Friday, December 31, 2010

A Dairy Happy Moo Year

I know...."cheesy" title right?!
What better way for us to end the year than a test day? Every 6 weeks we have a crew from DHIA show up and they take milk samples from each cow in the herd to test for milk quality.
Seeing as how producing high quality milk is the ultimate goal of the farm this is a great tool.
We are particularly interested in the results from this test because we have been doing some trials with a new sanitary solution that we clean the cows under with before milking. We tried in on 2 of 9 groups of cows and plan on using it for all groups if we like the results from this test today.
We are very proud of how far we have come in the last decade when it comes to milk quality and have set new standards and goals each year. For 2010 we reached our goal of maintaining an average SCC (Somatic Cell Count) of under 100,000. (That was actually blown away- 94,000 BABY!)
Can't wait to improve on that in 2011!
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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tunnel Vision

The new high-tech ventilation system is finally up and running in the calf barn!
This is such a simple idea- a plastic tube runs down the center of the barn and a fan pushes fresh air through tiny holes placed all down the tube.
We are really excited to see if this helps cut down the number of coughs and colds that some of our babies are susceptible to. We like raising our calves indoors to keep them from being stressed by extreme cold and heat and now we can give them fresh air too!
Our biggest priority is their health and well-being and this is just another tool to help us do that.
We are especially thankful to our veterinarian who helped us design this system and customize it to our barn and for always being an advocate for the health of our future milking herd!
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cozy Calves

I have actually been looking forward to some cold weather so that we could try out the new calf blankets!
Don't they look cute:)
The kids had the day off from school so it worked out great that they could give me a hand!
We are going to put these insulated jackets with a nylon shell on the calves from day one until they are about 3 weeks. The smaller calves will keep them on longer. After that they should have a nice thick coat of their own- a little fatter and furrier!
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Building Barns

I thought about waiting to post on the new calf barns until they were completed....but I am too excited and just in case you were driving by and wondering 'what on earth those crazy farmers are up to now?'
Well this isn't something that just came out of nowhere we have been just kind of hunkering down and working our way through our problem of having cows that are too healthy-they are living longer and having lots of babies!
I know, I know its not a bad problem but we don't want to overcrowd our "girls" and we hate HATE selling them. Which is what we have had to do for the past 2 years.
So finally, we feel like we are at a point where we feel confident in the decision to build barns and let this natural growth occur.
The addition will add 48 individual pens for newborn heifers and 10 pens for transition (2-4month old, groups of 6).
This building process couldn't have started any later...we have had quite the week so far. In the past 36 hours there were 10 calves born, 9 were heifers and 1 bull! (And amazingly, no...none of them were gender-select calves....let's leave that topic for a later post:)

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Deer Gun Season Opener 2010

Three years ago most of the local hunters got together for the first Tyler Creek QDM (Quality Deer Management) meeting. They have been working hard to manage the deer population and this year we are really starting to see results in our area.
Crop damage and car-deer accidents are on the decline and the size, health, and quality of the deer that are being harvested are increasing!
Tonight, at our meal-time prayer, I thanked God for His creation and being able to harvest deer, and my 6year old started laughing "You don't harvest deers!!"
Ah, a teaching opportunity!
We had a little talk about how managing the population and health of a species, then utilizing as much of animal as possible is not just harvesting but also being a good steward of our resources.

har-vest- (verb) to catch, or remove for use.

How amazing that some animals can eat crops and grasses and turn them into an essential resource- protein- for our use.
I am sure that these may end up over a mantle or on the living room wall as a trophy mount, but so much more important, as a meal for our neighbors in need (burger and steaks) or a pair of warm leather gloves (a family friend owns the local hide shop).
It makes me think of one of my favorite quotes: "Everything lives. Everything dies. And death with a purpose gives full meaning to life."-Trent Loos

Happy harvest hunters! Be safe!
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Friday, November 12, 2010

A Cast for A Calf

This is a feisty little calf that is about 3 months old.
We suspect that she got a little rambunctious when the pens were being bedded with sawdust and got her leg caught in a gate and broke the bone right below her left front knee.
Luckily, our vet is here every Friday and he got her all patched up with a fancy-looking cast:)
She should be good as new in 5-6 weeks. In the meantime, she will be getting aspirin for 3-4 days to alleviate some of her discomfort.
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Friday, November 5, 2010

A Friday Full of Fertilizer!

