Monday, May 23, 2011

Flintstone Vitamins for Cows

Cows, just like humans need vitamins and minerals that their bodies cannot make. When I was a kid my mom gave us a Flintstone Vitamin in the morning to help us grow strong bones and obtain the nutrients not available in our diet. On Monday night, Adam and I went to a few pastures where our cows are to give them their "Flintstone Vitamins." The sack Adam has on his shoulder is chock full of essential nutrients a cow needs to develop and support the growth of a calf during the summer months.

This sack of mineral contains vitamins such as A, D and E. Minerals such as calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, salt, selenium, and zinc. It also contains an ingredient called IGR. IGR is an additive that prevents adult horn fly emergence from the manure of treated cattle. When used as directed all natural IGR will provide sufficient (S)-Methoprene insect growth regulator to prevent the emergence of adult horn flies. This is important because the horn fly is one of the most important and economically damaging pest of range cattle. In the United States horn flies cost cattle producers approximately $876 million every year.

The facts about IGR:
~Adult flies migrate from other herds. IGR feed thru does not kill adult flies.
~IGR unique ingredient, Methoprene, even controls horn flies resistant to the organophophates and parathyroid commonly used in conventional horn fly control products.
~Scientists estimate that an economical, effective program keeps the fly population below 200 files per animal.
~IGR prevents the flies from successfully multiplying, breaking the life cycle.
Facts about IGR were collected from Positive Feed Ltd.

Several university studies indicate internal parasites can reduce digestive efficiency by 10% or more. At a cost of a little more than $3 per head, you can eliminate internal parasites and improve the cow's overall digestibility. The increase in nutrient absorption will pay more than $3 in the first week alone. Cows not loaded with parasites also shed winter hair sooner, stay in better body condition, breed back sooner and produce more milk. Cattle grazing grass very close to the ground are even more susceptible to internal parasites. This information was provided from Cooperative Farming News

You may be wondering about the environmental impact of IGR, and whether or not this chemical compound makes it to your dinner table. I was interested in learning about this too and did some research to find out more. This information was provided from

The Environmental Fate of IGR

Persistance and Movement in the Soil: The half-life of (S)-Methoprene under aerobic (with oxygen) conditions in sandy loam is approximately ten days when applied at the exaggerated rate of 1000 g/Ha. Most of the applied dose is converted rapidly to CO2. (S)-Methoprene remains bound in the top few centimeters of the soil even after repeated washings with water. Thus, it should not persist, leach or contaminate ground water.

Fate in Plants: When applied at the rate of 1000 g/Ha on alfalfa, (S)-Methoprene has a half-life of less than two days and less than one day on rice. It is metabolized rapidly, yielding products that are further degraded to normal plant nutrients.

Fate in the Food Chain: In a model ecosystem study, it was shown that (S)-Methoprene does not accumulate in the food chain. It was demonstrated that biodegradation and lack of persistance characterize (S)-Methoprene in the environment.

Persistance in the Water: In the field, (S)-Methoprene has a half-life of 30-45 hours in unsterilized pond water. If the water is exposed to sunlight, the half-life is significantly reduced.

From this information you can rest assured that this chemical compound does not end up on your dinner plate, and degrades quickly once it reaches the soil and water sources. The mineral we feed our cows gives them the nutrition they need, protection from parasites, and the chemical is safe for the environment, making this the ultimate Flintstone Vitamin for cattle.

Putting the mineral in the feeder.

The mineral feeder. The cows come up to
this, take a few licks, then go about their day.

You can faintly make out the cows grazing in
the valley.

I love this picture! The view doesn't get much better
than this. Adam, looking at the cows while the sun is
setting on the horizon.

Cows grazing in the pasture.

Happy cows come from Kansas too!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Surveying the Damage

Yesterday was predicted to be the day the world would end. This major event was supposed to take place at 6pm central time. At 5:58pm this is what the sky looked like where my brother was in southern Jefferson County. So, for a brief few minutes it did run through his mind that the end of the world was actually taking place. Thank goodness it did not turn out to be the end of the world, but rather a very active weather day in the eastern part of Kansas.

Adam and I were glued to the TV watching the weathermen display the maps of the storms. The most active cell was south of us in the middle of Jefferson County. Reports of softball-sized hail, straight-line winds, funnel clouds and tornado touch downs were all topics of discussion as the night went on. The radar screen was lit up like a Christmas tree with all of the red, yellow, and green displayed across the viewing area. The screen showed more than one hook echo, which is usually the tell-tale sign a tornado is in the area. Several members of my family were in the direct path of this storm. The night was spent worrying about their safety and how this weather would affect my family's crops.

