins. These are the big black and white or occasionally red and white ones you see all the time. They’re the biggest and tend to produce the most milk. A Holsteins spots are as unique as a persons fingerprint. Holsteins weigh in around 1300-1500 lbs on average. They originated from Germany.

Brown Swiss. These gals are brown or grey and have these ears that make you want to scratch them all day. They’re next in size and look like a cross between a donkey a cow and dumbo. Some say they tend to be a little (or a lot) on the stubborn side. Swiss weigh in about the same as Holsteins. They originated from Switzerland.

Jerseys. Jerseys are a lot smaller, weighing around 850-1000 pounds. They tend to have a higher butterfat and protein, making rich, creamy milk(whole milk at the store is around 3.5% butterfat, our jerseys average around 5%). Jerseys have a reputation as being trouble makers, as they are extremely curious and very nosey!! They originated from the Isle of Jersey. 

Those are the three most common, next are still as awesome but not quite as common.

Ayrshires. Some Ayrshires are bigger and almost look like a red and white Holstein, but generally have a darker, mahogany color. They can have spots or be speckled. They tend to run a higher fat and protein as well. They weigh in around 1200 pounds. They originated from Scotland, and are known for their ruggedness. Also, if the horns are left on, they are quite a sight! They curl slightly and getting very, very long. 

Guernsey. Guernseys, once again with a higher fat and protein are around 1000lbs. They are more of a light brown spotted or speckled color. They are from the Isle of Guernsey(close to the Isle of Jersey!) These islands are in the British Channel and there was one more type of cow, Alderney(from the Isle of) but is now extinct. 

Milking Shorthorn. A little bigger around 1300 pounds. They have a really neat speckle to them and have higher fat and protein. They originated from England. The first shorthorn arrived in the US in 1783.

I hope you enjoyed getting to know about cows a little more! I will also add on a personal note, they love long walks in the pasture, back rubs and scratches and are free with their kisses to those deserving(which by the way is like a big cat tongue-fun but ouch!!!) Lastly, since we named three ways people and humans are alike, did you know you shared 80% of the same DNA? 

Thanks for reading along friends! Remember to join me on the facebooks for more shenanigans!

Let’s have “the talk”

Hey gang! Today I thought I would give you a little lesson in cow breeding and pregnancy. Since Mut is still a little young to know of such things, this is Muts mom writing this. In order for any mammal to give milk (barring a few exceptions) they first need to give birth. So how do cows get pregnant?

On most farms today cows are bred using artificial insemination (A.I.). This is for a few reasons. One, bulls can be nasty. Some farms will keep a bull around for “cleanup”, or to breed the cows that are having a hard time getting pregnant, but it is done with caution. One day I was feeding calves around dusk and looked up and saw a cow out and standing in the yard. Something caught my eye and I looked down and noticed the “cow” had something else besides an udder and realized it was our bull Carl. The annoyed “how did she get out” feeling quickly turned to terror as Carl was not very nice and my husband was not in screaming distance. Luckily my husband heard his phone when I called him and after much chasing Carl was back in the barn. Why am I telling you this story? Because it could have ended a lot worse for me and/or Carl. Bulls are aggressive and can kill you. Period. 

Bulls can also hurt the cows. Not on purpose, but they are a lot bigger than cows and not to be too graphic but if a cow is in heat, they are what’s called “standing”. This pretty much means that if a bull (or another cow) was to ride them they will stand there for it. If a bull is riding a cow all day-they generally aren’t a one and done type kind of guy- that cow could have some pretty sore legs and back by the end of the day, or he could easily injure her. 

So that leaves us with artificial insemination. What this is is semen frozen and stored in tanks with liquid nitrogen. When a cow is ready to be bred, a straw of semen is taken from the tank and thawed. It is then placed in a breeding gun, which the whole thing being smaller around than a pea. The farmer will insert one arm into the cows rear, and the breeding gun(a lot smaller than a bulls…you know…) into her vulva. With the arm that’s in the cows rear, the farmer guides the tube into the cows cervix and pushes a plunger that’s on top of the gun, and it deposits the semen into the cow. Voila. No poor cow being ridden for hours, just a few minute wham-bam-thank you ma’am. Quick and easy and painless. Most cows will just stand there and chew their cud during it.

Besides not keeping bulls around, why else do farmers use A.I.? Genetics. You can improve your herd by selecting the right bulls. For example, you have lazy cows that don’t milk. You can choose a bull who is proven to carry genes of high milk production. That’s just an example but what are some genetic traits farmers look for?

      * milk, butterfat and protein. These things are how we get paid.

       * Reproductive health. 

      *A cows physical appearance- feet and legs, udder form, etc… all these traits add up to a healthy cow, so you would want to breed to have a healthy, solid cow.

      *Polled. This is huge, and will probably just keep getting bigger. Polled means that a cow is naturally born without horns. Why does this matter? People are against farmers dehorning their cows. I have no idea why as we administer pain medicine and it is done quickly and humanely. It is generally done shortly after birth, with a little paste that burns the horn bud and prevents it from growing. Like I said, pain meds are administered and the calf forgets about it within an hour. But it is sooo important, as cows with horns are very dangerous not only to their farmers, but also to their fellow herdmates. Cows like to play, they like to run and butt heads and be silly and it is so easy for a cow to lose an eye or get jabbed by a horn if they stay on. Long story short, if a cow is polled you never have to worry about dehorning or anyone losing an eye. 

      * A2. This is something you will probably be hearing more about in the coming years. This is something that prominent in colored breeds(I think I read around 80% of jerseys were). Most milk contains the beta-casein proteins A1 and A2. There is a very slight difference between A1 and A2 however, research has found that milk products that contain only the A2 type are easier for people to digest. This would not help someone with a milk allergy but it would help those people who maybe don’t consume too much dairy because it gives them discomfort. Cows either have this trait or they don’t, but it is something you can look for in a bull to pass down to his daughters. A simple genetic test is done to determine if a cows milk is A1 or A2. 

So that’s what we breed our cows for. So then a cow either gets pregnant or she doesn’t. We discussed pregnancy checking in a previous blog about our veterinarian but we will do a quick recap. If a cow does not get pregnant she will come in heat again, generally around 21 days. If she is pregnant, she does not come in heat and we can have our vet do an ultrasound around 28 days to confirm. Between 60-70 days give or take our vet can even do an ultra sound to determine the sex of the calf or if there’s twins. 

