A Typical Wisconsin Dairy Farmer

I’m going to introduce you to someone today. A typical Wisconsin Dairy Farmer; not to be confused with an “atypical” Wisconsin Dairy Farmer. This typical farmer is “Dairy Carrie”.

Dairy Carrie is a dairy farmer on a family owned farm in Wisconsin. She didn’t start out that way. Carrie started out just like the overwhelming majority of people start out. She started as a non-farmer. Then, she became the first young woman to take an Ag class at her High School! I think that is a great part of her story. Apparently, she had a great experience because she eventually married into a multi-generational farm family. I am not going to go on at length about family working together but I will say that it is great when it works. It doesn’t always work. That is a topic for another day.

Carrie blogs about her experience as a dairy farmer at “The Adventures of Dairy Carrie…I think I Need a Drink!“. She farms with her husband and his parents on a typical Wisconsin dairy of about 300 acres and about 100 cows. She has been posting a lot of new-born calf pictures lately because it is calving season. I was raised on a dairy so I personally think calves are very appealing.Image (I’d call them cute and adorable but that is not a very manly thing to say.) She covers a lot of different topics on her blog about life in Wisconsin but she became Nationally recognized through her Agvocacy. “Agvocacy” means that when Carrie sees an issue relating to Agriculture that needs to be addressed, she takes action!

Her first big action was in response to the historic drought conditions a few years ago. She started an on-line hay drive to donate hay from farmers in Wisconsin to farmers trying to feed their cattle in the extreme dry areas of Texas and Oklahoma. She originally intended to get one semi-trailer of hay. The drive achieved “viral” status on-line and she ended up sending 7 truck loads of hay! That is making a difference!

Carrie attended an AgChat conference a couple of years ago and that just spurred her interest in Agvocacy to a higher level.  Panera Bread Company put out an Ad campaign in-accurately portraying Poultry producers using antibiotics in a lazy attempt to raise un-healthy chicken a few years ago and Carrie spoke out. Her promotion of the truth about Poultry producers caught Panera’s attention and they ended up retracting their whole Ad campaign!

Carrie speaks genuinely and from the heart. She blogs. She uses Twitter. She has a Facebook page. She was picked up by the Huffington Post when she talked about being a Farmer and not a “Farm Wife”. She tells the story of her family and her farm and her life in Wisconsin and her Agvocacy in a transparent fashion that reaches people. All kinds of people are following Carrie. That is the way to tell the story of Agriculture. A thousand farmers may read her but that is “singing to the choir”. The “overwhelming majority of people” who are just like Carrie before she took that first Ag class in High School are hearing and experiencing parts of her life. They are becoming engaged in farming and experiencing the truth about farming as told by someone living the life, not a Restaurant chain bashing modern Agriculture practices to sell burritos. People are being inspired out there right now to start something like a hay drive because they now know it can be done and it has been done. I recommend taking a look at Dairy Carrie and trying some of her brand of inspiration on for size. It might change your life!

Water

It has been a rainy morning today. I had about 1 3/4 inches of rain in my rain gauge this morning. I realize that many people might think that statement almost bereft of any important meaning. Those who are not engaged in Agriculture, do not have a garden, and have no yard to mow, may very well find rain nothing but an inconvenience or even a hated problem. We’re going back to the basics for this post.

Farm ponds and creeks are very important water sources for plants and animals. They are also great for fishing and playing! I have spent Many an hour fishing in farm ponds and enjoyed many a meal of bluegill and bass that I caught and cleaned myself. A historic drought in the early 1950’s was the incentive for many ponds being built across Southwest Missouri. Most of the elm trees on my boyhood farm were cut down so the cattle could eat the leaves since there was no grass. Ponds don’t help the pasture that much but they at least are places for livestock to drink.

Livestock drinking brings up another aspect of water availability. Winter cold means that water sources can freeze over unless it is a sufficiently large creek or other moving body of water. Cows and calves can’t break the ice by themselves if it is thick. I remember many times taking an old axe out to the pond and chopping through the ice to create a hole where the cattle could get a drink of water. That is cold, wet, hard work. There has to be Enough water underneath that ice for the cattle to get a drink. That is one place where that 1 3/4 inches of rain I got today becomes VERY important.

