Friday, February 22, 2013

Classification - Feb. 2013

Saturday Feb. 16, 2013 the classifier from the American Guernsey Association came to evaluate our herd. Luckily the weather held almost all day, with only one major downpour. Although it was cold, we had a great day!

Here are some highlights and high scores from our herd:

1st Lactation Standouts:
Abiqua Acres Yogi Briar: VG-85 with a EX-90ms
Abiqua Acres Challenge Marguerite: VG-87 
Abiqua Acres Kain Sparkle: VG-82 with a VG-86ms

Also 6 (first and second lactation) Alstar daughters scored
for an average of : VG-83

2nd and 3rd Lactation:
Abiqua Acres Challenge Spirit: VG-88 with a EX-90ms
Abiqua Acres Banger Ramona: VG-88
Abiqua Acres Glacier Jolisa: VG-88
Abiqua Acres Banger Roxanne: VG-86 and EX-90fl
Abiqua Acres Neon Jellacy: VG-87
Abiqua Acres Mint Lonnie: VG-84 with a VG-87ms
Abiqua Acres Alstar Mistery: VG-87
Abiqua Acres Lorry Meagan: VG-87

Late Lactation Raises:
Abiqua Acres Faro Speranza raised to VG-86 at 10y and 7 lactations
Abiqua Acres Banger Jessica raised to VG-85 at 8y and 6 lactations

No new excellent final scores to report, but we were very happy with our scores for this classification! 

The crew keeps Alstar Mistery for the classifier to evaluate.

So what is classification and what does it mean?
This is the other half of information that purebred dairy breeders contribute to bull proofs. A bull proof gives us all the information on what kind of daughters that bull is siring. Classification is the body side of a proof, type, what do a sires daughters look like. Classification is an objective collection of information on the characteristics that are important to the success of a dairy cow.

The classifier takes a look at Alstar Jenette

Data is collected from each cow that is evaluated and complied by bull. We as breeders get this information in a type traits report that can be seen through the bull stud or the American Guernsey Association.  We use this information to help in the mating of our cows. The numbers you see that I mentioned as highlights above are final scores for a cow, they are out of 100; 100 being the perfect cow. The highest scored Guernseys ever were classified at 96. We have two cows in our herd that are scored EX-92.
So what do the letters before the numbers mean? Each group is broken up by tens, and the higher the score the better.
Cow scored in the 90's are considered Excellent (EX)
80 and above are Very Good (VG)
In the 70's are Good (G)
60's are Desirable (D)
And 50's are Undesirable (UD)
As a breed we hardly ever see scores in the 50's and 60's anymore.

To quickly summarize: you could consider classification a beauty score, the higher the score, the "prettier" the cow's type.

So what makes a "pretty" cow?
A "pretty" dairy cow has to be functional, she has to be able to make milk. A final score comes down to the classifiers overall opinion of the cow, but the broken down numbers are measurements that are a reflection of the ideal type of a dairy cow. How tall, strong and deep is she? Dairy form, does she look like a dairy cow or more like a beef cow? How are her legs? And the important part that makes the milk, her udder traits: udder attachment fore and rear, rear height, udder depth, udder cleft and teat placement and length.

Classification scores are a source of pride for a dairy farmer. It is a reflection of careful breedings and time invested. We all love to see those beautiful cows!
"Hey what are you looking at back there?!?"

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What happens to the Bull calves?

There's something so sweet about a newborn, wet wiggly and new to the world; I will never get tired of the babies on our farm!
Jellybelly greets her baby boy!
After the new bundle of joy has arrived, and everyone is doing well, we check the sex of the calf. I would have to check our numbers to give you an accurate percentage for our farm, but you have a 50/50 chance of getting a heifer or a bull. Of course we are hoping for heifers, because we raise them to in turn join our milking herd after they've had their own baby. 

So what happens to the "unwanted" bulls? They get the same loving care that our heifers calves get, until they go to a new home. We just don't have the room to raise all the bulls calves, and besides that would be silly for us business wise because bulls don't make milk. We do occasionally raise a couple of bull calves for ourselves for the higher purpose of feeding our family. But we obviously can't raise them all. Even though it seems the bulls tend to have the cutest markings and my husband is continually telling me I can't keep them! 

