Category Archives: #AgChat

We have Moved

Thank you to everyone who moved their subscription over to the new www.zweberfarms.com site. Our new site holds our blog, recipes, farm information and meat ordering all in one place. It is Zweber Farms central. So head over there today and subscribe. You will not want to miss any of the action.

If you haven’t move yet, you missed the start of our new Free Teacher Resources, 3 tips to make juicy hamburgers, and a great video of our cows going out to pasture.

Don’t delay move over to www.zweberfarms.com today!

Trust me, you will be glad you did.

Emily

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Wordless Wednesday-Family Pasture Walk

Yesterday, we had our first 60 degree weather since last fall. Tim was itching to go check the culverts and see how the pastures were fairing. We took the hike as a family just before sunset. I wish I would have had my camera. Instead I took a few pictures from my phone.

It was warm enough to be without a coat, except for Hannah

Erik was making bridges out of the branches that fell with last week’s storm

Our trip started in the yard. We followed the “river” and see where is went.

No trip is complete without a really big stick

“Don’t fall in Jonnie!”

A full moon was rising behind us as we walked

Made it to the top of the hill (stick and all)

The heifers greeted us as we made our way back.

Milking was just finishing as we walked into the yard.

Hannah got all tuckered out from the fresh air.

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The Sound of Chickens-Monday Funnies!

The Prairie Home Companion does an annual joke show and they often feature this song about chickens. It makes me laugh so hard I cry. I picture our hens fleeing our milk truck or large tractors as they are crossing our driveway. Wonder if we should have chicken crossing guards…

 

Sound of Chickens

 

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Now that is what I Call a Winter Storm on the Farm

Yesterday and last night we had a major winter storm. The day started out with light snow. Then it moved to rain. We had over one inch of rain before it turned back to snow/ice over the night.

This is what Jon and Lisa woke up to:

You can see the weight of the ice damaged some trees and a river is running through the back yard. Some of our calves got spooked last night and were out this morning. We are not sure what happened, but the sound of the breaking trees might have done it. Also, our dog, Boo, completely chewed through the wall in our mud room.

A kind of day like today calls for only one thing:

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There is Hope for Tim’s Wedding Ring

Remember this post “My Husband Doesn’t Wear His Wedding Ring”? In the post I mention that Tim lost his first (and very expensive) wedding ring while working with calves. I am sure the ring is now in one of our fields waiting to be eaten by a cow.

There is hope that we might find it though. Today there is an article on Mail Online  titled Wedding ring eaten by calf  three years ago is re-discovered… inside cow’s stomach at butcher’s shop.

The farmer lost his ring while feeding calves. A calf sucked it off his hand. When it was time to butcher the fully grown animal the farmer asked the butcher to look for the ring. Low and behold, it was there!!

Cattle swallowing metal objects is actually a bad thing. There is even a name for it Hardware Disease. This is when a metal object is swallowed and it is pushed through the rumen to the reticulum. The reticulum is one of the compartments in the bovine stomach, and its function is not well understood. However, the contractions of the reticulum force the object into the peritoneal cavity where it initiates inflammation.

To help prevent an infection, cows are sometimes fed magnets to prevent the metal objects from piercing the stomach walls.

 

So here is to hoping we find Tim’s wedding ring…someday.

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Help us name first calf of 2012

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Our first calf of 2012 needs a name. She was born Feb 3.
What should we name her?
Emily

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Filed under #AgChat, Calves and Heifers

Murphy’s Law on the Farm

Murphy’s Law states: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

What reminded me of this old adage was my father, Jon, taking off the weekend to go to a Superbowl party with my uncles. You see whenever he leaves the farm for a weekend something or multiple somethings will invariably go wrong. It’s a running joke said with only a half smile and cautious glance around that as soon as Jon leaves the farm expect the unexpected.

