One of the sad things of losing the farmland of the Rathdrum Prairie (or anywhere), and specifically family-scale farms, to housing development, is the loss of wildlife habitat.
Our farm, located in Bonner County, Idaho, is habitat for an amazing list of critters. Since we moved onto the land in 2006, we have seen the list and quantity of critters grow.
Dairy farms make great habitat.
These photos show a Northern Pygmy Owl. What you may not realize is this is a small bird – maybe 6 inches, and one of its favorite meals is songbirds. Their defense against it is they mob it. It has fake “eyes” on the back of its head, as shown in one of the shots. Experts think this is a defensive mechanism to make it look like it is watching a predator even when turned the other way.
Our farm makes great bird habitat because of all the bugs and other critters that take up residence here thanks to the increased nutrients made available by cows. We help them by providing habitat, and they help us by eating bugs and other things. We strategically left trees mixed with the southern end pastures not watered by wheel line so the birds would have roosting and nesting opportunities.
When you support family-scale, and especially organic, farming, you are supporting a healthy environment for all of God’s creatures. Remember, family-scale farms are wildlife habitat!
Last Friday, 10/09, we received two new cows from Iowa. They were purchased from Knapp Guernseys, very near Wisconsin.
The reason for the purchase is that demand is outstripping supply, and right at the time of year that grass-fed cows naturally begin to produce less milk. Also, we have three good cows on pre-calving vacation.
I was in one of our retail partners yesterday and there was just one milk left on the shelf in natural. That was a Wednesday. We had just stocked the store Tuesday, and will not be back until Saturday. Yikes!
We do our best to meet the demand, but we’re working with seasons and live animals, and with grass. If we were a conventional dairy, we could double the output of these ladies, no problem. However, it would not be by feeding them the long-stemmed organic forage that they do get. We would be feeding corn silage, sorghum, alfalfa, and a whole lot of each, and who knows what else.
Instead, we are striving to produce the most healthful product possible from A2A2 Guernsey cows on grass and grass hay/haylage. When it comes to production, we get what we get. During the late spring, entire summer, and early fall, we have great per cow daily average production, but nowhere near what we would get in a conventional operation.
During the true fall and most of winter, our numbers drop considerably – just as the days really shorten, and there is literally nothing we can do about it. It’s just the natural cycle. We still think it’s good production, but the industry certainly wouldn’t think so. We have been doing it long enough and keep detailed daily records, and our production is entirely predictable, and that’s all we’re looking to do – meet the predicted numbers. If we don’t, then for sure, something is wrong.
So back to the new cows: meet Tingle and Lovestruck. They’re helping us put more milk in the tank now, but they have to learn to graze and be organic cows like the rest of their co-workers who have 4 legs up on them, many having been born here.
At Pleasant Meadow Creamery, being in a western state, we learned long ago that a Wade Rain Wheel line is absolutely necessary to have green grazing 5 or six months per year.
Prior to getting wheel lines, we would have the fields dry out in early August, and our solo cow would already be looking for hay.
We therefore sought to install an irrigation system. It involved building a dam on the creek and irrigating from the creek. This worked to water one pasture, with one wheel line, but only barely because we would draw the creek down after just two or three hours irrigating and we would have to shut down for ten hours to recharge.
Finally, we sunk real money into putting in an irrigation well. To drill and develop the well (which we developed ourselves) cost over $24,000. It was worth it though, as we now have an irrigation system that can water 45 acres and run 24 hours per day 7 days per week week in and week out.
In a normal year, the system runs either 44 or 55 days, depending on whether we do five runs across the fields or four. This summer is a four pass summer thanks to rains as late as July 8. It has been dry dry dry since then, but not on our fields. Every 11 days, we put down about 2.5 inches of water.
Without giving us much in the way of notice, Darci calved yesterday evening at around sunset or before. This is a second calf for her. She had a bull.
Normally, cows give us some advance notice, besides what the calendar is telling us, about their impending calving. Their udders will fill. Their tail heads will show more due to relaxed ligaments. They’ll get fidgety and go through a “nesting” phase.