So we try to find local homes for them, I love knowing where my boys are going! A select elite top few are chosen for A.I. studs. But most of them end up going to the livestock auction and their final destination is unknown to us. We have no power over who they are purchased by or what they are eventually used for. But I feel good knowing that I sent a healthy baby to auction to better someone's situation in whatever way they see fit. 

Jellybelly's bull and a buddy loaded up to head to auction

I know there are horrid rumors, pictures and videos out there proclaiming that the big bad dairy man just leaves the bull calves to starve to death. I am guessing most of that footage was taken out of context, perhaps the calf was born dead, or got sick after being born. And just like in any business sometimes bad things happen, I am not denying that. But the care and attention that is given to bull calves on farms is just as genuine as that given to heifers!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

So God Made a Farmer

 So I am a  little late like always on catching the hype train, and it seems like every last person but me has already blogged about this topic, but I am still impressed and influenced by last weekend.

So we were visiting some close friends Superbowl 2013, usually I only watch for the commercials, but this year my husband's team the 49er's were playing, so I was a little more invested then usual. So far there hadn't been any good commercials in the second half, (I missed the first half due to nap time!) During a rare moment between busy kids, we were all sitting down. Then a picture of cow came on and a familiar voice came over the air: "And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said 'I need a caretaker.'"

I couldn't believe it!!! A speech I am very familiar with and in fact had just shared a couple of weeks previous on our Facebook page, was being aired on national television during the most watched sporting event of the year! The room went silent, and goosebumps went up my arms!

I had grown up listening to Paul Harvey during lunchtime and also his "The Rest of Story" as we got cows down for milking. He's one of the only radio broadcasters I could probably recognize from a sound clip. To say he left an imprint on my childhood would be an understatement. I don't remember the first time I heard his "So God Made a Farmer" speech, but it always gives me the chills and hits home to my heart!

The words and perfectly timed pictures were staring back at me for the two minutes that had been slated for that Superbowl commercial. I was honestly holding back tears as it finished!  As the end came, I was proud to see that Ram Trucks, Dodge, were responsible for that commercial. I was proud that multiple Dodge's sit in our driveway and had in fact driven us to the Superbowl party. I was astonished that a company would pay millions to air such a deep and special message. And it paid off!

In a flurry and flood that evening Facebook was lite up with positive feedback. Friends said they thought of me when they saw the commercial. And I heard that sentiment echoed across the country from other farming friends. I think anything that gets people talking about farming, positive and negative (yes I did see a few negative comments) is a win for everyone in agriculture.

There's a movement for us to connect to the average person, these people who are now several generations removed from any kind of farming. AGvocating we call it, and never before had I been more proud to be a part of this movement. It was the fuel I needed to feed my fire.

In case you missed it check out the Ram Trucks commerical. By watching and then sharing a badge Dodge makes a donation. Up to $1 million to support FFA and assist in local hunger and educational programs. I think that's a pretty awesome deal for just watching and sharing a movie! They have also declared 2013 The Year of the Farmer! I love it and am definitely on board!

Here are also a few of my favorite blogs that posted about this commercial:

 A Farm Wife
             Diane just did my favorite post so far! "So God Created a Farm Wife". Her amazing words are definite recognition owed to the amazing Farm Wives that are out there!

The Dairy Mom

Dairy Carrie

This Uncharted Rhoade

Truth or Dairy

Here's the text of Paul Harvey's 'So God Made a Farmer' Speech, which was originally given in 1978 during the national FFA convention.

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer.

God said, "I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board." So God made a farmer.

"I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife's done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon -- and mean it." So God made a farmer.

God said, "I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then
dry his eyes and say, 'Maybe next year.' I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a
persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain'n from 'tractor back,' put in another seventy-two hours." So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the
rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor's place. So God made a farmer.

God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight and not cutcorners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week's work with a five-mile drive to church.

"Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life 'doing what dad does.'" So God made a farmer.