Saturday, November 5, 2011

I'm still here......

It has been over a year since I last wrote. I have been distracted with the dirty business of trying to stay in business. Milk prices have been good, but feed costs have been very high, and now we are having problems with our water. So there still isn't any profit to be made in the dairy business. There is no extra money for tractor repairs, building repairs, replacing the 15 year old carpet in our home or paying for our children's college education.

The worst part is trying to stay in business when we have very high levels or manganese in our water because of the natural gas drilling in our area. Manganese is a heavy metal and if left alone it would settle to the bottom of the water table, but something is keeping the water stirred up. This picture is of water from an outside water tap that isn't turned on every day. So in the past year my family quit drinking the water after I started experiencing stomach problems. When we started drinking bottled water the problems went away. How do we provide bottled water for over 400 head of cattle? You can't! The cows milk production dropped by 20 pounds per cow because cows don't like the taste of the water. Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences printed a paper entitled "Water Facts #12 Interpreting Drinking Water Tests for Dairy Cows." The following is a quote from that paper. "Iron and manganese are very common pollutants that can occur naturally in groundwater or from nearby mining activities. Both cause severe staining and a metallic taste to water, resulting in reduced water intake and reduced milk production. Iron levels above 0.3 mg/L and manganese concentrations exceeding 0.05mg/L are sufficient to cause unpleasant tastes in water. These metals do not cause any direct health effects to animals." Our manganese level is 0.5mg/L. That is 10x the limit. We had the gas company and the Department of Environmental Production test the water and they both said yep you have high manganese levels, but they won't take responsibility for it because it is a naturally occuring element.

So now we are trying to find a way to get out of farming. We have a very large mortgage and we need alot of money to come in to make the payments. One option is a lease that we signed for the stone quarries on our farm, but the permitting is very slow. Another option is selling the cows and leasing the buildings out. But who do you lease the buildings to? You know the old saying "If you can't beat them - join them", well our area is being taken over by the natural gas industry and there is nothing we can do about our water so this morning I sent out letters to 8 different companies that are involved in the drilling, and pipelines and will be needing a place from which to operate their business while in the area. It is a waiting game to see which will happen first - the stone quarry company will start sending us royalties - the buildings will be leased - or we loose the farm! Tick....Tock....Tick....Tock. Time is running out.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Natural Gas

No I am not talking about the methane that the cows produce. Although that can be a long discussion as to who or what is to blame for global warming. No the natural gas that I speak of is thousands of feet below our farm. If you are not from Northeastern Pennsylvania and you want to learn more about the subject, than just stop at the local diner and you will soon be filled in on leases being flipped, contaminated drinking water, lawsuits, geophysical work, large royalty checks etc.

We were one of the poor fools that signed in May of 2006. This is before anyone in our area knew anything about the cash that we were sitting upon. It was amid another year of poor milk prices and we were getting behind on our bills. So when someone says that they will give you some cash and all you have to do is sign on the dotted line. What can be the harm? But what we didn't know was that the company we signed with was just a land agent for a gas storage company. That's right, gas storage. Now where do you think they store that gas. Well to find out look on their website Would it surprise you to find out that one of the places gas is stored is in the aquifer? On their own website it says that one of the disadvantages is "Higher potential for water supply contamination".

Now seriously folks, would you knowingly agree to give up your drinking water for less than $14,000? If our water is contaminated than we are out of business. Could a family of 7 survive on $14,000 for the rest of their lives. Hahahahahahhaha.

So the reason this is showing up on my blog now is they want to run all through our corn field laying cables and setting off explosives for geophysical seismic operations. Now they are threatening us that they are going to do it anyway. Our farm and the surrounding are is forever changed. When a farmer gets a big royalty check, the cows go down the road. The farmers are retiring. But for now we are still holdin on.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Billy Goat Gruff

My daughter is having a problem with her goat herd. This is the story of how you end up with too many goats.

My children have all been members of 4-H. It is a great club for children to keep them busy during the summer months. It starts with picking a project. Hmmmm..... What is the child going to study. Cake decorating, photography, stamp collecting, how about American Sign Language. Noooo. Those would be to easy. Lets pick a project that will really keep them busy - GOATS.

So it starts with one cute, small, long eared, baby that calls out to you "mmmaaaaaa". What could be cuter? So it starts. This baby grows with daily care but is lonely, so you have to get another goat as a companion. As the summer comes to a close your child takes their goat(s) to the County Fair to show off their hard work. This is what seals the deal. The week they are at the fair they and their animal get lots of attention and in their spare time get to run all over the fair grounds while having a free pass to neglect their chores on the farm.

Then comes the 4-H round-up show and the Open fair show. This is the parental conflict. A ribbon or no ribbon. If they don't get a ribbon or trophy you will have tears the rest of the week. If they do get a ribbon, you better add on to the barn. Well lets just say, we have ribbons and trophies.

