Pleasant Meadow Creamery makes certified organic baby heifers! That would be the headline if we were in the news, but really this post is two different topics.
The first has to do with heifers, since they are the best thing on the planet. They offer so much promise. We have a cow named Laci. Laci was bred by AI (artificial insemination) last late winter and early spring. We show her as having been bred on 04/06, and was again in heat on 04/24, missed a heat, and then back in heat again on 05/30.
We bred all three. In all three, except the last one, her signs of heat were strong. She stood mounting, had extremely low milk production, and was active with other cows for a significant portion of the day.
After 05/30, when her next heat was due, she stood mounting once, but that is all I saw, so I did not breed it. We confirmed pregnancy by blood test, called her pregnant, set the due date as 03/15, the dry off date (start of vacation) to 01/15 and moved on with life.
Around January 7 this year, coming up toward vacation, we noticed she was starting to develop anew on her udder, not in production volume, but size. There were other subtle changes. So, we immediately dried her off and reviewed our notes. We reasoned that she must have actually bred on the 04/24 heat and thus the 05/30 was a “trick”. We therefore knew her calving date would be around 02/08. We would barely get 30 days dry.
Unfortunately, in the last several days, it became obvious there was no way Laci was going to February. This morning, at 0730, I took one look at her, felt her tail head, and immediately moved her to the calving pen. By 0830, we had a certified organic baby heifer. Well, we are in certified organic transition and will be certified organic this summer, since we are in year three of some of our transitional fields, and the cows transition one year, concurrently with the final fields.
Dad’s name is Lightning, so heifer’s name is Pleasant Meadow Lightning Luci.
The second part of this post is about being Certified Organic. We believe in certified organic. It matters to not only claim “organic” practices, but to certify – to have someone look over our shoulder and audit what we say we are doing. First, this certification verifies we are meeting a standard. Second, it catches potential slip-ups before they occur. It forces us to prove out every step to be sure we are in compliance. We are not just saying it.
To get where we are, we first had to develop our own hay making capability. However, we knew we would most likely not have enough of our own hay to supply a growing dairy. We came close this year, but needed at least another 8 tons or so to get us to grazing season.
Over a year ago, we were contacted by a certified organic hay producer in the Missouri River valley of Montana near Great Falls. The name of the ranch is 7 Bar Heart. They have been certified organic since the 80s when owner Gregory saw that the chemical combinations he was using were having the effect of “sterilizing” the soil. He immediately changed course and became certified organic at a time when it was not “the thing to do”. He did it because he reasoned man had been farming that way for centuries mostly successfully. The 70s and early 80s were the heyday of chemical ag with antibiotics, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers. They were also the days we were starting to see the downside of these technologies.
Back to us – we have a lot of hay growers literally right next door to us, so to want to be certified organic is a serious commitment if we are going to truck in hay all the way from near Great Falls. This year was the year I was going to see if I was that committed.
It turns out I am. I care about me. I care about the cows, and I care about you and your health. I care about the earth, the soil, and the wildlife and domesticated life that depends on a healthy balance.
So, we purchased our trailer-load to get us through the winter season. Depending on how much our herd grows, and how good yields are this coming summer, we may have to switch to semi-truckload of this stuff for next year.
If we keep making certified organic baby heifers, we definitely will need truckloads.