Today we are ready to set the new fertilizer storage tank!
Believe it or not our cows actually don't make enough fertilizer for our crops and we have to purchase additional fertilizer every year to make sure we have enough good quality feed for the girls.
And its always nice to have some left to sell.
Fertilizer costs are very volatile and are directly effected by fuel costs. If we purchase fertilizer in the off-season and buy in bulk the savings are quite substantial.
This fertilizer storage area was a big part of the MAEAP (Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program)program that we completed in 2007. The tanks had to pass inspections and needed to be set in a containment area that was designed around the criteria of the program. Even the cement mixture that was used was specific to MAEAP standards.
This spring there was a small leak when fertilizer was being transferred, and it was all contained right in that area. No panic, no fines, no worries.
Sometimes it really pays to be proactive:)
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Shelled corn Harvest on hold

We are (were) on track to finish harvest about 6-7 weeks ahead of last year.
The corn has been running around 18% moisture and takes no time at all to dry. Last year the corn was so wet and cold it just took forever to dry and we went through a lot of propane-way more than we expected. So this beautiful fall weather that we have been blessed with has saved us lots of time and $$!
We are averaging right around 200 bushels per acre (last year around 160). And corn is selling for about $5/bushel (last year $4/bushel).
So its been a pretty great year but it seems like there's always somethin'....
We have run into a small problem... we ran out of room!! We actually have to build a new bin before we can finish the last 300 (out of 1200 acres of shelled corn)!
They started putting up the new bin and it should be ready to fill in a couple days!
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Blogging from my phone!
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Gramps and Grannie's Last Gig

My Grandparents are the 2nd generation on our family farm. After they "retired" 13years ago they decided to become entrepreneurs and, at 70 and 64 years old, they started their own small business.


They named it Oesch's Mobile Soft-Serve Ice Cream. They travel all around west Michigan from April to November with their pick-up, generator, and trailer that holds 2 soft-serve ice cream machines.
This summer they booked anywhere from 4-6 events per week- they decided that back-to-back events was too much just this year.
The biggest chunk of their business came from graduation parties and filled in the rest of the summer traveling to weddings, company and church picnics, etc...
My grandpa maintains that his only regret is not starting this venture 10 years earlier.
He loves to give away ice cream- especially to customers claiming to have eaten too much. "It fills in the cracks!" is his answer for that problem.
Dairy prices have been pretty volatile since they began the business and they debated about ordering cheaper mix from Bareman's Dairy. They chose quality over profit and they claim that is the secret to their success. The custard mix makes an ice cream cone to remember!
That is why it is sad to say that Gramps and Grannie had their last gig last night. They served the last ice cream cone at our church's Sunday School Picnic.


The never ending ice cream sundaes will be missed next summer but it will be nice to have Grandpa and Grandma around for every family event, baby showers, birthdays- with them not working their tails off!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Politics and Sourghum

We had quite a day today!
This morning our family hosted a Farmer's Meet and Greet with Justin Amash in the Dairy Disocvery barn!
There was a great turn out, especially for a beautiful harvest day- its hard to get farmers out of the field!
About 65 farmers from Barry, Kent, and Ionia counties listned as Justin explained why he is the best candidate for the 3rd District Congressional seat. Issues that impact Agriculture in Michigan (like Immigration, Tax Code, and Government Transparancy, just to name a few) were discussed.

Late tonight the Sorghum Harvest was completed!


This year we planted about 100 acres of Sorghum right after harvesting the wheat in July. This is what you could call Double Cropping. This is a relatively new trend for dairies in West Michigan and it seems to becoming more popular.

Sorghum is a species of grass and it can be used as a substitute for a lower quality hay. We harvest our sourghum pretty much exactly like we harvest and store our hay silage. And use it to feed the younger heifers on the farm. The best quality hay silage goes to the milking cows.

Monday, October 4, 2010

New Blog, New Beginning

This spring there was an unfortunate incident with the Dairy Discovery Blog. In the mist of merging several of my on-line accounts, one account was deleted and it just so happened to be the one that the old Dairy Discovery Blog was connected to. Needless to say, I was quite discouraged and took some time off this summer.
But here we are! A new blog, new address, and new beginning!
Remember, this blog is for you- please give me lots of feedback and questions:)
*Below you can read a few of the blog posts that I was able to recover.

There is just so much going on around the farm with Harvest in full swing- I just had to get back to blogging!!
Just to name a few tasks that are underway: Combining Soybeans, Mowing Alfalfa, Planting Wheat, Hauling Manure/Fertilizing, and don't forget those Cows!

