Tag Archives: animals

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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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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Miley’s Story-Part Three The Happy Ending

If you have been following along, you know that recently we had to treat one of our good milk cows, Miley, with antibiotics. You can read about Miley’s story here and here. We are happy to say that Miley’s story has a happy ending. This past weekend, Samantha’s boyfriend Nick purchased Miley. Miley will go live on his family farm just west of the Twin Cities.

Miley with Nick and Samantha

Miley is once again her old self. She was even dodging Sam and Nick when they tried to get her halter on. In the picture above she is trying to knock Nick over. This is something she would not have done when she was sick. We are sad to have her leave, but it is a must on our organic farm. Thankfully, she is going to a good home, where we know she will be treated well.


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Miley’s Story Continues

Dr. Bob Davis, DVM (aka Doc) visited our farm on Monday to check on Miley again and assess why she didn’t respond to the treatment we gave her. If you remember from a previous post Miley became extremely ill about a couple weeks ago. We tried treating her with organic remedies first, but quickly realized it was more serious than we could fix with those. We then moved to using an antibiotic called Nuflor with an anti-inflammatory drug similar to aspirin. At the time Doc thought Miley had pneumonia. Giving an antibiotic was the most humane choice at the time.

Well, it turns out she doesn’t have pneumonia. It is much worse. Miley has an endocarditis which is a fancy term for an infected heart valve. How did she get an infected heart? We don’t know and neither does the vet. Doc said last he saw this was 5 years ago when there were a number of cattle who had it and hadn’t see it again till now. The most likely cause of endocarditis is an infection elsewhere in the body that gets into the bloodstream. We never saw the clues if she did have an infection before she became ill the other week. That is the trouble with cattle, sometimes they don’t show when they are ill. Many animals don’t show weakness/illness as a part their defense mechanisms. Sheep are very well known for this.

So what do we do now? That is what we asked Doc, feeling a lot less hopeful for Miley’ s future. He decided we should try to do a very aggressive and sustained treatment protocol of penicillin to try to kill the bacteria infecting her heart. The chances of this working aren’t that great but its worth a try. The challenge is that we need to kill the bacteria so her body can repair her heart and fight off reinfection. Doc said that many times you will think the cow is better but then she gets ill again because the infection returns. It is very hard to cure an infection in the circulatory system of a cow because the bacteria causing the issue get distributed to every organ of the body. In other words the causative organism has a lot of places to hide from antibiotic therapy vs. a confined skin infection which is an easy target.

Hopefully the treatment will work. She is still eating well and getting around fine which are good signs. She doesn’t like getting shots but I guess she’ll have to put up with more of them if she’d like to keep living. As far as what we plan to do with her if she gets healthy or if she gets worse I don’t know yet. We’ll have to address those decisions as they come up.

FYI, we continue to dump all her milk. Like stated in the pervious post, she is no longer considered organic. Right now our main concern is her health and well being.

Tim (with some help from Emily)

Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterand YouTube.

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When Antibiotics are Necessary-Miley’s Story

Farming isn’t always green lush pastures and rainbows. Sometimes the decisions we have to make are hard and painful. For the past week and a half we have been closely watching a three year old cow of ours named Miley. Miley is a great cow. She is good producer and is very structurally correct. In fact, recently she was one of our show cows at the county fair. But, right now Miley doesn’t feel good.

As farmers it is our job to figure out why. Since Miley and us don’t speak the same language, we have to look at other clues. She is running a fever, isn’t producing much milk and just has that sunken “I don’t feel good look.” Yesterday, Tim talked with our veterinarian and after reveiwing the symptoms and the treatments we tried, Doc said it was most likely pneumonia despite the lack of normal symptoms associated with that disease. Organic treatments have not helped her thus far. We have tried everything in the organic playbook.

Our organic "playbook" Image from Amazon

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) rules clearly state that no animal raised under that organic standard shall be treated with antibiotics. BUT  we are also obligated under law to treat an animal with antibiotics if it is the best and most humane way to help the animal. So what do we do?

We will be treating her with antibiotics and if all goes well she will be back to her old self in a couple of weeks. If we don’t treat her, she will continue to suffer and prossibly die. Giving her antibiotics is the most loving thing we can do. While she is on the antibiotics, she will be milked separate from the rest of our herd. But since we are an organic farm, she will never be able to return to our herd. It is really sad. I wish there was some way to have exemptions for cases like this, but there isn’t. And there probably shouldn’t be exemptions.

This is the reason many farmers don’t want to be organic. They probably qualify for 90% of the organic rules, but the thought of selling perfectly good cows makes them cringe. Some organic farmers have two farms, or a good partnership with a conventional farm to “sell” their treated cows to. Once an organic cow goes to a conventional farm, it can never return to being organic.

The NOSB rules are good ones and shouldn’t be messed with. If we start making things gray and wishy washy consumers wouldn’t have trust in the product. I don’t believe there are any consumers that believe NEVER using antibiotics is the very best thing for animals (maybe there are). But, the organic label needs to differentiate itself from other milks and the no antibiotic rule needs to be firm.

