Dear Subway, Ask a Farmer First

As we have probably all heard, Subway has announced they will only serve antibiotic-free meat. Not only meat that does not contain antibiotic residues, but they wish to use meat that has never before received an antibiotic treatment. There are numerous reasons why this is wrong.

  1. ALL MEAT IS ANTIBIOTIC FREE. It always has been.  You can not buy meat in a store that is tainted with antibiotics. Now, I am a dairy farmer, but we also sell cows on our farm for beef. All antibiotics have a withdrawal period so that there are no antibiotic residues in the treated animal. We physically cannot sell an animal if that withdrawal period has not passed. It is ILLEGAL. Subway is instilling fear in consumers to sell their product, because all meat is antibiotic free.
  2. Some animals NEED an antibiotic treatment.  Just like humans do! I do not enjoy using antibiotics, or do I use them just because I can. I will treat an animal with antibiotics if that is the ONLY way it’s health will improve. And honestly, I do not use antibiotics that often. There are ways to prevent an animal from getting sick, and farmers always make sure these actions are being taken. But sometimes animals get sick for unknown reasons, just like humans.
  3. If Subway only wants to use meat from animals that have never been treated with antibiotics, are they saying that animals that have gotten sick are worthless? Because I have a HUGE problem with that. I take care of dairy calves every day, and if one of my babies is sick, they have my full attention. I will do whatever it takes to make them better. Using antibiotics are a last resort, but if that is what is going to help my calves be healthy again, I will do it. No farmer wants to use antibiotics – they are expensive, but the animal is always worth it.

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This is one of my babies. Her name is Lacey.  She did require an antibiotic treatment when she was 3 weeks old. It was worth every penny! And guess what! She is a beautiful calf that will go on to produce milk and beef for consumers and none of what is sold for human consumption will have antibiotics in it.

Subway did not look at the facts. If you have questions about your food, ask a farmer first.

Subway, you no longer have my business.

I always liked Jimmy Johns better anyway.

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Cow of the Month: Alberta

Alberta has always been an excellent cow.  However, I was super excited to hear that she is our top producing cow of May!  Once a month we have our milk tested and this gives us a lot of good information.  We learn how many pounds of milk each individual cow is giving and what their somatic cell count is amongst other necessary information.

With that being said, I present you with….ALBERTA!!

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She peaked at 151 pounds of milk (per day)! To put this in perspective, we are super happy to see our bulk tank average over 80 pounds, so Alberta is going above and beyond!  151 pounds of milk is equivalent to over 17 gallons of milk!  She also tested at 20,000 somatic. (Somatic cell count is an indicator of the quality of milk. The lower the count, the more quality the milk is. Anything under 100,000 somatic is great!)   She is also super adorable and really sweet.

Here she is chewing her cud and hanging out with her herdmates during morning milking.

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See, I told you, ADORABLE. Look at that hair-do!

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I also like to think that she is chatting with her buddy in this picture. One of her daughters just joined the milking herd and is definitely following in her mother’s footsteps.  She looks a lot like Alberta and is on her way to being a top producer too.

I love you Alberta!

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Okay, I’ll stop bragging about you now.  (She is very humble too).

-Jamie

Thriving Dairy Farms Practice Excellent Animal Welfare

It’s no secret today that some people have a sour attitude against farmers.  If I had never been on a farm, or was never educated about agriculture, I would possibly be in the same boat. With that being said, I want to give some answers to a few of my readers who don’t understand why certain things happen on dairy farms. I hope to answer more questions in later posts!

Question:

Why do we separate calves from the mother cows?

Answer:

1. Safety. The transition lot (where the pregnant cows live) has other cows in it.  If a baby stays there too long, there is a risk of it getting stepped on or trampled by other cows.  Mother dairy cows may not even claim the calf.  They make sure they lick the babies clean so they get the scent off of the calf (so predators do not smell them) and then the mother cows are often seen at the feed bunk, appearing to have forgotten about the calf. With cows that calve for the first time, it’s common to see the calf in one corner of the barn alone while the mother is eating, never getting licked off or cared for. Some cows just aren’t good mothers and we can’t risk letting a calf be alone outside wet and cold left to die.

2. Sanitation.  The baby calf is kept in a cleaner environment in our calf barn.  The calf gets his/her own stall with fresh bedding in it.  If the calf stayed with the cows, they would be around manure which could cause illnesses.