Humans are pregnant around 280 days, any guesses on cows? Exactly the same! Give or take, some breeds are a little longer or a little shorter. Heifers(cows having their first baby) generally tend to calve a lot closer to their due date, older cows are normally a little later. If it’s a bull calf, 99.9999999% chance that calf will be days (sometimes over a week) late. But we all know how that goes. I was 9 days late having my baby. I’m pretty sure they tell you that due date just to make you feel better, when in actuality you could have weeks left.  

Cows get dried off two months before they calve. This means they stop getting milked and as we call it “go on vacation”. The next two months are spent in a special area of just dry cows, full of fluffy straw. They get a special diet to give their body all the nutrients it needs the last few months, as well as to prepare them for calving and coming back into milk. 

Then it’s time to have a baby! Calves come out front feet first, generally up to their knees and then the muzzle starts coming too. Rest of head and legs, and then once the shoulders are out the rest of the calf glides right out of there. Occasionally you will get something twisted or things aren’t right where a C-section is required and you call in your vet. After the calf is out, the cow will generally get up and start cleaning the calf off, although some are (understandably) lazy moms and choose not to. The placenta comes out after the calf, sometimes right away, sometimes it can take a few hours, just depends on the cow. And I believe that the theory is cows would eat the placenta so animals like wolves and coyotes would not smell the blood and be attracted to the area, because if they did come obviously that new calf would make an easy target. The majority of our cows do not eat it. I would say probably over 90% don’t. I know that’s an in thing for people right now and hey, you do you, but don’t do it because cows do. Because they don’t.


That’s the miracle of life right there folks. You know what’s fun? When you walk into the calving area and see these little hooves sticking out and wiggling at you. Or when the head is out and the calf will wiggle her tongue or blink at you even before the rest of her is out. It is truly a miracle and even if you see it every day, it is still a mind blowing experience to be a part of. I like to be there when the girls are calving, giving them a pep talk and telling them “okay, one more good push”.  Some appreciate it, since they know me and trust me, some do not. Some want to be left alone. I can relate to the latter. I didn’t want my husband to make eye contact, let alone talk to me when I was in labor. 

You may hear a very nasty term from anti dairy people about us farmers getting our cows pregnant. The truth of the matter is, we do what we do because it’s the best thing for the cows. It would be a lot less work for us and a lot less money to just use bulls instead of us breeding them. But we don’t for a reason. Just like it would save us A LOT of time to leave the calves with their moms forever but we don’t because it’s the best thing for both the cow and the calf. Not us. Them. They are the important ones here. And yes we do get them pregnant so they can have babies and give milk but that’s what cows do. They milk. That’s why God put them on this Earth. Just like He put dogs here to keep us company, or cats to knock things off tables, or spiders to scare the crap out of you, or us farmers to take care of our animals. So don’t let someone make you feel bad about enjoying your ice cream. Cows like getting milked(if you’ve ever breastfed you know oxytocin is a very powerful hormone. If you haven’t, you know that feeling when you’re in a brand new relationship and head over heels and giddy about everything? Thats oxytocin. That’s the hormone that is in charge of milk let down. That’s what cows feel when they get milked.). They are happy animals and are treated with all the love and respect any mother deserves. 

It’s been nice chatting! As always, if you have any questions be sure to ask! Oh, and for those of you that follow Mut on the facebooks, that picture is one of Jagr having Jocelyn, who you all helped name. Both are doing great! Until next time!

And then there were none…

Hi everyone! Muts mom here for a blog take over. Mut’s talked your ear off about the health benefits of milk, and why it’s safe and all about dairy farms but I’m going there again. The dairy industry is currently in a state that many people don’t realize.

Here’s a scene many of you can relate to, farmers or not. You just put the baby to bed, knowing you have about 2.5 hours before his teeth that are just starting to break through wake him up. You sit down at the table with your beverage of choice ( I either go with warm milk or Cabernet, depending on how much my ulcer hurts) and stare at the stack of bills in front of you. You fire up the computer and open quick books and just stare at the pile. You know milk prices are at a few year low and this year is predicted lower. You do what you can to pay who needs paying and pray as hard as you can that next month will be better. You’re almost relieved when the baby wakes up so you can put off the bills for a little while. 

We have our farm and our baby and that’s our whole life. You think that working every single day, long hours in all the extreme elements would be enough. It should be enough. That the security of being able to leave the farm to our children, if they want it, is there. That it’s not even a question of if they will be able to grow up and choose because it will be there for them. But that’s not the reality all over the country. The reality is that soon dairy farms across this country will be as common as households with typewriters. They will become obsolete and moved over for the next “better” thing. In 1950, there were 3.5 MILLION dairy farms. IN 2012, there was 58,000. In 2016, 41,809. Just take those numbers in for a second. Yes, there are larger farms than in the ’50’s, and yes, farmers are producing milk more efficiantly, but look again at those numbers. 

It’s not just that dairy farmer who sold out. It’s his vet, nutritionalist, milk tester, hoof trimmer that all lost a client. It’s his supply company, repair man, semen company that all lost his business. It’s the local hardware store, gasoline company, tire shop, tractor dealer, and feed mill that all lost his money. Maybe it was just one small dairy farmer. But then it happened over 16,000 times in just FOUR years. 

Why is this happening? There’s a few reasons, or so I’ve been told. China and Russia aren’t importing what they were a few years ago. Farmers have added on more cows (If you need more money to pay bills, you need more milk which means you need more cows which means more milk on the market which means lower milk price-vicious circle). But people also stopped drinking milk. They stopped trusting their farmer. It wasn’t long ago that people thought “farmer” and they thought “honest”. They may have also thought “denim overalls” or “simple” but the truth is people trusted farmers(and I much prefer yoga pants to overalls!). If you were lost, you would stop at a farm, because that farmer could tell you where to go and you trusted him. Now I’m not old enough to reminiscing about the “Good Ole Days” but that’s just how it was when I was growing up. And then came the Internet. And then came social media. And then came people believing absofreakinglutely everything that they read on the Internet, without ever once checking a source. Activist groups slowly got bigger and bigger and started infiltrating farms and staging videos to make farmers look bad. And soon the idea got swayed from “farmer=honest” to “farmer=lying”. For this reason, I hate social media. I know, I know, I’m on it as much as the next person, and here I am writing a blog to post to Facebook. But the “information” that is at people’s fingertips is disturbing. The fact that people need to hit record on their phone when they see an accident and never call 911 because they don’t want to stop recording? I guess if you get enough likes that’s all that matters. 

