Saturday, December 24, 2011

Century Farm

Brian is a fairly new veterinarian; he graduated from OSU in June and has been practicing since then. To accommodate his on-call schedule, we had our family Christmas last Sunday. On a dairy farm, there are always chores to do. Naturally, the morning started with milking, feeding cows and calves, and tending to "ladies in waiting," otherwise known as artificially inseminating cows and heifers in heat. After those chores were completed, we gathered at Allen and Diane's for a huge spread of food and time together as a family.

We took the customary Christmas photos, and then it was time to open presents. A couple of months ago, Greg and I decided that we would do the legwork to get the dairy farm recognized as an Ohio Century Farm. The Century Farm program is designed to recognize farms that have been in the same family continuously for at least one hundred years. It requires the applicants to show deed records and tell how previous owners are related. Here's the letter that we gave to Allen and Diane on Christmas:

December 17, 2011

Mom and Dad,

Farming in our family has a rich heritage. We are proud of the traditions you have set for us, but at the same time, we realize that our family has a long and proud history, much greater than we can sometimes fathom.

About a month ago, we began a project to nominate the dairy farm for the Ohio Century Farm Program, which recognizes farms that have been farmed by the same family consecutively for one hundred years. We started by researching the deed records for the property at the County Recorder’s Office. From there, we set out to connect the dots and map out our family’s lineage along with the deed transfers.

The time we spent trying to decipher relationships between deed grantors and grantees was confusing, frustrating, puzzling, and also very rewarding. The farther back we traced the property, the more adamant we became at finding connections. We relied on a great deal of internet genealogy, but we also discussed the relationships with neighbors and family members. The deeds set out on our office floor for the better part of a month with colored papers showing arrows, jotted notes, maiden names, family trees and more.

We eventually reached a roadblock, when we could no longer show a relationship between Samuel Dewalt (Hattie’s father) and E.L. Mesnard, who he purchased part of the farm from. We were able to trace part of the farm that Samuel bought back to 1889, which shows that 53 1/3 of the acres have been in our family since that point.

What we thought would be a simple project that we could complete by Christmas was just recently finished. While we hoped that the sign commemorating the farm’s status would be here by Christmas, the project consumed more time than we anticipated. So, your gift for today is copies of the deed records (as found in deed books and on microfilm in the Recorder’s Office,) a table outlining the property’s history, a copy of the Century Farm Application, and our utmost appreciation for instilling in your family farming traditions that date back long before paper records show.

Thank you,
Greg and Rose
Allen and Diane reading a table that lists the previous farm owners and relationships.

We'll talk more about what we learned about our farm's heritage in the next post, but the moral of the story is that farming and family are intertwined. Enjoy this time with family this Christmas and as you count your blessings, remember the American farmers that feed and clothe you. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

What happened to summer?

It's a simple enough question, but it's also one that eludes us: what happened to summer? It seemed like we were just getting our crops in the ground, but now it will be time to harvest them before we know it. Time sneaks up on you like that, I guess.

So, here's three months in a nutshell:
  • We cut hay... three-four times.
  • We hauled manure, lots of it. It makes great fertilizer for our fields.
  • We welcomed new babies onto our farm. They'll make great cows one day.
  • Things broke. We fixed them.
  • It rained way to much. Then it didn't rain enough. Then, it was just right.
  • We spent lots of time with family. That's important.
We hope your summer was full of adventure, just like ours. As fall comes around the corner, let's not time escape us.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Vote for Caveman Chocolate. It's so easy, even a caveman could it!

Visit to vote for Caveman Chocolate today!

Introducing... MyPlate!

June is National Dairy Month, an opportunity to highlight the importance of dairy products in a balanced diet. It's only fitting that during this celebration, a new tool for planning nutritious diets is revealed. Meet MyPlate:

You may remember MyPlate's predecessor, MyPyramid. Some of you may even be able to think back to the original dietary guidelines presented in the Food Guide Pyramid. All of these tools, managed by the United States Department of Agriculture, have helped families include all of the essential food groups in their diets. Though the servings have shifted somewhat, dairy has been included in each of the tools as an important part in everyone's diets.

As you look at MyPlate, you'll see dairy off to the top right corner, representing a glass. Low-fat and fat-free milk are wonderful ways to get the nutritional benefits of dairy, but don't forget cheese and yogurt as well. Whether they are in the glass or on the plate, dairy should be a part of every meal, or you should aim to at least consume three servings a day.

