dairy farm

This tag is associated with 31 posts

Wordless Wednesday – Dairy Aerial

A few years ago a good friend took me flying and I forgot the aerial pictures I took were on my phone here is a  view from the south.

A southern view of our Central California Dairy Farm.

Where do cows sleep?

You might wonder where cows sleep on a modern dairy farm (you might have heard them called factory farms too).

On our dairy farm cows sleep in various places.

Some of our cows sleep in freestall barns:

Cows can lay down in their own individual stall and are free to come and go as they please.

The stalls are cleaned daily, leveled several times a week and new bedding added every 2 weeks. Here is a bit more about making the cow beds. The cows who sleep in these barns also have access to outside corrals in the appropriate weather.

Some of our cows and younger heifers sleep in corrals:

The corrals are groomed weekly to keep them soft, smooth and dry.

Our pregnant cows who will be having their baby calves any day sleep on a bedded pack:

The loafing area for our pregnant cows is cleaned and ready to be refilled with almond shells.

The maternity pen for the expectant cows is cleaned every day however we have to completly change the bedding several times a year. First we remove all the old bedding, then add a little sand to cover the dirt and last we add several inches of almond shells.

The pregnant cows are frolicking in their new bedding.

We also have some animals who sleep in the pasture:

The cows who sleep in the pasture sometimes can nearly hide in plain sight.

Is my milk safe?

Cleanliness and safety is something that we think about before we even think about milking the cows. Cleanliness starts with the cow beds andalso by keeping our cows healthy . We wash our milk pipelines three times a day once between every milking shift, the milk tank is washed once a day after it has been emptied and the milk pumped out and onto the tanker truck. Food safety is something paid close attention to on a dairy farm here are few pictures showing what we do to produce healthy refreshing milk!


This tank cools the milk and stores it at a chilly 39 degrees. This is a brand new 5000 gallon milk tank we installed a few months ago.


Inside these stainless steel tubes the milk is filtered before ending up in the milk tank. Fresh new filters are installed before each milking shift.


This is a plate cooler that uses water to help cool the milk by nearly 20 degrees before the milk enters the milk tank.


This chart tracks the temperature of the milk and is changed every 48 hours. If you notice the two spikes in temperature they are when the tank is washed daily after the milk is pumped into the milk truck to be taken to the milk plant.


This sink is where the cleaning agents are m ixed with water to wash the pipelines the milk flows through. It is like a big dishwasher for pipes and is used after each milking shift.


the cows teats are dipped with an 1% iodine and lanolin solution to keep them soft and clean.


Although hard to see because it is a clear gold color this is a peroxide based teat sanitizer we use before the cow is milked. It also has lanolin in it to keep the teats soft..


The cleaning agents are automatically added to the wash sink for employee safety.


We even take safety as far as protecting our water supply from being contaminated with cleaning agents or milk.


The milking machines are washed in between every milking shift

National Cheese Lover’s Day

Deutsch: Blauschimmelkäse, "Lys bleu"...

Image via Wikipedia

Hey Cheese Lover’s today is your day so vote for up to 3 of your favorite cheeses below. Feel free to add any not here.

Cow Bling!


New calves showing off their bling!

On our farm we use eartags to give each animal an unique identifier that allows us to keep important health records for each animal. Here are a few pictures that show the tags up close.


This is used to apply the tags similar to how ears are pierced for earrings

The tags are applied in a similar fashion to earrings through a soft portion of the ear. Each tag is self contained and is clean and sterile.


Each tag has 2 parts this is the male part


Cow bling has a lot of information about the animal

The information of the tags includes our farm brand (starting at the very top of the biggest tag), next is the unique “840” number assigned to only this animal in the United States, followed by the unique number for our farm, in this case 2129. The small white tag has the same numbers and also id an EID tag that contains an RFID information. We currently do not utilize the RFID tag outside of visual use however are we will be implementing the electronic reading in the future to help with efficiency and to eliminate human error.

Curious about the camera, and showing the bling!