Why am I writing all this to you? Because, in a nut shell, my heart is broken. More and more large companies and orginizations have turned away from dairy, whether intentional or not. Tonight I saw a post on Facebook from Cheerios, who was listing Blue Diamond Almond Milk as their best friend, and win a trip to California. I was almost positive that nothing went better together than cereal and milk (not nut juice mind you, milk). The Girl Scouts are advertising their cookies this year as vegan. Not allergen free, but vegan. To me, this feels like a knife in the back. “Et tu Brute?” With milk prices so low and falling, and the general population with a unfavorable opinion of dairy farmers, if you’re not with us, you’re against us. We need all the help we can get. I don’t know what Cheerios agenda was. I don’t know why the Girl Scouts were advertising their cookies as vegan, whether it was a marketing ploy or someone’s belief getting rubbed off to impressionable young girls. I did offer to work with them to implement an ag program for the girls, but was dismissed. So it’s like this, you come home from work, after being on your feet for 12 hours in the freezing cold, taking care of your animals, knowing they are all safe and warm and fed, while you yourself are numb and starving and while warming up some leftovers, you scroll through your newsfeed and see video after video, article after article about why farmers are bad, how they’re hurting they’re animals, why nut juice is better and you just want to cry. You put every ounce of yourself into being the best farmer you can be and you see these things and can’t wrap your head around it. 

It would be easy for us to sell our cows right now. By easy, I mean the most sense financially. We are losing money every single day by keeping them. We have cut back everything we can and see our future dwindling very quickly. But you know what else is easy? Loving our cows. To me, to any farmer, they are not “just cows”, just like that doggo keeping your feet warm is not “just a dog”. They have their own personalities, you see them more than you see your family and to you, they are your family. If we have to sell a cow, I cry. Every single time. It literally breaks my heart. Muts mom passed away shortly after she calved. She was older and sick and getting Mut was a huge blessing, as she was my favorite cow. I cried for days. I’m getting choked up writing this because I loved her and I still miss her terribly. But the bond goes both ways. She loved me too. She would come when I called her and she would give my husband a hard time because she was my cow. When I hugged her, she would wrap her hear around me and rub it up and down on my back. She was so much more than “just a cow”. So although it would be the wiser thing for us to sell our cows, I don’t think I can handle that. Losing money is worth looking in their eyes and telling them we will do everything we can to keep them home where they belong. To me not having them is unfathomable. And I didn’t even grow up on a dairy farm. For my husband, who has worked so hard his whole life for this? And has done a damn good job, I might add, at having healthy, friendly cows that milk well. I won’t let his dream end. Maybe it’s the Irish in me but I’m a fighter. But that might not be the case forever. There may come a day when we have to sell. When we say we have lost everything we have and now we have to say goodbye to what we love the most. This is the current reality for hundreds-thousands- of farmers across the country right now. Just close your eyes and put yourself in their place for a minute. Think about their broken hearts and dreams. Those long cold winter nights helping a cow deliver a calf and placing that calf in your warm truck hoping she makes it. Those hours you spent lying with a sick cow, knowing there was absolutely nothing you could do to make her better but you’ve been there for her since birth, so you will be there for her in the end. You lie with her, stroke her head, whisper in her ear thank you for all your hard work and you promise to take care of her baby. All of that gone. It’s ending.
Every night, I rock my son to sleep. I sing him lullabies and when he shuts his eyes I stare at his perfect face. I say my prayers while I’m still holding him tight. I pray he grows up respectful to all, gentle to animals and always helps anyone in need. I pray he gets to grow up in a world with out hate and one that’s at peace. I pray that one day he will have the opportunity to make a living in the most honorable profession, and feed his fellow man. I pray we can hold on long enough to see a turn around. I pray he won’t have to go through these tough times. I pray he gets to know what’s it’s like to feel the love and trust from a whole herd of animals. I pray that my husband and I, and our son will never have to stand in an empty barn. 

Conventional, organic, GMO and breaking down that label

Hey gang! Hope the winter has been treating you kindly! Good news-Janurary is almost over, February is a short month, that means March is almost here!! And then it’ll be spring time! So today I wanted to talk to you about the food you’re eating and try and break down what that label means for you. Let’s get to it.


First the term “conventional”. This is something you most likely will never see on any products, but it is a term used for non-organic food. There is absolutely positively nothing wrong, or unsafe with conventional food. The biggest concern people are switching away from conventional to organic is 2 reasons: GMO’s and glyphosate(the main ingredient in round-up).

Okay, next let’s tackle organic. “Before we go back to organic agriculture in this country, somebody must decide which of the 50 million Americans to let starve or go hungry” This is a quote from US Secretary of Ag Earl Butz in 1971. For milk to be labeled organic by the USDA, the farm must be certified. It takes 3 years of all land, all feed and all animals being organic to obtain that certification. There is also strict rules about those animals, like having at least 120 days access to pasture, 30% of a cows diet must come from pasture and no antibiotic use. Here’s the problems with organic food:

1. Organic does not ever mean pesticide free. All crops must have a pesticide and/or herbicide used on them or there would not be food. Conventional farms use a product like RoundUp but the rate of application is about 1 soda can per 1 acre of crops. This number is less than half of the pesticide rate used on organic crops. Which pesticides are used and the rate of application is regulated by the EPA on conventional farms. Organic pesticides rates of application are not regulated.The ingredients are, but not how much. Also, while you can find articles and studies both ways on whether glyphosate causes cancer, it is currently labeled in the same category as emissions from frying food at high temperates, very hot beverages, and red meat…so…doesn’t seem to bad to me. An ingredient commonly used in organic pesticide is copper, which can be harmful to your health and since the amount isn’t being regulated, more than half of the ingredients in organic pesticides are also labeled as carcinogenic. Lastly about the use of pesticides, a grown man could eat (for example) over 570 apples IN ONE DAY and still not be affected by pesticides (check out a cool graph on bestfoodfacts.org).

2. Like mentioned in the above quote about sustainability, organic farming just doesn’t quite cut it.  We will talk more about this in our GMO section but, organic farms are somewhere at a 50-80% yield of what a conventional farm is at. While we’re running out of food and land, at the present time, there just isn’t enough Earth to feed everyone organic. 

3.Dairy is the primary source of iodine in people’s diet. You would have to eat copious amounts of seaweed (yuck) to compare to dairy products. A study was just done by the WHO and they found more and more people deficient in iodine because they are skipping dairy for milk alternatives. Iodine deficiency can cause issues with thyroid, which (esp in children) can hinder mental development, along with goiters, weight gain, fatigue… For some reason organic milk contained about 30% less iodine than conventional milk.

