Food Safety Starts on Our Farm

Note: This post is sponsored by ENOUGH Movement. As always, I am sharing what happens on our farm. The views and opinions are my own.

I have a confession, I absolutely despise grocery shopping. I know that many people might think that as a farmer we must have most of what we need grown or raised right here on the farm but that simply is not the case. Most of what our family eats comes from the very same grocery store where my neighbors shop. We are fortunate to eat our own beef, eat eggs from our own chickens and know that we always have fresh milk.

The truth is though that I have no problem buying meat from the local grocer, a package of eggs when our girls cannot keep up with demand and we proudly fill our cart with dairy products made with our milk by our farmer owned cooperative. While there is a lot of concern these days about food safety and confusion over the massive amount of labels companies are placing on food products. As a farmer, I know that there are many rules and regulations in place to keep our food supply safe regardless of the amount of labels and I feel confident filling my cart with products grown/raised by my fellow farmers As a mother, I am more concerned about feeding my family a well-balanced meal and know that food safety is top priority no matter if the food was grown/raised on a conventional or organic farm. Continue reading Food Safety Starts on Our Farm

My Working Class Roots

Growing up, I never imagined that I would some day marry a dairy farmer. In fact, I really didn’t give farming much thought as a child. I was a child of wild land firefighter and had deep family roots in the timber industry. Most everyone I knew was involved in some aspect of timber from logging to putting out the flames when the forest caught fire.

My grandparents owned a logging business. When I stayed with them, I would wake up to the loggers showing up before the sun came up to head to their work site. They would show up later that evening completely filthy and exhausted. I remember thinking how I never wanted to be a logger because they had to get up early, worked all day and got incredibly dirty. As I got older it became obvious that not only were they working long hours but they were also not getting rich cutting down trees or hauling logs to the local mills. They did it to provide for their families and jobs in our small rural community have always been hard to come by. Continue reading My Working Class Roots

Our Animals, Our Responsibility

Note: This post is sponsored by ENOUGH Movement. As always, I am sharing what happens on our farm. The views and opinions are my own.

Responsible farming means safe, healthy milk.

As dairy farmers, we love what we do. We devote our lives to working hard building an amazing life and future for our family. We dream of the day that we can pass this first generation dairy farm to our children. To make this dream a reality, we have to make sure the care of our cows is our number one priority.

We spend each day devoted to making sure their every needs are being met and we love it! Here’s just a taste of what we do:

Be boringly, and reassuringly, predictable. Keeping our cows healthy is our main goal. We start where all good dairy farmers begin: with a consistent milking schedule so our cows are milked on time, twice a day. Cows are creatures of habit and they thrive with a consistent routine.

Keep it clean. While they are being milked, we clean the entire barn. The barn is cleaned by tractor, the stalls where they lay are cleaned manually with a rake, and fresh pine shavings for comfy bedding are added weekly.

Give nutritious food. Each day, we give our herd a specialized mixture of alfalfa hay, alfalfa silage (fermented hay), a mixture of grain, vitamins and minerals. And, access to fresh, clean water is crucially important to keeping our girls healthy.

Reduce stress. Like humans, cows are sensitive to their physical environment. Keeping their schedule consistent, their stalls clean, and their diets healthy adds up to less stress.

Take care of them when they get sick. Even with all the work that I just mentioned, as well as keeping their environment as stress free as possible, things can still go wrong. No amount of care and back scratches can keep everyone healthy all the time. Occasionally a cow will get sick and it is our responsibility to get her back to good health as soon as possible.

We can provide lots of “over the counter” care ourselves. Just as some parents offer a gummy multivitamin to their kiddos at breakfast, sometimes our cows just need some extra vitamins and minerals. We also know that there are times when a cow just needs extra recovery time after a hard labor, so we let her rest. Or, a calf might need some electrolytes if it’s sick and/or dehydrated, just like children sometimes sip Pedialyte after a stomach bug. We take every situation as it comes, and most of the time our vet doesn’t need to get involved.

But sometimes, we just can’t resolve an animal’s health issue on our own, just as parents can’t always make a cough go away with rest and a humidifier. For those times, we always call in the veterinarian, which occasionally means a prescription for antibiotics.

This is where having a close relationship with our veterinarian comes to play. With most antibiotics, we are required to have a prescription from our veterinarian. Once we have identified the illness, we can determine which antibiotic (if any) is best used. This is key because every single antibiotic used for livestock is regulated with what’s called a “withdrawal period”—the amount of time between administering an antibiotic to the animal and when that antibiotic has made its way out of the animal’s body.

Now, remember what I said about a consistent schedule? Well, a dairy cow has to be milked every day, regardless of whether she is ill or treated with antibiotics. Not milking would cause stress and other health issues. We separate any cow being treated with antibiotics during the treatment and antibiotic withdrawal period so that her milk isn’t mixed in with the milk from the rest of the herd.

Why do this? Because the quality and safety of our milk is as important as the health of our cows. The two go hand in hand. This is where testing plays a huge role in our lives—and our livelihood.

Here’s how testing for antibiotics works: Our milk is picked up at the farm each day, and a milk sample is taken to test for overall quality as well as the presence of antibiotics. At the processing plant, the entire truck of milk is tested for antibiotics. If the test shows positive, the entire truck load is disposed of and the farmer responsible has to pay for all the tainted milk. None of that milk every enters the food supply chain.

At the end of the day, we want to make sure the food that we are providing for others is safe and wholesome. And it matters greatly: this is what we do for a living, to provide for our own family. As dairy farmers, we take great pride in what we do. And we feel so confident in the rigor of the safety and quality measures we have in place, we feed our family the same dairy products we sell on the market.