Friday's Featured Farmer~ Elizabeth in Australia

Find out why this particular guest blogger is close to my heart!


Six thirty always comes too soon. I jolt awake abruptly. The alarm didn’t go off again. Yet, by some instinct I still wake up in time. I roll out of bed, heave on my boots and drudge out to feed the animals, ignoring the urge to ingest coffee straight into my blood stream. Feeding comes first. As soon as I hear the little voices squawking, barking, and naying, my spirits lift. Alice, the black lab, runs around me in circles, making sure I don’t forget her in the flurry of activity. The horses move to the gate anxiously awaiting their carrots and hay, while the ducks and chickens can hardly contain their excitement, stomping on each other and pressing their beaks through the holes in the coop. It’s hard to believe that just days ago, I was navigating through Sydney- sleeping in late, sipping lattes and resisting the urge to spend all my savings on vintage dresses.

Oh right, I’m Elizabeth by the way. Tammy’s little sister. I’m a….hmm…I guess I’m a journalism major turned English teacher and vagabond who sometimes likes to dabble in creative projects. Gross. Does anyone else find it utterly disgusting when having to describe yourself? Basically, I just finished a year teaching English in Jeju, a beautiful little island in South Korea, and am now backpacking through Australia and New Zealand. I’ve resolved to spend my 20s exploring as much of this massive world as possible, taking bits and pieces of information from the people and experiences I encounter along the way, hoping that eventually all my worldly knowledge will fall perfectly into place…sometime in my 30s of course.

And that’s where the home stay comes into play. I want to learn more about what people are doing around the world to become more sustainable, and why it’s important to them. I also really need a refresher course. While growing up I was raised in a home where we grew our own vegetables (in the summer my brother and I were completely in charge of our garden from planting to harvesting), I’ve forgotten a lot. So, for two weeks I’ve traded in the city life for a homestay in tiny Bargo, Australia, for a more cultural/environmental experience. That, and I really needed a free place to stay for a couple weeks. Kidding…kind of…

I found my family, Suzanna and Craig, on Help X, a website that links backpackers with hosts who are looking for an extra set of hands. Suzanna hails from the UK and was bitten by the traveling bug at an early age. She ended up in Australia where she met Craig. They fell in love, started a family, and so the story goes. Suzanna and Craig are actually new to the agricultural scene as they only moved out of the city less than two years ago. They wanted to try to create a sustainable life, and to raise their two boys (Harrison-3 years and Hugo-5 weeks) in a more rural environment. Suzanna hopes to one day become self sufficient enough to where she can provide for her community, but for now she’s trying her best to be satisfied with the fresh veggies and eggs that make their way into her kitchen.

Suzanna and Craig live on about 15 acres of land. They’ve cultivated it from being dry and barren to rich and productive, but it’s still a work in progress. The couple lead a hectic life raising two little boys while both working. It's impressive to see how much they’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time, but Suzanna wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love to be outside working and doing projects,” she says.“ In fact, even when I was pregnant and about to pop I was still out in the garden or tending to the animals.” As a result, her newborn won’t go to sleep unless he’s wildly rocked about. “He’s just so used to being moved about while I was outside,” she says. It will be interesting to see how this family progresses in the future. Hopefully Suzanna and Craig will be able to instill the agricultural knowledge they're obtaining to their boys, who will pass it on to their children and so on.

Maybe I’m being naively optimistic, but I don’t think my generation is as ignorant to farming and growing organically as many are led to believe. Many of us our generally interested and concerned about the food we put into our bodies, and this motivation stems far deeper than being seen as trendy and oh so cool. We also now have the ability to blend the resources of technology with agriculture. Don’t know what vegetables are in season? Google it. Want to know how to make your own cheese? Scour the web for a blog. There’s an abundant of instant information at our fingertips. Yet, there’s something to be said about going back to the basics: leaving our computer screens, books and documentaries behind and getting some dirt lodged underneath our fingernails.


Thank  you, Elizabeth! 


Jalapeno Cheese Spread

Jalapenos from the garden

Vinegar Cheese

Blend with Mayo and other seasonings

Yummy Cheese spread!

More information here.

Instead of cottage cheese, you can use vinegar cheese or lactic cheese as well. 