So is eating organic terrible? Will it hurt you? No, probably not. But it can break the bank, and you are pretty much buying just for that label, as conventional options are just as safe(and more regulated!). 

Okay next? GMO’s. What does GMO stand for? Genetically modified organism. So what is this exactly? GMO foods are those in which scientists and farmers have found a desirable trait, like being drought resistant for example, and taken that DNA and put it into another seed. Why is this important? Because there are 7.4 billion people in the world and almost 8 million of them are starving. There are less and less farms every year, less land, and more people. GMO’s help fight starvation by producing a crop with better yields, with less land at lower cost. Farmers have been genetically altering crops for hundreds of years, we are lucky to have so many apple varieties because a farmer in his orchard said “what if I splice this juicy apple with this large growing apple and get a really great apple to eat?” So what’s the difference between a farmer in the field or a scientist in the lab? Not much that I can think of. And it’s been happening for hundreds of years. GMOs have been proven safe time and time again. There are only 8 crops that are GMO’s (corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya and squash). The non-GMO project (you’ve seen that label with the butterfly on food I’m sure) was started by a natural food store owner and is a non profit. Although I’m sure she’s a nice person, the credentials listed were baker, gardener and yoga instructor. There are no scientists behind it. This label can be bought to put on foods that would NEVER have a GMO. Salt for example? Doesn’t have genes. Don’t buy a non-GMO label salt because it’s the SAME THING. MIlk? Studies have been done that show milk from cows fed GMO feeds is exactly the same as that from cows fed non GMO feeds. 

Lastly, let’s talk about those other words thrown in on labels to get you to buy them. 

*All natural. This is very loose to interpretation, but the FDA states that a food labeled this must not contain added colors or artificial flavors. Anything else is fair game. 

*Antibiotic free. Stop right there. Your food doesn’t have antibiotics. We talked extensively in a previous blog about how it is impossible to get antibiotics in your food. 

*rBST free. The USDA states that cows treated with rBST have no difference in their milk then those who have been. Also, I don’t have the specific numbers but most co-ops have told their farmers to stop using rBST, so most of your dairy products are rBST free, whether labeled or not.

*No sugar added. While there might not be added sugar, think about the product you are purchasing. Fruit, veggies and dairy all naturally contain sugar, so while it might not be added, there is still natural sugar contained. 

*Free range. The USDA does not define the amount of space nor time duration for this label.

I hope this sums up your label for you. GMO’s are safe, and while organic is an option out there, IT DOES NOT MEAN PESTICIDE FREE. So don’t buy a food for its label, and don’t feel bad if you can’t afford the pricey organic produce. Your convential produce is safe, and your farmers are eating it as well! 


As always, feel free to leave me a message if you have any questions and make sure to follow me on Facebook!

Till next time gang!

~Mut 

~Mut

Mut and the Mooove

Hey gang! Well we had a few nice days to thaw ourselves out and then now we’re right back at this winter thing. Yesterday when I woke up it was 57 degrees and the snow was all gone, and when I went to bed it was 15 degrees and snowing hard! Craziness!! While the farmers appreciated the nice weather to thaw things out, it does come with some disadvantages. One being mud. The ground never really froze since it was warm when the snow came and it kind of insulated the ground so the farmer is having a tough time getting around with the tractor in some areas. The second problem with the weather like that is pneumonia. Cows don’t like a lot of fluctuation in temperature and dropping 50 degrees in one day is pretty hard on us. But, my farmers know what to look for and they will keep a close on eye on everyone in the days to come!

If you follow me on Facebook, you learned in my last post that I am now officially weaned. I promised I would explain what that means and the life cycle of a cow on a dairy farm. So here we go. 

A calf is born. Take me for instance. Calves are born in what we call the “dry pack” part of the barn. It is a large area completely filled with fluffy straw and expectant mothers. The calf stays with her mom for a little while, unless it’s necessary to remove her right away, like if it’s completely freezing outside and she needs to be somewhere warm. If it’s winter, the calf is placed in a big water tub and gets to live in the heated office for a few days, till she’s not wobbly and is drinking good. If it’s not cold out, the calf is taken to her own hutch. Each hutch is washed and disinfected inbetween calves, and then filled with lots of straw. The calf gets her moms colostrum to drink in a bottle. My farmers try to give calves their own moms milk for at least a week. After that, they switch to either a milk replacer, which is just like baby formula for calves or they use milk from the tank. Calves stay on a bottle for about 2 weeks. Then we switch over to a pail, as you may figure it’s necessary for us to learn how to drink from a bucket not a bottle. Most calves get weaned about 2 months after they are born. That means they stop getting milk, and are to get all their nutrients from water and grain. Weaning can be kind of a stressful process for the calves so my farmers do it really slowly so we get accustom to the idea over time. For example, if I was drinking a full pail of milk twice a day about 2 weeks before I’m weaned they may cut me down to half a pail twice a day for a few days. Once that happens, I’ll start eating more grain. Then after a few days, they’ll cut me back to half a pail only once a day. Then I’ll start eating even more grain. Then after a few more days they may only give me a third of a pail for few days. And then I’ll be weaned. By this time, I have gotten used to relying on my grain instead of my milk and I’ll be all set for my next move. 

So what’s next? The farmers keep me in my hutch for another week or so, just so they can monitor exactly how much grain I’m eating. Some calves don’t take to it right away and the farmers want to make sure everyone is eating well on their own before they we get moved into a group setting. If I don’t like eating grain by myself, I am certainly not going to eat it with others! So after its established that the calf is doing well, she and a few of her friends that are close in age will move to the larger size hutches together. This is the first time in a group setting. The group is really small,  at most 10 calves, and they are all close together in age. This is kind of like preschool. Here is our first time to learn how to interact with others, how to establish a pecking order, and how to eat with others. This is a really fun time to just hang out with friends. These friends we make, believe it or not, tend to be our friends all the way into adulthood. We hang out with them every move we make from now on. Even if we don’t have to. Here’s what that area looks like:


You can see the large hutches are filled with straw to sleep on and each hutch holds 3-4 of us, so we can pick who we want to sleep with. We stay in this setting for few months. Towards the later part of that time, the farmer starts transitioning our feed to TMR, which is a mixed feed of corn silage and haylage and minerals that is specifically designed for us.

