CHRISTMAS ON A DAIRY FARM

Christmas is that one-day of year where most people are entitled to getting the day off. But that is a little different for a dairy farmer. No matter what day it is, the cows still have to be milked.  The cows don’t know if it’s Christmas or not. All they know is that they still want to be milked three times a day. Here is an example of a schedule that a dairy farmer might have to go through on Christmas day:

dairy farm calf6:00 am- Wake up and start to prepare yourself for your day. Get everything ready to start milking your herd.

7:00-9:00 am- You start milking your cows. You will have the challenge of dealing with sick cows and any other problems that may pop up during milking.

9:00-10:00 am- Of course a mess is always going to occur when working with cows. If you have been around cows, you know that they like to poop a lot. So this time would be clean up time. Milking parlors have high standards and must be spotless.

images10:00am – It is time to feed your hungry cows. They aren’t like dogs where you have to go out and put some food in a bowl. You have to mix the feed to a precise ratio.  Cows are actually very picky eaters; so all the feed must be very uniform.  It takes a lot of time especially if you have a high number of cattle.

12:00 pm- It is finally noon, and this is the time when you get to sit down eat your lunch and cram in a two hour nap.

2:00-4:00 pm- It’s that time again! Time to milk your cows for the second time today. Each milking is never the same. You will still have some challenges that you will have to overcome.

4:00- 5:00 pm-And still the cows know how to make a mess. Cleaning is very big part of the work that goes into a dairy farm.  There is always something that needs to be cleaned.

dairy farm feed5:00 pm- Before you are able to enjoy the rest of your Christmas, you need to feed your cows one more time. You never want your cows to run out of feed. If the cows are not fed, they will not produce milk.

6:00 pm- You are now able to sit down with your family and enjoy your Christmas. You get to have that typical Christmas evening just like every one else. But that doesn’t get to last for long. You are only able to stay up for a few hours since you have to get up soon to do your third milking.

11:00-1:00 am- Most people are asleep in their beds, but you are up doing your third milking.

1:00-2:00 am- Time to clean up for the final time of the day. It seems like cleaning is a never-ending chore on a dairy farm.

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As you can see, no matter what day it is the cows still need to be milked. But dairy farmers love what they do. They would have to love it to be able to do it all the time. But you must think that if we didn’t have those people who love milking their cows, we wouldn’t have the dairy products that we all so love.  So there has to be somebody out there to do it.  So make sure you remember those dairy farmers this Christmas, and be thankful that they love to work with their cows no matter the day.

samanthaSamantha Wagner
Illinois State University

HOW TO TALK WITH YOUR RELATIVES AT CHRISTMAS

With the holiday season is upon us, many things take place: cookie decorating, overeating, and spending time with family and friends.  If you’re anything like me, your loved ones come from a variety of backgrounds, and those from non-Ag backgrounds often have many questions for me about current food trends.  In order to make this conversation easier, I drafted a few talking points to help to ease the conversation this holiday.

why do farmers use GMOs

Sources to check out: prevalent in underdeveloped countries

you don't use antibiotics

Also read this: withdrawal period

grass-fed free range

Some of these questions seem like common sense and can be pretty frustrating when people don’t see things from our perspective—a topic I touched on in a recent post on my own blog.

It’s easy to poke fun at others’ agricultural illiteracy, especially when we are so familiar with this topic.  However, it does nothing to communicate our story in agriculture.

It is crucial in our communication that we “educate and not humiliate.”  This bit of advice comes from Jolene Brown, is a certified speaking professional whose focus is on agriculture and family.

At the end of the day, we’re all consumers with questions.  As producers, we have access to the answers to these questions and it’s our responsibility to share those answers.

This holiday season, can you promise to “educate and not humiliate?”

Molly NovotneyMolly Novotney
Joliet Junior College

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: MORE SOCIAL MEDIA INTERACTION

It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …

dear santa

1. More Social Media Interaction

Yes, it’s definitely the least important on our Christmas list, and yet, if more people were plugged into who we are and what we are doing, we think getting the other items on our list would be so much easier!

Every day, IL Corn staff and farmer leaders are publishing information that is relevant to Illinois farmers and Illinois ag.  If you really want to understand what it is to be a farmer and what farmers are facing today, we wish you’d plug in!

