Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Michigan Agriculture-What Does the Future Hold?

Check this out!! HSUS has infiltrated Michigan, and although a coalition of farm commodity groups and organizations was formed, the pressure got to some and a compromise was initiated.

Some say the future is uncertain for agriculture here. Please support your local farm families as this is their way of life. Feeding the world-that's what it's all about! But it may be the world feeding us-sooner than you think!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Lewis' on Video!!

I only have 2 more days until a video crew and a photographer show up at my door at 7am in the morning!! Yikes!! My family and our farm have been chosen to represent Dairy farmers from the great state of Michigan (plus 1 other dairy farm family) on a video series. What a great honor!! But also a bit stressful.
We pride ourselves on trying to keep a tidy place. But when it's going to be seen nationwide-well, you just have to take a little bit closer look. So we have been busy for the last several days making sure all is in order. We have had a bit of rain lately, so the grass just keeps growing!! Good thing we have 2 lawn mowers.
I hope to be able to take some pictures while they are here and post them on my blog. Anyway, we will put our best foot forward-and so will the cows! When it becomes available, I'll let you know. Like they say in showbusiness, Break a Leg, or maybe I should say Hoof!!

Until next time,

Say cheese!!:)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

There's More To Making Hay Than You Know!

It's beginning to feel like Fall around the dairy farm. The mornings are cool and the afternoons are toasty warm. I've noticed a few leaves beginning to fall and a couple trees to turn a yellowish-orange color. Boy do I love Fall!
It's also one of the busiest times of the year for us here at the dairy. We planted our crops in the Spring and now it's harvest time. We have been working on chopping and baling hay. The first process is to mow, or cut, the hay. We use two mowers to do this-it is just quicker for us. This time of the year, the faster you can cut, or mow it, the faster it will have time to dry.

We then rake one row, or in our case "invert" (flip) it, onto another row so there is more hay for the Chopper to pick up.

This is the "Inverter"
The hay that we chop is called hay silage, or "haylage".

It is dumped from the trucks in a pile and then is pushed up and onto a pile on the ground-on a cement pad. We have three different locations where we store haylage and corn silage. This is a smaller area:

Thanks for seeing how we chop hay for good quality forage for our cows. To produce milk, the cows need good food, and this is just one example of how it's done!

Next, we'll be looking at chopping corn for corn silage, so check back again to see some exciting videos on that.

Until next time,

Buy dairy products.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where's the Beef, the Chicken or the Pork?

You may be asking yourself this very question in the future.  "Where has all the meat gone?  Why can't I buy it in Michigan or Ohio or California anymore?"  Or any of the other states affected by poor legislative actions from people who don't really know the truth but rely on others to tell them the "story".
Do you believe everything you read or hear?  I would hope not.  But, I would say that sometimes you may hear things are just "amazing", "incredible", or even "inhumane?".   
As a dairy farmer, who is truly pro-active in the promotion and education of all of agriculture, it saddens me to think that people would believe anyone who isn't an actual farmer.  Would you ask questions of a lawyer if you wanted a diagnosis for an ailment?  Probably not.  Your best bet is to find a person who really knows their "business". 
Animal agriculture in this country is huge.  The majority of the population likes meat (and no I don't have numbers to back this statement up).  I am one of those people-the ones who enjoy a good steak, chicken salad, and pork loin.  I cannot think of a time or place where I have not seen any type of meat (pork, beef, chicken, fish) on a menu or in a store.  Obviously, I am not a vegetarian, but I am aware that there is a small population that does not eat meat.  And some don't even consume or use products from animals-not even dairy or poultry, these people are called vegans.  Each to his own.  And, I certainly don't ridicule these people, they have a choice, just like I have a choice to "Eat Meat".
I am no different than most people that I know.  I stand up for what I believe in and I tell the truth.  I don't make it a habbit to talk negatively about others.  But just for this "year", I am having a hard time sticking to that last point.  You see, there is a national organization, called the "Humane Society of the United States", HSUS, (led by a smooth talking man named Wayne Pacelle), not to be confused with any state or local Humane Society/Shelter.  This organization's purpose is to "eliminate animal agriculture" in the United States.  Now that leaves me in a bit of a pickle.  My families livelihood depends on animal ag, just like the thousands of farmers and ranchers throughout the U.S.  Where will McDonalds and Wendy's and all the other fast food chains be without hamburgers?  You guessed it-in another country.  And if there's no meat here, then the meat will come to us. Which leads us into another quandry-food safety!  America has the safest food supply in the world. Not to mention, the cheapest. 
The HSUS uses cute little puppies and kittens as their motive for collecting Millions of dollars a year from unsuspecting people, their annual budget is somewhere around $130 Million dollars. You may think you're helping to save the seals or the lost and abandoned animals, but in actuality you are contributing to their fundraising efforts to pass ballot initiatives in states such as California and Ohio.
My point is that people in the "business" know what they are talking about.  To let "outsiders" come into our state and fight for their "beliefs" is just immorally wrong.  Talk to a farmer, or someone who is directly connected to agriculture.  They are the experts-not people who don't live and breath it every day of their life.