Dairy Discovery has some great tours and exciting events planned to celebrate the season!
And this Friday, the Oesch family is proud to co-host a Farmer's Meet and Greet for Congressional Candidate Justin Amash on Friday in the Dairy Discovery Barn!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Alfalfa in April

*Please note: This post was originally from April 2010.
Alfalfa in Aprilfrom Dairy Discovery at SwissLane Farms by annie

We all know that April showers bring May flowers!
Well, last week we were blessed with some much needed showers but sometimes too much of a good thing isn't always best.
We found this to be true with our newly planted alfalfa fields. We planted 210 acres of alfalfa seed this year. Last week, the rain caused washouts in 2 of the fields that we had just planted and we had to replant 15 acres.
Today my dad went over the rough spots with the Finisher to smooth out the washouts.


And then, Uncle Tom came along and replanted more alfalfa seed.
Planting Alfalfa 2010

This field has beautiful rolling hills! (which contributed to the washouts)

Planting Alfalfa 2010

Alfalfa seed will last for 5 years, so we replant a few fields each year. Total we have around 700 acres of alfalfa that will be harvested for hay silage. This hay silage makes up about 25% of the cow's diet.

Daisy Dog Rest in Peace

*Please note: This post is originally from April 2010.
Apr 15, 2010 11:19 PMDaisy Dog Rest in Peacefrom Dairy Discovery at SwissLane Farms by annie
Daisy The Farm Dog: June 1993-April 2010

Daisy Dog
Daisy, aged 16 1/2 years (or 115 in dog years), passed away this morning while making her daily rounds around the farm- we think she must have been struck by a car. Daisy was going deaf and blind, but never missed a calf feeding and made sure to greet every farm tour guest with her smile.

Daisy Dog

She was preceded in death by her brother, Kolby, in 2006. She is survived by her many Barnyard Friends and every single person who has a connection to SwissLane Farms. As a tribute to her desire to run the fields, she was buried outback in the field by the swamp. She will be remembered as a dog who opened doors for herself, snatched birds right out of mid-air, and of course as a smiling dog.
On my tours, I sometimes refer to Daisy when I am asked "Why don't the cows go out to pasture?"
My answer: We have indoor cows and an outdoor dog on our farm. Some people have dogs that live indoors and I am sure they are happy and I think it is pretty clear that our 16 year old outdoor dog is happy too! It really doesn't matter if our cows or dogs live indoors or outdoors, as long as they are well cared for they are going to be happy and live a good long life.

Stop Michigan Meatout Day

*Please note: This post is originally from March 2010
Mar 17, 2010 10:20 AMStop Michigan Meatout Day from Dairy Discovery at SwissLane Farms by annie

This week is National Agriculture Week. A time to celebrate the abundance of safe, wholesome food that we are blessed with!
In Michigan, this week should be especially exciting- the Agriculture Industry is leading the state by generating $71 billion to Michigan's economy and continues to grow even in spite of the dire circumstances in the state.
However, Governor Granholm has repeatedly ignored and even belittled Michigan's Agriculture referring to it at one point as "a tired industry" and by recommending cut after cut to an already struggling Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) budget.
Now the governor has gone even a step further to condemn the industry by her latest proclamation Michigan Meatout Day . This is a campaign that is founded and promoted by extremest Animal Rights organizations that strive to abolish animal agriculture and promote a Vegan lifestyle. It is sad and scary that the governor can't/doesn't choose to use discernment in making decisions and how they can effect Michigan's industry segments.
If she were truly concerned with promoting a healthy lifestyle and diet for Michigan's residents then she should be advocating for a diet that is high in protein(meat and dairy products) as well as fruit, grains, and vegetables and encouraging activity. Not simply singling out specific products. Instead of a Meatout Day it would make a lot more sense to have "Five Fruit Day."

Please take a moment to Share Your Opinion with Governor Jennifer Granholm and ask her to support Michigan Agriculture and join the 'Stop Michigan Meatout Day' on facebook.
We are 220 days away from electing a new governor! Imagine what Michigan Agriculture will be able to accomplish with a governor who supports it!