Photos of Udder Development In a Heifer

3 Months

5 Months

5 Months

8 Months

9 Months


Note:  There were 13 days between the time of birth and the previous photo. 


Friday's Featured Farmer~Charlotte VanGenechten from Canada

This week our featured farmer is  Charlotte who lives and farms in Canada.  Thank you so much, Charlotte, for contributing to our Friday's Featured Farmer series!


When we first moved to this farm I knew I wanted a cow. I wanted a milking cow even though I didn't really know what that would entail. Although I grew up on a farm and we did usually have a cow to milk, it was almost always my mother who did those chores. As an adult I was used to handling horses as a professional trainer but always boarded them and lived in town. Now we were on this farm and I wanted a cow...now!! I didn't want just any cow though, (OK at first I did until DH's cooler mind prevailed) I wanted something special. Thats when I learned about Dexter's; 'The little cow with a big future."

We bought 4 cows the first year and a Bull...

Then we bought a surge milker, built a stanchion and I began to teach my cows to milk.

Flossy and Roxy became very good milk cows but now I had to do something with the extra milk. Thats when I learned the magic of cheesemaking. I have been a raw milk cheese fanatic ever since.

I have learned to make all sorts of cheeses and since there are so many different kinds to make, I am still learning more! Of course I will never stop learning about the magic of cheese.

The legal climate in Canada does not allow the sale of raw milk or cheese so of course I had to become an activist for the raw milk and real food movement in Canada.

Of course we raise other critters here; pastured eggs and meat birds, the occasional pig and we had sheep and lambs for a while, but the Dexter's are our main focus and the source of the most fun. We are a mostly grass based, organic farm striving for sustainability.
Bonus:  Lucy's Story

This story goes back a few years before we moved here. According to lore our neighbour, when loading cattle to ship to market, had 6 of them break loose. They were able to corral 4 of them but a bull and cow headed for the swamp and out of site. This swamp is extremely thick and encompasses a very large expanse of land. A year later they (the farmers in the area) shot the bull after he broke into a dairy farm and bred a couple of those cows.

We came here 3 yrs ago and that winter I found rather large bovine tracks outside the barn where we kept our 2 cows. I inquired of the neighbour whether he had been missing a cow and that's when I learned the story of the wild cow. Farmers had hunted her since her escape to no avail.

That first summer, we fenced off 15 acres and our herd grew. We never saw the wild one that summer or winter even though we already had a bull. That next spring saw Charlotte's web farm with 3 yearling bulls and our herd bull Dreamland Samson.

One morning Gerard woke me just before dawn because he was sure he saw some cattle in the yard. I quickly dressed and ran out to the barn yard where I found all my cows but NONE of the bulls! Finding tracks that led from our house yard to a side pasture the horses used, It was foggy and dawn was just breaking when I spotted them in a huddle in the middle of the pasture. I had fetched a bucket of grain and shook it and called them. Something huge was in the middle and she lifted her head and bolted-4 bulls in tow-3 yearling's of which had already been sold but not yet delivered. Since I was too injured at the time to give chase, Gerard lit after them through the fence, into a corn field and up the hill towards the ridge and yup, into her lair-that big mennacing swamp.

Arriving back at the house we both lamented about the money we had just lost and the futility of pursuit. Gerard had to go to work so I got in the truck to see if the owner of the wild cow could help do something. His son shrugged and said; "O-she's back is she?" No help there. Not knowing what else to do but sit and wait, I made the cows stay yarded up. They seemed a bit perturbed about the loss of their bulls and bawled most of the morning. Around 10 am I could hear one of the yearling's bawling in our house yard and ran out to get him in. He seemed tired of his ordeal and I was quickly able to get him stalled up. Scanning the horizon though yielded not a trace of the others.

My sister decided to come out at this point to see if we could get up to the ridge and spot them. When she arrived just after noon, lo and behold there were the other 3 walking the fence on the North side of the property. We quickly walked down and lifted the fence to let them back in. Our herd bull bellowed a lot but ran promptly back to where his own cows were yarded. Nobody was any worse for wear and that cow never showed up at our property again to my knowledge.