Darci didn’t do any of these things, other than that her tail head looked a bit more pronounced days ago.
Yesterday eve, with the heifer and dry cow group out all day grazing, I asked our milking guy toward evening if he had checked Darci the night before when he went to bed. He said, “Yes. She was looking strange and scratching herself among the trees while all the others in the group were around the barn laying down.”
The minute I heard this, I knew that was likely a 24 hour sign. I immediately grabbed my headlamp and went walking to see if she was at the barn. When I got there, everyone was there but her and her sister. Uh oh.
I headed to the field. I first walked to the north line, then west, then south along the western perimeter. The grass on that side is still kind of tall, so I use my flashlight to look for glowing eyes. Deer reflect back as greenish, and there were a few sets of those. Finally, my light caught on golden eyes low in the grass at the corner of that pasture. Golden eyes tend to be bovine eyes.
As I approached, I could see it was Darci laying down. I asked her, “are you in labor?” No sooner were the words out of my mouth when I looked a few feet away and there was a bull calf laying, already dry.
Such a bad farmer I am! No farmer should flat out miss the calving, yet it does happen. If she had needed help, I might have been too late to do any good for the calf. As it turns out, all was well.
She got up, and I noticed her sister, Dorothy, a 16 month old unbred heifer standing in the grass about 50 feet away. The little boy made a good effort to get up too, and pretty much succeeded.
Normally, we like to get at least 3 pints of colostrum in them within 45 minutes of birth. They never are capable of doing that on their own, boy or girl (the boys are usually slower).
I guessed he had been out maybe at least an hour or hour and a half. So, I went home and grabbed a wheelbarrow. We use the big blue ones with double wheels, put a little hay in it as a bed and headed back out with my daughter in tow to retrieve the boy and the cow.
I loaded him up and started hauling him in back. We tried to make sure Darci smelled that he was in the barrow, but she didn’t do it and kept trying to go back to his last known location. Finally, we got her to pick up his scent in the barrow and then she followed us calling to him.
I had Amber (daughter) get hold the wheel line sprinkler steady so we could pass by the irrigation, over the 4 inch hose, through the field gate and on to the maternity pen.
The boy was fully mobile right out of the barrow. Darci got water – a full 5 gallons – always a requirement after calving. The cows can be depended on to suck it all down. I then gave her hay and managed to get her to stand still enough for me to hand milk half a gallon into a calf bottle and immediately feed the boy. He sucked it down, and off we went to bed. Darci was already contracting to expel the placenta.
This is a model calving, besides my inattentiveness. Most go something similar to this, but not all. In fact, the last calving we had, about two weeks ago to the day, was what is called a “three Amishman pull” at 3:30 in the morning. That is another story for another post.
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September 7 – Labor Day – 2020 has brought us a severe windstorm with power outage in the AM hours that has seemingly knocked out power everywhere in our area.
All our South stores are empty shelves and will be until tomorrow.
We also lost one of our last remaining aspens – snapped off halfway up – that hasn’t been lost in prior storms, a spruce tree in the heifer pen, roots and all, and lots of branches.
We were just getting set for bottling when the storm and all its dust hit. We made the immediate decision not to do that, which was a good move since the power started flickering and then went off. We switched to backup generator, but it has limitations on running the place and we have to meter what we run and where.
One day, we’ll put in a big diesel generator, but we’re not there yet from a financial standpoint as far as cost/benefit analysis and payback. Cost to put in a brand new one is over $11,000. Of course, we have had multiple big storms in the last 24 months with at least one day outages if not more.
So, we meter milking, milk cooling, running our backup well versus the high capacity deep well, and irrigation is off completely until the grid is back. Fortunately the wheel lines had water in them and have held position without getting blown – a significant proposition since they are both mid-field and not staked down.
Moving forward, we will mostly be doing farm updates via our blog versus social media platforms.
In fact, this will allow us to put out better content!
