Author: Will Gilmer

Saying Goodbye to Ol’ Number 07

No.07 standing in her preferred milking position
This Monday we said farewell to our oldest cow, number 07.

Seven was born on July 30, 2000, just a few days before I started my final year at Mississippi State University. She gave birth to her first calf…a bull…and entered the milking herd on October 14, 2002. She went on to have nine more calves (5 bulls, 4 heifers) and produce over 180,000 pounds of milk in her lifetime. She was rarely ever a top-producing cow, but she was steady and sound and never gave a bit of trouble in the milking barn.

Many cows have physical characteristics, habits, or quirks that distinguish them from their herdmates, and Seven could check all three of those boxes. She was a thick, stocky cow with big, droopy ears, and she always preferred to be milked at the front unit on the west side of our parlor. And she hated the cow dogs…absolutely HATED the cow dogs.

Evidence of her anti-caninism first came to light the day she gave birth to her second calf. Though she never directed her aggression toward my dad and I, she chased both of our border collies out of the pasture when we tried to walk her and her calf to the barn. This happened three or four times, the dogs barking and retreating every time she took a step in their direction. From that day on she would glare at any dog that got within ten feet of her, often charging them if they made the mistake of not knowing where she was.

Our fondness for her and her antics (I once jokingly suspected her of leading an “Occupy Farm Lane” protest) helped contribute to her 13+ years of residency on the farm. She hadn’t been particularly profitable her last couple of lactations, but we kept her around for the sake of keeping her around. When our veterinarian informed us this summer that he didn’t think she would ever successfully calve again, we made the decision that we would “cull” her (sell her for beef) sometime within the coming months. That day came on Monday, January 13, 2014. By then her daily milk production had dropped below 30 pounds, she had developed a persistent case of mastitis (a mammary infection) in one quarter of her udder, and just wasn’t moving around as good as she used to. Typical of her lead-cow mentality, she was the first of the eleven cows we culled that day to load the trailer that would haul her off to the stockyard.  I have no way of knowing, but I imagine she probably fought her way to the front of the line for the ride that would take her from there to her next…and likely final…destination.

The idea of culling a dairy cow, especially one that has been on a farm for years, can seem harsh to those who have never owned or cared for livestock. But just like beef cattle, hogs, goats, etc., dairy cattle are food animals. Unlike some other types of livestock, they are meant to serve two distinct food production purposes: milk and beef. So no matter how fond we are of one particular cow or how much milk she’s produced for us in the past, she can’t reach her full potential to feed humanity by living out her final days on our farm. We will miss ol’ Seven and know we’ll never have another cow quite like her, but it was time for her to take the last steps toward fulfilling her complete purpose.

Saying Goodbye to Ol’ Number 07

No.07 standing in her preferred milking position
This Monday we said farewell to our oldest cow, number 07.

Seven was born on July 30, 2000, just a few days before I started my final year at Mississippi State University. She gave birth to her first calf…a bull…and entered the milking herd on October 14, 2002. She went on to have nine more calves (5 bulls, 4 heifers) and produce over 180,000 pounds of milk in her lifetime. She was rarely ever a top-producing cow, but she was steady and sound and never gave a bit of trouble in the milking barn.

Many cows have physical characteristics, habits, or quirks that distinguish them from their herdmates, and Seven could check all three of those boxes. She was a thick, stocky cow with big, droopy ears, and she always preferred to be milked at the front unit on the west side of our parlor. And she hated the cow dogs…absolutely HATED the cow dogs.

Evidence of her anti-caninism first came to light the day she gave birth to her second calf. Though she never directed her aggression toward my dad and I, she chased both of our border collies out of the pasture when we tried to walk her and her calf to the barn. This happened three or four times, the dogs barking and retreating every time she took a step in their direction. From that day on she would glare at any dog that got within ten feet of her, often charging them if they made the mistake of not knowing where she was.

