Friday, January 9, 2015

Kids are gross and I do not want one. But baby calves are cool.

Here’s the thing: I’m not completely sold on the idea of having kids. I hope my mother doesn’t read this, I’d hate for her to receive the news this way.

I mean, let’s look at the obvious points here: I’m definitely a long way off from even considering the idea of kids. First I have to find someone who can put up with the fact that I love wine more than human interaction and then I just have to convince them to stick around for forever. Finding someone will be particularly difficult because I have an extremely high opinion of myself and need to find someone I love more than the reflection in the mirror. There's a limited amount of love in my heart already, and this fact does not build a great case for sharing it with a tiny human. 

Besides. Kids are gross. They are poop and vomit factories, and I do not like the idea of keeping one in my home. I’m pretty sure my home insurance policy doesn’t cover kid damage. People have told me that you’ll never know how much you can love something until you have a child. Ew. Gross. Feelings? That’s almost worse than the poop. If I wanted to experience unconditional love in my home, I’d go purchase a Golden Retriever and rent a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Besides, I don’t fully trust anything that produces 75 times its body weight in waste and has no control over where it lands. And apparently you’re not allowed to put it outside with the other livestock.

When they get past that stage, they’re not quite so horrible, but I remember what a giant pain in the ass I was when I was a kid and I do not like the idea of being served a piece of humble pie. I also remember I was sneaky enough and persuasive enough with my language to manage avoiding serious trouble… But with the amount of wine I drink, there’s no way my genetic material hasn’t been at least slightly damaged and I’m scared to think of the child that might result.

HOWEVER, infants with four legs? Obsessed. Can’t get enough. I forget how much I love these animals until I have a really crappy day and walk through the calf area for my nightly check. HOW CAN YOU IGNORE A FACE LIKE THIS?

You can’t. I’m not saying I’d ignore a child if it were mine and in my house, but four-legged babies are way more adorable. We understand each other. I don’t even mind when they accidentally poop on me.

Maybe it’s the fact that they’re so adorable, but I guess I do have some sort of paternal instincts. When I have a sick baby calf, I spring into action. Lately I’ve been having great luck with the calves due to some changes in protocol and I rarely see one feeling off. Maintaining colostrum quality and constantly enforcing rigorous sanitation practices are also key. I don’t hesitate to reach for a colostrum supplement when we’re running low of high-quality fresh maternal colostrum (Like LIFELINE Rescue), because I can be sure the calf is getting all the nutritional components it needs to get off to a great start. I guarantee however, no matter how proactive you are in your approach to calf care, every once in a while you will have a calf refuse milk. Everyone has different ways of treating animals, but regardless of your protocol, you should consider including LIFELINE Intervene in your arsenal of tools. It contains natural globulin proteins, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals that get calves focused on growing instead of scouring.

So I’ve got a plan for dealing with sick calves. That seems easy in comparison to dealing with a sick infant. Maybe my lack of readiness to bring a child into the world stems from being terrified and stupid. I have absolutely no idea what it takes to keep a kid alive - hell, I barely made it to adulthood. I’m just afraid that I might break it, and kids don’t come with a warranty, return or replacement policy. Somehow, when I picture my future though, it doesn’t seem complete without some children running around the house, destroying all the material things I hold dear and driving me to drink warm whiskey over the sink. But for right now, I think I’ll just enjoy my independence and focus on figuring out whether or not I can trick someone into being my lawfully wedded wife. You can rest assured, if there are shotguns involved in that process, it definitely wasn’t my idea.

See. I'm not a total monster. I've held one, it wasn't horrible.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Technology and texting culture are making us dumberer...

There’s a problem I think we need to address as a society. For too long it’s been corrupting our news feeds and we’ve politely sat idle. Unfortunately, not all of us are without guilt when it comes to this unfortunate misuse of the English language. The issue that has been plaguing our Facebook and Twitter feeds is unnecessary abbreviations and acronyms. Shame on us for letting it get so out of hand.
Grammar calf and I are on Instagram, follow us! @winesandbovines

This phenomenon began quietly when text messaging became ingrained in our culture. It started small with acronyms like TTYL (talk to you later) and BFF (best friend forever). Today, less than ten years later, this trend has become a widespread epidemic. If you peruse the Facebook machine on your mobile telephone, you’ll find your news feed riddled with letters and symbols that have no meaning. If the keesters of our youth weren’t Gorilla Glued to the couch, I’d assume it was a secret language they were using to take over the world.