Last fall we walked over the ridge and into the swamp to see if she was still around. She certainly was with tracks and fresh manure everywhere under cover of those cedars. We even saw her running deep into the swamp, always keeping swamp-side to us.

Gerard tried to hunt her all fall, salivating at the thought of all that corn/grass fed Angus beef. Alas, I don't think he would like me blogging at his being out-smarted by a cow!

Part Two:
This winter was very, very dry, meaning very little snow cover and when spring arrived there wasn't the usual rain to come with it. (feels funny saying that now when it's raining cats and dogs and turtles out there!) The lack of moisture didn't help the grass get it's usual start and our herd had grown to 19! The conditions were ripe for a breach of containment since the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. (and breach they did almost daily!) The usual culprits are the 3 yearling heifers and sometimes the new 2010 calves. It doesn't make for good neighbour relations when your cattle are wondering around in someones corn/soy fields. So the girls got themselves quarantined in the barn. They will be off to be bred by another bull this week and hopefully once pregnant they will not wander so much.

The constant breech of containment was taking a toll on us and we sold 5 cattle to lessen the pressure on the pastures. That was hard, making the choice of who had to go but you can't just collect cattle and they multiply! Now we had things under control! For a whole week, nothing strayed.

On Monday Gerard started back to work and I let little Shaylee out in the small paddock with Roxy the milker and Ruben the little steer. She was out there all day so I wasn't worried that she would try the fence. When Gerard came home though......he was mad as heck because he saw a black dot in the neighbour's soy field. Off we went through the fields to capture the rascal. When we got close enough I saw it was a little heifer. Damn! How could Shaylee get this far away since last I checked on her. We chased her through the fence and the cows and horse chased her back through. I ran for grain but the cattle didn't want it they wanted to check out Shaylee....sheesh she had only been in the barn a few days, why were they so fussy over her. I was able to sneak up and grab her back leg and Gerard got a rope on her. Mind you, he is MAAAADDDDD!! And yelling at me-and we are dragging this heifer up the hill towards the barn. As we push and drag her, I notice her neck and shoulders are mangy and her ear is ripped up somewhat....and she is thin!! How could that have happened in an hour??? We physically drag her into the barn and she is with the other calves now. Looking outside I see another black calf on the lawn. "O! NO!" "Sambo must have somehow jumped through the barn window!" I cry in despair, running to chase him in. But-but-he is smaller than he was this morning....My mind is getting confused....I've just entered 'The Twilite Zone' It's not Sambo-it's Shaylee! WHAT? NO! "GERARD" I scream...."That's not our calf!!" He comes running out of the barn......'What?" "it's not our calf..." I repeat. The heifer we dragged up the hill is a dead ringer for Shaylee but it wasn't Shaylee.

Just the weekend before our neighbour came over to inform us that our heifers had been spotted in that field. During the course of the conversation he let it be known that they had shot the 'wild' cow from a distance. He said she had a calf at her side. This is the calf. A little Angus/Dexter cross. How long it took for the mother to die, I have no idea. How long before this little heifer left her dead mother? How did she escape the coyotes? She is weak, thin and covered in 'rain rot' but once she learned what was in that calf bottle she gulped it all down. I have been nursing her wounds and feeding her 3 times a day. Today is day 3 and her eyes are bright and she is bouncing and playing. What a miracle!! What a miracle for Lucy! (Loosy)



Interested in finding out more about Dexter cattle?  Charlotte hosts a facbook page just for you at the Canadian Dexter Cattle page. 


Friday's Featured Farmer ~ Jimmy Holbrook in North Georgia

   Today's featured farmer is someone very special to me.  It is submitted by my brother, Jimmy Holbrook. 

Growing up on a farm is the best education any young person can have. You learn about biology, math, history, the facts of life and so many practical lessons. You learn spiritual things about life and death and that everything is but for a season. It is sad to think how many untold thousands of people in America today have no real concept about farming, when our nation was founded by people who not only farmed, but had a passion for farming.

The farm we grew up on was a commercial chicken operation and even though I don’t particularly like that model for raising chickens, I am thankful for the lessons I learned and for the experience that it gave me. The farm was a chick raising facility that raised newly hatched chicks up to pullet size. They were all supposed to be sexed to be pullets, but a few hundred cockerels would get mixed in. They were supposed to be destroyed, but I would buy them for 10 cents apiece and raise them to butchering size. I got the feed by sweeping between the cages in the commercial house where the feed spilled out of the automatic feeders. It was a great learning experience.