Food Inc. Falls at the Oscar's

Food Inc. Falls at the Oscar'sfrom Dairy Discovery at SwissLane Farms by annie
*Please note: This post is originally from Feb. 2010

After learning about the results from the Oscar's last night I breathed a sigh of relief.
Most people watch the Oscar's to see the best/worst dressed or if their favorite star won Best Actor/Actress.
Well, I tuned in to see the results of the Best Documentary, and was thankful that Food Inc. did not win.
Not being all that educated about the film-making industry, I always believed that a "documentary" was based on facts and truths....until I watched Food Inc.
I actually looked up the definition of the term and it made a little more sense to me.
Fact-based film that depicts actual events and persons. Documentaries can deal with scientific or educational topics, can be a form of journalism or social commentary, or can be a conduit for propaganda or personal expression.
Being that Food Inc. has so many half-truths, myths and misconceptions about modern food production it definitely could fit into the realm of "a conduit for propaganda or personal expression."
The problem is that the majority of people are 2 or more generations removed from the farm. So, when watching this highly dramatic and sensationalized film that is very professionally produced, most people think that they are indeed learning the truth about the American food supply.
America's farmers and ranchers produce the safest, most abundant, most affordable food supply in the world. How blessed are we that we can complain about the food on our plate?
This is a great site for getting more info on modern food production.
This a blog about the intentions behind Food Inc.
With so much information available to us we need to be sure that we are getting all the facts from each side of an issue. If you've got questions/concerns about your food, than who better to get answers from than a farmer near you?

Trucking Troubles

Mar 6, 2010 10:51 PMTrucking Troublesfrom Dairy Discovery at SwissLane Farms by annie

*Please note: This post is originally from March 2010

Probably the last thing you think about, when you really stop to think about where your milk comes from, is a Milk Truck.

Milk Truck Milk Truck

Sometimes it is easy for even Dairy farmers to forget how important our milk hauler/truck is....until they don't show up on time!
And such was the case yesterday afternoon.
SwissLane has 2 big stainless steel bulk tanks that store and cool the milk until the milk hauler comes to pick it up. The plan is for one to be filled in the morning and the other to be filled at night.
Bulk Milk Tanks

However, not only do we have some over-achieving cows... we have a lot of them and they produce more milk than the tanks can even hold! So, the milk hauler picks up our milk 2 times everyday and about every 3 days they need to pick up 3 times.

Well, yesterday afternoon there must have been some complications with the hauler's schedule or maybe a truck broke down- but they didn't show up for the afternoon pick up. This creates quite a bit of tension at the farm.
The tanks are full. The cows need to be milked.
What to do?
We could stop milking and wait- but who knows how long it will be before a truck finally shows up. Or, we could just continue to milk and dump it- so the cows don't get upset and we don't mess up the milking schedule.
We chose to slow the milking down (you know the saying "don't cry over spilled milk" well I'm sorry, but when you are a dairy farmer that is exactly what we do!). We only ended up waiting on the truck for about 20 minutes.
And all the world was right again.....ahhhh!

Our Dairy Queen

Feb 22, 2010 11:17 PMOur Dairy Queenfrom Dairy Discovery at SwissLane Farms by annie

*Please note: This post is originally from Feb. 2010

We had our annual DHI meeting last week where we recieved some pretty exciting news!
(DHI is a division of Northstar Cooperative that provides dairy farms with milk testing, data entry technology, and many other services that improve herd management and health.)
We are proud to announce that SwissLane's very own #9122 was recognized as being the 2nd highest life-time producing cow for Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana!
Talk about a true Dairy Queen!
She lived a full and happy life at the farm and we are grateful to have enabled her to accomplish such an amazing feat! May she rest in peace. She passed away last summer from complications after giving birth to her 10th calf. She was 12 years old.
Although we

"Got Milk?" Yes. "Got Ethics?" YES!

Jan 27, 2010 5:41 PM"Got Milk?" Yes. "Got Ethics?" YES!from Dairy Discovery at SwissLane Farms by annie

*Please note: This post is originally from Jan. 2010

These were questions posed to the dairy industry last night by the Humane Society of the United States(HSUS) on a segment that aired on ABC.
First of all, being that I am a farmer because I love animals (Cows are my favorite and my dog Trapper comes in a close 2nd)- it is always hard for me to see cows being mistreated.
Watching this video as dairy farmer, I really don't believe we are seeing the entire truth here. These are not the exact methods that we use on our farm but we do dehorn and dock tails and it is because we are trying to protect the cows. If you have followed this blog at all this year- you know we are not farmers because of the "profits" that so many animal rights groups like to talk about. We enjoy being stewards of the land and our animals while producing food for our country.
Most Americans have some sort of farming in their family history with the majority of people being 3 or more generations removed from the farm, it is very hard to understand the reasoning behind some of the things that happen on farms. With that said, I am going to give you a little parable- where I am going to "go there" and compare animals to people...
When my son James was 2 he hated to have his nails and hair cut. He would kick, scream, cry, and fight like you wouldn't believe to prevent such "torture". Now, being a mom and seeing your child in this state is difficult to watch. But I knew that it would cause only brief and minor discomfort at most. Not cutting his nails on the other hand could bring harm to him and others (especially his brother). Same could be said for my older 2 kids having to have a cavity filled. I often reflect on these instances when caring for the calves at the farm. Sometimes, we do need to do things that are hard because in the long run it is just the right thing to do.