There is barely a rhyme or reason to the way the English language works, why are we making it even more difficult? One acronym I keep seeing over and over is “tbh.” Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I ended up searching the web to determine the meaning. It stands for “to be honest.”  So now you’ve sent me a task – I now have to decode your message in order to unearth the meaning of your post. You are not my college rhetoric professor, so why are you sending me on a mission to search through reference materials? Really, the only acronym you really need in your life is USA.

I already have enough abbreviations and acronyms in my life causing me strain. FICA is one. I don’t know who that money-grubbing bastard is, but he sure likes to take money out of my paycheck.  I don’t understand why we can’t collectively take two more seconds to type a few more letters and ensure our message is received correctly. Those cat videos will still be there, on the internet, even after your thumbs make six more keystrokes. But that’s the problem these days. We take a lot of short cuts, and unfortunately … I know I’m dumber for it. I don’t retain information like I used to, because if I forget it I know Google will help me find it again. Besides, my hard drive (brain) is almost full and I can’t delete the whole host of TV show theme songs in there to make more room. I’ve tried. 

Just because we have technological advances, doesn’t mean we have to rely so heavily on all of them. There are some modern advances that are absolutely incredible. Take for instance the advances we’ve made in the medical field. Cancer treatments that occurred just 20 years ago seem absolutely barbaric compared with the way we treat cancer today. But there are some technological advances that we can live without. For example, I don’t think your life would be much different if you weren't able to play jingle bells in the key of fart noises on your iPhone.

Unfortunately with calf care, there still aren’t many shortcuts you can take. So much still relies on individualized care, and it should. We have found ways to be more efficient and provide better care while reducing labor, but the things you for sure can’t skimp on are 1) Sanitation, 2) Colostrum quality and management  and 3) Management of your sick calves.

One product I’ve really come to appreciate is called Gammulin. It’s a functional protein supplement that aids in maintaining normal immune function in the first couple weeks of a calf’s life. It adds one more step to feeding the calves in the calf barn from days 2-15, but the results I’ve seen makes it worth it.

The biggest difference I see in these calves is they are handling environmental stress much better, and I see fewer digestive issues. This product gives the calves the extra boost they need to succeed and thrive in the calf barn and beyond.

I’ve heard from some of my neighbors who use Gammulin that it’s a product they value. One of my neighbors said he had used it for so long that he forgot how easy calf management had become for him until he ran out for a week.

While there are many new efficiencies in calf care, it will always be one of the most difficult parts of your herd to manage, and require a lot of labor. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of today’s technologies and trends, but I like to focus on technology that provides results, that’s why I like using Gammulin. All it takes is 1-2 ounces a day for the first 15 days.

I agree with Miranda Lambert, it all just seemed so good the way we had it, back before everything became automatic. I’m going to try to unplug more often and truly be in the moment. Maybe I’ll read a few more books. Maybe I’ll try to enjoy the sounds around me rather than constantly being plugged into my iPhone. I challenge you to do the same. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dating and Dairying. It doesn't always go according to plan.

If you’re looking for me on a typical night of the week, chances are you won’t find me out for a night on the town. Putting on your “go to town pants” requires a tremendous emotional investment, and quite frankly I don’t really feel like competing with a bunch of sass-mouthed teenagers for a table at a local eating establishment. Most evenings you’ll find me at home, drinking a glass of wine and shuffling around the house with a basket of laundry. If I get to watch Jeopardy and be in bed by 8:30, it’s been a great night. I realize I should probably make more of an attempt to be social (especially if I’m ever going to find a wife as my mother points out every time I join her and Dad for dinner) but when we’re as busy as we are around here, staying out late to listen to the whiny crap the people of my generation spew out of their cake compartments makes me feel more irritated than satisfied. Luckily I’m extremely blessed to have some very close friends in my life who keep me from becoming a cynical old man before my time (even though some of you may think I’ve arrived to that point based on this blog). 