As dairy farmers, we take a great deal of pride in producing a product that provides so many essential nutrients to consumers. Milk and dairy products are chocked full of calcium, potassium, and protein. To learn more about the health benefits of dairy, visit the National Dairy Council.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The best part of summer? Ice cream.

It's really cool to go to the grocery store and see a product that you had a small part in making. That's why we love to buy Toft's ice cream. We know that milk from our cows helped make ice cream and fluid milk for Toft's. Now that it's summer, we look forward to enjoying lots of Toft's ice cream.

June is National Dairy month, and to kick it off, Progressive Dairyman is hosting the second-annual Flavor Face-Off to determine the ultimate flavor of ice cream. They've invited dairy farmers from across the country to participate, along with staff from their magazine. We're honored to be a part of it, and we're excited to promote our favorite kind of amazing frozen goodness.

The contest is pretty simple. Each participant picks a flavor of ice cream to represent. We chose Caveman Chocolate. (Read more about it and other great flavors on Toft's website.) Next, the flavors duke it out bracket style. During the month of June, internet voters determine the best flavors. When you vote, you can register to win free ice cream yourself!

We think our flavor is pretty great, and we hope you do, too! Toft Dairy is the only locally owned and operated dairy on Lake Erie between Cleveland and Toledo, and the oldest operating dairy in Ohio. With a track record like that, you know they must know their ice cream! They purchase milk from 22 local families, our included. We're proud to be part of the Toft family. We chose this particular flavor for one simple reason: chocolate. Caveman chocolate is full of fudge-filled chocolate chunks and swirls of thick chocolate fudge in dark chocolate ice cream. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.... need we say more? Vote for Caveman Chocolate here. It's so simple, even a caveman could do it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

I hope the stork brings a girl.

In the last post, we talked about A.I. and its benefits to the dairy industry. Today, we'll add another piece to the puzzle and discuss sexed semen, which can lead to a greater possibility of female offspring.

First, here's an important sidenote: only girl cows can produce milk. I'm sure that just completely changed the way you think about nature. :) Therefore, for a dairy farm, cows are the queens. Heifers, or females that haven't calved yet, are princesses. The profitability of a dairy farm relies on females' milk production. When a cow gives birth to a female, that female calf will likely eventually end up giving milk herself.

To increase the odds of having a female offspring, many farmers choose to artificially inseminate with sexed semen. This technology was developed in 1989 by scientists with the United States Department of Agriculture, and it has been readily available since the early 1990's.

So, just how can you sort something you can't even see? Well, scientists inject a dye into the sperm collection. It's fluorescent, and it sticks to the DNA in an amount proportional to the number of X and Y chromosomes in the sperm. X chromosomes (females) contain more DNA than Y chromosomes (males), so more dye sticks to the sperm cells that are carrying female chromosomes.

Next, the sperm cells are sorted. A laser lights up the dye, and the sperm gives off light proportional to its DNA content. The X sperm always glowers brighter, because it's carrying more DNA. The sperm is sorted into two different batches, allowing it to be packaged into doses according to the probable sex of offspring it will produce.

Species from cattle to rabbits to sheep to pigs have benefitted from this technology. On our farm, sexed semen has allowed us to produce more heifer offspring, which will enter our herd and eventually produce milk. It has increased our efficiency and allowed for a consistent supply of heifers. Does the stork really have anything to do with it? No. Science? Absolutely.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Let's Talk About Sex...

...Cow sex that is.

Now that I have your attention, we're going to talk about artificial insemination in the dairy industry. Before we do, here's a new addition on the farm. Pepsi delivered a healthy female calf (heifer) on April 10. See our last post to learn more about the mama.

Before the calf was even born, we knew there was a good chance that she would be... well, a she. Pepsi was bred using artificial insemination to Million, a bull owned by Select Sires. The semen was sexed, meaning that there was roughly a 90% probability that the calf would be female. Before we get into those details, let's start with the birds and the bees: how artificial insemination works and why it's used.

The majority of dairy farms in the United States use artificial insemination. Semen is collected from bulls off-site. The semen is stored in sealed straws, which are frozen in liquid nitrogen tanks. One farmer can keep numerous straws of semen stored for an extended period of time in a tank at their farm. As the cows come into estrus, or heat, the farmer can remove the straws, thaw them, and breed the cows. The video below, courtesy of the University of Missouri, explains more about the breeding process.