Our cows are generally fairly well behaved. They seem to know when Jon has left the farm though and that is the time they choose to do their annual escape and visit the neighbors trick. Three years ago they decided to run laps around two of our neighbors’ houses in a figure-eight pattern at 2am for fun. It is a good thing we have wonderful neighbors who weren’t only forgiving but had a blast rounding up 100 cows in the dark with me. Two years ago they went for a romp through a drainage ditch to get to a neighbors sweetcorn patch. They had only begun to start detasseling the corn when I caught them in the act and rounded them back up to put back in. Unfortunately, the poorly maintained ditch crossing I was bringing them back across was not where I thought it was resulting in a waterlogged ATV and a very unhappy me. This last summer the cows decided that they wanted to visit town. Yes, that’s right, they went to town. They must have visited at least 10 neighbors’ yards during the wettest spring we’ve had in a long time. No one was happy with them after that prank. They seemed to be pretty happy with themselves though and spent the rest of the afternoon napping on a hill. It seems no matter what kind of fencing a person puts up cows will always find a way to go have a good time if they really want to.

Cows are not the only thing on our farm that follows Murphy’s Law. Our farm equipment is a far more common offender than the cows who, like I say, are generally a well behaved bunch. We don’t have the newest tractors and implements on our farm so some breakdowns are be expected, however, they seem to occur at the absolute worst times. I’m sure any of you who rely on some kind of equipment to get a job done from a combine to an inkjet printer are very familiar with this phenomenon. We log over 1000 hours per year in our skid loader. Needless to say it’s a very important piece of equipment and without it we really can’t do many of our chores. For some odd reason our skid loaders have a tendency to burst hydraulic lines during Christmas. I could understand it happening once and calling it coincidence. The odd part is that it has happened twice now with two different skid loaders. I’m not talking the little hoses for the hydraulic cylinders that move the bucket. No, those ones could be made at Carquest, it was a big one both times that supplies the drive motors to make the loader go. Those are special hoses and must be purchased from the Bobcat dealer which is tricky during the holidays.

My favorite example of Murphy’s Law as demonstrated by our equipment was the meltdown of our Case 970 tractor’s engine. I started it to let it warm up and came back 5 minutes later to find it wasn’t running anymore. Turns out it wasn’t running because the engine had seized up due to a lack of oil. I would like to say its my fault for not checking it often enough but it wasn’t, it was so much less likely than that. After the local technical college students took it apart I found out the cause of the engine failure was the oil pickup tube falling off the oil pump after 20+ years of apparently being firmly stuck there.

Nothing major has gone wrong (knock on wood) this weekend and Jon gets back tomorrow afternoon. Here’s hoping our luck has improved and it will stay that way. What great stories do you all have about Murphy’s Law?

Tim

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A Cows Kind of Winter

We had our first major snow “storm” of the year yesterday. Ha! Cannot believe I just used the word storm! We had some ice, wind and TWO inches of snow. The ice was really a bad thing, but the snow is nothing compared to last year. Remember this storm we had last winter? We had nearly 20 inches of snow fall in 24 hours.

Nothing like that so far this winter (knock on wood). Things are humming along smoothly at the farm. We only have two bottle calves at the moment and we just sold about ten cows. Chores, milking and all around farm activity are going well (and faster since we don’t have to keep moving snow).  A fellow dairy farmer wife, FarmersWife30, wrote about how hard it has been to blog this winter without all the snow “excitement.” I agree. It is hard when each day is nearly the same: Feed animals, milk cows, move cow poop, break for lunch, then feed animals, milk cows and move more poop.

So no news is good news here at Zweber Farms. To keep our minds nimble, Tim has started a large Tic-Tac-Toe board on the barn door window. Each time one of us passes it, we add an X or O. We will see who wins!

Emily

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Organic Milk Shortage, Why is it Happening?

Where is all the organic milk? If you haven’t noticed yet, there is a nation wide organic milk shortage. The New York Times recently ran an article on the subject. Many of the stores I frequent have put up signs talking about the shortage.

Organic Milk Shortage Sign

One of our Twitter followers said this:

FoodFightersUS I’ve just been reading @ the organic milk shortage. Had not noticed much until today-I checked 2 DC Whole Foods & found zero organic cream?

This isn’t just an Organic Valley problem, or a regional problem, it is a complete shortage of organic milk from every brand nation wide.