I pretty much like calves more than people. Especially when they get out of their hutch after hours and are very excited to see you. 
I have been making an attempt to date a little more, even if it requires a bit of effort and it can be a drain on the wallet. A few weeks ago, I begrudgingly agreed to meet a girl one of my friends had set me up with. On paper, it seemed like we’d be pretty compatible. We were from similar backgrounds and had similar interests (namely a passion for the fermented grape), so she met my basic criteria. My friends talked her up to me and I was genuinely excited for the evening ahead. I rushed to get chores done so I could go home and scrub the dairy-related scents off myself and look presentable. I was just about to leave the house when I remembered there was a calf at the dairy I had meant to check on before I left.

I tried to assure myself that she would be fine until later, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that she probably needed treatment that evening and I had approximately ten minutes before I absolutely had to leave. Besides, as anyone who raises calves knows, things can turn south with a baby very quickly. I rushed over to the dairy and I could tell immediately the poor calf was feeling the effects of heat stress. She was panting and she hadn’t touched her free-choice water, and she was being treated for scours. I knew she was dehydrated so I mixed up a batch of LIFELINE Intervene - an electrolyte and serum protein product to give to her. I got the calf up and I was standing behind her pushing her from the inside of the hutch to the outside area of her pen when her stomach gave me a courteous warning gurgle telling me her bowels had received their final eviction notice. She began to violently release the meal she had enjoyed earlier and I stood back in the hutch waiting for the storm to pass when a pigeon flew in front of her pen and startled her. She reared back while still mid-bowel movement and I had nowhere to go. Her little rump-cannon was pointed right at my freshly starched jeans.  
The adorable culprit who soiled my jeans. 

Good news: I fed her a bottle of Intervene and checked on her later that evening. I could tell she had perked up a little bit and was feeling a little better. After a few days, she was back to 100%. Bad news: I didn’t have time to change my jeans. Luckily I had some dish soap and a scrub brush in the calf barn and I was able to get the majority of the stink off of my pants.  

I’m fairly sure my date could tell something was amiss with my scent, and I told her what happened. She laughed uncomfortably, and we enjoyed exactly 53 minutes of awkward conversation before I paid for the meal, gave her an weird hug while exchanging niceties and left. The gin and tonic I ordered was the best part of my evening. 

Unfortunately we can’t always have a concrete plan for our day when we do what we do. We can have a general idea, but it tends to change as the day goes by. The best thing we can do is be able to roll with the punches and have the tools on hand to be able to deal with the situations that arise. That’s why I’m glad to have LIFELINE products in my tool belt. They get the job done, they’re easy enough for a guy like me to figure out and they keep calves thriving. 

Maybe if I start interacting with people in public, I’ll strengthen my conversation tools and have better luck on first dates. Maybe I’ll save the poop talk until the second date. Yeah.... I probably won't though. Check out more about LIFELINE products here and as always, check out my Instagram account to keep updated on the babies of Jones Farms (@winesandbovines).  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Stress Management: Coffee and Wine