Next comes elementary school, aka the heifer barn. Our heifer barn is split into 3 groups. The first group is the youngest heifers, which is the next step up from the super hutches. In this group, you learn how to lay in a stall, and continue working on your social skills. After 4-6 months you move up to the next group. That’s kind of like middle school. You’re in that awkward phase where you’re growing fast and don’t look even and you’re starting to get your hormones. In this group is where most heifers are bred for the first time. This group you also learn how to eat using headlocks. Not a huge deal, just have to stick your head through but it can be daunting to some. You stay in this group for another 4-6 months. Last in the heifer barn comes high school. This last group is mostly all pregnant heifers and a few that need to be bred, and occasionally a few dry cows. Heifers stay in this group until about a month before they calve, and then they move up to the dry pack, which is where we started our journey as a calf. Here’s my friends in the heifer barn:


So a cow or heifer (what’s the difference by the way? A heifer is a female bovine, they are called cows once they calve. Most farmers still refer to cows as heifers the first year after they calve) calves, and then what? Well we now know what happens to the calf, so what about the cow? The cow is kept in a large pen that is situated in between that dry pack and the parlor. This pen is also filled with straw, and has easy access to the parlor. This makes it easy for cows if they’d had a difficult calving then they don’t have far to walk. It’s also a good place because it’s an area that’s walked by frequently, so the farmers can check on those that just calved all the time and make sure they’re doing okay. (Kind of like when a human has a baby and the Drs come and take your vitals like every 2 hours so as soon as you fall asleep they wake you back up). But it’s important, it is a major event and the farmers want to make sure the cows are healthy. The cows live in that pen for a few days or more, depending on how the cow is feeling. Some are ready to go right into the barn (some even go crazy to get back out there because they miss their friends), some like a couple days of quiet time. When the cow and farmer decides it’s time, the cow is then let back out into the free stall barn. 


Being in the barn is like the real world after school. You get your job and settle into what life is like. You can see this picture was taken at night, so most of the cows are sleeping. The cows day is filled with eating, resting and A LOT of gossiping and socializing. And trying to think of ways to get into trouble. Milking is in there too, but it’s not a major part of the day. A cow is only milked for about 10 minutes at a time, and our girls are milked twice a day so they only have to show up to work for about 20 minutes a day. In the spring and summer the cows have “recess” and have access to pasture. Cows do get bred back, but farmers wait at the very least 60 days before breeding a cow after calving. Most of the time the cow won’t get pregnant for a few months after that. (Kind of like a woman who is breastfeeding, those first few months your body is getting adjusted to making milk and it’s not until your hormones regulate and your body levels itself off that a woman can get pregnant, cows are the same way). Although there is some that will breed back right away, most take a few months longer and a few times of trying. Cows are pregnant for 9 months. 2 months before a cow is going to calve the farmer dries them off. That basically just means they stopped getting milked and move from the freestall to the “dry pack” where they just rest. It’s kind of a nice deal, your food is brought to you, your doctor is brought to you if needed… any human who’s had a baby knows those last few weeks are exhausting, especially when you add in having to drive to the doctor all the time. My farm mom was jealous of the cows when she was pregnant. 

So that’s basically how a cow grows up. It’s a pretty easy life and us girls are well cared for, well fed and have all we could need or want. And just like people, those friends we make early on stay with us forever. My farm mom says almost all the cows have at least one other cow that they like to hang with. They get milked together, eat together and sleep next to each other. It’s pretty sweet. 

Okay gang, I think that’s a wrap for now, if you have any questions feel free to let me know and my farm mom will do the best she can to answer them. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and invite your friends to do the same!

Until next time, 

Mut

Mut and the Milk (part II)

Hey gang!! What a frigid end to the year! This stinks! Let’s all just hope that winter is getting this craziness out of its system now and then moving along!! 

I wanted to talk to you today about us cows, our farmers and our product. We had talked in a previous blog about why the dairy products you buy at the store our safe and healthy. There’s a lot of people in the world who are anti dairy farming and to be honest, I have no idea why. They have a few “reasons” why and I will go through some of them with you and explain, in my opinion, why their case just doesn’t add up. Tea thinks it’s a little strange too:


One reason we hear a lot is that humans are the only mammals who drink another mammals milk. Well this one is easy because anyone out there who owns cats knows that’s not true(except if your our barn cat Brown. She doesn’t like milk. She also lets mice eat out of her food dish so…) Most cats enjoy a nice dish of milk(um hello there’s a reason people drop their cats off at dairy farms), the farmers dogs I think would walk on their two hind legs all day if it meant they get cheese or ice cream and our pig Fern would drink milk all day long. Just to name a few. And yes, the farmers do feed it to them but to be fair, they feed them all their meals. They wouldn’t eat at all if it wasn’t for them. So if they didn’t like another mammals milk, they wouldn’t eat it. But they do. So humans are not alone. Plus, if we were meant to drink “milk” from plants, then shouldn’t plants lactate? And have you seen how many ingredients are in those nut juices? Milk just has milk and vitamin a and d. That’s like 15 less ingrediants!

Another reason is that farmers are evil. They are all huge factory farms and are in it for the money and are cruel to the cows. Excuse me while I compose myself, I was laughing so hard about the making money bit I almost couldn’t write! More than 90% of farms in the US are family owned and operated. While some may be large scale, some only a handful of cows, some may be incorporated and some may just want to hand it down so they can retire, no matter the size, almost all farms have the whole family involved. Because farming isn’t just a 9-5 and done. It’s all day, every day, 365 days a year. It’s a lifestyle, not a job. While other professions may have to work holidays (think of all those farm kids across the country who had to either wait for their parents to get done with chores or go help before they could open their presents Christmas morning), farming is unique in that there are no holidays. There are no sick days. If your vomiting, you still have to milk cows. If your family wants to take a  vacation you try like crazy to find help but in the end, youre still responsible and may have to drive 4 hours home after just arriving a few hours before because heifers got out(yes it happened). So farmers do this because they love it. They love their animals, they love what they do and they believe in it. They’re not evil. And the money part? Farmers get paid per 100lbs of milk, it’s easier to measure that way than gallons, and milk price is loooow. It has been low for a few years now and there doesn’t look like there’s any relief in sight. It is a constant struggle on most farms to get bills paid. And if the choice is to either pay the cows feed bill or finally put new tires on the car, guess which one gets done? Yep, the cows. They’re always first. I’ll put it to you like this. Imagine working in a profession you hate. Like can’t stand. Now you have to do it everyday. There are no weekends. And you don’t get paid for it. How long would you last in that job? I dare say not long at all. But if you loved it? If you took pride in what you do? You would put your head down and trudge forward and keep going. Because it’s what you do. It’s what you love. It’s who you are. Farmers are the kind of people who will take in all those cats people drop off. They will have them fixed, and give them flea medicine and feed them and take care of your animal because they care. Farmers are the type of people who stay up all night in the freezing cold to help a cow calve and then bring that calf home and put it in their bathtub to keep it warm. Because they care for their animals. 