Are you curious about the science and the economics behind farming?  You might get something out of our daily news updates.  We call them “Corn Scoops,” and they are geared towards our farmer members, but you can subscribe to the updates too!  Get them daily or weekly … your choice.  Click right here to sign up.

adopting biotechnologyMaybe you’d like a little less intense look at Illinois agriculture.  Find some motivating quotes, beautiful farm scenes, and important ag facts on our Instagram page.  It’s our fastest growing social media outlet!  (Click here to see what we’re up to, but to subscribe, you need to download Instagram on your smart phone and search for ilcorn.)

Perhaps the easiest place of all to keep up with us is on Facebook.  We’re sharing interesting articles from all over the web here as well as our own stories.  This is the very best place to learn more about what IL Corn is doing, but also to learn more about farmers in general, how they farm, and why they are invested in doing what they do well.  This will take you directly to our page!

And, if you haven’t already, make sure you’re following this blog.  You can follow us by checking out the bar on the right side of this page!

If more people read about, paid attention to, and understood farmers and farming, we know that all our other issues would melt away!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

 

 

We also want:

 

5. Better relationships with our customers – overseas and domestic

4. Pump standardization

3. A functioning state and federal government

2. More stable farm profitability

 

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: MORE STABLE FARM PROFITABILITY

 

It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …

dear santa

2. More Stable Farm Profitability

Hopefully, by now, you’ve read one of our most popular posts: Are Farmers Rich? and it’s follow up post Are Farmers Rich? Updated!  If you haven’t already checked those out, you need to start there.

Because after you have a basic understanding of the extremely high costs and extreme risks involved in running a farm, there won’t be much more to say about this item on the wish list.

Farming is hard.  And it’s even harder when market prices are drastically up and down over the course of a year and even year to year, leaving a farmer grasping at straws trying to predict what the market will do, what the weather will do and how he will make money.

A few years ago, farmers were making around $7 a bushel for their corn.  In those years, yields weren’t as high because of drought pressure or other concerns, but farmers still made a profit.  Three short years later, corn prices are around $3.50 a bushel in Central Illinois.  Yields are high, but that price doesn’t even cover the cost farmers paid to plant those acres!

It becomes very difficult to manage.  Farmers have to be smart, futuristic, and forward thinking if they want to continue to make enough money to raise their families on the farm.  They have to predict whether or not the farm will grow enough, whether market prices will be high enough to make enough money to pay their bills and feed their families.

(Also included in this formula is available markets.  Farmers have to think through what Congress or the Administration might arbitrarily do to ruin the market opportunity for farmers.  Can’t pass a Free Trade Agreement?  Huge impact.  Decide we hate ethanol and we’ll lower the volume obligation?  Market prices are out the window.)

This year, Santa, it would be so nice to not have that pressure.  Anything you can do?

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

 

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: A FUNCTIONING STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

dear santa

 

 

It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …

 

 

3. A Functioning State and Federal Government

Here’s the thing: an organization like ours appreciates the opportunity to get things done.  Getting things done within a non-functioning government framework is very, very difficult.  Ergo, our organization isn’t getting anything done for farmers – and it’s frustrating.

Illinois State House Capitol - Springfield
Illinois State House Capitol – Springfield

Illinois is in a bit different scenario than some of our fellow Midwestern ag states.  Most of them are dealing with the same frustrating federal government status quo, but they find opportunities to benefit farmers in their states by moving state initiatives and they still accomplish some good.

In Illinois, we can’t move state OR federal initiatives.  So we often feel like we’re twiddling our thumbs.

In spite of the broken state of our state and federal government, we have accomplished a few things:

  1. The livestock industry in Illinois is growing.  Certainly, this has much to do with market signals that are screaming at farmers to invest, but the economic impact that results from investment in the livestock industry (an estimated $70 million!) can’t hurt our broken state.
  2. We are effectively working with our state EPA and other agencies to clean up Illinois water.  To date, we have several important projects going on – both research and educational – to help farmers understand the VOLUNTARY practices that will minimize nutrient run off.  When we keep the practices voluntary but still accomplish the goal, we relieve the burden of paperwork for farmers and the cost of implementation for our state.
  3. We’ve secured some federal grant monies to help with that fuel pump standardization priority that I mentioned yesterday.  With any luck, many of the fuel pumps will be ready to handle higher blends of ethanol by this time next year!