Starbucks hasn’t returned a single e-mail of mine about the creation of an espresso machine that runs off the PTO on a tractor. Seems like a missed opportunity. But there’s got to be another way I can steam milk and brew espresso on the run? Maybe I’ll just cut out the middle man and start eating coffee grounds. Eat enough of those and you’ll become an accidental go-getter.  
We’ve been burning both ends of the night here at Jones Farms. I sincerely hope that last sentence now has you humming the lyrics to ‘That Summer’ by Garth Brooks. On top of corn season, we’ve got hay to tend to this time of year. The conditions have been perfect for baling hay all week…. Right around midnight. So Dad and I are a bit worn out, especially since it seems like every piece of equipment we’ve tried to use in the last two weeks has broken down faster than a Biggest Loser contestant at a donut convention. Thank God my father is a pretty skilled mechanic, and I’m really good at driving to pick up parts. I’m trying to learn more about our equipment, but it all takes time, I suppose. 
This time of year we typically feel a little overwhelmed. After our first few cuttings of hay and we get the corn off to a good start and get into an irrigation rhythm, we collectively catch our breath and the daily activities turn into a steady hum for the rest of summer.   Luckily I have a great stress management program in place for the days that get a little intense. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: it involves wine. 
As I look over our herd records, I feel a little anxious for the upcoming months. For the size of our operation, we have a lot of cows scheduled to calve during summer. While more babies and more fresh cows is a good thing, it does mean we’ll be spending more time making sure cows calve out properly and transition well, and more time in the calf barn. 
With my time being split between the farming, calf management and the whole host of other time-consuming activities it takes to help this place purr like a kitten, the last thing I want to worry about is colostrum inventory or whether or not a calf got fed adequate colostrum. 
We typically try not to use colostrum from first-lactation heifers since it’s usually lower quality, but this time of year we don’t always have a choice. When our inventory depletes and we have more first-time heifers calving than cows, sometimes we have to dip into heifer colostrum. This is why it’s great to have LIFELINE Boost on hand to bump up the solids and serum protein in lower-quality colostrum. 
When we have a lot of calves, sometimes we completely run out of colostrum, and that’s why I love having LIFELINE Rescue on hand. It’s a complete colostrum replacer that’s nutritionally equivalent to maternal colostrum. I’ve used it on many calves and seen great success with the product, especially when combined with other products in the line.  
It’s not a secret. We’re busy all year long, but this time of year we really rock and roll. The good news is that I truly love being part of this business and I have the privilege of working with my family every day. And we still kind of like each other, which is more than I can say for many folks who work alongside their loved ones every day. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sick kids are the worst.

I wasn’t allowed much TV time as a kid, so I looked forward to watching TV in the evening with the family, even though it usually involved the evening news and other boring stuff. Since I was the youngest child, I didn’t get to watch a whole lot of my favorite programs until I was old enough to physically fight for the remote. The day a large man came to the house to install our new satellite (which was roughly the size of a mid-size sedan) I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Whenever I was able to watch the TV undetected, I would surf through the channels, rotting my brain and absorbing useless entertainment. That's how I discovered the Game Show Network and began to gorge myself with reruns of Family Feud, the Match Game, Password and Hollywood Squares. The only problem was that the best game shows came on during the day, most likely because their target audience liked to listen to the Price Is Right theme song over the sound of the Bingo caller. I knew I had to find a way to take a break from the stresses of childhood to fulfill my need for crappy game shows. 
In the winter of ’98 I saw an opportunity for an entire week of couch time when chicken pox hit my elementary school. I quickly learned to recognize the signs of this malady, and hatched a plan to infect myself. I chased the feverish kids around the playground  (those who hadn’t yet discovered those small bumps sprouting all over their bodies weren’t mosquito bites) in an effort to get sent home. I wasn’t the fastest kid in school, but I could certainly pick off the sick ones. 
The good news is I eventually caught the pox, and despite the fact that I had irritated most of my friends in my quest to infect myself with the disease, I felt pretty good about the diagnosis. The bad news is my plan hit a speed bump when my sister also caught the pox and we were forced to share the couch and fight over the remote and the calamine lotion. She was not a fan of game shows.  
The one thing I hadn’t thought through all the way was how cumbersome it would be for my mother. At the time, she was not only raising all of our calves and filling in on the dairy, she was also spending hours in the office to keep our business running smoothly and our records up-to-date. Having two sick kids in the house was a huge inconvenience. Luckily she’s always had a knack for taking care of us. She knew just what to do to make us feel better. This would remain true as I entered adulthood and she shared her homeopathic NyQuil recipe—which is essentially a hot drink with lemon, honey and three fingers of Canadian whiskey. The woman thinks of everything. 
I’m not a parent, so I don’t know how it feels to deal with a sick child, but I knew how much she worried about us kids when we were sick. I know I probably don’t experience the stress to the same extent, but I certainly can relate to the worrying feelings of dealing with a sick child. Dealing with calves who are under the weather is the most time-consuming, difficult and stressful part of my job. Many a night I’ve lied in bed awake wondering how a particularly sick calf might be doing (and a couple times even driven to then dairy to check). These little creatures have no choice but to trust me with their care, so when one is sick, or heaven forbid one dies, I take it extremely personally. I’m responsible for their little lives, and it’s a responsibility I take very seriously. 
That’s why when I find  a new way of caring for these animals, or discover a new tool to add to my arsenal that provides results, I use it. If I’ve learned anything during my time raising calves, it’s that dehydration is a killer. You can give a calf all the antibiotics you want, it won’t do any good if she’s not hydrated. In my experience, the most susceptible calves are those under 21 days old, and when you think about it, they’re essentially infants—they require a lot of care, and they don’t necessarily know the best way to provide for themselves, even when you provide the tools they need, like water. Free-choice water isn’t always enough when an animal is sick, especially when you’re dealing with scouring and/or a particularly stressed calf. 
It’s no secret that sick calves don’t always want to eat or drink. The most important thing you can do to help an animal over the hump is provide it with the proper hydration and nutrition. LIFELINE’s Intervene isn’t just another electrolyte on the shelf. It’s a fantastic product that provides results. It’s easy to administer and is recommended to be fed twice a day for five days. 
The feature I appreciate most about this product over other products on the market is that it isn’t just a product to replenish fluids. Intervene contains electrolytes, natural globulin proteins and vitamins and minerals to quickly get calves functioning at full capacity. I’ve used this product on a lot of calves and so far I’ve seen nothing but rapid and drastic improvements in the health of the calves. In fact, I am so pleased with the product I’ve began ordering it by the case.
When it comes down to it, I firmly believe in providing the best possible care to my calves as I can. Intervene is the best product I’ve come across when it comes to giving calves the boost they need when sick and dehydrated. I like adding some extra protein and calories to the mix to get calves focused on growing instead of scouring.
If you’re looking for more information about Intervene and the entire line of LIFELINE products, visit their webpage at Don’t forget to share your success stories by tweeting @APCLifeline and using the hashtag #watchthemthrive.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Triple the fun.