What else? Oh, cows are abused and milked all day long and their babies are ripped from them. Well, as we just talked about farmers aren’t the type to abuse their animals. If you didnt like animals, you wouldn’t be doing this. If cows don’t have good conditions to live and work in(their stalls aren’t clean or bedded enough, not properly fed, or abused) they wouldn’t make milk. The better you treat your cows, the better they will treat you. In fact, it’s been proven that cows that have names give more milk. Although this isn’t the reason, each one of our girls has a name. (And they know them too! If my farm mom is in the barn and calls out to my sister, she will come running!!!) Cows aren’t milked all day long. Milking takes a cow about 10 minutes per time, and most cows are milked 2-3 times a day, so they spend like half an hour of their whole day getting milked. That’s it. And as far as the calves getting ripped from their mother? If by that they mean a C-Section, that does happen but not commonly. If they mean removed from the calving pen and into a safer place, then yes, that does happen. We talked about it in a previous blog so I encourage you to go read it if you have any questions, but as someone once said, do you give your crawling baby free reign to go wherever they want? What about that new puppy? Isn’t he kept in a crate at night? And why is that? It’s for their own safety. Calves are babies too. It’s for their own good. 

I think the last “reason” I can think people give is about the milk itself. We talked before about how it’s safe, about how there’s no antibiotics and how healthy it is. Guys, there’s no pus in milk. I mean really? When I hear the term pus I picture some scabby thing oozing green smelly stuff. Trust me, that does not come out of a cows udder. What comes out is milk. What some people refer to as pus are blood cells. They’re in everything, that piece of steak you had? In there too. Does it affect you in any way? No. If a cow gets mastitis she will have an elevated cell count. But as we talked about, that milk is withheld from the tank and dumped. This is something that is highy regulated and checked with almost every single tank load. If you’re tank is over a certain limit, you get in trouble. Do it 3 times in our co-op you aren’t allowed to ship milk anymore. It’s something that farmers and their agencies take very seriously. Also, there is limited information but it appears as though human breastmilk contains a lot more of these cells. And most breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to nurse through mastitis. So if it’s okay to give a baby that high cell milk, I’m pretty sure low cell cows milk is great too. Oh, and one more thing. There’s people who are proponents of drinking raw milk. I think maybe half of dairy farmers do. Those proponents actually argue that those same cells are good for people bodies! So for crying out loud, stop using the term pus. That’s wrong on so many levels. Your milk is checked on a regular basis for its safety. 

Lastly, I would like to say one thing. Do you remember that picture floating around on Facebook a few weeks ago with the starving polar bear due to global warming? Scientists have come forward to say that the polar bear populations food source is fine. The picture was taken by someone trying to show the affects of global warming.The bear was probably more sick, or hurt its jaw and couldn’t eat or something like that. It doesn’t make that bears story less sad,   I wish at the very least they put him down so he wouldn’t have to suffer,  but the point is be careful what you read on the Internet and who it’s coming from. There’s a lot of activists of various causes who will use photos like that to tug on your heart strings.   Try to find out the whole story first. You’re most likely only seeing a part. People can take a photo and use it with any description they want. The first photo of the calf Tea? People could say she looks like that because she was separated from her mom and is scared.  The truth? She’s just a crazy calf, like her mom and gramma. Although nice, the whole family has a screw or two loose. If you hear something, do your homework. Don’t just believe it because someone on the Internet said so. Everything I tell you I would encourage you to check on your own. Farmers have nothing to hide, and I promise to tell you the whole truth. 

Okay gang, time for me to go drink my warm milk. Warms me up perfect on a night like this. Please remember your farmers do all they can to make sure their cows are healthy and happy and that you get the best product possible. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask, and follow us on Facebook @alittlebrowncow. Happy New Year!

Is there a Doctor in the house?

Hey everyone! I hope your holiday season is finding you warm so far! The time sure is flying by! Since we last spoke we’ve started to really encounter winter here at the barn. The snow and freezing cold are in full swing. Us calves are all doing well, tucked in our hutches with our coats on and lots and lots of fresh, clean straw. The barns have all been winterized to make sure the older animals stay warmer, and keep the wind off them. We talked before about the reasons why my farmers remove calves from their moms, and if you follow me on Facebook you’ve heard this story, but here’s an example:


This is Jolly. She was soooo tiny when she was born into the frigid air and her mom wasn’t too interested in drying her off. Luckily my farmer was right there and was able to put her into the heated office with some fresh-from-the-dryer towels so she could be nice and snug. She’s still living there, probably until Monday when it warms up and then she will have her own hutch. 

So what else is new besides winter? Well today I wanted to talk to you about our health care. My farmers work very closely with a team of people who ensure each of us is doing well and has what we need. These people would include our veterinarian, nutrionalist, hoof trimmer, milk tester and a few others. So what if we need something? LIke, what if one of us was to get sick??

My farmer is responsible for our general care. He knows all of us by name and even knows the milk cows just by looking at their udders. Once you get to know someone very well and you work with them all day, every day, it’s pretty easy to spot when something is wrong. Just like you can with the people you’re close to. If a cow is sick she may show it, like her ears may be a little droopy or her eyes a little sunken in, or have a runny nose. Because my farmer knows us so well he can also say things like “This cow didn’t have the same amount of milk as usual” or “she’s normally first in the parlor and today she’s still lying down and came in last”. Those are all clues something may be up, and my farmer watches for those every day. 

Like babies or your house pets, cows can’t tell you what’s wrong with them. It’s up to the farmers to try and figure out. We generally give some clues though. For example, a runny nose and labored breathing are a pretty good indicator of pneumonia. Sometimes cows may get sore feet, or if we’re playing rough in the barn with a herdmate we may hurt a leg. So if someone is limping, my farmer will check their feet for any sores and see what part we are favoring. Cows can also get stomach aches. Maybe they ate something they shouldn’t have. Another common illness when cows are sick is mastitis. This is an infection in the udder, and my farmer can normally detect it by our milk.

Most farmers try and figure out what is wrong with a cow and take care of it themselves before making the call to a vet. If one of our cows is sick, she gets to moved to a pen right by the parlor, filled with fluffy straw so someone can check on her frequently, instead of having to find her in the barn. It’s quieter and her herdmates won’t bother her so she can just rest. The farmers can also offer different feed, for example, if a cows tummy is off dry hay tastes the best, so my farmer can give her some to herself.This is also a good place for the farmer to administer any medicine. Sometimes cows do need antibiotics, but like we talked about before, you don’t need to worry about them getting in your milk.

