Friday, October 5, 2012

Sweet! Potatoes

Hot, baked, sweet? No. Just regular white potatoes are coming into SwissLane by the truck load.  And the cows are loving it!  They are sorting through their Total Mixed Ration just to find the potato to nibble on, much the way I would eat an apple.  We are loving them too!  They are bringing our feed costs down. 
We made it through the physical heat of the 2012 Drought.  But the ramifications of this summer are going to make an impact for many months to come. 
Corn is an important part of a cow's diet because it provides energy.  The drought has brought the cost of corn from $4.50 to $7.50 or more.  And the price we are being paid for our milk is staying the same.  That means we need to be very creative if we want to stay in business.
 So bring on the potatoes!
Apparently, hot and dry conditions are primo for potato farmers and they are experiencing a bumper crop.  They have already fulfilled all of their contracts so the leftovers are going for a great price.  These are some pretty good quality veggies here- we actually ate some in our Breakfast Burritos this morning too!!

Cottonseed, Gluten, distillers- are among some of the other commodities that we have added to try to reduce costs too.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Say Cheese!

It's official...SwissLane Farms is now a place to buy cheese! 
A friend of the family is an award winning Cheese-maker from Wisconsin.  Our family is what you would call Cheese Snobs and big fans of Decatur Cheese.  For years, we have been talking with him about making/selling cheese and one day he showed up with a whole cooler full of cheese- and that settled it. 
No more talking its time to start doing.  
So its not "our" cheese made with our milk- but its a start!  
We've got big plans and one small step at a time we will get there.
Stop in to get your Specialty Cheese- no shipping and lots of flavor!

(The New sign)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Don't Mess With Milk

I love Sunday's.  The Lord's Day.  A day of Rest.  The beginning of a new week.  And the only day you can take a Sunday afternoon nap.  I love Sunday's.
Just to give you some background...
  We have been a little lighter on the labor force this week(end) due to some much needed vacations.  It was our(Jerry and I) weekend "on"  (we are dairy farmers so really almost all weekends- unless we are on vacation- we are working.... but just not- well.... lets just say it's complicated and pretty much if you're a dairy farmer you don't get a day-off very often.  Even when it's not your "weekend-on")  So anyway, busy weekend.  But it went very well.  Even though it was the hottest, record breaking, sweltering heat I have ever endured- my calves all look great!  Very satisfying.  I have been looking forward to my Sunday nap since 4:30am Saturday. 
After church, I decided to check Twitter "real quick" before I snuggled up, and came across this article:
Got-milk? You Don't Need It

And that is what killed my Sunday nap:(
Here is the comment I posted (that took me way to long to write):

I am not too familiar with your work but reading your bio above it says you wrote “Food Matters,” which explored the crucial connections among food, health and the environment."
Food, health and the environment are some values very important to me too. That is why I find satisfaction in being a dairy farmer.
I am a mom of 3 and listening to my kids pour and mix chocolate milk for their snack as I type. I am glad they don't have an allergy so it is very easy for them to get 9 essential nutrients from 1 little glass.
I have been a runner for about 20 years and completed a couple of marathons. I have found my recovery to be much quicker when I started using chocolate milk as a post-run drink.
I love, love being outside with my animals and am so humbled to be responsible for the land that my great-grandfather passed on to other generations. I know that my job is to leave it in better condition for my kids.
As you were posting this article, my family was working 10-16 hour days during the hottest week in history trying to care for our animals. I am on my way back to the farm now trying "to make a living producing and selling milk." This article makes that just a little more challenging today.

Yes, and then I can't just leave it at that- I go and take even more of my precious Sunday-Afternoon-Nap-Time to tell all you fine folks about my frustrations.  Post/Rant Completed:) 
And now, back to the barn!  Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Maple Syrup Making 2012

Maple Syrup Season is something we always look forward to every year around the farm.

The steam coming off the evaporating sap smells so so good! Its my favorite.

This year was a good year for those of us who are impatient because the season started about 2 weeks earlier than normal due to the warm temperatures.
For 3 weeks, our family and friends tapped, gathered, boiled, and canned almost 300 gallons of Maple Syrup!

Some of the future Syrup makers in front of the Shanty!

A friend of mine, who is a great blogger, came out to visit the end of February and documented her experience at the Sugar Shack. Click here to see photos, video and lots of details about the Syrup Making process.

Some older posts on Maple Syrup making at SwissLane:
Family Bonding...So Sappy!
The Sugar Shanty (behind the scenes)

Dinner in the Shanty! We cook on Old Cookstoves with wood(no gas/electric and believe me it's tricky!) and there's nothing like it! This is Blueberry Pancakes with syrup straight from the pan and to top it all off...a glass of MILK.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Planting Alfalfa (and its still winter?!)