I tend to have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. On one hand, all of the best barbeques and social events seem to ramp up as the mercury rises, but I’m typically too tired to go. This time of the year, we have extremely long days, and as I get older (physically) and my maturity level rises (debatable), I tend to limit my social outings to ones that put me in bed long before the airing of The Tonight Show. I do enjoy having a few friends over for a cook out every so often, but when I’m especially tired, I’ve inherited my late grandfather’s knack for entertaining. This means if I feel people have overstayed their welcome, I’ll take off my pants, go to bed and ask them to lock the door and put the dog out when they leave. The lack of shame in my family is laughable.

It’s not just the strenuous social calendar that takes a toll on everyone this time of year, at Jones Farms we’re usually running ourselves ragged trying to get corn in the ground, and once it’s there, we don’t really take a breath until it’s been chopped into silage and put into the pit. So I tend to spend most of the summer alternating between an IV drip of coffee or Gatorade.

Not only are we concerned about crops, we’ve got cows to worry about. This time of year can be especially stressful for cows and the babies in the barn. I have the honor and privilege of raising the calves. It’s a tough gig, and can be extremely frustrating, but for the most part it’s very rewarding. Providing the best possible start for these wee ones is imperative, but isn’t always convenient. Last week, I had been on a tractor for most of the day and when I pulled back into the dairy late in the evening, I noticed a cow was in labor. Upon checking the records of the cow, I realized she was pregnant with triplets, and not only did I need to safely bring these wee ones into the world by myself since everyone had already gone home, I was going to need to feed them colostrum and take care of the mama. I began to throw a pity party for myself for being so tired, until I realized Sorrow Fest 2014 was cutting into my daylight hours and promptly began gathering the tools I would need to deliver the calves.
After checking the mama cow, I determined she was fully dilated and ready to deliver. She would need a bit of assistance however, because the first baby was coming backwards and had both back legs forward, so when I reached inside, all I could feel was a tiny calf butt. Luckily I was dealing with an extremely deep-bodied, fourth lactation cow (who gave us 36,000 lbs. last lactation), so the inside of her uterus was quite spacious. In fact, I’m fairly certain a 1960s-model Lincoln Continental could have safely executed a three-point turn in there.

After getting the legs positioned correctly, the first baby girl slid out with little to no pressure. The second baby bull was already on deck and practically walked out on his own. The third baby, a little girl, was resting quite comfortably in a hard to reach spot. Every time I reached for her foot, she fought me and made it clear she was quite comfortable where she was. After struggling with her for a few minutes, she came into this world. It was apparent as soon as she came out of the womb, she was the leader of this group.