3. Health. We feed our babies with a sterile bottle and nipple to ensure to keep them healthy.  This is much more sanitary than the calf drinking from the mother cow who lies on the ground most of the day. They are also housed indoors away from the inclimate weather. In nature, where there is life, there is also death. If our calves were to remain outdoors throughout the cold winters, wet springs, and hot summers, well over 30% of our calves would die. However, in the calf barn we lose less than 1.5% of our calves.

We milk 150 cows on our farm.  It takes about 3 cows’ milk to feed ALL of our calves.  We collect the milk from these 3 cows, pasteurize it, and feed it.  This is a very efficient way to care for our calves. Our cows are producing a tremendous amount more milk compared to a hundred years ago. Some activists claim we are genetically modifying cows, adding hormones to the feed, using hormone shots in the cows, and keeping them cooped up all day to collect all the milk. In reality, the only change we’ve made in a hundred years is welfare. The only reason our cows can give up to 100 pounds of milk in a day is because they feel comfortable, safe, calm, and are fed quality forages. If our cows are not happy they will not produce milk, simple as that. Anybody can sell cows, a responsible dairy farmer knows how to keep them around as long as possible.

If there is one thing I want you to learn about dairy farming, it is that we are not in this industry to simply make money. My husband and I truly care for our animals and love them dearly.

Let me tell you a story:

We had an adorable little heifer calf born about 2 weeks ago. Her name was Adrian.  She struggled from day one for an unknown reason and I tried and tried to nurse her back to health for about 10 days.  Adrian was getting very dehydrated so my husband would tube feed her every day just so she could get some nutrients.  She eventually needed an IV.  We called the vet and he did a wonderful job setting her up with an IV and within an hour Adrian was doing much better.  Dan and I went to check on her around 9 pm that night to switch her bags and possibly feed her if she was feeling up to it.  We got to the farm and we noticed that she had been moving around (good sign!) but the tube on her IV had gotten disconnected to the catheter in her neck and she was bleeding.  However, she seemed to be doing just fine and my husband hooked the tube back on and switched her bags.  I was cold and tired by this point and Dan was almost done, so I went to start the truck and warm up.

About 5 minutes later, I saw my husband walking towards the truck, I could tell something was wrong. He looked defeated. He opened the door and told me that Adrian passed away. We rode home in silence. I cried myself to sleep that night. I cried when I got to the farm the next morning knowing that Adrian would not be there to greet me.

I loved that calf. I tried so hard to nurse her back to health every day. But nothing worked. I was heartbroken.

The next day the Vet came out to perform a necropsy (autopsy for the animal world), and he told us he wasn’t sure what caused it.

With all of this being said, please do not think that dairy farmers don’t care about their animals and treat them poorly.  We have their best interest in mind because we LOVE them. We do everything we can to make sure our animals are healthy, comfortable, and well fed. We have to remember, cows are animals, not people. William Hoard, founder of the magazine “Hoards Dairyman”, also ran a small dairy farm. He could very well be the first man to ever put cow welfare into perspective. He had a sign posted on his farm that read:

Notice to the Help:

THE RULE to be observed in this stable at all times, toward the cattle, young and old, is that of patience and kindness. A man’s usefulness in a herd ceases at once when he loses his temper and bestows rough usage. Men must be patient. Cattle are not reasoning beings. Remember that this is the Home of Mothers. Treat each cow as a mother should be treated. The giving of milk is a function of Motherhood; rough treatment lessens the flow. That injures me as well as the cow. Always keep these ideas in mind when dealing with my cattle.

To all of my readers, if you have questions, ASK! Don’t assume the worst. I would love to answer any questions you have about modern dairy farms.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

-J

7 Ways Marrying a Farmer Will Make You a Better Person

So many joys of being a farmer’s wife. So many life lessons too. I wouldn’t trade this wonderful life for the world, and here some ways I am better because of marrying my farmer:

Patience. There have been times when my dairy man calls and says to expect him home for breakfast at 9am.  Shortly after, around 9:30, I will get another phone call (in a sweet voice) saying, “Umm, remember how I said 9? Yeah, better make that 10:30.” I replied, “What were you doing?” He replied with the picture below and said:

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“Sitting in the rafters watching cow behavior!”

And then I roll my eyes, crack a smile and patiently wait for him to come home.

