Winter preparations for the livestock begin about mid October. The water supply to the pastures must be turned off early enough so the cows empty the tanks on the last rotation through the paddocks. Click the image to read the entire story…
With the shorter days of Autumn, the morning milking crew gets to sleep in a little longer, as the cows don’t have to walk far to get to the milking parlor. A dark colored cow is very difficult to see on a moonless morning long before daybreak. We try to keep a good supply of flashlight batteries on hand. Click the image to read the entire blog entry.
Dave’s mother and father, Georgina Alice Simon and Valentine Jaroslav Minar were married in St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in New Prague on October 17, 1938. Click the image to read an excerpt from Jean’s memoir, and learn what life was like during the early days of Cedar Summit Farm.
Sweet corn season always brings back a memorable childhood experience. In the late 1940′s my father grew a large field of sweet corn under contract for the Green Giant Company, on a farm that he owned on the edge of New Prague. My mother’s brother, Uncle Henry, was a field supervisor for Green Giant at the time. His job included scheduling the planting and harvesting of sweet corn fields.
Before the advent of sweet corn harvesters, Green Giant hired large groups of Jamaican seasonal migrant workers to hand harvest the corn. The workers were housed and fed in a housing unit that was provided at company headquarters in Montgomery.
Uncle Henry suggested to my parents that if they prepared a nice noon meal for the migrant workers that they would be very well paid with an excellent job of corn picking even in the afternoon heat. My Mother prepared a fried chicken dinner with all the trimmings including gallons of ice-cold real lemonade. I remember the 12 men napping under our trees after our noon dinner. Mother cleaned 15 chickens for the occasion and there were no leftovers.
What really sticks in my mind was their singing. It was the up-beat Caribbean-style music, like what we heard Harry Belafonte sing years later. Florence and I had traveled to the East Caribbean in subsequent years and heard their steel drums and singing. It brought back memories of that summer in the 40′s, and of the 12 migrant workers and their beautiful singing.
I remember Dad being impressed. There was not an ear of corn that they missed or left lying on the ground. Every ear found it’s way into the truck.
Yesterday was another one of those days that could be added to a list of “Strange Farm Happenings”. I was in the house frying up some burger for dinner, because Florence was working at the Creamery until six. My cell phone rang. It was John (our herd manager) frantically calling…
Hopefully the folks coming to Milkapalooza 2013 will see a smile on this old farmer’s face. It’s easy to smile in June with all the grass lush and green. Read more
Sure is nice to see that the snow is all melted (except where I piled it up with the tractor loader the last few months)! Seemed like a long brutal winter. Especially when I see the woodpile gone and not much hay left for the animals. We all hope for a nice warm rain to get the grass to grow. Read more
Was it a sign of an early spring? I hoped that the cardinal’s spring song I heard at daybreak outside our window was just that. The thermometer registered 1 degree below zero on that morning this past week and it was still February. One can only hope!
One of the first signs of spring at Cedar Summit Farm is the birth of new calves. A walk through the dry cow and heifer group showed many 2 year old heifers in bloom. There are many eminent birth signs to look for, one of them is that their udders are beginning to fill. Read more
Feeding our dairy herd at Cedar Summit has recently become much more challenging. Factors that we don’t have much control over are feed costs, land rental rates and drought. The three are all related.
Gone are the days when we ran a bit short of hay for our cows, and could call any number of organic hay growers in the area and ask them to bring us a load of hay. Our strategy has changed. We now sell cows to meet our feed supply. We recently sold 20 cows, hoping that we will have enough hay until new grass in the spring. Organic hay is not available in our area.
We had hoped that the 36 young heifers and 2 bulls at Heidi’s near Belle Plaine could stay until spring. These heifers are our future dairy herd, so to sell them is out of the question.
With no hay available in our area, we made the decision to move them to Van Der Pol’s farm in West central Minnesota. The Van Der Pols have been raising our young animals for many years and have access to hay. Unfortunately the hay price is about double of what it has been.
I just read about New Mexico dairies importing hay from Canada due to Chinese competition. China plans to buy 9 million more cows in the near future. According to Bloomberg news, ocean container rates are $30 a ton for hay shipped from California to China. A freight rate from southern California, where the hay is grown, to the central California valley dairies is $53 a ton. The California dairies that haven’t been driven out of business are traveling east in search of hay and driving the price of hay up all across the country. Alfalfa hay is the single largest consumer of irrigation water in the west.
Our farm in New Prague consists of 412 acres of pasture and hay land. We own 160 acres and cash rent 252 acres from four different friends and neighbors. While we do not begrudge them a competitive rental rate, our rental costs have doubled in the last few years.
As Allan Nation, editor of the Stockman Grass Farmer magazine, recently said, “What a high corn price fosters is more competition for land and as a land-based industry this is where we are most vulnerable. Turning down $700 an acre cash rent in Iowa takes a mighty strong commitment to grassland agriculture”.
Corn prices have tripled the last few years to about $8 a bushel. I blame it on mandated ethanol and crop insurance subsidies. The American taxpayer picks up the cost of 60 percent of the insurance premium and the crop farmer is guaranteed over a thousand dollars an acre. Both are beyond my comprehension. As grass farmers, we have but little influence in Congress compared to corporate agriculture’s lobbying efforts.
Compounding the high hay and land rental prices is the drought. We are taking some steps to help get us through it. We plan to plant more sorghum-sudan, a high yielding warm season annual that is very drought tolerant and has high digestible fiber. The usual process is to take off the first crop hay from an older hay field, till the soil, apply manure and then plant the sorghum-sudan in early June after the soil has warmed.
Like I have said in the past – as a grazier we always plan for drought. To be farming as long as I have, I must be an eternal optimist!
At Cedar Summit Farm, we have run a non-confinement dairy since 1993. This means that our cows spend every day outside year-round, getting plenty of exercise and breathing fresh air. The two-inch hair coat on our cows is a sign of their adaptability to our climate. Other than their time being milked in the milking parlor, they spend their time outdoors, either in the hoop shed, feeding area, or roaming a 10-acre pasture. Read more