As for the cow, she stood up during the entire delivery and only stopped tunneling through the alfalfa I had put in front of her long enough to take a breath and look back at me to determine the progress. However, once all the babies had been delivered, she became Super Mom, somehow cleaning all three babies simultaneously and ensuring they were off to a good start. I named the little miracles Janet, Latoya and Michael after the Jackson family. It just felt right. You might be asking why we decided to keep these calves when there’s a good chance one or both of the females could be a freemartin. Since they were born so small, we knew they wouldn’t bring much money at market, so we decided we’d keep them for a while and see how they develop. Not only that, but we just had our first set of LIVE triplets, and I fully intended on raising them. I was fully prepared to accept the financial burden of these animals and even let them sleep on my back porch if it meant I could keep them. Luckily Dad accepted my plea and they’ve been rooming in their calf condos ever since.

I milked the mama cow and realized her colostrum had some blood in it, so I thawed some colostrum we had on hand and prepared to feed the calves. Based on their birth weight, I knew feeding a gallon of colostrum to each calf was not only impractical, but potentially dangerous to the calves, so I opted to feed each a little over five pints. Being born so small and a couple weeks early, however, I knew these babies would be faced with certain challenges in the first days and weeks of their lives. Providing adequate colostrum would be extremely important to ensure long-term health and performance. 

The only problem was the colostrum I had on hand only measured 21.3% brix. I typically only feed colostrum measuring over 22%, and while it may not seem like much of a gap, experience has shown me even small variances in the quality of colostrum can make a huge difference in the performance of these calves later on. For this reason I mixed LIFELINE’s Boost product to the colostrum to add additional globulin protein (about 30g) to each calf. It was extremely easy to mix, pre-measured, and gave me some peace of mind knowing these babies would be getting the jump start they need.

The main advantage to using Boost is that it’s the only product on the market designed to be added directly to colostrum and fed. This saved me time since I didn’t need to follow the colostrum feeding with a supplement feeding. I could tell the day after using this product I had made the right decision. All three babies were rambunctious and eager. It was clear they were going to be just fine.

They’re now a little over two weeks old, and I am extremely pleased with their progress. All three are performers and they love attention, so their Jackson-family names are quite fitting. They’re all growing like weeds. I look forward to updating their progress on the LIFELINE Facebook page and on my personal Instagram account (@winesandbovines).

If you’re looking for more information about Boost and the entire line of LIFELINE products, visit their webpage at Don’t forget to share your success stories by tweeting @APCLifeline and using the hashtag #watchthemthrive.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A fresh perspective...

What a week it was. There were definitely some firsts for this lactose lovin' dairy kid. I learned to tolerate tofu, feast on fiber and soak up spaghetti squash. Although the smells of more traditional foods seemed more appetizing at times, I was never tempted to cheat. The audience we had along for the ride encouraged accountability, and I'm so glad to have had everyone following this adventure.

I know there will always be folks that disagree with my love of dairy products and meat, there's not much I can do to change that. What I can do is continue to share my story and at least respect the opinions I cannot change. Being an agriculturalist is more than just looking the part and following the motions. It takes true passion to rise up out of bed every morning and care for the crops and animals which comprise our livelihoods. I care so much for the animals I work with every day, and I know I'm not the only one. Agriculture always sounded to me like a term you'd see in an anthropology book. It's not that I don't like the word, but I think that this path we've chosen for ourselves is more than just culture. It's a passion. It's a love. It's a lifestyle. That's where the name of my blog comes from.

Perhaps one of the greatest things I walked away with this week is the realization that the voice which barks the loudest is not necessarily the voice of the group. It's refreshing to realize not everyone who doesn't understand you is out to get you. My humble blog posts stretched further than I imagined they could this week. To herbivores and carnivores alike. Thanks for joining, thanks for your input, thanks for your comments and thanks for your support. This is my last blog for Vegan Week, but certainly not my last blog post. Continue to follow along and share in the triumphs and tragedies of this wonderful industry and way of life.

Until Next Time,