Our fondness for her and her antics (I once jokingly suspected her of leading an “Occupy Farm Lane” protest) helped contribute to her 13+ years of residency on the farm. She hadn’t been particularly profitable her last couple of lactations, but we kept her around for the sake of keeping her around. When our veterinarian informed us this summer that he didn’t think she would ever successfully calve again, we made the decision that we would “cull” her (sell her for beef) sometime within the coming months. That day came on Monday, January 13, 2014. By then her daily milk production had dropped below 30 pounds, she had developed a persistent case of mastitis (a mammary infection) in one quarter of her udder, and just wasn’t moving around as good as she used to. Typical of her lead-cow mentality, she was the first of the eleven cows we culled that day to load the trailer that would haul her off to the stockyard.  I have no way of knowing, but I imagine she probably fought her way to the front of the line for the ride that would take her from there to her next…and likely final…destination.

The idea of culling a dairy cow, especially one that has been on a farm for years, can seem harsh to those who have never owned or cared for livestock. But just like beef cattle, hogs, goats, etc., dairy cattle are food animals. Unlike some other types of livestock, they are meant to serve two distinct food production purposes: milk and beef. So no matter how fond we are of one particular cow or how much milk she’s produced for us in the past, she can’t reach her full potential to feed humanity by living out her final days on our farm. We will miss ol’ Seven and know we’ll never have another cow quite like her, but it was time for her to take the last steps toward fulfilling her complete purpose.

We Survived the Deep Freeze

With the temperature expected to hit the 60° mark later today, I think it’s safe to say we survived the “Deep Freeze of 2014”.
cows showing off their “slobbersickles”
on the coldest morning in 17 years
As we expected, frozen water troughs and frozen milking equipment were the two major problems we addressed during the sixty-hour freeze from Sunday night through late Wednesday morning. Keeping fresh water available in our pastures proved not to be too terribly time-consuming, as busting and pitching out the surface ice in troughs once a day was generally sufficient. On the other hand, freezing milking equipment did put us behind the first three mornings of the week. Before we could milk our cows on a 7°F Tuesday morning (coldest temp since ’96), Dad and I spent an hour thawing milk lines, pneumatic valves that power the equipment, and part of the vacuum system. Monday and Wednesday weren’t quite as bad, each requiring only 30-45 minutes of pre-milking maintenance.
Who was that masked man?
I guess the most important thing through it all was that neither our cows nor we were ever in any danger of suffering cold-related health issues. Cows can handle temperatures well below 0° provided they have plenty to eat and drink, stay dry, and can get out of the wind, all of which ours did. And we were smart enough to wear plenty of layers and not stay out in the open for too long in cold we simply aren’t used to. My fingers and toes got a little numb a few times, but far from anything serious.
We are less than two weeks into January, so there is certainly time for another round of unusually frigid air to make it this far south. After working through what we did earlier this week, though, I don’t have any doubt we can adjust our daily schedule and farm chores to successfully deal with it. 

We Survived the Deep Freeze

With the temperature expected to hit the 60° mark later today, I think it’s safe to say we survived the “Deep Freeze of 2014”.
cows showing off their “slobbersickles”
on the coldest morning in 17 years
As we expected, frozen water troughs and frozen milking equipment were the two major problems we addressed during the sixty-hour freeze from Sunday night through late Wednesday morning. Keeping fresh water available in our pastures proved not to be too terribly time-consuming, as busting and pitching out the surface ice in troughs once a day was generally sufficient. On the other hand, freezing milking equipment did put us behind the first three mornings of the week. Before we could milk our cows on a 7°F Tuesday morning (coldest temp since ’96), Dad and I spent an hour thawing milk lines, pneumatic valves that power the equipment, and part of the vacuum system. Monday and Wednesday weren’t quite as bad, each requiring only 30-45 minutes of pre-milking maintenance.
Who was that masked man?
I guess the most important thing through it all was that neither our cows nor we were ever in any danger of suffering cold-related health issues. Cows can handle temperatures well below 0° provided they have plenty to eat and drink, stay dry, and can get out of the wind, all of which ours did. And we were smart enough to wear plenty of layers and not stay out in the open for too long in cold we simply aren’t used to. My fingers and toes got a little numb a few times, but far from anything serious.
We are less than two weeks into January, so there is certainly time for another round of unusually frigid air to make it this far south. After working through what we did earlier this week, though, I don’t have any doubt we can adjust our daily schedule and farm chores to successfully deal with it. 

The Last 3 Weeks in Farm Pictures

A lot has happened around the farm the last three weeks, and I feel duty-bound to get you folks caught up to speed. Instead of a long written narrative, though, I’ll let a few photos tell most of the story.

