Time for a new bull

Every few years we have to swap bulls on the farm. Now for those of you who might not know why.

No not you, I know you know about the birds and the bees. I mean the other people.

So the way it works is when a momma cow and a daddy cow love each other very much, sometimes they make a baby cow and it is a wonderful blessing and they are a family.

Then as the years go by, the baby cow gets older. If the baby is a boy, that isn’t a problem because when he’s born, we cut, um… We fix him so he stays a boy and doesn’t become a daddy himself.

If it is a girl cow, we can’t keep her from becoming a mommy and the daddy cow, he, um. Well.

Ok look. Don’t let your kids read this unless you are ready for some conversations I can’t help you with.

Eventually the females get old enough they start looking good to the bull. Even if that bull is the same bull. So every few years, we need to either sell off our younger cows so they don’t breed or swap bulls so we don’t have bulls breeding their daughters. It was time for us to swap and luckily we had a neighbor who needed to get rid of a bull himself.

Our big boy first arrived in the pasture

Luckily Bryan the neighbor had an older bull that was perfect for what we need. A registered Hereford bull who had already spent time at several farms and had even gone to college at NC State. Actually I think this is the first time we’ve had a college educated bull. Hmm, that should definitely go into his name. Maybe a character from Real Genius, which is a family favorite movie. Chris Knight was the main character. Nah. Chris the bull is boring. Actually I guess the movie centers around Mitch. Mitch the bull could work. But we have a Mitch moving onto the farm next month to rent a house. That would be confusing. Or Lazlo was a good name. The crazy guy who lives in the closet. Hmm, Lazlo the bull. That might work. I like it. (Pending approval by the women of the house)

Anyway, a key criteria we look for in a bull is calmness. I don’t need 2500 lbs of twitchy anger, spreading that attitude to the rest of the herd. I want a gentle giant who is a big pushover. Lazlo certainly delivered in that regard. It took me three times as long to back the trailer up to the pen than it did to load him. Bryan just got in with him and walked him up onto the trailer like he was going to Sunday church.

When we got home, Lazlo just stepped off the trailer and strolled into the pasture like he’d been here before. No excitement, no quickness to his steps. Chill would be the one word I’d use to describe him.

The ladies, who’d been without a bull for a week or so, were quite keen on checking him out and everyone integrated quickly into a new normal. Lazlo will spend a few years here and then either move onto the next farm or head off to the market. Until then we’ll enjoy him being part of our herd.

Get a dog they said…

Roxy, dead asleep at my feet

Why is it we cannot get a normal dog? We had to get this meat missile who chases squirrels so hard she pulls her hamstring and then comes in the house and sleeps like this.

She is really good at catching stuff out of the air though so that is pretty cool.

Usually you don’t get to see Roxy when you come to the store. We keep her locked up in the house during store hours. She LOVES people. But she runs at them 100mph to say hello and looks like she’s going to eat you so we just keep her inside.

Well maybe not dead asleep

Test post

We’ve been having trouble with our posts not showing up on Facebook when we post one to our website. The easiest way to test (the new auto poster) is to throw up a post like this and see is the blasted thing works. Because just this test message would be boring, here is a cute farm picture.

Baby piglet with cute little girl
Another gratuitous shot of cute with cuter.

2021 vegetable CSA signups are available

Our awesome vegetable farmer Jenn at Chickadee Farms sent me a text last week that she had some spots left open on the CSA for this year which just started. Unfortunately I was out of town when she sent it, so I’m just now posting about it. So… if you want farmer fresh veggies to go along with your farmer fresh meat, sign up for Jenn’s weekly or bi-weekly CSA. The details are on her website. We don’t make anything on the CSA, it is just a service we offer to our customers so they can get great produce and it helps a small local farmer tremendously.

What we have, and what we are doing about what we don’t have

It has been a rough couple of months for us in farming. Our pork processor burned down, leaving us with nowhere to take our pigs to be processed. We went to another processor to try to get by, but they needed two months to do incorrectly, what our normal processor did in a week.

Then we had a problem with our beef processor. I don’t want to get into what happened as it was an honest mistake. But it cost us a cow. Understand we produce one cow per month. So costing us a cow costs us 1/12 of our annual production. It is a big deal.

Then our chicken farmer was coming off of winter and we were unexpectedly out of a bunch of chicken parts for longer than expected.

Pork, beef, and chicken make up about 90% of our total sales and all three have been hammered in the first quarter due to availability in the store. It has been rough.

In addition to all of the above, our seafood and premium cuts freezer died on us and took a week or so to get fixed. That means all those items had to be stuffed in other freezers, which fortunately due to the above had room in them.