Artificial insemination accomplishes several purposes in dairy production. First, it provides tons of options for reproduction. A dairy farm that only has one bull to use for natural breeding doesn't have genetic options. On the other hand, a farmer that uses artificial insemination can select a mate for a cow based on genetic potential that will improve the quality of the herd. This selective breeding allows a farmer to select a bull that will be a solid match for the particular cow he is breeding. Secondly, artificial insemination can be a safer alternative than natural breeding. If a farmer is housing a bull on his farm, then he takes the risk of the bull endangering himself and his employees. A full grown bull weigh around 2000 pounds. That's a large critter to contain and move! The bull can also be hard on the cows. The semen for artificial insemination, alternatively, is stored in a tank no larger than a kitchen trash can. Finally, artificial insemination can be very economical. A farm that is using natural breeding would have costs associated with housing the bull, such as feed and medical expenses, but a farm that is using artificial insemination can purchase a dose of semen from a reputable bull starting around $15.

With such benefits, it is no wonder that artificial insemination is so widely used in the U.S. It is a powerful tool that allows farmers to improve their herds while reaping other benefits. Stay tuned for our next blog post for more sex talk (cow sex, that is) and to see how semen can be sexed to lead to a greater possibility of female offspring.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pepsi or Coke?

It's a timeless battle. Which is better: Pepsi or Coke? Each has pros and cons. In their favor, Pepsi has a cooler label, while Coke puts happiness into each beverage. On the negative flip-side, Pepsi had the disturbing commercial with the boy getting sucked into the bottle, while Coke can corrode a penny. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference.

This blog really has nothing to do with caffeinated sodas, but it does have to do with a heifer named Pepsi. Here she is:

Greg and Jason headed down to Columbus on Friday to the Buckeye Classic Sale at the Spring Dairy Expo with the intention of dropping a few bucks to improve our herd genetics. Before they went to the sale, they perused the sale catalog with data about each cow, so they could be sure they were picking out the best addition to our herd. The data in the catalog can tell you just about everything you need to know about a cow. It lists her pedigree; if she's in production (meaning she's been milked), it lists her milk records; it lists her registration number; it even includes her birthdate. With 53 head of cattle in the sale, it was a lot of reading material!

So what were the boys looking for when they set their sights on a cow? Milk has two main components: protein and butterfat. Dairy farmers are paid based upon the amount of each component in their milk. Greg and Jason wanted to make sure that they selected cows that would help the herd average in those two areas. They also wanted to pick cows that had high production (made a lot of milk.) A lot of this is done based on speculation. Remember how I said the sale catalog lists pedigree information? You can tell a lot about how a cow will milk based on her lineage. If her dam (mom) produced a lot of milk, then it is likely that she will also.

Once Greg and Jason selected a few head of cattle that they were interested in based off of their paper records, it was time for them to look at them in person. Before the sale started, they were able to look at each cow and heifer they were considering. Just like anything, it might look good on paper, but in front of your eyes, it's a different story. As they looked at the cattle, they examined their confirmation (how their legs are set up), their frame size, and their overall appearance. Based on what they saw on paper and what they saw in person, they narrowed down their wish list.

When it was all said and done, Greg and Jason came home with Pepsi, not Coke. (Ok, that's a bad joke. I doubt there was even a cow named Coke in the sale.) Pepsi is a two-year old registered Holstein, set to calve on April 18. They also picked up two heifers (young females that haven't had calves yet), Divine and Daurel. The barns are a little fuller, but we're looking forward to seeing how these ladies contribute to the herd.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cow Comfort in Frigid February

I hope you like the blog title. That was as close to an alliteration as I could get today! A month or so ago, one of our Facebook friends suggested we write a blog post about how we keep the cows comfortable in the winter months. It's definitely a challenge, but it's one we take seriously! This week, as temperatures plunged into the single digits, we were still at the farm at the crack of dawn, making sure our animals were cared for.

Here are a few things we do in the winter months to keep our cows comfortable:
  • Adjust the barn curtain. The barns have curtains that can be opened or closed, depending on the temperature outside. When it cools down, the curtain is lowered to keep the cows warm and comfortable. When it warms up, the curtain can be opened.
  • Get the calves off to a good start by putting a blanket on them. The blankets help them stay healthy and warm. This isn't necessary in the summer months, when the outside temperature is high.
  • Closely monitor their feed consumption. This is something we do year-round to ensure that our animals are healthy and eating well, but in the winter, animals require extra energy to maintain their body weight. Some times this means we adjust their ration or feed them extra to keep them healthy and strong.
This list could continue, but here's the bottom line: caring for our cows is a year-round task. It just requires different considerations at different times of the year. Just because it's zero degrees out doesn't mean farmers get to stay inside. Their obligation to care for animals is one they take seriously, no matter what the temperature is!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

So God Made a Farmer

I came across these words this morning, and I couldn't help but share. They definitely ring true!