PUSH!!! PUSH!!! PUSH!!!
We have had A LOT of cows and heifers calve during November. A majority of their calves have been bulls, but that’ll get turned around sooner or later.

Thanks to all the “fresh” cows, our milking herd has climbed up to 207 cows. This is the first time we’ve eclipsed the 200 mark in well over a year.
The switch back to Standard Time means we have the opportunity to see the first light of morning and sunrise every day before we finish the morning milking.
A larger milking herd (and those cows increasing their production) means that we’re spending more time in the barn every day. My wife and kids have had to leave for school some mornings before I could get home for breakfast. But on the plus side, more cows = more milk = FULL MILK TANK!!!
Aside from the cows, I’ve planted quite a bit of wheat and ryegrass for them to graze next Spring…
…I’ve slung a little “Water ‘n Poo” to help fertilize pastures…

I like big bags and I cannot lie! You udder lovers can’t deny! #cowtunes
— Will Gilmer (@gilmerdairy) November 19, 2013

…engaged in some Twitter nonsense
…and we’ve generally been finishing both the field and milking chores just before sundown.
Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep, dark night…I can see to plant my wheat by the GPS light.
(though I did run a little late planting wheat one night)
Despite the long, busy days on the farm, our family has still been able to find our way to Dear Old State for a couple of ballgames.
And the sun comes up again each morning, bringing with it new challenges, new opportunities, and a renewed sense of appreciation for the wonderful life I’ve been blessed with.

The Last 3 Weeks in Farm Pictures

A lot has happened around the farm the last three weeks, and I feel duty-bound to get you folks caught up to speed. Instead of a long written narrative, though, I’ll let a few photos tell most of the story.

PUSH!!! PUSH!!! PUSH!!!
We have had A LOT of cows and heifers calve during November. A majority of their calves have been bulls, but that’ll get turned around sooner or later.

Thanks to all the “fresh” cows, our milking herd has climbed up to 207 cows. This is the first time we’ve eclipsed the 200 mark in well over a year.
The switch back to Standard Time means we have the opportunity to see the first light of morning and sunrise every day before we finish the morning milking.
A larger milking herd (and those cows increasing their production) means that we’re spending more time in the barn every day. My wife and kids have had to leave for school some mornings before I could get home for breakfast. But on the plus side, more cows = more milk = FULL MILK TANK!!!
Aside from the cows, I’ve planted quite a bit of wheat and ryegrass for them to graze next Spring…
…I’ve slung a little “Water ‘n Poo” to help fertilize pastures…

I like big bags and I cannot lie! You udder lovers can’t deny! #cowtunes
— Will Gilmer (@gilmerdairy) November 19, 2013

…engaged in some Twitter nonsense
…and we’ve generally been finishing both the field and milking chores just before sundown.
Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep, dark night…I can see to plant my wheat by the GPS light.
(though I did run a little late planting wheat one night)
Despite the long, busy days on the farm, our family has still been able to find our way to Dear Old State for a couple of ballgames.
And the sun comes up again each morning, bringing with it new challenges, new opportunities, and a renewed sense of appreciation for the wonderful life I’ve been blessed with.

2013 Silage Harvest: DONE

Our 2013 fall silage harvest is officially complete! We chopped roughly 1970 tons of corn and sorghum silage over 66 calendar days, filling all three of our pits to capacity in the process. It was the best yield we’ve had in years, and it’s good cow fo…

2013 Silage Harvest: DONE

Our 2013 fall silage harvest is officially complete! We chopped roughly 1970 tons of corn and sorghum silage over 66 calendar days, filling all three of our pits to capacity in the process. It was the best yield we’ve had in years, and it’s good cow fo…

2013 Silage Harvest: Weeks 7 & 8 Recap

We weren’t able to get but five days of harvesting in the last couple of weeks, but we made pretty good progress the days we were in the field. We finished chopping all of the forage sorghum across the road from our dairy, with the final estimated yiel…

2013 Silage Harvest: Weeks 7 & 8 Recap

We weren’t able to get but five days of harvesting in the last couple of weeks, but we made pretty good progress the days we were in the field. We finished chopping all of the forage sorghum across the road from our dairy, with the final estimated yiel…