So what is the deal? There is a shortage of feed. We don’t have to look far to know that this is the truth. On our farm we raise about 40% of our feed needs and buy another 60%. In our urban area there isn’t much land to go around. We would love to grow more, but it is a constant battle to rent enough ground.

Currently, conventional crop prices are record highs. This is due partly to demand (ethanol and overseas markets) and partly low supply (drought in the South). Growing organic crops is tough. It is more paperwork, more fees (organic certification costs) and a lot more work. I completely understand when crop farmers switch back from organic to conventional. Why would they want all the hassle when conventional corn is very profitable?

So when conventional crop prices are high, organic land gets switched back to conventional, lowering the organic crop supply and raising organic crop prices. Also, when crop prices are up, more land that would normally be put into hay is put into grain. Again, lowering organic hay supply and raising organic hay prices. Once land goes back to conventional it is at least three years until it can be organic again.

In farming we always talk about margins: what is our net, what will be left after we pay all the bills. Even though our pay price per hundred weight of milk (how milk is priced) is higher than conventional, our margins are lower. ie It takes more money to produce a gallon of organic milk.

So why don’t the organic milk company’s raise pay price? Good question. They are. Organic Valley farmers voted to raise pay prices this fall. But we walk a fine line. Higher pay prices for farmers usually equal high retail price. My mom said  Organic Valley milk is at $7.99/gallon at her local grocery store. How much higher are customers willing to pay? We are just recovering from one of the largest economic downturns. Also just under a year ago, there was an abundance of organic milk. There was so much milk, many regions were still on a quota (only could produce so much without a penalty).

On our farm, we are feeling the shortage of feed. Currently, we are selling cows. Thankfully, beef prices are high right now. That means we are culling (selling for beef) our low producing cows. The goal is to try to make the herd as efficient as possible on the feed we do have. Also, our steers are not being fed organic feed. We have never certified them as organic, but they usually eat the same organic feed as the cows. We cannot afford it now. Saving all the quality organic feed for our cows is a priority. We don’t want to loose our certification.

I think many organic farmers are doing exactly what we are doing. Heavy culling is taking place and the hunt for feed is wide spread. Jon and Tim have been searching for affordable feed since late summer, when we realized we would have a shortage.

So the moral of the story? Keep buying organic milk when you can. If consumers continue to signal that they are willing to pay the price, cooperatives will be able to raise farmer pay price, then more farmers will continue to milk organic cows, which will entice more grain farmers to grow organic grains and hopefully lower organic grain prices.

One our Facebook fans wrote this on our page:

I believe that part of consuming responsibly is understanding that you can’t always get what you want when you want it. Everything is cyclical – there are periods of abundance and periods of scarcity, and if we could get back to an acceptance of that, perhaps we could solve some other problems as well. Hope all is well on your beautiful farm!

We thank everyone for their loyal support! It is you that make farmer owned cooperatives like Organic Valley continue to thrive. Hopefully this organic milk shortage will not last long and the milk, cream and cheese you are looking for at the store is always in supply.

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Filed under #AgChat, Crops, farming, Hay, Organic Valley

Zweber Farms in 2011

What a year 2011 was.

We had a record of over 60 inches of snow. The cows could walk right over the fences. Remember when they took for a walk in the woods?

cows, storm, pasure, organic, rain, tornado,

When we had all that rain! We never thought we would get corn planted. In the summer came the extreme temps and sever storms. Remember when Tim took this picture minutes before a tornado touched down?

Sam winning Grand Champion at fair

The summer was filled with exciting events. Hannah was born and Sam won Grand Champion at our county fair. She then went win Honorable Mention at the State Fair.

BigFoot At World Dairy Expo-The Boy's Favorite Stop

Hannah being a beach bum on vacation this year

It wasn’t all work and no play. We went on a short vacation and then headed to World Dairy Expo in October.

chicken, jonnie, summer, 2011

Don’t forget all the funny stories about our pigs and chickens throughout the year.

It was a very memorable year. Thank you for making it so wonderful.

Happy New Year!

The Zwebers

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