To be clear, there are no antibiotics in ANY milk. There are strict withdrawal rules and every load of milk is tested. But what makes organic different is the holistic approach to animal health that organic farmers follow. If consumers want that, they can be confident it is happening with organic products. Organic farmers have extra incentive to make antibiotics the absolute last resort in animal treatment.

So Miley will recover and will be sold to a conventional farm that will let her live out her full productive life. We have good relationships with farms in the area. ( Samantha’s boyfriend has even expressed interest in purchasing her) We are confident she will have a nice and healthy life. We are sad that she has to leave us. These are the times and decisions that make farming hard.


Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterand YouTube.


Filed under #AgChat, dairy, organics, Raising Animals

Fun Day at the Fair

Today was  a great day at the Dakota County Fair. Our family participated in the Open Class Dairy Show. I was going to blog and tweet directly from the fair, but for some reason my data connection on my phone wasn’t working. Ohh well. So here are a few pictures from today.

erik, jonnie, calves, dakota county fair, 2011

Erik and Jonnie "helping" Tim get the calves pretty

calves, erik, jonnie, dakota county fair, 2011

Erik and Jonnie with their calves before the show starts

sam, hannah, dakota county fair, calves, 2011

Sam with Hannah

dakota county fair, calves, erik, jonnie, 2011

Novice Open Dairy Show Class, 17 participants

jonnie, calves, dakota county fair, 2011

Jonnie showing in the novice class

erik, tim, calves, dakota county fair, 2011

Erik getting his first 1st place ribbon-Holstein Spring Calf

calves, dakota county fair, erik, jonnie, tim, 2011

Tim, Erik and Jonnie showing off their awards with Bobbi the Brown Swiss Calf

erik, jonnie, dakota county fair

Erik and Jonnie enjoying a snack of Cheese Balls

cows, heifers, calves, 2011, dakota county fair

Our entire string of cattle resting after the show

Here is short video of today’s judge, Larry Tande, explaining why the novice class is important.

Today was a success. We walked away with many first and second place ribbons. Our family also won Champion Brown Swiss. When I tucked Erik in bed tonight, he asked if he could show again tomorrow. Tomorrow is the 4-H show. Sam and three young adults who lease from us will be participating. In Minnesota, you need to be selected as the top from your county before you can participate in the 4-H show at the MN State Fair. This is Sam’s last year in 4-H; we hope that she does well. She needs to be in the top nine.


Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterand YouTube.


Filed under #AgChat, Ag Education, Calves and Heifers, dairy, family, Livestock, Raising Animals

Play date at the Farm

I know that my children are very lucky to be able to grow up in an environment that is full of baby animals, plants growing and lots and lots of dirt. They get to learn just by playing about the circle of life, Mother Earth, and more. No Nature Deficit Disorder in  our family.

We also like sharing our blessing with friends as well. Saturday, we had my friend and her daughter over for a play date. It was so much fun. The kids got to hold the chicks, ‘feed’ the calves, climb the fence by the heifers and give grain to the horses. They had so much fun and for sure this will be a repeat.

I am not an expert on children development, but I truly believe that exposing children to animals is essential to their development.  Experts say that exposing children to animals at a young age aides in their social and emotional development. There seems to be a connection between animals and children and teaching them how to relate to the world around them. Many programs for disabled children use animals to help the students over come fear, connect and learn new skills.

In MN it is easy to find places for children to connect with animals. There is the Minnesota Zoo where they have the very actuate and fun Zoo Farm. If you go there, ask for Bob and tell him that Emily sent you. Bob is a family friend of ours that works behind the scenes at the Zoo Farm caring for the animals. You can also visit the MN Grown website to find farms that give tours. Click on “Search for Services” and then choose ‘Farm Activities and Services.’

I encourage anyone with children to try to expose them as much as possible to animals. Whether that is having a pet, going to the fair or visiting a farm. Having children understand where their food comes from is the first step in leading a healthy lifestyle.


Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, http://www.zweberfarms.com

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Cows Never Get Muddy, Right? And Pumpkin Cobbler Recipe from OV

The mud is growing deeper by the day. Of course we know this is a good thing, because all this moisture will help grow our pastures and crops. But…if I were a PETA undercover “investigator” I could have found many ways to make our farm look like the worst farm on the planet today.

WHAT, WAIT a minute… our farm isn’t perfect lush green pastures with cows frolicking in the sunshine every day of the year? You mean our cows get DIRTY?

Yep, that is exactly what I mean. Too often animal agriculture is forced onto this high unattainable pedestal where animals are never dirty, never get sick and never pass away. Of course animals get dirty, sick and even die. These are all natural human life events as well for animals. We care deeply for our animals. We as farmers try very hard to keep our animals healthy and secure.  The reality is that the very nature of farming leaves us with few things we can control. We cannot control the weather. We cannot control our animals independent thinking minds and we cannot control “life happens” events. What we try to do every day is to provide for our animals in a way that minimizes stress and maximized comfort and health.