My brother, sister, and cousins were able to take pictures of the ominous looking clouds and the forming funnel clouds near the Topeka and Perry Lake areas. Thankfully everyone is safe and made it through this bout of severe weather unscathed.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Reading, KS and Joplin, MO. Reading was hit by a tornado last night and their town suffered severe damage. Twenty homes were destroyed, several were damaged and one fatality has been reported. Joplin was hit by a tornado this afternoon and the damage is extensive. Please keep the people of Reading and Joplin in your prayers as they recover, and start the clean up and rebuilding processes.

Below are the storm pictures taken by my brother, sister, and cousins.

Ominous clouds at Grantville.

Photo of a funnel cloud at Perry Lake.

Clouds in the Topeka area.

Funnel clouds in Topeka.

Funnel cloud in Topeka.

The severe weather hit our house later in the evening. The rain started to come down in buckets, then the straight-line winds hit, then we were pounded with hail two different times for about 10 minutes each. We went to bed after the threat of severe weather had passed, we woke up this morning and surveyed the damage.

Adam went out to look at the corn and I checked out the buildings. Adam came back inside with a somber expression on his face. He said the corn did not look good. I went out to look at the field with him and he was right. The corn was tattered, and was far from the the healthy vibrant plant it had been the a day before. Seeing this sight made both of us sick to our stomachs. It will take about a week to know whether or not the corn will be able to bounce back from the hail damage.

The rain gauge in our yard showed 3.5." We received this amount in about an hour, which washed out many ditches, and caused terraces to break over.

3.5" in an hour is not good for a young corn plant.

The battered corn plants.

The field of corn south of our house. It breaks my heart
look at it.

Standing water in the field south of our house.

The pictures below show the impact of high winds and hail to our buildings. We had a section of roof torn off our hay barn. Other barns had damage to the roofs as well.

Wind damage to the side of a barn.

Roof damage to another barn.

This door to the hay loft was blown open from
the wind. We don't really know how we are going to
get it closed.

More roof damage to another barn.

The roof that was ripped of our hay barn.

Our crop has a long way to go until harvest. This hard hit of severe weather has not given it the best start. We can only hope that yesterday's storm will be the worst of the severe weather for us and that the corn will come back from being hit with hail. We will keep you updated on its progress and whether or not Adam will have to replant this field.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Goin' Gamblin'

This post was written by Adam.

Planting the last field to corn.

Farming is a risky game that we all play as soon as we put the seed in the ground. No one knows what is going to happen over the very long growing period it takes for the crops to mature. We just recently got finished planing corn and soybeans for the 2011 season. It was a real relief to get done and to finish in a timely manner. I finished planting soybeans on the 18th of May, which is considerably sooner than we finished last year. I didn't even start planting beans last year until the 29th of May, and didn't finish until the 20th of June. That's a whole month sooner this year than last and it gives this year's plants more time to grow and produce more beans.

Planting is very important part of the farming process. It's how the growing season starts for each kernel of corn or every soybean seed. A lot of time, money, and effort is put into giving every seed the chance to emerge and become part of the many that will grow and make grain for us to sell. After everything is planted, it's out of our hands and up to Mother Nature to determine the outcome of the crop. There are so many variables that can affect the way the plants grow and how they turn out in the fall. Too much rain, not enough rain, hail, tornados, heat, and wind are many of the examples that nature can throw at us to affect the crops. Just tonight, we had a storm pass through our area with strong winds, hail and heavy rains and even a few tornados to the south of us. I'm sure every farmer in the area was glued to their television set hoping that the weather would not devastate their newly planted crops. The corn in our area ranges from 2-6 inches tall and is very vulnerable. Hail and strong winds could wipe out a whole field in a matter of minutes. Hopefully in the morning the corn will still be in rows growing like it was the day before.

Planting corn.

Farmers can buy crop insurance to protect their crops against weather and the devastation that can come with it. Every year crops are destroyed by weather and natural disasters and crop insurance helps ease some of the pain. However, there is no feeling to describe seeing your cornfield that has been flattened by wind or shredded by a hailstorm. To a farmer, every corn plant or every soybean plant is important to the final outcome of the crop; that's how we make our living and if the plants get damaged or destroyed, we will not have anything to sell in the fall. Think of it as if every corn plant is a child. 26,000 children per acre and we don't want to lose a single one. Or 155,000 soybean plants per acre and each one is just as important as the next. All the seeds work together to make the final yield when we harvest the crop in the fall.

The three-week-old corn plants at our house.

Planting the first field of beans.

It takes so much money these days to put in a crop. A small example would be going to the craps table at a casino and throwing down $100,000 and having to wait 6 or 7 months to find out if you won or not. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do and wouldn't want to do anything else, but there is a lot in this business that we dont' have control over. There is so much risk that we take on every day that most people outside of this profession don't think about. So next the next time you are on your way to the casino, and you see a farmer in the field, remember you are both goin' gamblin.'

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Saving Lives

This post was written by Adam.

I'm positive you are well aware of the fact that policemen, doctors, nurses, paramedics, firemen, and mission workers save lives, but did you know farmers and ranchers save lives too? Every life counts and every life is just as important as the next. However, the lives I speak of today are the lives of the baby calves in our cattle herd.