Lending a helping hand…

Farmers are a unique bunch and one of the things I love the most about that uniqueness is farmers willingness to help out others. Wheter tending to a neighbors land or crops because of illness or helping rebuild after a disaster farmers tend to band together and help in times of need. It is also great to see the values learned growing up on a farm is not lost once someone grows up and leaves the farm.

Here is a great effort by Farm Boy and ESPN Baseball Commentator Buster Olney along with his Dairy Farmer brother Sam Lincoln to help those in Vermont struggling to recover from the damage the rains from the remnants of Hurricane Irene. Many Major League Baseball Players and other professional atheletes have donated items to help raise money and help rebuild a little part of America. Neil Huntington the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates who himself grew up on a dairy farm is also involved in helping out farmers in the North East.

Below is a blog Mr. Olney wrote reminiscing about some of his farm experiences that shows once a farm kid always a farm kid!

Thanks to Hoards Dairyman Magazine were I first read about the combination of my baseball and farm passions.

Batting For Vermont – MLB – ESPN.

Going to bat for Vermont 

Buster Olney

The severity of any problem on my family’s Vermont dairy farm could be measured by the length of my stepfather’s curse words. If a cow stepped on his foot, this usually merited four or five letters. If something broke on the hay baler, well, that might get nine letters, repeated.

But I never heard anything like the river of 12-letter words that occurred when our John Deere tractor — a machine that our farm could not function without — got stuck in the swamp behind our barn. I was 13 or 14 years old at the time, and it was the blue language that fascinated me most. I stood on the side and watched as my stepfather tried extricating the tractor with a small shovel and then broad planks, and I had never seen him that angry, that frustrated and desperate.

Now that I’m older and understand the concept of money and debt and poverty, I understand better where that came from. For a dairy farmer, a tractor sunk deep into the mud was a financial crisis, nothing less. There were tow companies in the state, folks you could pay a couple of hundred bucks to make the journey. But my folks, who essentially lived hand-to-mouth for a period of about 10 years, couldn’t afford that.

I can’t remember how my stepfather, Ed Lincoln, got the tractor stuck. To get from the barn to the 10-acre field behind our house, you had to pass over a narrow gap in the swamp, where rainwater gathered. Maybe the right wheel had slipped off the edge, or maybe he backed up too far. No matter, though. The tractor was deep in the mud, and Ed was almost out of breath and ideas.

“Go tell Mom to call Hank,” he said to me, referring to the old farmer who lived a mile down the road.

In 1973, my parents bought a dairy farm — a 120-acre valley plot wedged between two hills that ran parallel to each other — in Randolph Center, Vt., a town that, to this day, has about 400 people, no stoplights and just a handful of stop signs. Both had been raised in upper-middle-class families — outside of New York, in my mother’s case, and outside of Providence, R.I., in my stepfather’s case. But their dream was to raise their children — those they already had from first marriages and those they intended to have together — on a place where we could grow, work and live outside.

Their timing could not have been worse, because small family farms in Vermont were dying. Quite simply, the cost of milk was stagnant and the cost of farming was rising, and any debt — a mortgage, or loans to purchase equipment, or any unexpected expenses — was crushing. In those first years, my parents’ income scraped $5,000 annually. Ed has an extraordinary aptitude for machinery and anything mechanical, which was fortunate, because he had to do everything to keep the place running, whether it was welding teeth back onto the hay mower or fixing the milk pump or repairing a blown tractor tire. He had no training as a veterinarian, but within a couple of years, he learned to treat the cows himself, all but eliminating the calls to Dr. Arms.

Our lives were at the mercy of the seasons. On those mornings when the temperature fell well below zero, Ed would take an ax and cut a hole in the water tank to allow the heifers to drink, and if the pipes in the barn began freezing, he would run a blowtorch inch by inch along the main water line. I was 9 when we moved to the farm and had daily chores, feeding cows and shoveling manure and stacking hay and wood, but I don’t think I realized until I was an adult, with a mortgage and college loans to be paid off, how much pressure Ed was under.