I know that as farmers the weather being strange or changing patterns is supposed to be normal.  That's just part of our job.  The risk we take.  And one of the big reasons why so many of us realize how we need to rely more on God than our own understanding of "Mother Nature."
As the old saying tells us: The only thing that stays the same is everything changes.
So why do we continue to worry and make a huge deal when we see record highs, lows, rainfall, etc...?
Well, I don't know why. But we do.
80 degrees and sunny for a whole week in the middle of March is just CRAZY!
We are not really sure if we are making the right decision but one of the Core Values of our business/farm is Make Hay While the Sun is Shining. And boy is it ever!
So here you have it...planting alfalfa before the calendar even says Spring.
Another fun fact for you:
This feild shown here is right behind our house and for the past 5 years it has been corn. This is what we call Crop Rotation. Changing things up to replenish the soil. When you plant alfalfa the seed usually lasts for 4-5 years- not like corn or soybeans that we have to plant every year.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

pink Slime

I just spent most of my night reading through several reports and many comments on the Pink Slime stories from ABC and Huffington Post.
Why do I do this I ask myself? Well...
1) I am passionate about my work. Producing food for people is my family's responsibility and our livelihood- not a J-O-B.
2) I didn't have time (or any fresh fruit in the house) today to pack my kids a lunch. They all had hot lunch and I never gave it a second thought.
Enter in the facebook and twitter posts that force me to view pictures of raw (and gasp! PINK?!?) meat. Now I am guilted into believing I have put my children's health in jeopardy.
No... I am tired of the media using a couple of gross buzz words and close-up shots of raw meat to make me doubt both my parenting and livelihood all in a 2 minute timeframe.
Just 3 points that I came up with tonight so I can sleep and once again, not think twice when kids walk out the door in the morning with no lunch sack.
1. This is a comment that I really appreciated from "pjcamp"

" Have you seen what is in a chicken nugget?

Connective tissue gelatinizes under heat. That is what makes pot roast and barbecue so lip smacking good.

Ammonium hydroxide is chemically related to sodium hydroxide which is an essential ingredient in making hominy, lutefisk, green olives, canned mandarin oranges, pretzels, Cantonese moon cakes, zongzi dumplings, Chinese noodles and ramen noodles. So it isn't intrinsically hazardous, and is used in some pretty tasty things. The FDA classifies both as "generally recognized as safe."

None of that means this stuff is nutritious. But it doesn't mean it is bad for you either and so it shouldn't be used in scare stories.

When we hear terms we are not familiar with it can be scary. Do a little bit of digging before you freak out! What if they started spraying everything with Di-Hydrogen Oxide?!? (AKA H2O)

2. Pretty much this "slime" is fat that is cooked and cleaned and added back in. Not artificial or substitute. When we send our deer to be processed I ask for beef fat to be added in to the burger! The venison will be too chewy for my high class taste buds- texture is important when it comes to my chili.

3. So this 7 million pounds of pink slime that are going to schools should now go where, Jamie Oliver? In the dumpster? To the dogs? I don't want to be the one to tell the starving children of Africa.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Robot Dairy- Month One

--An update on the first 5 weeks at the Robot Dairy--
I can't believe it has been 5 weeks already! It has been quite a ride! While it has been challenging both physically and mentally for our team- but nothing beats walking into the barn at the new dairy! You can just sense that the cows love it there.
The cows have been averaging right around 97lbs of milk per day and milk quality is excellent (SCC under 100,0000)!
I do need to mention here that we hand-picked these cows from our herd. They are all younger (1st or 2nd lactation) cows too because the older ones are more set in their ways and may take longer to train. After the first week we did end up taking about 10 cows back to the parlor because their udder was just not the right shape for the robot or they were just weren't getting it.
At start-up we had 360 cows to train and since we have been adding 10-20 cows every week. In a few more weeks we will finally be at capacity- 500 cows. What this means is that there are 10-20 cows every week that have needed to be trained. This will be the case too after a cow has her first calf she will need to be trained. It takes about 1 week for the cows to "get it" so until then they need to be ushered to the robots 3 times per day.
Some other firsts this week:
-The first cow to go into the "sick" pen:(
We have a separate pen for cows who need extra attention located right next to the vet office. The vet came to check her out and she's on the road to recovery. Until she is 100% the robot will be dumping her milk.
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

-We were able to move cows into the heifer and dry (the ones that don't give milk)cow barns at the Robot Dairy today!
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
This means that the biggest project in the history of SwissLane Farms is wrapping up!
It has been great to work with such good people from our community to bring this dream together.
We want to express true appreciation for:
Kaeb Sales
High Tech Dairy
RA Holmes Construction
Steadfast Construction
Huderman and Son's Redi-Mix Inc
Skyline Electric
Sikkema Equipment
GEA Norb-Co Equipment
Bakker Welding & Mechanics LLC
Timpson Transport
Kyle's Computer Solutions
Huisman Construction
Great Lakes Concrete Pumping
Brink Consulting

It was quite a challenge making sure things stayed on schedule but we couldn't be more thrilled with the focus and professionsalism that each of these businesses brought to the project. And guess what.... we are already talking about Phase 2 of the Robot Dairy!!