So what are we/did we do about it?

We were blessed to form a partnership with BB Organic prior to all of this and we were able to buy a cow from them which offset our missing cow. We label their meat with their farm name so folks that want just our beef know the difference but their product is excellent and raised beautifully. We’d been working on this relationship for some time prior so it was just a blessing that their first cow for us came up right when we desperately needed it.

For pork, our hogs FINALLY got processed so we were able to stock up for a time. Now we have our next pigs going to a different processor for the kill part, and back to our normal processor for the value add. That means it will look and taste just like normal. It took us over a month to get an appointment at this new processor and those hogs are going next week so give us a a couple of weeks and we’ll finally have some fresh pork back in the freezers.

For chicken, our wonderful chicken farmer finally made it through the winter and has started processing again so we are back in business on chicken and chicken parts. She also is greatly ramping up her rabbit production with some fancy new rabbits from Alabama so we should be solidly in rabbits going forward.

Lastly, during all this Jeanette has been bearing the brunt of our lack of stock. of course she hasn’t sat on her laurels. She has found sources for farm raised, pasture raised elk, venison, boar, and water buffalo. Pretty fancy stuff. She’s brought in the meats, plus she’s bringing in the organs of these animals because we have a large contingent of customers who buy organ meats for their pets.

In addition to all that, we have some new seafood options as well. Oysters on the 1/2 shell plus the normal seafood we’ve been getting already. I’m having oysters and beer one day soon, that I can promise you.

I am taking a cow this Friday to the processor. One that we won’t have any trouble with this time as we are all a little smarter. So we’ll have our beef heading back in the following week. With more beef from BB Organic following shortly behind.

Lastly, $800 later, our freezer is fixed and full of product again so we are back to speed.

What is in the store actually?

I get emails and calls routinely.

“Do you have any ribeye steaks?”

“Is there raw milk in the store?”

“I need (insert ice cream flavor here). Do you have any?”

Everyone knows me, because I’m “Farmer Dan.” The guy who runs the show. El Jefe. Plus the voice on the other end of this internet thingy. So of course I am the one you ask. Here’s the truth. I’m barely in the store. I go in once per week, for about 30 minutes, to drop off all the goodies I’ve picked up from our other farmers. I put most of it in the stock room (not the customer area). And then I go about the rest of my day blissfully unaware of how much butter we have.

Jeanette does all of our store management. And our ordering. At this point in our farming career, I just drive the truck and pay for stuff. She’s El Jefe when it comes to the store, and the source of all the information when folks need to know what we have. So my answer to everyone when they call/text/email is either, “Call the store during store hours and ask Jeanette.” or the ever popular, “Forward this to Jeanette and get her to answer it.”

Usually I’m not even here when these requests come in so it isn’t like I could walk over and look. Why am I telling you this? Well because I feel like an idiot for not knowing the answer to your question. Confession is good for the soul and all that. Plus, if you are looking for an answer to a stock level question, your best bet is to follow one of the two solutions above. If you are a regular you probably have Jeanette’s info. If not, call the store during store hours.

Hello from the farm

I’ve decided I’m going to write the definitive book on internet marketing. I feel my unbridled success as an internet marketer uniquely qualified me as an expert. Here is my rough draft.

Step 1. Content is king. You have to supply your audience with consistent, engaging content. When you look at what we do here on the farm, we post exciting content every… um. Scroll back a bit further…. Crap does that say December?

Ok, I suck at writing content lately. Like the last year plus. Here is the dirty truth. Back when I used to work in corporate, I had terrible insomnia. Most nights I’d get a few hours of sleep, at best. Sometimes none at all. What could I do to take my mind off my day job and its stress? How about writing about a calmer, happier topic. Cows, pigs, funny stories of happenings on the farm. I wrote those at 2am. Usually during the middle of the night when everyone was asleep. Getting a few hundred words down would help with my stress levels. If nothing else it made that time productive.

Now I am cursed with relatively sound sleep. Plus my time spent at my desk overall is greatly reduced compared to those days. Now I barely have any time at my desk at all. When I do get there, there is a stack of bills, questions to answer, accounting work to be done. All things that have a higher priority on my time (hard to farm when the power has been turned off from lack of payment) so I end up knocking out the must-dos before the to-dos and writing just hasn’t been a must do. With that said, I’m taking a bit of time this morning, before I head out, and get some updates out so at least you know our status.

Raw milk is back in full force

Milk for one week

Raw goat AND cow milk is back in stock. I didn’t get a post out last week because I’ve barely seen the house much less my computer but I’m able to get a quick note out today.