Though we’ve found places to make a difference and we’re continuing to positively impact the farmers in Illinois, it would definitely be nice to have a functioning government to help and not hinder our growth.

Santa, this is a huge ask, but can you make our government work!?

 

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

 

 

We also want:

5. Better relationships with our customers – overseas and domestic

4. Pump standardization

2. More Stable Farm Profitability

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: FUEL PUMP STANDARDIZATION

dear santa

 

 

It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …

 

 

4. Fuel Pump Standardization

Ethanol, and the policy changes we want related to ethanol are so complicated, huh?

But not this time.  This time, what we want is pretty straightforward.  This time, all we want is fuel pumps that are able to pump higher blends of ethanol.

ethanol ghg emissionsYes, the pumps at the gas stations.  The pumps that you pull your car up to when you fuel up.  Those are all certified to pump various fuels – the diesel pump to pump diesel and the gasoline pump to pump gasoline with up to 10% ethanol.  What we really want is for every pump to have the capability to pump gasoline with higher percentages of ethanol.

It isn’t such an extreme request, is it?

What we want is for fuel pumps to have the capability to pump more ethanol.  We want higher blends of ethanol to be a choice for consumers who care about the environment.  We want more ethanol to be an option for Americans who want or need cheaper fuel.  We want service men and women to be able to fill up with more of the fuel that doesn’t send them overseas into wars over oil.

Our fuel pump standardization plan is simply to begin now installing pumps that can handle higher blends of ethanol so that when and if retailers want to sell higher blends of ethanol, we’re ready.

Is that such a crazy request?

It seems really logical to me and something that Santa should have no problems delivering.  What do you say, big guy?

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

 

 

We also want:

5. Better relationships with our customers – overseas and domestic

3. A Functioning State and Federal Government

2. More Stable Farm Profitability

 

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: BETTER RELATIONSHIPS WITH OUR CUSTOMERS – OVERSEAS AND DOMESTIC

dear santa

 

 

It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …

 

 

5. Better relationships with our customers – overseas and domestic

When I interviewed our staff and this one floated to the top of the list, I have to admit thinking that it was a bit different from the things we’ve asked for in past years.  Still, having a good relationship with our customers is a really important thing and maybe something so broad that we’ve overlooked the impact it could have on a host of other things we’d love to have.

Relationship building at its best: IL Corn hosts a Japanese trade team!
Relationship building at its best: IL Corn hosts a Japanese trade team!

Having a better relationship with our overseas customers – really understanding what Chinese buyers want in terms of quality corn and amazing meat products as an example – would have a massive impact on what we were able to supply them and the markets we could drive in the U.S.

It could minimize impacts to U.S. farmers when new traits are approved in our country, but not yet approved for sale to other countries.  What results from this catastrophe is that a lot of corn sits around waiting for a place to be sold.

It could maximize the extent to which the entire globe works together to get food to the hungry people who need it.  Better relationships with customers always seem to impact other areas of our lives, don’t they?  A better working relationship with Colombia for example would surely result our countries working together more efficiently to accomplish other goals, wouldn’t it?

And we're trying to talk to all the Americans who eat about what we do as well!
And we’re trying to talk to all the Americans who eat about what we do as well!

Having a better relationship with our domestic customers (livestock farmers, ethanol manufacturers, and the Americans who eat) would change a lot of dynamics here in the States as well.  Understanding each other would help us to be on the same page for legislative initiatives or attacks on agriculture.

Having a better understanding of what Americans who eat are looking for could help us in a host of ways as well – I’m sure we’re already doing a lot of what they hope we’re doing, but we just don’t understand each other well enough to speak the same language!

In the end, this relationship building gift would impact market opportunities in a huge way and would help us to communicate better with the folks who buy our corn.  It’s a win-win for everyone!

Please Santa, please!  Help an industry out!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

 

 

We also want:

4. Fuel Pump Standardization

3. A Functioning State and Federal Government

2. More Stable Farm Profitability

CHRISTMAS RECIPES TO REPEAT: YOUR FOOD AND THE FARM IT IS FROM

Recipes for Success: Your Food and the Farm it is From

The world today is full of diets, food advice, food controversy, gluten-free, organic, free-range, and all sorts of other things that make choosing the food you eat down right confusing. So today we are going to try and provide you with resources that will hopefully be useful in your search for delicious food.