After I made my own comment on the ABC website I came across this comment and thought it was a very good response to the segment:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Sugar Shanty

Please note: This post is originally from March 2009.

href="" target="_blank">Maple Syrup 2009

"The Sugar Shanty"
Making Maple Syrup has been a family tradition for 6 generations in the Maple Woods. Its tucked in the woods about one mile north of SwissLane Farms.

Maple Syrup 2009
This year we have 1,500 taps.

Maple Syrup 2010
Yup! That means we have to empty 1,500 buckets on the days that the sap runs!
The best Maple Syrup weather is below freezing at night and above 45 during the day.

Luckily, lots of neighbors and friends like to enjoy the oudoors and lend a hand:) We empty the buckets into 5 gallon pails and then dump them into the barrels that the tractor pulls through the woods.

Maple Syrup 2009

Maple Syrup 2010

We pump the sap from the barrels into the Evaporating Pan. It takes 50 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of Syrup.

Maple Syrup 2009

So, we have to evaporate all the water out of the sap.Once most of water is evaporated out, we let it into the Finishing Pan.
The fresh sap pushes the more dense sap through the partitions. See the steam there, the smell of the sap evaporating is the best!
Maple Syrup 2009
The Shanty is pretty High-tech now. When the sap reaches 219 degrees its SYRUP! This automatically opens the valve and dumps the syrup into a can. It shuts the valve when it drops to 218.9 degrees.

It takes a pretty hot fire to make all that syrup.

We have so many big strong guys in the family to cut wood and build fire. This is Cousin Fritz taking a turn.

Maple Syrup 2009
The syrup needs to be filtered after is comes off the pan.

Maple Syrup 2009
This is Gramps at his canning post. So far this season he has canned 170 gallons. Last year was a record setting year with a total of 400 gallons.

You have to work for your water back in the woods!
Maple Syrup 2009
Here is Cousin Tommy pumping water from the well to wash the filters.

maple syrup
This is Uncle Tom cranking the filter through the antique wringer then he'll hang it out to dry the rest of the way.

The cuisine is one of the best aspects of Maple Syrup season. You can't beat hotdogs boiled in sap on the old Woodstove!
maple syrup
Ronnie and Gretl trying to keep the fire going. Luckily, we only have to be Pioneer Women a few weeks out of the year.

Brad is just one of the many friends that comes to join in the fun (and work). We pay all helpers with a sap-dog and all the syrup they can drink in one night.
The tradition of measuring the kids on the door of the Shanty lives for another generation.
Joanna (9 years old; my oldest) getting measured. If you look close you can see one of my marks on the door next to her. She is taller than me at 10!

Maple Syrup 2009
All that work makes for some pretty tired (and dirty) kids. I am so thankful that we have this opportunity to teach our kids to appreciate nature and the miracle of Maple Syrup!

Backyard Chickens: Beware of Activist Groups

*Please note: This is a re-post from March 2009.