Your Poll Results

Thanks for taking the time to vote on the Poll Questions.  The first question asked if you "have visited a farm in the last year"?  Out of the 13 responses, only 1 person hadn't been to a farm within that time frame.  That's terrific!  For those of you who work or visit a farm, you know all too well what actually goes on.  But for the many thousands of Americans who never get that chance, they need someone to tell them the "story".  That's where this blog comes in.  It's a tool to let the non-farm public see up-close and personal the ways in which their food is raised.  The care that we as farmers show to our livestock, our crops, our employees. 
24% of Michiganians are employed in agriculture.  That means that 1 out of every 4 people you may know have some relationship with ag.  But for the 3 out of 4 people who know little, if any, about agriculture please share this blog with them.  There are other blogs that I recommend also, follow my links.  And I am always searching for new and interesting blogs that tell the story of ag, so let me know if you find one that peaks your interest.
This weeks question was "Do you feel farmers take good care of their animals"? An overwhelming YES resounded.  Hooray! You're right.  Farmers and ranchers take excellent care of their animals.  The health of a cow and her calf is very important to us as healthy animals equate to healthy products.  As mentioned in an earlier post, we provide shelter, a nutritious diet of fresh feed and water daily, veterinary care, and plenty of good ole' cow comfort.  We care for every animal, every acre and every person. This is our livlihood, this is where we raise our children and grandchildren and this is where we feed the world.  So Thank a dairy farmer the next time you meet one, and drink that cold glass of milk knowing that plenty of hard work and care went into it!

Until next time,

Thank a farmer.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Milk Prices-Bad for Farmers

Have you noticed the price in the grocery store for milk these days?  Here in southern Michigan, the prices range from $1.48 per gallon to $2.78.  Amazing!!  The $1.48 milk is at a local grocer with a national chain, Kroger, competing for that market share.  The $2.78 milk price comes from another national chain, Wal-Mart.  You know Wal-Mart, who will beat any price, guaranteed??  Well, if you want that lower price all you have to do is ask, and they will oblidge.  Who would have guessed that?
But, I'm wondering, why is milk that high priced?  You see, the dairy farmer only receives about 50 cents from that gallon.  This is not typical.  The milk price paid to the farmer is so low that we are not even breaking even.  How is that?  There are many reasons.
As you have figured out this year, there is a recession.  And there is a world recession also.  That means that other countries who typically buy (import) from the United States have cut back dramatically or are not importing at all.  The dairy supply of dry milk, butter and cheese is then stockpiled in the U.S. with no where to go but wait to get consumed. 
Dairy product consumption is lower in the summer months.  Ice cream may be higher, but overall, other dairy products are not consumed as much as in the Fall and Winter, when baking and holidays lead to stronger sales. 
I want to mention that other businesses suffer from periodic market lows also.  But there seems to be radical changes in agriculture these days.  As anyone who is in business for themselves knows, you can only hold on for so long and then the time comes that you may have to sell out.  Unfortunately, several large and small dairies around the country have had to do just that.  This is very painful to all dairy farmers, to see someone who has devoted his life to feeding the nation, have to call it quits. 
While we all hold on to the fact that agriculture is the core of this country, lets not forget that all consumers want "cheap" food.  According to the United States Dept. of Agriculture, America has the cheapest food supply in the world, only 10% of a person's annual disposable income is spent on food versus 13.4% in 1974.  Because of the increase in technology, our production has gone up and costs to the consumer have gone down.  Other countries remain at a higher level of income vs. cost for food, such as Italy, where the annual disposable income spent on food is as high as 23%, and India where they spend around 51% for food. 
What you can do.  To help out the American Dairy Farmer, buy more milk products.  Follow the Food Pyramid and make sure you get enough of the daily allowance of dairy.  Encourage others to add milk products to their diets and like I always tell my friends: "Support your local dairy farmer"! 

Until next time,

Get your "3 A Day", (dairy servings).

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Cows Life

Every day begins early for a cow at Pleasant View Dairy.  At 4:00 a.m. the milkers come to work to start the day.  They set up the parlor, the area in the barn where the cows are milked, and bring the cows into a holding pen to wait for their turn to be milked.  And believe me, the cows are very happy to oblige!!  You see, this is the job of a cow.  To go to work every day and deliver their product:  MILK. 
The cows are fed a mixed ration two times a day.  That means all their food is mixed together-and they gobble it up.  Their feed consists of hay and corn and soybeans and minerals and other ingredients that our "Dairy Nutritionist" tells us they should be eating.  He visits our farm usually twice a month and takes samples of the feed, then he knows just the right amounts of what a cow needs to put together for her "menu".  As you can see below, the cows love it!

The cow barns are very comfortable, they offer shelter from the weather such as rain and the hot sun.  They are cooled in the summer by open sides and big fans that keep the air circulating.  Some barns even have cool water misters that spray over the cows several times a day.  They are heated in the winter by closing the sides with covers, or curtains, to keep the cold wind out.  The cows are quite content when the wind is blocked. 

The cows are bedded in sand.  Not just any sand, a very fine sand with few pebbles.  If a cow gets a pebble stuck in her hoof, it is very painful.  We are visited every month by a "hoof trimmer", a person who cares for the feet of animals, specifically cows.  He looks at the cows feet and trims them when neccessary and if any cow has a foot problem, he takes care of it.  We have the sand delivered to the farm and dumped near a cow barn.

So the life of a cow is very comfortable.  She is protected from the elements and anything that might harm her.  She is taken care of every day with fresh water and feed.  Each cow is important to us and we take care of them, just as you take care of your own children.  We care about the health, safety and wellbeing of all the animals at our farm.  And we care about you, the consumer.  Thanks for learning a little more about cows today. 
Until next time,
Drink lots of cold milk and Go Dairy!