There were no days off — none — because the cows had to be milked twice a day every day. We never took a family vacation, which didn’t seem unusual until I went away to school and met kids who had spent time outside of Orange County, Vt.

Although my parents had no money, I never felt like I wanted for anything. I spent the money I earned on baseball cards at Floyd’s General Store, listened to the radio, happily threw Wiffle balls against the side of the house, hit rocks into the pasture with a bat and played baseball in the spring. I was too naive to expect anything more, although my mother — who died in 2006 — made it clear that I would leave the farm for school someday.

But I can remember how the weather created crises. A July windstorm once flattened a field of corn behind our house when I was 12 or 13, and my stepfather was silent as he stared out at the back field; he was trying to figure out, I know now, how in the world he could generate the cash needed to pay for the winter feed that had been lost the night before. In the midst of a thunderstorm, some of our cows broke through a fence, and with lightning splattering our hillside to the west, we had to pull the spooked creatures back through the swamp; the water from the flooding went up to my knees, as Ed and I coaxed them toward the barn.

He had always fixed the problems, because that’s what he had to do. But as he spun the tractor tires in an effort to get out of the swamp, the situation had only worsened; the tires sank until they were half buried in mud. The frame of the tractor, normally three feet off the ground, was now resting on the mud.

There was no other vehicle on the farm that Ed could use to haul the John Deere tractor out. We had a small, gray Massey Ferguson tractor, manufactured right after World War II, that we used to rake hay and run a wood splitter, but not for any heavy jobs. Our pickup truck didn’t have the horsepower to extricate the John Deere. Any attempt to dig the tractor out would have taken a day or two, and there was a very real chance that if we got it to move forward, it would sink back down into the mud.

So my mom called Hank Hewitt, and it wasn’t long after that we heard the sound of his tractor coming through the maple trees to the south. Hank was probably 60 years old at the time, the owner of a herd of jersey cows about a mile south of our farm. He was funny and crude and hardworking, and I remember him having most of his teeth, unlike a lot of other farmers in the area, and he wore suspenders and the same barn overcoat most months of the year.

He rolled up on his tractor and surveyed the situation and immediately started teasing my stepfather. “Well, how the hell did you do that, Eddy?” he said, and Ed smiled slightly.

Ed had been a photographer at the Boston Globe and ran a studio in Vermont when he met my mother, and he learned everything he knew about farming by living it; older farmers in the area, like Hank, found him to be different — he wore earplugs to protect his hearing from the roar of tractors, for example, and I remember one of them shouting at him to ask why he did that. But he was accepted because he asked questions.

Hank backed up his tractor, hooked up a thick chain to the front of our John Deere and gunned his engine, and at the same time, Ed hit the gas on our tractor. The back left wheel on our tractor turned, with mud shooting straight up, but the tractor didn’t move much. They tried to rock it back and forth, to get any kind of movement, but there was barely any. Ed swore, and so did Hank, and I sat there fascinated. My little brother, Sam, was 3 or 4 or 5 at the time, and he stood to the side with me; he can remember it all clearly, too.

“Jesus, Eddy,” Hank said, grinning. “You really did it this time.”

They adjusted the placement of the chain, and nothing worked. But now Hank was invested. Ed apologized for the time Hank was away from his farm, but Hank dismissed that talk with a wave of his hand. “I’m going to go get the bulldozer,” he said.

As Hank headed back to his farm, Ed chopped at the mud with his spade shovel, trying to create some space to wedge some planks under the wheels. The John Deere was everything. Ed used it to haul and spread manure, to cut and bale hay, to dump loads of wood in front of the house.

Within a half hour, we could hear the bulldozer coming up the road, its sound distinct, twice as loud as any tractor. To this day, I have no idea why Hank had a bulldozer.

He slowly guided it down the path from the barn, stopping about 20 feet short of the swamp. They set a chain in place, and Hank revved the engine of the bulldozer, and when it started moving, the wheels of the tractor turned; the mud couldn’t hold the tractor against that kind of effort.