Slow to Anger. Snowballing off of the previous, the farmer’s wife must learn not to be angry about when her farmer finally comes home, sometimes late. Farmers are home at odd hours of the day, so when they are home, cherish the moment! Yes, it is frustrating, but don’t ruin the short time that he is home by being angry.

*Also, knowing how to keep meals warm is must.

*And packing up the meal and taking it out to the field when there is not time for my farmer to come home and eat.

My specialty: Meals to the field.

My specialty: Meals to the field.

Humility. Being a farmer’s wife is hardly ever glamorous.  Most of my days are spent washing his manure-stained chore clothes and reminding him to wash his manure-coated arms when he arrives at home. There are many activities that my husband has asked me to do or requested my help with that have greatly humbled me.  Whenever he asks me kindly to help him with something, I always end up holding something slippery, slimy or stinky.  I remember the first time my dairy man asked me to take a calf’s  temperature. I looked at him perplexed.  I asked, “How am I supposed to hold the thermometer under its tongue?” He replied, “You don’t take temperatures in the mouth, dear.”

Hard Work. Being a farmer’s daughter is nothing compared to being a farmer’s wife. There are many more responsibilities.  Cleaning, cooking, gardening, canning, laundry, errand running, feeding calves and misc chores to name a few. Add trying to finish a bachelor’s degree into the mix and I’m already needing a nap.

Discipline. Last year I was a college student.  This meant rolling out of bed at 9:45 and rushing to my 10 am class.  There were also many late nights and still plenty of sleep.  I was able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. That was a big change for me as calves need to be fed twice a day at the same time, every day. Now, whenever I tell someone I overslept, it means I woke up at 6 instead of 5.

Power Tools. When my farmer says that he needs a tool in the barn, I am still learning how to interpret what he means. When he says “Go get me that one tool that I use for this, it’s the shiny, round, sharp, circular thingy next to the balling gun and tag remover but not the other shiny round tool, get the one I used last time”; I am starting to know what this means. I’m still learning a lot about all of these specific tools and their functions but I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was as a single lady.  Also, hardware stores.  I’m getting very familiar with our town’s hardware store and know where to find a few things!

Geography: There are many times where my husband needs me to pick him up or needs a delivery in a certain field left of the green sign, north of the intersection, around the curve, cross the culvert, past the waterway, west of the hay field and up the hill.  Getting lost is a frequent occurence.

I still have much to learn and much to be humbled by and I’m excited for every new experience!

 

-J

5 Things Marriage Has Taught Me

Today is Dan and I’s 5 month anniversary.  I know 5 months isn’t long, but it seems like I have learned more in these past 5 months than the last 5 years. First off, my husband is amazing and I am incredibly lucky to have him. I thank God every day for this man.

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My husband is so hardworking. It’s typical for him to work 14 hour days and I never hear a complaint. This is a conversation we had yesterday:

Me: “Dan, you just worked twleve hours straight.”

Dan: “And I could work twelve more.”

Jeepers.

What a blessing to be married to a man who knows how to work! And he’s 23. What man who is this age knows how to work that hard? Not only is he incredibly hard working (and is so good at what he does) he loves me like Jesus does. With that being said, here are the top 5 things that marriage has taught me.

1. It’s not about me. It’s not even about my husband.  It’s about God. The purpose of marriage is to glorify God. When I serve my husband, I am serving the Lord.  Ephesians 5:31-32 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Marriage is a reflection of God’s love.

2. I am the most selfish person I know. When I was single, I was selfish and unaware.  This was suddenly brought to light when I had to start taking care of my husband.  Doing his laundry. Making his meals. Running his errands. Sometimes I find myself getting really sassy when I feel like all I do is his stuff.  But God is glorified when I serve my husband.  I usually need to check my own heart when I get sassy about this because I love my husband and it truly is a blessing to be able to get to do all of this for him. 🙂

3. Forgiveness.  I’m pretty sure Dan has had to forgive me way more times than I have had to forgive him. Ha! Here is my main point: Don’t judge your spouse because they sin differently than you.  Love them. Forgive them. Encourage them.

4. Servitude. I have found that I am the happiest when I put my needs aside and decide to help my husband.  When I have piles of homework to do, dirty laundry and dirty dishes and Dan needs my help with something on the farm, I should help him. Real servitude is not expecting anything in return.

5. I need help. I can’t be a good wife on my own.  Galations 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Everyday I ask God to help me to posses these qualities.

Proverbs 31:10-12 “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trust in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”

Now that is the kind of wife I want to be.

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-J