There is so much going on right now.Governor Granholm has proposed cutting Michigan State Extension funding (never mind that Agriculture was the only bright spot in the state's economy last year). Obama going after direct payments that were already debated on and passed in last fall's Farm Bill. Prices, too much rain to fertilize, and to top it all off we are right in the heart of Maple Syrup Season.So it took a bit of thinking about what I should blog about today. My choice was easy after one little incident yesterday.My aunt raises chickens in her backyard and is a fan of a radio show called "The Chicken Whisperer". The goal is to teach listeners how, even in urban areas, to raise Backyard Chickens. I researched the website yesterday and after going through a few different links I came across some information about how much better Backyard Chickens are than "Factory Farm" chickens. Then I found a link to Farm Sanctuary. This activist group along with the Humane Society of the United States(, PETA, and many anti-agriculture groups all promote Veganism. The mission of these groups is a clear one: abolish all animal agriculture in the United States. They don't care if it comes from the backyard or a factory. So, I took it upon myself to let the website manager know my concerns. Here is my email to him:
Hello.My aunt is a fan of the Chicken Whisperer. I consider myself an ambassador for Agriculture and love that the Chicken Whisperer is encouraging others to participate in food production.I was surprised and a little discouraged when researching your site and was linked to Farm Sanctuary (through the Battery Hens link). The agenda of this group is clear. They promote and encourage Veganism. Supporting efforts of this and other anti-agriculture activists groups will not only put and end to "Factory Farms" but eventually the entire animal agriculture industry (including Backyard Chickens). The time has come for ALL farms- big and small -to come together and promote animal agriculture in the United States.I support and encourage your efforts to help others take an active role in agriculture.
I really believe that it is great that some farmers (Organic, Natural, etc..) can benefit from niche marketing. My fear is that in doing this "my product is better than yours" marketing that we (animal agriculture and consumers) will all suffer the consequences. This Backyard Chicken movement is really exciting. Getting city people involved in agriculture is great. But the message that they are sending is wrong.Lets say that one of their customers is in a state that has an initiative on their ballot in 2010 to vote on the size of chicken cages. They will most likely vote to give the chickens more space. This sounds very reasonable. The problem with this legislation is that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other activist groups are behind it. Their deceptive lobbying will have an effect on generations to follow. One ballot proposal at a time, they will eliminate "Factory Farming" (SwissLane Dairy included) and won't stop until we aren't even allowed to have PETS!!! No. I am not exaggerating. Check out the PETA link below.
Hopefully, you have already checked out the Farm and Dairy link above. You are probably thinking that this legislation is about chickens, pigs, and veal and has nothing to do with my dairy farm. What is happening when this kind of legislation is passed is it is giving more power to the activist groups. They passed the battery cage and gestation crate proposal (Prop. 2) in California in November. On a commercial to promote Prop 2 it shows a cartoon of a baby calf being torn away from the mother and locked in a hutch. The HSUS is already seeking to pass regulation against tail-docking (which most California producers have already fazed out).
Lets all make sure that we can see the forest for the trees when it comes time to vote.

Pondering the Raw Milk Debate

*Please note: This is a re-post from March 2009.

The Economic EMERGENCY (this is what our local TV station calls it anyway) has made us really think about cutting back. One of the easy things for my family to cut out of our grocery bill is milk. With my 3 kids ,and their love for milk,we can go through about 4 gallons per week. Instead of paying for it at the store, Jerry and I decided to start getting it out of the tank at the farm. I grew up on raw milk and I do attribute my amazing health and big biceps to it! But to tell you the truth, when it came to giving it to my kids for the first time last month I had some reservations.Now don't get me wrong, I am very proud of the quality of the milk from SwissLane dairy cows. Actually, our Somatic Cell Count numbers (quality indicator) have been amazing for the past 5 years and just keep getting better! If I were going to give any raw milk to my children it would have to come out of the tanks at our farm.I am a firm believer in bacteria. I think that the contributing factors to increases in allergies is due to our food supply being too clean, and excessive use of anti-bacterial soaps and cleaning products. I do not believe that the answer to this is selling raw milk at Meijer or your local grocery. We need to remember that there is a reason for these regulations being in place. If I am going to sell a product to the general public, I want to know that it is the best quality possible and have 100% confidence in it. With pasteurization we can have that confidence.There are several farms that have capitalized on people's belief in raw milk. They sell shares of their cows to customers so the customer is paying for caretakeing of the cow and not for the milk. I think this is a great opportunity for farmers. However, I do not agree with this article that I copy/pasted below. The farmer did not obey the law and should be punished. I am proud of the reputation that the dairy industry works so hard to make for milk in this country. If science and experience support pasteurization, I am thankful that the government will step in and ensure the integrity of our milk supply and the Dairy Industry.,0,4757880.story