Some of my best memories in life are times I spent with my dad at the hog barn and even hog killing times. I never could stand the killing part of it, still don’t like it. However, once the hog was dead I had no problem jumping in there and butchering and it is something (minus the slaughter part) that I still enjoy. The memories of sitting in an old milking parlor converted into a hog house waiting for pigs to be born are indelible in my memory.
Dad would also help out on the dairy farm next to us. While I wasn’t old enough to actually do anything, the sights and smells of the dairy barn and the cows giving milk is something I will never forget.

My wife, Kellie was raised on a farm in Dayton, Tennessee where her dad still farms, running about 200 head of cows. She was driving tractors and the hay truck long before she could even reach the peddles. I couldn’t imagine doing what we do in the produce business or radio business without her. I love working with my wife, especially around our farm. She gives me motivation, encouragement and support and even if I don’t admit enough…a lot of good ideas.

Today, my wife and I have the privilege of working the land that once belonged to my great uncles and great grandfather. The old “home” place where my dad and his brothers and sisters were raised. Sometimes walking across the field picking up the rocks that seem to “grow” on Lookout Mountain makes me think about how many times my kin folks have done the exact same thing for the past eighty years or so.

Lookout Mountain is an unusual place. Geologists say that it isn’t really a “mountain” but rather a “plateau.” The land is rocky in many places, but there are ridges on the mountain that have excellent sandy soil. We are blessed to have some very good sandy soil that is excellent for raising many different things. I have talked with geologist from the University of Georgia and Auburn University that say that Lookout Mountain and her “sister” Mountain – Sand Mountain - can not really be explained or classified neatly like the Blue Ridge Mountains or the Cumberland Plateau.

The two parallel mountains run about ninety miles through Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. Sand Mountain is probably more suited for agriculture on a larger scale than Lookout Mountain, but over the years everything from orchards and cotton fields along with potatoes and corn have been grown on Lookout Mountain. Sadly, there aren’t many working “farms” left on Lookout Mountain.
We have about 35 acres, of which only about 12-15 is tillable. We have a few cows and keep pigs – mainly for our own use and raise a good many chickens. We plant about five acres of produce every year which we market through our own produce store in Summerville, Georgia – the county seat about 18 miles away. We also purchase produce from other people in the area and from Chattanooga. We strive to get as locally grown products as we can.

The idea for the produce store came about a couple of years ago when I got on the local radio station that we own and told people we had extra green beans and potatoes for sale. The response was good, so we took half of the building that our radio station is in and converted it into a small produce store. We have had a learning curve about the produce business and we still have a lot to learn, but both of us really enjoy the business.

Even if we didn’t have the produce store, we would still raise a large garden. There is something that is “bred” into a person who was raised the way we were that gives great satisfaction knowing that the food you put on the table is food you raised. There is no satisfaction that is any greater than cabinets full of canned produce and meat in the freezer raised in a human and safe way.

I am always amazed to hear people say “it cost so much more to raise a garden than it does to just go the store and buy it.” Yes, seed is expensive and there is a lot of time and back breaking work involved, but the return is great on so many levels. I know of people who plant gardens and still spend hundreds of dollars a month on groceries. We average maybe $25 per week at the grocery store, and that is sometimes every two weeks. If a person is planting a garden and not saving money then something is wrong somewhere.

Our goal is to someday be able to be totally self-sufficient, but with running a radio station, tractor business and the produce store, time is sometimes, somewhat limited.

Willie Nelson had a song called “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”….well being a history lover my heroes have always been farmers. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee and Harry Truman are just of few of America’s greatest that had a love for farming. These are some of my favorite quotes and one short story:

“I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman's cares.” – George Washington

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.” Thomas Jefferson

“I shall devote my life now to training young men to do their duty in life” Robert E. Lee in his inaugural address to Washington University (now Washington and Lee University). Lee helped to develop one of the first colleges of agriculture in the United States and is responsible for the semester hour system being introduced.