And then there are the times when my farmer needs help. So he calls in the pros. Our vet is on call 24/7. Why may a farmer need to call the vet? If a cow has difficulty calving, the vet has special tools to help the calf come out safely. Sometimes they may even have to do a C-Section. Most calvings are uncomplicated, but occasionally you get that one that just needs help. (Did you know calves come out front feet first? Then head and then shoulders-that’s the hard part since it’s the widest. Once the shoulders are out, the rest normally slides out pretty easy. But we’ll talk more about that later.) Sometimes cows can also get what’s called displaced abomasum (or a D.A.) This happen when the abomasum part of the cows stomach gets into a spot it shouldn’t be. The cow will stop eating, or eat very little. This generally happens within a month after calving. Just like people, when a cows pregnant, all her insides get squished around to make room for that baby. Once the calf comes out, things start going back into place but there’s a chance that her abomasum doesn’t. It could rise because of gas now that there’s all that room, or maybe she’s not staying full of food. Either way, a vet has to come in and surgically fix this for the cow. Most of the time the cow feels better within a day or two! Those are a couple examples why we may need our vet in an emergency. But when else do we see him?

The answer? Every other week.This time is set aside for our vet to come to our farm, address any concerns the farmer may have, like maybe look at a cow that isn’t sick but not quite right either, talk about how everyone as a herd is doing, and the farmer will give our vet updates on anything new or different on the farm.  Our vet takes manure and milk samples out of certain cows if they need to be checked for various bugs. And the big reason why he comes? Pregnancy checking!

Cows can get pregnancy checked about a month after breeding. Here’s our vet on the job:


There are a few ways to check for pregnancy in a cow. One way is through milk, another is a blood test and lastly is through ultrasound. We use the ultrasound because it can also identify any other issues a cow may have, like we once had one with a tumor, which we would not have known about had we not ultrasounded her. So you see that little thing clipped to our vets hat? It’s a screen so he can see what’s going on on the inside. Like I said, he can tell about a month after breeding if a cow is pregnant or not. Between 55-75 days after breeding he can tell the sex of the calf. Here’s what an ultrasound looks like when the calf is around 60 days:


That is the main body of the calf, you can sort of see where it’s ribs would be. So we generally check the cows around 30 days, 60 days and again about 2-3 months before  they calve (cows are pregnant for 9 months too!) just to make sure everything is going okay. Our vet is also able to tell us if a cow is pregnant with twins, which is important because cows with twins generally calve earlier than nine months, so we would be prepared starting around 8 months. 

My farm mom says she’s jealous of the cows because when she was pregnant she had to drive 45 minutes to get to her doctor and the last few weeks she was going twice a week. She said the cows are lucky they don’t even have to leave their bed and the doctor comes to them! 

My farmers strive really hard to make sure we all have the best care possible and do all they can to keep us healthy. They love the team they have helping them, especially our vets who do all they can to get us healthy as quickly as possible. 

Thanks for the chat everyone! If you have any questions please feel free to let me know, and make sure you follow along with us on Facebook @alittlebrowncow for more updates and our employee of the week on Wednesdays!

~Mut 

Mut and the Milk

Hey everyone! I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving! These last few weeks have certainly flown by! We’ve been busy on the farm getting ready for winter, we’ve only had a dusting of snow so far. I thought it was pretty neat to play in! With the holidays approaching I thought this would be a good time to talk about my favorite subject-milk.

There’s so many different kinds of “milk”out there nowadays and a lot of unfounded fear in the good wholesome product my herdmates make. There’s a lot of reasons people may give for not drinking milk like “we are the only species who drinks another animals milk”. But my farmer mom tells me the cat, dogs, chickens and pig all love their cows milk!! Some other people may say that cows are treated unkindly or spend all day long getting milked. Our farmers treat us girls with the utmost respect, making sure we have the best feed and all we want of it, and that we are comfortable, happy and healthy. If any of those things is missing from the equation, we won’t give the quality or quantity milk that is our potential.  My farm mom says cows actually have it really easy because they only are getting milked 2-3 times a day for about 10 minutes at a time. She said that is nothing compared to a baby cluster feeding or going through a growth spurt!! She said she could sit there for hours with the baby nursing!! Bet she wishes she was a cow sometimes! 

The milk you buy from the store is fresh. Let’s take our milk for example. Our truck driver comes to pick up our milk every day. That means every day that milk is going to the plant. Some larger farms even have trucks pickup a couple times a day! That mean that milk is getting from cow to you in a matter of days. Not too bad. Also, the only ingredients in milk are milk and vitamins. That’s especially to make sure your little kiddos drinking the yummy stuff get all the nutrients they need right there. Whole fat cows milk is recommended for growing kiddos because the fat and protein are crucial for brain development, as well as all that calcium, and with the added vitamins, they are all set to be the super heroes they are destined for!

So what is it that people don’t like about milk? If cows are treated great and it’s the healthiest choice out there, what gives? Well I’m not to sure exactly. I know us babies definitely love it!


Maybe it’s the hormones? There are naturally occurring hormones in milk, but as you can see in the chart below (taken from Igrow.org) the amount of hormones in milk is pretty insignificant compared to other foods you eat. 


What about supplementing with rBST? There is absolutely no evidence that this has any affect on your milk or you, there is no difference in milk with it or without. But because we live in a society where the consumer is always right, and the populous decided they did not want dairy supplemented with rBST, most co-ops have told their farmers they have to stop using it. Like I said, it is completely safe but people didn’t want it used so it’s not.  Contrary to some recent “documentaries” there is no evidence that rBST or the naturally occurring hormones cause early puberty or cancer or any other disease. We’ll talk more about this at a later date but if someone is using scare tactics to make you believe something (especially without evidence!) it’s probably not true. I could easily say that there are no studies proving that drinking milk won’t give you pink polkadots, but that doesn’t mean it does! It’s all in the wording. So if you’re worried about hormones in milk, I wouldn’t worry at all. 