And on the 8th day God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker!". So, God made a farmer!

God said, "I need somebody to get up before dawn and milk cows and work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board." So, God made a farmer!

"I need somebody with strong arms. Strong enough to rustle a calf, yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry and have to wait for lunch until his wife is done feeding and visiting with the ladies and telling them to be sure to come back real soon...and mean it." So, God made a farmer!"

God said "I need somebody that can shape an ax handle, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire make a harness out of hay wire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And...who, at planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty hour week by Tuesday noon. Then, pain'n from 'tractor back', put in another seventy two hours." So, God made a farmer!

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop on mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor's place. So, God made a farmer!

God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees, heave bails and yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink combed pullets...and who will stop his mower for an hour to mend the broken leg of a meadow lark." So, God made a farmer!

It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight...and not cut corners. Somebody to seed and weed, feed and breed...and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk. Somebody to replenish the self feeder and then finish a hard days work with a five mile drive to church. Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who'd laugh and then sigh...and then respond with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life "doing what dad does". So, God made a farmer!

(Author Unknown. Article reproduced from Paul Harvey radio show, but unable to trace the source.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Questions? Ask an expert.

Do you ever think of questions you just can't answer? You know, things like "Why is it called a pair of pliers, when there's only one?" or "If a synchronized swimmer drowns, do his teammates drown, too?" or "Why is it a bunny and not a chicken that carries Easter eggs?" Believe me, as a high school teacher, I get asked fifty of these questions a day from inquisitive students. Being around teenagers also raises many questions in my own mind, but that's a post for another day.

The question that's running through my mind today is this: "You wouldn't ask an Amish man for advice on your car, so why ask a vegan about animal products?" Ironic, huh? Yet many Americans consider celebrities "experts" in terms of diet and lifestyle choices. Here's a list of current vegan celebrities, according to the website Vegan Nutrista.
  • Ellen DeGeneres (She touts veganism on her talk show constantly.)
  • Joanquin Pheonix (actor)
  • Natalie Portman (actress)
  • Pamela Anderson (I'm sure you could insert a distasteful joke here about the importance of milk in her diet.)
  • Toby Maguire (actor)
  • Vanessa Williams (actress)
  • Chelsea Clinton (not sure what her title is)
  • Dennis Kucinich (U.S. Congressman)
  • Alanis Morissette (musician)
  • Brandy (musician)
  • Phil Collins (musician)
  • Shania Twain (musician)

Now, I greatly abbreviated this list to include people who I'd actually heard of. And, since I don't typically care about celebrities, I hadn't heard of a lot.
(Side note, when I Googled "vegan celebrities," it came back with a slew of responses. A similar search for "celebrities who eat meat," yielded few viable results.)
But, from this list alone, think of the influence and the platform they must have to share their thoughts and opinions. They could easily persuade others to become vegans as well. News flash: just because they sit on a talk show and share their opinions about food, doesn't make them experts! They can tell Americans all day how wrong it is to raise animals for food and nourishment and how much healthier they are without meat and milk in their diets, but they're not the best source of information.
You wouldn't ask an Amish man for advice on your car, so why ask a vegan about animals products?

Now that we've established that celebrities aren't the best source of information, where can you find information about vegan diets? The USDA MyPyramid outlines daily nutritional requirements and touts the importance of protein in a healthy diet., a website of compiled medical discussions, lists some disadvantages of a vegetarian diet in an online article. A nutrition specialist at the University of Georgia shares her thoughts on the topic also. When it comes to information vegan diets, research institutions, doctors, and the USDA are great sources.

Many vegans choose their lifestyle on the premise that animals are raised unethically. If you have questions on how animals are raised, then ask someone who knows: a farmer! Most celebrities have never set foot on a modern farm. How can they profess that they know how animals are raised? Instead, here are some great sources of information on modern livestock production:
  • The American Farm Bureau has a wonderful website called "Conversations on Care," where consumers can Q and A with real farmers.
  • Learn the truth about modern pork production and watch videos at the Ohio Pork Council's website.
  • Want to know where steak comes from? Learn from a real beef producer.
  • Connect with farmers all over the country who are part of the Ag Chat Foundation and hear how they care for their animals.
  • Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the dairy story. Check out Dairy Farming Today to watch videos and hear from dairy farmers that are producing a safe and nutritious product.
Feel free to chime in with your own sources of information, also. Bottom line:
you wouldn't ask an Amish man for advice on your car, so why ask a vegan about animals products? Ask farmers instead. They would know; after all, they care for animals every day.