“Happiness is a state of mind. A farmhand, if he has an ample living, can be just as happy as a millionaire with homes in Maine and Florida.” Harry S. Truman

There is a story that when Harry Truman was speaking at a Grange convention in Kansas City, Mrs. Truman and a friend were in the audience. Truman in his speech said, “I grew up on a farm and one thing I know—farming means manure, manure, manure, and more manure.”

At this, Mrs. Truman’s friend whispered to her, “Bess, why on earth don’t you get Harry to say fertilizer?”

“Good Lord, Helen,” replied Mrs. Truman, “You have no idea how many years it has taken me to get him to say manure.”

One final thought. God created man to till the ground and to be a good steward of this earth. The highest praise a man could be given is that he did the best with what God gave him. That is my prayer for my life and for my place here on Lookout Mountain.

Lookout Mountain grown watermelons.

 Hoop House

White Christmas on Lookout Mountain - 2010

 Kellie cleaning the chicken house

Canned taters, grapes and chow chow

Lookout Mountain grown potatoes


Thank you, Jimmy, for taking time to submit this post for your sister's blog! 

You can check out Jimmy's radio station and actually hear him on there most mornings at the following link.  The radio station also has a Facebook fan page at this link.
Jimmy and his business partner's have a Facebook page for their Tractor/Equpment business and you can access that page at this link.


This & That Thursday ~ It Ain't Pretty!

The great folks on my facebook farm page have convinced me to share photos of our milking parlor.  I laugh when I call it a milking parlor because it's nothing fancy.  In fact, the reason I am writing this post is because I referred to it as "redneck" and several folks wanted to know more about it.  I tease, but the truth is, it is was a wonderful idea implemented by my dear husband and I am very thankful for my little parlor.  When we started out milking, we were milking in a run-in.  So, this has been definite progress for us.  It's also proof that you can get by on a budget!  ;-)

It all started when we got a phone call from a young man who at the time worked at a garage.  He called to tell Mike that they had towed in a truck with a box trailer with a blown engine and the owners would let it go for $500 for parts.  Mike and his dad went down to see it and came up with the idea of taking the box off the trailer and setting it up as a milking parlor, which they did.  Then, Mike turned around and sold the truck for parts (without the trailer) for $500.  So, this is my "free" milking parlor!    These photos were taken when we first set it up.  It has been well used now and instead of the roll up door, I have glass doors!  Talk about fancy!  It took a little adjustment for the cows to learn to walk through the glass doors and back out, but it also means I can shut the door when the weather is bad, keeping the wind, rain and snow from blowing in.  The glass doors were also recycled. 

 The photo below shows the inside of the trailer.  The vacuum pump sits up on a shelf.   The pump was made in the 1950's and still works well (knock-on-wood) and runs our Surge milking machine.  Mike and his dad hooked up electricity in the trailer so that we could run the Surge.  The metal stanchion came out of the old dairy barn at the other farm and is also recycled.  

The boards on the floor in this photo are for the Minis to stand on so we can get the milker under them.  The strap is part of the trailer but we use it when we have a cow that wants to wiggle.  We put it around their legs up by their  hips and tie it to the stanchion bar.  This keeps them from backing up while we are trying to milk them.  Usually after a few days, we don't have to use the strap anymore.

The wood floor is slick when wet.  We keep a bucket of sawdust handy to throw on the floor when it becomes wet.  What would be ideal is to have rubber mats for them to walk in on so that it isn't so slick when wet.  If we don't do something different about a milking parlor, I would like to paint the inside, seal the floor, but rubber mats down and put shelves up.  We keep our feed inside this trailer and inside metal garbage cans.  The cows would have to get through the gate, through the door and lift the lids off the trash cans to get to the feed.  This helps eliminate possible problems of a cow getting into the grain on accident and bloating. 

And there it is!  I told you it wasn't pretty!  ;-)


Simply Sunday

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." - Ralph Waldo Emerson


Friday's Featured Farmer~A Double Feature Especially For The Goat Lovers!

After a two week break for the holidays, Friday's Featured Farmer is back with a double feature! 

Debbie is a friend on our Facebook Farm page and she sent me the cutest story that I wanted to share with you all.  Thanks Debbie for sharing!