Our herd is what we call a 'spring' herd, meaning our calves are born from early January until spring begins. Sometimes I question why we put ourselves through this, with all the cold weather and snow, but this is the time of year when we have time to tend to cattle. Spring calving just fits into our farming operation the best.

During calving we sometimes have to give the calf or the mother just a little bit of help. Whether it's snowing, raining, or the wind is blowing 30mph, when the cow decides it's time to have a calf, it's time to have a calf! As you read in a previous post on this blog we try to accommodate our cattle the best we can. We give them a place to get out of the wind and a dry place to lie down. January, February and March can offer up a lot of challenges as far as weather goes. Once April rolls around the weather starts straightening up, and we are wrapping up the calving season. We always have a few cows that think they have to wait until the grass is green and it's warm before the time comes to have their calf. This was the case with one of my dad's first calf heifers. She was the very last one to calve and we were waiting patiently for her to go into labor. We could tell she was getting close, so we put her in a smaller pen close to the house. We kept a close eye on her due to the fact this was her first calf.

The heifer had her calf on Wednesday, April 20th. My dad had left at 5:30am that morning to go to one of our fields in Missouri and spray ground that will be planted to corn. Since it was early, it was dark when he left and he wasn't able to check on the heifer. I arrived at my dad's house at about 6:30am and I checked on the heifer when I got there.

I walked down to the barn and I see the heifer just standing there at the hay feeder, eating away like nothing's going on. The thing is, she has after birth hanging out, like she's had a calf, but I don't see one in the pen. This is when I spot the calf; stretched out in a mud hole. The stupid heifer had the darn calf right in the mud. She had an entire dry pen to lie down in, but nope, she decides to spit out the calf right in the mud. It had been born during the night, and been struggling for awhile. I thought the calf was dead until I saw its head move.

By this time I have let out my frustration by saying a few choice words and then I was thinking-I gotta save this calf. I hurry and go get a 5 gallon bucket and fill it with hot water and I grabbed a bunch of old towels out of the house. I washed the calf off the best I could and dried her off with the towels. Then I picked her up, covering my clothes with stinkin' mud and water and carry the calf to the barn. I went to the house and mixed up a bottle of colostrum milk (extra nutritious milk a calf needs when it is first born) and run down and feed it a bottle. The calf was worn out, and still kind of cold and very reluctant to drink out of a bottle for the first time in its life. So I thought, ok-she's got some milk in her, she'll be fine. By this time it's about 7:15am and I went home and changed clothes because I was filthy.

I came back about noon and gave her another half bottle, because she had never gotten up and nursed from her mother. The calf needed some more energy, because she spent it all trying to get out of that stupid mud hole. I go on with my day and come back about 3pm and check on it, because I was concerned. I was so happy when I walked down to the barn and she is up nursing on the cow. I DID IT! I SAVED ITS LIFE! I watched the calf for a little while, and after a healthy dose of mom's milk, she runs and kicks and bucks around, like any little calf should do.

Yes! Success! The calf was up running around!

I called my dad and gave him the good news. If any of you know my dad, you know he doesn't get excited very often, or very much, or at all. I told him, "I saved the calf's life! It is up nursing and running around, and I did it!" He gives me a very somber, "good." I didn't need to hear it from him, I was just so happy and relieved at the same time that we will have another calf at the end of the year that probably wouldn't be here if I hadn't been there to help it along.

We depend on these cattle as a source of income in our farming operation. Every calf is just as important as the next. If a calf doesn't make it, then my dad or I won't have the income from that calf when the time comes to sell them. We can't work weekends or overtime to make up for a lost calf, once it's gone-it's gone. That's it. Losing a calf means the loss of income, plus the fact that we will sell the cow because she is no longer a productive member of the herd, since she's not raising a calf during the summer.

A few pictures of the healthy calf that almost didn't make it.

Raising cattle is a very rewarding and satisfying profession, but also a risky and heartbreaking one at the same time. I imagine it is a similar situation for a doctor, paramedic, nurse, policeman or a firefighter. There are days when you come home from work and share the good news about saving a life that day. You are overjoyed and ecstatic because you were there and helped someone (or in this case a calf) live another day. However, there are also days when you come home and your heart aches and the feelings of sadness overwhelm you because you did everything you could, and the life you tried to save did not make it. The day I saved this calf was a great day. I was on cloud nine; relishing in the fact I saved a life. I'm grateful the calf survived and I didn't have to write about the other side of the story.

A farmer or rancher may not be in the business of saving human lives but we take great pride in doing everything possible to save the life of one of our animals. Contrary to what the media may have you believe, farmers and ranchers care about their livestock and are always willing to go the extra mile to save a calf, and protect the members of our herd.

If you have any questions about raising cattle, the handling practices we use or anything else please don't hesitate to leave a question in the comment box.
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