Let’s take today for example. We provide our dry cows with a large deep straw bedded area within their winter pasture/paddock where they can stay clean and dry. They are free to roam, play and eat and drink during the day. They have lots of space and have protection from the elements if they desire. But there are always some cows who just prefer to lay in the muddiest area possible. I don’t know why they do this, but some just do. Cows are independent thinking beings. There are two ways we could prevent them from laying in the mud.

  1. Keeping them in a concrete building and hire someone to stand behind our cows and scrape up their poop as it happens or
  2. Not having cows at all.

We can all see that providing a comfortable, secure and natural environment for our cows means better health, even if they get dirty.

Dr. Temple Gradin, in her book Animals in Translation, talks about how regulations aimed toward the meat packing industry demand perfection. This has actually created an unintended consequence. Instead of meat packing plants meeting all the standards, you have plants that are so scared to ask for help on an issue because they feel they might be persecuted for something else they missed.

I think this is a reality in all of agriculture. Too often farmers will put off seeking assistance with manure management, soil erosion, or animal health issues because they fear they might face a penalty for not being completely in compliance with regulations, instead of being rewarded for wanting to improve. So instead of correcting issues, the farmer continues doing what they are doing and lets the problems get worse. Who is to be blamed: the farmer or the regulations?

Probably both are slightly at fault, but the real question is why do we have such a false idea of reality, that regulations in the animals industry demand perfection? This leads us into a whole new can of worms and I am not going to go there. The main point is: you cannot have animals living in a natural and sustainable environment and expect perfection 100% of the time. All of us that have kids understand this.

On our farm we will continue to welcome the mud and the promise of growth and new life that it brings. We will also continue to care so deeply about our animals that we allow them to make their own natural choices if they want to get muddy or not.

Tonight I leave you with a dessert recipe from Organic Valley. This recipe uses the new Live Yogurt. This drinkable yogurt is very delicious. Ask your store to stock it.

Pumpkin Cobbler by: Terese Allen

There’s a little magic in this recipe. You start with a batter on the bottom and with pumpkin custard on the top, but as the dish bakes, the two switch positions, and you end up with cobbler: fruit custard on the bottom and pastry on the top.

(There’s also magic in the way it tastes.)

Prep Time: 30  Total Time: 90

Servings: 12


  • 5 tablespoons Organic Valley butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour, divided
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups Organic Valley Live Organic Lowfat Vanilla Yogurt, divided
  • 3 cups fresh pumpkin puree or 2 cans (each 15 ounces) pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large Organic Valley eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves and nutmeg


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter pieces in a 12-by-8-inch baking dish that is at least two inches deep. Microwave (or heat in oven) until butter is melted. Tilt dish to distribute butter around bottom of dish.

2. Whisk 1 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar, the baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Stir in 1 cup of the vanilla yogurt until just blended, then spread mixture in prepared pan.

3. Using the same bowl as above, combine pumpkin, remaining 1/2 cup yogurt, brown sugar and eggs; whisk until smooth. Whisk in remaining 1 tablespoon flour, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the spices. Pour this mixture evenly over the flour mixture—do not stir the two layers together.

4. Sprinkle surface evenly with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, 60-70 minutes. As the dish bakes, the pumpkin sinks while the batter rises; the end result is a kind of cobbler, with pumpkin custard beneath a tender baked topping. Serve warm or at room temperature.



Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, http://www.zweberfarms.com

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“Animals Makes Us Human”

I just finished reading a fantastic book authored by Dr. Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson.Dr. Grandin is known in the animal science world as an expert in animal behavior.  I would recommend this book for anyone who owns pets or livestock. This book gives insights in animals’ positive emotions and how we can stimulate them while lessening their negative emotions.

As farmers, we are  constantly concerned about our animals’ physical welfare. We feed them well balanced meals, we provide them with safe, warm and clean living environments, and try to keep them free of disease. In college we take classes called: animal physiology, animal nutrition, microbiology, and chemistry.  Not animal psychology.  Physical welfare in animals is something we can measure if we are doing well. Animals with good physical welfare eat well, grow well and have few diseases.

If all of an animal’s physical needs are met are they happy? It is harder to measure if an animal’s emotional welfare is being met. Dr. Grandin gives an example of a laying hen. In the wild, birds need to hide to lay an egg. This is an ingrained instinct that still exists in commercial laying hens. The hens don’t care that they are in a temperature controlled building with no threat of foxes or skunks. Research on laying hens emotional welfare is done by measuring the amount of abnormal repetitive behaviors they express. (ie dogs chew when they are stressed mentally).

The research in this field is relatively young and hugely under funded. On our farm, we try our best to make sure our animals’ emotional needs are met. We calmly handle our cattle (who have have a sensitive fear emotion), we allow our chickens to peck the ground freely (who have a large seeking emotion) and we give our pigs a straw filled living area which allows them to play and seek. Nonetheless, we are constantly trying to improve our animal’s emotional welfare.

Again I recommend “Animals Makes Us Human” to anyone connected with animals. To learn more about Dr. Temple Grandin’s work visit her website: http://www.grandin.com/

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