Our first goat

My name is Delilah and my family and I currently own 2 Nigerian Dwarf goats and are expecting babies this spring. But before the Dwarfs, we have owned several different full-sized dairy and meat breeds, made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot about goats. One of our more humorous goat ventures was the time when we bought our first goat.

When we finally moved to a place with enough land for farm animals, we decided that we wanted to get a dairy goat or two. Nothing fancy, just healthy animals that would produce enough milk for our family. We knew almost nothing about goats, so we read "Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats" front to back several times, as well as the goat and dairy sections of Carla Emery's "The Encyclopedia of Country Living". We bought a milk bucket, and had a space in the barn all cleared out and bedded down with straw.

After months of watching in the papers and on bulletin boards, we still hadn't found any dairy goats for sale, so we decided we'd try the local livestock auction.

One Friday morning we all got up and got ready (and this was no easy matter because at the time we had a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old, besides myself, then 11, and my sister, who was 9) and headed to the stockyard.

When we got there, we could only see a few goats down in the pens on the floor, and people weren't allowed down on the floor to look at the animals. (probably a good idea, judging by the size of some of the bulls in the pens down there!) So we went back outside and around to a pen of goats that could be seen from the parking lot. There were a couple of bucks in the pen, and several little white does with cute brown floppy ears. One of the little does came right up to us and let us pet her, and we decided right then that this was the one we would buy. We were SO excited that we had finally found a nubian doe!

In the auction room, there were signs that said "Yellow tag=bred, Green tag=mother with baby..." etc. Well, our goat's tag was yellow, so we started wondering if she was maybe a miniature nubian and was bred. So then we got REALLY excited!

We watched the animals be sold, waiting very impatiently for "our goat" to come through the ring. Finally, they brought her in, and we bought her for $35.00

We went to the office and got our receipt, then around to the holding pens to retreive our little goat. We slipped a lead around her neck and brought her to the back of our van which we had covered with plastic for the occasion. The trip home was relatively uneventful other than a few passersby exclaiming upon realizing that "there's a GOAT in that car!" After we got home was when the action started, as immediately after being placed on solid ground, our little goat urinated... FROM THE MIDDLE OF ITS BELLY! This led to frantic searching of goat books, checking the goat over multiple times, and many repititions of "but I didn't... see... anything 'back there'..." We had purchased, not a nubian doe, but a 3-month-old boer wether!

Furthermore, after discovering this, I then recalled the man who was selling the goat saying something about a wether and thinking he was talking about the weather...

I guess you learn something new every day, huh?

So we sold the little goat to our Grandparents to clear brush off their land and decided that next time we'd look before we bought.

And today's Featured Farmer is Hannah Young from Oklahoma:

My name is Hannah and I am the 1st of 5 kids. Me and my family live out in Northeast Oklahoma, away from the city thankfully! Here’s a little more about us….

For as long as I can remember, we’ve been “City Folk”. I’ve lived in California since I was 6 years old (now I’m 16). When Suriyah, my friend (GoodGoats) got her goats in 2004, that was very interesting to me! In about 2007, when we would go to visit her and her family, I would watch how she milked, of course at that time, it was just for fun!

Anyway, after being in Southern California for about 9 years, my family and I decided to pick up and move out of California. We chose Oklahoma as our new homeland! About 5 months after we decided to move to OK, we were on the road! To make a long story short, we arrived in OK, and lodged in a rental cabin on the river. There, we stayed until 6 months later, God provided 7 acres of land, out in the country for us! It was hard work cleaning up the property and burning brush, but we got it done!

When that was pretty much done, I started to get serious about getting into dairy goats. When we would go over to the Fishes house (GoodGoats), Suriyah would teach me hands on, how to milk the goats. My dad built a goat barn, pen and milk stand. About 6 months after moving into our property (2009), I bought my first 2 dairy goats. I was SO excited! All of my hard research had finally paid off and I was livin’ the “farmy” life.

We now have 12 dairy goats and 1 LaMancha buck. I mainly raise registered LaMancha goats, but we do have some Nubian and Alpine does. This year is gonna be a bigger one than last year, since I’ll be kidding out 5 does instead of 1 :) Of course, we are still “newbies” at this goat stuff.