Rain this morning!

Rain this morning!

Rain is very important to Agriculture. Water availability may very well be THE MOST IMPORTANT factor across all of Agriculture. Crops need rain, livestock need water. Animals depend on crops to eat that depend on water to grow. Water is the basis for cleaning pretty well everything relating to farm production. The biologic nature of Agriculture means that everything has a time limit. Everything either goes bad after a certain amount of time (think of rot, mold, and decay), or starts off bad as in manure, contaminants like ag chemicals, and waste  animal parts in meat processing.

I grew up on a dairy farm where the equipment had to be carefully cleaned and dis-infected after every milking twice a day every day. Think about how quickly milk goes bad when left out. My brother had a gallon of milk spill in his car once and it stank that car up for the rest of its life! Water is the basis for cleaning in almost every part of life. Guess what? Animals poop! (Poop is such a silly sounding word. It makes 6 year olds out of everybody. I always want to giggle when I hear “poop….. poop, poop, poop”.) Manure is a much more civilized term. Milk cows produce manure and they really don’t care where they let it fly. You haven’t lived until you have had a cow swish a manure filled tail around while you are attaching the milker and it wraps around the back of your head and slaps you in the face and mouth! Take my dad’s word for it! Milk barns have to be cleaned of all that manure during and after every milking. Manure is right there at the production point of milk. The two have to be separated. Water is the key.

Water is used for mechanical advantage in processing a lot of produce. Apples,  cucumbers, and many other types of fruits and vegetables are examples where sluices are used to convey produce from one place to another without bruising it.  The product gets washed and safely moved at the same time. Water is safer, cheaper, easier, and more energy efficient at moving things than belts or rollers.

The next time the weather forecast calls for rain, think about all the benefits that water brings with it. I happen to enjoy water quite a bit. I enjoy drinking it alot. Here is a link to an article discussing the value of water as a vital commodity to be invested in for the 21st century. Just a head’s – up, water availability is going to become very critical to everyone in the next 50 years. That rain may be a nuisance, but you better keep praying for it.

Still bangin’ the Drum

An important topic  deserves a fair bit of coverage. The Chipotle ‘Scarecrow’ video is important. Agriculture needs to stay on point and on top of articles in the Media that are so negative towards Agriculture in general. People are going to eat regardless of how this “Crow” video portrays the way that food gets on the table. They will make their choices on what they eat and where they eat depending on their own personal tastes and preferences. American farmers need to make sure that we have a hand in shaping those tastes and preferences instead of letting negative images of our practices dominate the conversation.

My classmates and I at Missouri State University made videos to put on our blogs as a class project. My teammates and I came up with this one.

This was our first try at home grown video. I found the contrast between what Chipotle portrays and what McDonalds shows a remarkable one. The story told by each is compelling. Chipotle could have chosen to market positively and chose to go the other direction. Do you find attack video or positive coverage more appealing? Here is a link to the full McDonald”s video. Watch it and see which one appeals to you.

I was raised on a dairy farm. Our cows did not sleep on water beds! We did try our best to make sure they were cared for in the best way we could. That is good practice if you want a profitable farm. Let me know whether your choices are influenced by these videos. Do you feel better about Ag or worse? Are you more or less likely to eat at Chipotle? I hope I have made my choice clear. Pass the word. This topic deserves our thought and time.

 

Snapshots

  • Drinking well water from a tin cup.
  • Whipporwills at dusk.
  • A skunk waddling in the pasture.
  • Watching thunderheads build.
  • Drought strangling the crops.
  • PICNICS!
  • Gettin’ the cows in for milking.
  • Picking gooseberries,
  • Chiggers behind the knees.
  • Rain on the barn roof.
  • Minnows in the creek.
  • FISHING!
  • Feeding the cows in winter.
  • Cleaning the milk barn.
  • Feeding the cows in summer.
  • Bucking bales of hay.
  • Riding on the tractor.
  • SUNDAYS!
  • Homemade ice cream and fresh blackberries.
  • Bucket feeding calves.
  • Shoveling manure.
  • Wiffle ball with my brothers.
  • Working side by side with Dad.
  • FAMILY!
My old dog. Long time gone.

My old dog. Long time gone.