So what else is there that people would worry about? Ah yes…antibiotics. Let’s talk about this. Sometimes us cows get sick. Although our farmers do everything they can to keep us healthy, sometimes it just happens. Let’s say one of the girls gets mastitis. My farm mom has had it a couple times and she said it was worse than labor. Pretty painful stuff we’re talking about. But with some antibiotics in her system and some rest, she said she was good to go and back on her feet pretty quickly. So what happens if a cow gets mastitis? Well, they are generally treated with antibiotics that are administered into the quarter (cows have 4 teats so each one is called a quarter) that is infected. In almost all places that cow gets plastic red leg bands and she is put in a different section of that barn. In some places it could be a few stalls that are separate or in our case, it’s an open part of that barn right off that parlor with straw to lay on in a pack setting, instead of stalls. These areas are called sick pens or hospital cows. This would be for cows that are treated with antibiotics, any cows that have had a calf in the past few days or maybe someone who isn’t quite sick but isn’t quite right and just needs some extra attention. These sick pens are generally located right next to the milking parlor for a few reasons. One is the cows won’t have far to go to get milked.If you don’t feel good you don’t want to go to work so we keep them close. Also they are by the parlor because that’s a busy place, with people walking by all the time. This way the cows are being looked at all day long. The pack that houses the cows getting ready to calve is generally near there too. 

Okay so now what? A cow is sick, she gets leg bands to identify her as treated, she is moved to a different pen, and all of that is recorded, either in a computer program or in my farmers handy dandy notebook. When that cow comes in to get milked, her milk goes right into a bucket, so it has no contact with the untreated or “good” milk. Here’s an example:


You can see the bright red leg bands (pretty hard to miss right?)  and the bucket hooked up to catch her milk. Her milk will continue to go into that bucket until not only is she done getting antibiotics but past that, until all residue has cleared from her milk.  Farmers have this nifty little tool that they use to test to make sure the milk has no residue in it, and once that happens and she’s feeling better, the leg bands come off and she goes back to live with her buddies in the barn. 

But can there ever be antibiotics in your milk? I mean what happens if she loses her leg band? What happens if the bucket milker doesn’t get hooked up? What if that milk goes into the tank?

At every single farm, on every single load across the US, every time a milk truck driver comes to pick up the milk he takes a sample of the tank. Every. Single. Time. Every. Single. Farm. When he gets to the plant, he may only have one farms milk on his truck or he may have several. Before he unloads any milk, a sample is run from his tanker. If that sample is negative for antibiotics, he is allowed to proceed into the plant and unload the milk. If it comes back positive, he has to leave and get rid of the milk and thoroughly wash his truck before picking up milk again. Then all the samples of milk from that truck are run to see who has the “bad” milk. If it is you, you will be held responsible for all the milk on that truck. Most co-ops also have a rule about how many times this can happen before you’re not allowed to ship milk anymore. So no milk that has antibiotics is ever even allowed near the plant, let alone your glass. 

So you see that there is never a chance of antibiotics in your milk. I hope that this talk we had cleared up any questions you may have had. I would hate to think with the holidays coming (or really any day I guess!) that you would be missing out on all good things dairy out of fear of what was going in your mouth. So fear not and gobble down the whip cream on the pie, slather on the extra butter on your biscuit and get that extra cheese pizza to watch the game with on Sunday. And then wash it all down with a glass of milk and know your body is thanking you for all that dairy goodness.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Oh yea, don’t forget to like my Facebook page and follow along on my journey! Until next time, 

Mut

Mut and the Mud

Hey everyone! It finally stopped raining!!! Yay! I thought for a minute us bovines would have trade in our fur for fins! Last time we talked, I explained about how much I love my house (and why it’s important that I’m there). I have to tell you, even through the 3+ inches of rain these past few days, I was nice and cozy and dry! My farmers kept giving me fluffy straw and although I didn’t get to play out in my yard too much, it was nice not to be wet! You see, us cows don’t like the rain so much. Let’s talk a little bit about cows and weather. 

The big cows and older heifers (those are females who haven’t had a baby yet) are housed in what’s called a free stall barn. That means there’s a few rows of stalls and the cows are free to come and go as they please. The big girls get milked twice a day, and they’re only in the parlor for about 10 minutes at a time, so the other 23 hours and 40 minutes is up to them. Anyways, in the barn is feed, water, stalls full of lots of sand (I hear it’s like lying on the beach all day!) and there’s even a back scratcher. And us cows, being the social butterflies that we are (especially us jerseys!!!) spend a lot of the day walking around and visiting with our friends. Most of us by the time we get to the big barn have a group of friends we have known since birth and we hang around with them. It’s kind of like that best friend you’ve had since kindergarten going away to college with you. 


So why are us cows living in a barn instead of outside? Well, because weather. Like I said, it has started raining and not stopped. The parts of the pasture that aren’t under water are all mud. The mud is terrible for our feet. (We can visit with the nice man who gives us our pedicures another time and discuss feet issues.) But in short, it can cause our feet to rot. Along with the fact that if a cow was to lie down in the mud or all that water, she could get mastitis from the bacteria. In the barn, the stalls are kept nice and clean so that doesn’t happen. 

 

This is the view from in the barn going out to our pasture. You can see all that mud! Yuck! 

And here’s our pasture with all the water:


I know some people don’t think it’s fair that a cow is stuck inside. Our cows have access to pasture starting in April or May, depending on what kind of spring we have, and are normally in for the winter in October. But it’s not all our farmers choice. Like I said, cows don’t like rain! If they are outside when it starts raining it is quite a site to see! The whole herd will high-tail it (literally-they run with their tails stuck straight up in the air) as fast as they can. Almost like they were playing “last one in is a rotten egg”. My farmer was telling me how the gates were open the other day and it wasn’t raining but there was only one cow outside! Just one! It gets to be this time of year and the girls just like to start hunkering down. 

What about other weather? Well, any guesses on what is the ideal temperature for cows? I know my farmer mom likes the house around 70…and she says she sneaks and turns the thermostat up sometimes when my farmer dad isn’t looking. But the big cows are really comfortable around 50 degrees. So in the heat of the summer, although they have access to outside, many choose only to go out for a short period of time. The heat can be really stressful to us, and in the barn we are in the shade with huge barn fans going to keep us nice and cool. 

Wind is also hard on us cows. Most of our wind comes from the North or West so all of our calf hutches and the main open areas of the barn face South. This works great most of the time for keeping us out of the wind, except for this weekend when the wind changed and came out of the South. Yuck. The changing weather and wind can cause pneumonia in the cows, but us calves being so young are the most susceptible. Our farmer knows what to look for and checks us all very closely and makes sure we stay healthy. 

What other season is left…oh yea…winter…I have been warned about winter and how evil it is. My farmer mom hates winter and being cold so she likes to baby us calves and make sure we are all warm and comfortable. The big cows don’t mind the cold as much as us young ones. As long as they are out of wind and are dry they can handle the cold a lot better. 

I think that about covers the weather. Hope you all are staying dry too!

~Mut