I’m kinda the “goat girl” of the family, but my Sister and the rest of my family do help out a bunch. We also have Californian meat rabbits, chickens, dogs, barn cats and a garden…even in the fall & winter!

We have 5 does due in late winter/early spring of this year. We’re taking numbers for people who would like to get on the waiting list for 2011 kids.

I hope you liked reading about our “micro” farm! I have a blog where I write updates on our ranch here.


Give your cow a Kiss!

Anyone that knows me knows that I love my animals and yes, I have been known to kiss my cows.  In fact, I kiss them quite often.  I will never forget the time that I had bent down to give my cow a smooch right on the nose only to look up an see a visitor standing there watching me.  I am sure he thought I had lost my mind, but fact is, my animals are just such a huge part of my life that it seems perfectly natural for me to show them affection.  Princess, one of my heifers, will actually lift her nose up to me so that I will kiss it. 

While I don't expect everyone to kiss their cows, a lot can be said for how we handle these wonderful creatures.  They do respond to our affections and our care.  Here are a couple of articles from reputable sources on this subject:

Behavioral Education for Human, Animal, Vegetation,& Ecosystem Management

Should you kiss your cow goodnight? 
Ben Bartlett, DVM
Extension Dairy Agent

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

If you were "married" to your cows, would they be filing for divorce? I am sure there are times when you have wanted out of the cow business, but have you ever considered your cows' perspective? If you have read any farm magazines or listened to the news in the last 6 months, it's obvious that both the public and the dairy industry are very interested in animal welfare. Given the current increase in concern for cow comfort and improved animal handling techniques, I thought it would be interesting to "eavesdrop" on some cow conversations. Are your cows thinking positive things about their current state of affairs or are they thinking "divorce?"

(Disclaimer: The following comments may not reflect your cows' opinions. Your best bet would be to ask them yourself.)

As we pick up the conversation of Bossie and Bessie, Bos and Bes for short, Bos says:

"I am so stressed out! The new milker, Sammy, is driving me up a wall, literally. I am not eating right, getting my needed rest, and I'm scared to death to get into the parlor with him."

Bes says: "Well the stress is not all in your head. Jeff Rushen from Quebec did research and found that your milk production could be down 10% if Sammy was in the parlor and he doesn't even have to be doing the milking1. What's worse is that Sammy has us all on edge. Have you noticed how milking is taking longer? We are all stepping around and kicking off the milking machines more often. To make the situation worse, the owner is getting uptight because milking is taking longer, and now she is doing more yelling. Ed Pajor of Purdue found that yelling is as aversive to cattle as using a hot shot2. It sure has gotten more stressful around here."

Bos replies, "What I can't believe is that Sammy is supposed to be a college-trained milker! He doesn't know anything about working around us cows. You would think the owner would put all new employees through a training program for animal handling. People should notice that we have our eyes on the sides of our face and we can see over 300 degrees but have really poor depth perception."

"Yeah," says Bes, "Why can't they just give us a second or so to look over where we are going and not be in such a hurry all the time? It was OK for the owner to slow down when she got bifocals, but we are supposed to run everywhere even if we can't see our feet."

"My pet peeve is the noise. Sammy is always yelling and hollering," says Bos. "He can't wait a few seconds for me to walk into the parlor. He gets right behind me where I can't see him and starts screaming and pushing. And then he is surprised when he gets kicked. I don't think Sammy appreciates being tailgated by another car when he is driving."

Bes chimes in, "No one ever tells us anything. I just hate it when things are new or novel and people won't give us time to sort it out. How are we supposed to know if it's dangerous or going to hurt us? People should know that cows are creatures of habit and a new gate, a coat hanging on the fence, or anything new takes us a few positive experiences to be comfortable with it."

Bos says "If profit margins are down, I sure don't understand some things people do. That new heifer, Betty, just calved the other day. I hear they paid $2000 for her and she had never been in a milking parlor before. Three people hollered and pushed her into the parlor and then slapped a 'can't kick' and a milker on her. Kate Breuer from Australia found heifers that were hit or rushed into and out of a parlor produced 3 pounds less milk per day compared to more gently handled heifers3. Betty is so afraid that I don't think she will last even one whole lactation. She is so afraid of people that she slipped and fell three times when they sorted her out for a post-calving check. It's sad, a great heifer with all that potential and people don't have time to make her first experience in a parlor a positive one."