As a reminder, we do NOT hold milk for people. Call and check. Speak nicely to whoever answers the phone, and we’ll do our best to let you know what is in stock and how fast it is moving. But calling and expecting us to hold milk for when you show up later isn’t going to happen. Sorry, it is first come, first serve. We get asked to hold milk every day. The answer is the same. We don’t have enough to go around and we can only do our best.

As a reminder, we are bringing another cow online for milking this year and upgrading our storage so again, we are doing our best.

So about that raw milk…

I know I know. I should have posted an update a week ago. To be honest, I kept thinking the call would come that “Milk is ready!” any minute.

Kind of how a mom shouts “Dinner is ready!” and all the kids come running.

It has been sadly quiet.

Jeanette has been in routine contact with the dairy farm and because they had so much going on (births, training, testing of milk, getting back into milking, plus normal farm work) I’ve purposefully stayed out of it. Having someone constantly tapping you on the shoulder asking if you are ready yet, when you are DESPERATELY trying to get ready, isn’t the most helpful thing.

Here is what I know now.

It has been babyapalooza at the dairy farm. Baby goats have been hitting the ground like crazy and at this point the babies are everywhere.

The normal process is some of the babies are sold to other farmers who want these milk goats for their own herds. When they are sold, that leaves mom with lots of milk for the remaining goats and some left over for us.

All the farmers who are supposed to come and get their baby goats have been delayed. The goat pens aren’t ready. Their truck broke down. It is too wet. The sky isn’t blue. Whatever you can think of, it has happened, and of course all at once.

Cow milk was always scheduled to be a few weeks from now. Our first cow to calve isn’t due for a couple of weeks so that is on schedule, but not happened yet.

Milking is happening. Mostly by the babies, but milk has been sent out for testing to our normal lab to make sure everything is as perfect as it is supposed to be.

Our estimate of when I’ll be picking up milk is now the week of March 9th. And again that will be limited supply until things ramp up.

So that is the bad news.

The good news is, once we get rolling in milk, we should have more milk than ever coming in. We also will not dry off our dairy cows this year (actually we will, but there is overlap of other cows so we’ll never run dry this winter).

So in summary, our promise of February has been broken. It is outside our control (other farmers not doing what they said) but regardless we have to deal with the results. I’m sorry for the false start, but we are working diligently to get milk in as soon as possible.

With that said, we spent from 7:30 to 1pm this Tuesday loading ONE cow onto the trailer to go to the processor. Normally this takes less than an hour. Heck I’ve loaded the entire trailer full in 15 minutes before. It was so muddy that we just couldn’t get anything done. So maybe the other farmers aren’t just making excuses. I want to think that anyway.

Raw milk is almost back

We’ve been telling everyone all winter that raw milk will be back in February. Wait, wait… I’m not finished.

Raw milk in refrigerator
Remember when we had this stuff every week?

It WILL be back in February. I’m not backing up on that.

Unfortunately people started emailing and calling on 1 February asking if they could come and pick up milk, like TODAY. Um, no. Raw milk being back in February is kind of like when you mom says she’ll be ready in 5 minutes. And 60 minutes later she STILL isn’t ready. Yeah, it’s like that.

You see, the girls have to calve and kid (cow and goat) before they start making milk. I know, you’re thinking, “Well duh. Of course it is baby, then milk.” I’ve had to explain this to people. More than once.

Then we have to give the baby’s first dibs at the new milk. Plus we don’t collect colostrum for us humans (although I do get that request) so we need to let the little cuties get a week or so of nursing so they get all the freshened goodness and we get pure milk when it is time.

THEN, our amazing farm manager has to teach the mom’s (remind is probably a better word than teach) how to come to the milking parlor each morning and get their treat and their milk. The first few of those mornings are always fun. Not ha ha fun. The kind of fun like if you were to decide to go roller skating.

Now.

Today.

At your age.

I mean, you grew up roller skating. You know how. It’ll be easy. You can show those kids a move or two.

Yeah, about that.

So anyway, we need a couple of days to get everyone back in the groove with milking.

Then I need to get picking up the actual milk on the schedule, since I only make that route once per week, so we need to know that milking is happening, then plan out a week.

So while raw milk is almost here, it isn’t here yet. I expect the earliest possible date is the week of 16 February. If we get any that week it will be limited. The following week is more of a sure thing. At least as sure as it can be in this business with all the moving parts. Worst case it will be the last week of February but fingers crossed it won’t be that long.

Whenever we get word that the milk taps have been turned on, I will post here so people know when they can plan on stopping by.

Some good news is we should have milk through this coming winter, at least cow milk, so we won’t go without for a good amount of time once we get to milking again. Plus we have a new cow in the mix so we are also going to be increasing production over 2021.