The John Deere rolled back on solid ground, and Hank and Ed idled the engines and climbed down to remove the chain. “Well, thanks,” Ed said to Hank.

“Twern’t nothing,” Hank said. He had helped because he could.

He changed the subject, and soon the sound of his engine disappeared down the road south, back to his home.

On Aug. 28, the remnants from Hurricane Irene dumped inches of rain on the Green Mountains of Vermont in a matter of a few hours, and the water overwhelmed quiet brooks and streams. State roads were wrecked in the floodwater, and towns were cut off.

Many farmers in the state were devastated: Barns and livestock and fields of crops were lost, by a lot of the people who have the least. In South Royalton, which is about 10 miles south of our farm, 81-year-old Duke Perley watched as his cows were swept away. Reading the stories, I kept thinking of Hank Hewitt, who had helped because he could.

On Saturday, Nov. 12, we’re holding an event to benefit Vermont farmers hurt by the flooding from Hurricane Irene — a baseball roundtable in the biggest building in Randolph Center, Vt., at Vermont Technical College. It’s about 35 minutes north of the Hanover area, about 2½ to 3 hours from Boston and an hour south of Burlington off I-89. New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman will be there, and so will Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington — who grew up on a dairy farm in New Hampshire. Theo Epstein agreed to come before he left the Boston Red Sox to go to the Chicago Cubs, and he’s expected to be on hand.

There are three tiers of tickets to the event being sold, an online charity auction, and donations, all through this website: BattingForVermont. The support we’ve gotten — dozens and dozens of memorabilia and experience donations from players, teams, agents, Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, different corners of ESPN and many others — has been overwhelming. All the proceeds will go to the Vermont Community Foundation, which distributes grants to farmers in need.

Lazy Summer Morning

Here is a cow picture for Wordless Wednesday.

Cows chilllin

A few of our cows enjoying the cool morning before a hot summer day here in Central California.

These cows were just moved into this pasture yesterday and are relaxing in the grass. With all the late rains we had here in the Central Valley and now the heat the grass is growing very quickly in the pasture. these cows need to get up and get to work eating it down!

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Want to see my farm?

My family and our dairy farm are very lucky to be located between San Francisco and Yosemite in the Central Valley of California. Because of this location we are in the flight path to and from San Francisco International Airport AKA SFO. When I have a window seat I try to locate my farm as we fly over. Many times I have had a seatmate on flights thoroughly amazed I can pick my farm out from such a high elevation.  If you can pick out Yosemite National Park and Half Dome you too can see our farm just a few minutes later as you head west.

The view of my family's farm from an airplane

We are very lucky to have awesome views of the Sierra Nevada and Coastal ranges, very often we have a front seat view of Half Dome itself.

Dairy view

Half Dome in Yosemite as seen from my families dairy farm

So as you fly over my farm please wave and remember we are down here everyday working on the farm caring for the cows who are helping provide healthy food for everyone.

Cows play in sprinklers? Wordless Wednesday

This started out as a Wordless Wednesday however I decided to add some background information.

Today I’m doing maintenance work on one of the major pieces in our cow comfort system the soakers that help keep the cows cool during the summer.

Here is a picture of the cows enjoying the cool shower just like kids playing in the sprinkler do during the summer.

Cow's on the sprinklers

Cows being cooled by the soaker system.

The soakers come turn on to soak the cows and then are off for a period of time to allow the water to evaporate and creating evaporative cooling. This type of cooling is the same cooling feeling you get right after getting out of a swimming pool on a hot day. We locate the soakers over the cows food so they are more comfortable while eating and their food intake stay’s up during hot days when they need the energy.

Cow Shower

This little box is a great help to keep cows comfortable

This controller uses the temperature at the cow level to adjust the on and off times so the  optimum cooling of the cows is maintained.

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What do you do with all that cow poop?

Many times we get asked the question “What do you do with all the poop from the cows?”.

The pictures below are a visual of how we turn what many think of as waste into a nutrient for our crops in our quest to be a sustainable and friendly to the environment dairy farm.

Cows poop it's just part of nature.

Continue reading

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