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From the Farm

Timeliness matters

June 3, 2011
By Kerry Hoffman , The Journal

I considered myself warned.

I was standing on my front porch, in my light-blue nightshirt just after I just woke up from my 20-minute, 10-a.m. power nap, when Steve told me to get done what I needed to get done.

"Today, tomorrow and the next day are going to be extremely busy," he said in reference to this week Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Article Photos

Kerry Hoffman

Steve is on a one-way traffic lane to get the hay in the silo. It is my hope that the weather cooperates a tiny bit and allows us to make hay without any rain falling.

So, Tuesday I tried to sit at my desk, with a cool summer breeze blowing the unforgiving pile of papers off my table-sized desk and getting down to business. It's hard for me to remain focused. I have 20 million things that also need to be done at the same time.

On a dairy farm, that's how the world turns, when the tough get going, we do it to the best of our ability.

If we don't do it up to snuff the first time, you end up paying for it in the end with extra work.

That's one thing we have tried to teach our boys, especially when it comes to the dairy cows.

A person can't just slap the milking unit on the cow and consider yourself done with that animal. Besides slapping the milking unit on a cow, will really annoy her and make it take that much longer to get her milked. She'll kick and stomp until she manages to get the milking unit off.

There are several reasons for paying attention to individual animals. For instance, we have to make sure the cow is finished letting all her milk down. If the cow decides she wants to save some for supper, she could end up getting an infection in her udder. Since a cow only has a walnut-sized brain (What does she keep in all that other voided space anyway?"), she doesn't realize that if she "saves" her milk, she is just going to cause problems.

If we, as the more intelligent specie, don't make the choice to make sure she isn't sneaking milk away from the milking parlor and probably selling it on the black market to a competing creamery, we are asking for more work in the following days. She'll end up sick and then we have to poke her with needles and separate her milk from all the other cows' milk. The other cows, because of the small brain size, probably think she's getting special treatment.

Besides, milking is more fun when we don't have to separate treated milk from non-treated milk and fuddle around with milking buckets. Plus, milking time is cut down immensely when we don't have to worry about treated cows.

Same holds true with the hay we have lying in the field. We have to make it in the next several days, with out rain, for nutrition's sake and timeliness.

First, and foremost, if we don't cut it now, the third cutting of hay could very well cut into our vacation time. Hay needs to be cut every 28 days (weather permitting, or not). If hay harvest manages to go too far into the month of June, it may very well shorten our week-long vacation at the lake.

In the 20-some years that Steve and I have been going to the lake for a week over the summer, we have yet to miss a portion of the seven days. We always manage to get the hay made before we run away to relaxation.

Steve and I have already informed the boys that this year may be the exception to the rule and we may have to work one or two days of the week we are supposed to be gone.

"And don't be whining about it, because this has never happened to us before," I said. "I remember one time when Dad and I made hay until the sun was about to come up, and I am talking about actually making hay here, not insinuating other activities," I said.

Plus, any number of days over the recommended-cutting time cuts into the feed value of the hay when we put it into the silo. So, if our hay is given a feed value of 160, in three days it can drop to 130, and we consider that poor-quality hay. We will end up adding some items to the cows' feed to replace what was lost in poor-quality hay.

So in the end, our boys are busy getting ready to bring in the hay. Russell is out cutting hay in one field. Joey is getting the tractors and wagons prepared. Steve is setting up the blower so the hay can be put in the upright silo, and I am sitting in my office pounding away on the computer.

We are doing everything right for this first cutting of hay for the summer of 2011. Hopefully Mother Nature will read this and mix the weather forecast correctly and allow us to get the hay harvested in a timely manner so not only do the cows benefit, but my family does as well.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at



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