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The science is solid, and not just counting medical science, that masks don’t contain virion:
This study is the first RCT of cloth masks, and the results caution against the use of cloth masks. This is an important finding to inform occupational health and safety. Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection. Further research is needed to inform the widespread use of cloth masks globally. However, as a precautionary measure, cloth masks should not be recommended for HCWs, particularly in high-risk situations, and guidelines need to be updated.”
From the WHO: There is limited evidence that wearing a medical mask by healthy individuals in the households or among contacts of a sick patient, or among attendees of mass gatherings may be beneficial as a preventive measure.14-23 However, there is currently no evidence that wearing a mask (whether medical or other types) by healthy persons in the wider community setting, including universal community masking, can prevent them from infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.
Prolonged wearing of the surgical mask causes loss of intellect potential and cognitive performance due to a decrease in blood oxygen and subsequent brain hypoxia. Note – some changes may be irreversible.
“Report on surgical mask induced deoxygenation during major surgery”
“Wearing N95 masks results in hypooxygenemia and hypercapnia which reduce working efficiency and the ability to make correct decision.”
“Medical staff are at increased risk of getting ‘Severe acute respiratory syndrome’ (SARS), and wearing N95 masks is highly recommended by experts worldwide. However, dizziness, headache, and short of breath are commonly experienced by the medical staff wearing N95 masks. The ability to make correct decision may be hampered, too.”
In conclusion, both surgical and cotton masks seem to be ineffective in preventing the dissemination of SARS–CoV-2 from the coughs of patients with COVID-19 to the environment and external mask surface.
Folks – the Guernsey Goodness keeps flowing at the same rate as it was, despite a virus. The stores will remain open, and the Guernsey Goodness will be delivered to stores 4 days per week, no matter what.
We will not be selling to people from our farm if they were previously getting it from stores. Those stores are open and deserve your business. They are our partners, and perform a critical function for us. We are grateful for them. They get the milk close to you. We have enough to do just taking care of the land, the cows, bottling the milk, and getting it to the stores, without also having to be involved in every single transaction of getting it into customer’s hands, although we appreciate each and every customer who enjoys Guernsey Goodness.
So please – take a deep breath – and don’t make a run on the stores. It is making it incredibly difficult for them to backfill product when people make a run on it, and it is impossible for us to back fill Guernsey Goodness if people are hoarding it. We can only make so much per day, and we were actually matched perfectly supply to demand before the “pandemic”.
We, Paul and Debra, had a similar start to our Raw Milk Deal here in North Idaho. It started with a family cow in 2011. Soon, we had friends asking for milk. Then more friends asked. We then needed to get a second cow, and soon we were in the local natural foods store.
We liked the prospect of the business, and people loved the milk. I mean – they LOVED the milk. So, we decided to continue expanding.
There was competition though, and they started slightly before we did and grew fast. Like the other dairy in the NPR story, the competitor went out of business in fall 2017 and left a gaping hole in the local supply. They closed their doors abruptly and unceremoniously.
Being on a certain growth trajectory, there was no ability to immediately fill the void. There were lines at the couple stores we were in, with customers clamoring for our milk on delivery days.
The stores set a per customer limit on what each could purchase in order to leave some for the others.
Soon, we were able to fill the demand in the stores we were in, and then added new stores. We are now in 10 stores, going on 11 (Super 1 Foods in Oldtown opening this spring). We will stop there, for now, and concentrate on always producing the absolute best milk on the planet for our very loyal customer base.
Like the NPR story’s Mark McAfee and Organic Pastures, we provide raw milk from grass-based cows, and we are in transition to certified organic not only on the fields, which are mostly now certified, but also on the end product.
Unlike the story’s dairy, we are committed to A2A2 only genetics, and to Guernsey cows – which simply produce the best tasting and component milk out there, bar none.
We don’t stop there though. Instead of nasty plastic “jugs”, we bottle in beautiful reusable glass bottles. We thank our retailers for being willing to carry this, and take the bottles back. It’s a big deal, as we are the only milk in many of their stores in returnable glass bottles. We do it because glass is simply the best, and the customers want it this way!