Dear Friend,
In spite of the efforts of Big Dairy and their pals in state houses across the U.S., raw milk's popularity continues to grow. But now it seems that the gloves have come off in this fight. Recently, a Pennsylvania farmer was arrested – literally handcuffed and led away by state police – because he was selling raw milk. As hard as this is to believe, somehow I'm not surprised. Mark Nolt, a Mennonite farmer, has since been found guilty and fined $4,040 for his "crimes." The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture dropped the hammer on Nolt and closed his business after he declined to renew his permit to sell raw milk. "They swooped in … like a bunch of Vikings, handcuffed me, and stole $30,000 worth of my milk, cheese, and butter," Nolt said. It sounds like he was farming weapons-grade plutonium, doesn't it? But I'm sure that in a state with a large agricultural base, Big Dairy has an incredibly powerful lobby in Pennsylvania, and they chose to make an example out of Nolt. It seems that Nolt was the victim of a Department of Agriculture sting: Pennsylvania DoA employees testified at the trial that they'd purchased raw milk and products made from raw milk from Nolt at his stand at an area farmer's market at least three times in 2007. At least 60 supporters protested outside of the Cumberland County Pennsylvania courthouse while the conviction came down. I'm gratified that there was at least some stink made about this incident. Granted, 60 protesters isn't exactly a throng, but hopefully the needless Gestapo tactics employed will help stir some needed anger about this issue. Jonas Stoltzfus, president of the Pennsylvania Independent Consumers and Farmers Association put it best when he said of the Nolt protest, "This issue has very little to do with raw milk and health, and everything to do with freedom."Amen to that.Raw milk is one of my pet causes. The stuff is loaded with health benefits. It's got lots of vitamin D, and it also contains probiotics, good bacteria that aid digestion and can attack and destroy harmful pathogens. But in spite of its many upsides, raw milk is a tough sell for many people because of Big Dairy propaganda. That the federal government and the majority of states prohibit the sale of raw milk to the public is nothing new. But the iron- fisted tactics used against Nolt represent a dark turn in this battle. Keep reading…The All-American tradition that could save your heart It's one of the most maligned foods on the planet, but this concession stand staple can do wonders for your heart, brain, and lungs. It's all because of one key ingredient, which studies have shown to be able to nearly triple blood flow. It's the tastiest way I know of to prevent or even cure heart attacks, pulmonary hypertension, sickle cell anemia, and stroke.For years, the knock on raw milk from public health bureaucrats is that it's responsible for sickening hundreds with bacterial illnesses such as salmonella, E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and others. But this is patently untrue. In fact, as I've told you, recent milk-related outbreaks of Listeria and E. coli that caused illness and even death were caused by pasteurized milk, not raw milk (typically, the health officials didn't have much of an explanation for this). But the FDA and the CDC never let the facts get in the way of a good story. I think that the Nolt incident will rile up more than just fellow raw milk advocates. Stoltzfus likened Nolt to Rosa Parks, saying Nolt "believes it is his right to sell, according to the constitution, just like it was Rosa Park's right to sit wherever she wanted on the bus." I'll be following this story to see if this particular injustice will help garner more support for the right to produce, buy, and consume raw milk. Raw-nerved about the government crackdown on raw milk, William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.

Milk, Manure, and Maple Syrup in March

*Please note: This is a re-post from March 2009.
Maple Syrup 2009
It is finally starting to feel like Spring at SwissLane!
Yesterday the guys got the Planter and Strip Tiller out to start getting ready to plant.
Jerry, Nate and Ryan have been spreading manure to fertilize the feilds and empty the pits.
At the Milk Improvement Meeting we talked about milk prices, quality and nutrition.
With milk prices about half of what they were at this time last year, things have been a little stressful around the farm. After some creative thinking we have been able to cut feed costs a little bit but this is always a risk. One little change can completely change the quality and amount of milk from the cow. Fortunately, we have an awesome team that knows their cows. This past month, even with the feed changes, quality and production have improved! The milk prices, not so much.
The most exciting thing about March at SwissLane is Maple Syrup! This is a family tradition that started with my great-great grandpa. I am not sure if the family obsession with Swiss Pancakes lead to the Maple Syrup making or the Maple Syrup making obsession lead to the Swiss Pancakes! Chicken and Egg kind of thing I guess!!

A Note to My Vegetarian Friend

*Please note: This is a re-post from March 2009.
I had a chance to meet up with some old friends this past weekend. I know this is cheesy but: "Make new friends and keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold." I like to think the relationship that I have with my high school friends is really unique. Last year was our 10 year reunion and we celebrated by opening the Time Capsule that we made in 1997 right before graduation. The 8 of us have come a long way but the memories that we made at Lowell High created a friendship that will last a lifetime.As we chatted the other night, the conversation took a turn that I never expected. One of my friends is a vegetarian. Our conversation was cut short that night and I had so much more to say. I couldn 't stop myself from making sure that she understands a farm girl's prospective on the issue. Here is my letter to her:

I after thinking about our conversation the other night I realized that I totally did not get what you were saying. If I understand right you do not eat animals because you do not agree with the way they are treated on farms. I have to admit that this offends me but I will try to be rational about it. I truly believe that we share the same values...I don't think we would be friends for 14 years and have so many memories if we didn't! You love animals. I love animals. That is why I still work at the farm. I hope you don't think that I get up at 4:30 in the morning and come home smelling like poop because I CAN'T get another job- there is no other job that I want. I believe that when we use animals for food, entertainment, clothing, or companions they are serving a purpose."Everything lives and everything dies and death with a purpose gives full meaning to life."~Trent LoosI believe that my purpose on earth is to serve the Lord. Animals can not do this. So what would their purpose be if we didn't use them to help us better achieve our purpose? This is why I love Agriculture. I love the fact that what we do every day makes a difference- we can provide food for other people! I think you can appreciate that with being a nurse and the difference you can make everyday saving lives!Anyway, my point is that every time I go to Conferences with other farmers we are all striving to improve. There have been mistakes made and I will not condone some of the horrific things that have been done to animals. But I will say that I have full confidence that these acts are an extremely rare occurrence. Even on my farm- looking back 15 years ago to things that were common practice on our "Small Family Farm"-we have realized are detrimental to our animals, the culture, integrity and profitability of our farm and these were just little changes (comfortable sand bedding, rubber mats to improve hoof health, calm/patient milkers, fans and sprinklers in the summer, fly control, just to name a few!) and now I know that our Family "Factory Farm" does better than ever before at caring for the cows.I hope that if you ever have a chance to vote on a regulation that effects farms you will stop and consider the fact that there are people just like me all across this country working on their farms and taking the best care they know how of their animals. I know you will have unlimited access to every kind of media possible from activists groups with a clear agenda of "abolishing Animal Agriculture". Don't believe that they only want the chickens to be able to spread their wings so that doesn't effect a farm like mine. Before that vote was even over they already have plans to go after dairy farms next. I am not expecting to change your eating habits after reading this but I do hope I change your thinking about the way that the animals are cared for on America's farms.It is kind of insulting that people will believe that b/c they saw or read something once that that is the norm for all farmers. I really value our friendship. I hope that you can better understand where I am coming from and I would love to hear your thoughts on all of this. Really. If you wouldn't mind being totally transparent (kind of like I just did lol!). It would really help me to understand why you and millions of other people are making decisions that are totally different from my way of thinking. I will embrace any criticism or comments that you have! Thanks and sorry but I had to get it out! LOL

Young Farmers Leadership Confrence

*Please note: This is a re-post from March 2009.

Friday and Saturday I attended the Young Farmers Leadership Conference in Grand Rapids. With the conference being so close it was actually more inconvenient. I canceled the 2 FREE nights at the Amway Grand Hotel and commuted because I had to feed calves in the morning.The highlight of the conference for me was listening to Lowell Catlett talk about the difference in farming (and consumer attitudes)50 years ago to today and the changes that we need to be planning for to make it to 2030. He really made me think about how we really need to be forward-thinking to be "sustainable" in agriculture- especially with the markets being so volatile. He talked a lot about "Sustainability" and finding the definition for it. To different people it means different things. Wickopedia's definition of sustainability is the ability to maintain a certain process or state. Now to me, a 4Th generation farm that is a few years away from its Centennial celebration would most certainly qualify. I am very proud to have an active role at SwissLane Farms. Our efforts in environmental stewardship, community outreach, quality, animal care, and team building have helped to pave the road to the future. The pressure from low milk prices, the economy, activist groups, and increased regulation are nothing new to the farm but that doesn't mean it doesn't take its toll on us (especially in the dead of winter!). But for me, this is a very encouraging and hopeful time at SwissLane. Allen (my brother in-law) started working in the Cow Department and Jerry (my husband) started in the Manure and Crop department within the last few months. The 4th generation stepping up and taking an active role shows that this dairy will continue to be a "sustainable" family farm. I can't wait to see what 2030 will have in store for us!

This is Where it All Begins

*Please note: This is a re-post from March 2009.
So... I will just write a few things to get me started for now. my reason for beginning a blog is simple. I want more people to understand how, what, and why of dairy farmers. Today I attended a Webinar about Social Media which finally got me to take action of my blogging thoughts. I am very passionate about Agriculture and the Dairy Industry inparticular. I hope by sharing some of the happenings around SwissLane Dairy Farms you will join (or at least understand) my passion! I am going to push publish now even though I have about 5 pages of things to write because I want to see what this looks like and see what I forgot to do!