"Bes, if you could talk to dairymen, what would you tell them?" asked Bos.

Bes replied "The first thing would be, handling cows more gently will make them more milk and more money. Hemsworth from Australia did a study with 14 dairy farms and measured fearfulness in cows. He found that 30% to 50% of the variance in milk production between farms could be explained by the level of fear shown by the cows to humans4. Seabrook found in a study of 12 very similar farms that a change in stockman could change production by over 1250 pounds of milk per cow per year5. Gentle handling pays."

Bos asked, "That's great for the dairyman but what about us? How can dairymen do things 'more gently'?"

Bes replied, "We could tell dairymen lots of things but they are so busy they will just forget. Gentle cattle handling boils down to having knowledge of cow behavior, practicing good handling skills, and having and maintaining adequate facilities. Cows see and hear differently than people. We are prey animals and people are predators to us. We need to learn not to fear humans. Hollering, hitting, and doing things in a hurry only increase our fear of humans. Cows are creatures of habit. If only people would give us a kind word and a gentle stroke when we are calves and treat us with understanding and respect. We do pay the bills after all, we could work as a team. Gentle handling can benefit both the dairymen and cows."

Cows don't need a kiss goodnight. If dairymen and their helpers would just remember, Slow and Quiet, it would be a great first step to building a better relationship. It could also decrease the divorce rate.


(1) Rushen J., de Passille. A.M.B., and Musksgaard,L. 1997; J. Dairy Sci.80(Suppl.1):202
(2) Pajor, E. A.,Rushen,J.,& de Passille,A.M.B.; 2000; Applied Animal Behavior Sci., 69:89-102

(3) Roenfeldt, S.;2001, Dairy Herd Mang. September, 2001, page 34

(4) Hemsworth, P. H., Price, E.O., & Borgwardt, R.,. 1996 Applied Animal Behavior Sci.,50:43-56

(5) Seabrook, M.F.; 1984, The Veterinary Record, 115:84-87.



Temple Grandin

Colorado State University

People have known for a long time that rough handling and stress is detrimental to dairy

cattle. Over 100 years ago, W. D. Hoard, founder of Hoard's Dairyman, wrote that

people working with dairy cows should have patience and kindness. He knew that rough

treatment lessened the flow of milk. Jack Albright, professor emeritus at Purdue

University, likewise stated that tame dairy cows willing to approach people will give

more milk. Despite these well-known facts, people have forgotten Hoard's and Albright's


Over time, researchers have used statistical methods to document the damaging effects

rough handling causes. In fact, shocking a cow or hitting her can reduce milk yield by 10

percent. Cows that are fearful of people are less productive, documents Australian Paul

Hemsworth. Fearfulness was determined by the degree of restlessness the cow

displayed when a person was close to her during milking. Cows that avoided people

and became restless when a person was nearby had lower milk production. Still further,

observations at a large dairy indicated that tame cows gave more milk.

Fear memory formation...

What makes a cow fearful of people? Animals have excellent memories for both good

and bad experiences. Research on the brain by Joseph LeDoux at New York University

shows that animals can experience fear memories that cannot be erased. These fear

memories are located in a part of the brain called the amygdala which is the lower more

primitive part of the brain under the cortex.

Fear memories are permanent. Back in the times when cows were wild animals, they

would be more likely to be eaten by predators if they forgot where they had encountered

a lion. Over time, animals can learn to override a fear memory and become less fearful

of the place where a scary experience occurred. But they can only override the fear

memory it can never be erased. The emphasis has to be on preventing fear memories.

Cows and other animals tend to develop fear memories which are linked to either bad

places or prominent objects. Animals are most likely to become fearful of a specific

place or of a person wearing a certain type of clothing associated with a painful or scary


It would be very detrimental for milk production if a cow becomes afraid of the milking

parlor. It is essential that a heifer's first experience in the milking parlor is a good

experience. First experiences make a big impression on animals. If a heifer falls down

or is shocked with an electric prod the first time she enters the parlor she may develop a

fear memory that is associated with the parlor.
(Photo of my daughter, Alissa, loving on Emmy.)