  1. Farmland

farmlandThis film takes a candid look at American farmers and ranchers from around the United States. It is a documentary funded by U.S. Farmers and Rancher Alliance and takes a look at 6 different farms and ranches while getting the farmers’ perspective on controversial topics like GMOs, antibiotic use, and the overall treatment of animals. It is an excellent film and provides a close look at places your food could be coming from.

  1. watchusgrow.org

watch us grow logoThis website is simply awesome and provides a look into Illinois farms. Watch Us Grow has partnered with Illinois Corn for their main program. The main program they have brings urban moms to rural farms in order to see how they food they eat is produced. They discuss livestock as well as crops. It is a good resource if you have the time browse.

  1. This Article on Pesticides and this Website Discussing Antibiotics

There is a lot of misinformation about food being unsafe because of pesticides and antibiotics, as well as the belief that organic is outright healthier than conventionally raised foods. Both of these places discuss these issues and talk about the facts.

  1. Your Food, Farm to Table

This is a great video short that shows how farming has changed since it first began. “Your Food, Farm to Table” is an animated video made by the International Food Information Council Foundation to give consumers an idea of just where there food comes from. While not nearly as controversial as some of the other topics in this list, it is still worthwhile to watch if you have a couple of minutes to spare.

  1. The Official USDA Website

USDA logoThis page is a good place to go get some general information about anything from food production to current food programs that are going on in the US. From here you can also read about the current laws and regulations in place by the USDA for crop and animal production. You can also access the 2012 farm census data.

6. Lastly…….

Stay up to date and be sure to continue to check out CornCorps!

derekDerek DeVries
Illinois State University student

CHRISTMAS RECIPES TO REPEAT: THE BEST RUSTIC CHRISTMAS DECOR

A Recipe for a Rustic Christmas

Ever wondered what to do with an old rake you cannot use anymore? Well here is an option. Rakes are used in farms all over. They help scatter bedding and rake up materials.

christmas rake

This is what you will need:

  1. An old rake
  2. Some greenery or garland
  3. Pine cones
  4. Some type of material to tie it together. Wire works well or twine.
  5. Any type of colorful flowers to add to the arrangement.

 

Do you need an idea of what to do with those old horseshoes you have lying around? Not only would this make a great decoration to have in your house but also would make a great gift! Horse Shoes are used to help protect the feet of horses. This helps keep their feet from becoming sore and makes it more comfortable for horses to walk in areas such as rocks or hard surfaces.

 

Horse Shoe Christmas Tree

These are the items you will need:

  1. Horseshoes – the amount you need depends on how big you want your tree to be.
  2. Some type of sticking agent, or welding materials.
  3. Any choice of ornaments you prefer!

 

Do we have any cowboys or cowgirls with any extra Lassos? A lasso is a loop of rope designed as a restraint to be thrown around a target and tightened when pulled. As you can see, the lasso wreaths make beautiful decorations for the home.

 

Laso Christmas Wreath

This is what you will need to make your own lasso wreath:

  1. Lasso
  2. Ribbon of your choice and design
  3. Garland or greenery
  4. Any extra flowers of your choice
  5. Some wire or twine to tie your arrangement around your lasso

 

What better way to use a shovel than for decoration? These will make beautiful decorations with paintings of your choice and garland.

 

Christmas Shovel

Here are the items you will need:

  1. Shovel of your choice and size
  2. Paint, colors depending on what you want as your design
  3. Garland, pine cones, flowers of your choice
  4. Ribbon for a bow
  5. Door hanger

 

Do you have any old milk canisters that you have no use for? Well here is an idea to put that antique to use. Milk jugs use to be used to transport milk from farm to farm before we had the technology that is being used today. So lets use it now in the form of a beautiful decoration.

Milk Container flower arrangement

Here is what you will need:

  1. Milk Canister
  2. Paint color of your choice
  3. Lots of greenery and garland
  4. Pine cones and Christmas flowers

If you need some more Christmas decoration ideas, take a look around the farm or in old antique shops. You’ll always find unique ideas and ways to incorporate your taste in decorating.

hannah st pierreHannah St. Pierre
Illinois State University student