Now to show the goat as a 2 year old, it has to be in milk. Which requires it to give birth. To give birth you need a "daddy goat" or as we call them a buck. The romance is short and five months later you have more cute adorable baby goats. I forgot to mention earlier in the blog to be careful in choosing your breed of goat. They may look the same, but they do not all procreate the same. Nubian's, which are excellent milkers also can give birth to as many as four kids at one time. So in two years our herd has grown from 3 to 11 goats. But you only need one buck so now we have two extra bucks that have to be kept separate from their sisters. We tried putting them in the same pen with "daddy", but it is getting close to mating season and he considers sonny to be a rival for the ladies attention. So if you are in need of a cute 8 month old ADGA registered billy goat that was bottle fed, write. PLEASE. Daddy billy goat is getting GRUFF.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Immigration -vs- food

I know that illegal immigrants are a hot topic in this country. From the beginning of immigration to the United States (before there was a United States), the current residents always had a problem with those moving in on their "turf". Just ask the Native Americans. They certainly did not want "white faces" living and working next to them.

With each new wave of immigrants the last group that was percecuted became the next group to percecute. Be it the Polish, Irish, Italians, Jews, Japenese, etc. each group was percecuted by the last. Yet each group has added to the United States in some way. The Hispanics add to this by harvesting food that everyone of you eat.

On our dairy farm, we have put many people to work. My husbands family has had this farm for generations. There used to always be someone looking for a job, or someone looking for extra money during haying season. In the past 10 years we have had very few Angol Americans looking for work. When there is a need to replace a worker we used to sort through applications, then it turned into going into the community to look for someone that might need a job. Now we have to go to an agency in another state that supplies Hispanic employees. You hear about high unemployment but no one is looking to work on dairy farms. If it wasn't for the Hispanics that work for us, we would not be able to supply the milk that we do to feed Americans.

It is the American culture that is at fault. We all want our children to be doctors and lawyers. When was the last time you heard someone say that they wanted their children to grow up to shovel manure and work 70 to 80 hours a week without a day off, for little or no pay. At my daughters high school graduation last year, we as farmers were dumb-founded when there were 5 students that listed their future ambitions as "farming". Why? We don't want our children to grow up to be farmers for little pay and no respect.

As for the Hispanics stealing our jobs, there is no one else to do this job. As for the Hispanics not paying taxes, all of our employees pay taxes. As for them committing crimes, our employees only leave the farm when I take them shopping and they are good respectful people that know that you can ask them to leave at any time. As for them becoming citizens, they just want to earn enough money to send home to support their families and children that they haven't seen in years. They love their native country and they plan to return to their home country.

So in conclusion, this is a battle that has been going on since Columbus sailed the ocean blue. It is nothing new. But the respect that you show everyone around you tells a lot about who you are and where you came from. God Bless everyone.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How do we fix the milk pricing system?

This is the question at the top of every dairy farmers mind. How do we fix the milk pricing system?
There was a meeting last week in Morrisville, NY about this very subject. There were some very smart people there with alot of suggestions about what we as farmers are doing wrong. We should limit the size of farms. We should lower the somatic cell count limit. We should put limits on the use of sexed semen. But this is the problem. They are all looking at this as if it is something that we did. They should get their heads out of the bulk tank and look at the big picture. We are a small part in a much larger picture.
The milk processing plants do not want us to get a fair price for our milk, because that would limit the profits they make. There are only a few processors left which limits the competition. A few years ago we were looking to leave our co-op, Land O' Lakes, and were looking to go with Readington Farms. They wouldn't take us because they were already getting our milk. They were also getting the milk from the other two co-ops in the area. So they could then set the price that they were willing to pay. If there was some competition then they might be willing to pay an added premium to get you to look at their company.
I spoke with someone from Susquehanna County Farm Bureau who is their state legislative representitive, and she said that there is a state that has a law that states that the stores are only allowed to charge a certain percentage over what the farmer receives. This is a simple solution that benefits the farmer and the consumer. If there is too much milk on the market and the price drops to the farmer it equally drops in the store. Lower price to the consumer, they can purchase more milk products, there goes the excess milk. The processor and the store still get a profit but it is reasonable, not excessive.
The American family is getting ripped-off. When we are getting less than a dollar a gallon and in South Carolina a gallon of milk costs $6.00 a gallon. It isn't right. Even locally a gallon of milk costs between $3.50 and $4.00 per gallon. It shouldn't be any more than $2.00. It is time to fight back. Yell. I have written to President Obama several times and no one from his office has ever acknowleged my letters. I know that the President wouldn't, but someone. Doesn't he care where your milk is coming from. The US government is importing dairy products from other countries, like China, that do not have the same regulation as the USA. Protect your food supply. Let President Obama know that this is an important issue. WRITE. EMAIL. What ever it takes to keep dairy in America.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The daily grind

This will be short and sweet. No ranting today.
COWS: We had a beautiful heifer calf born on the farm today. Mother and child are doing well. The little girl was pretty wobbly on her legs until she got 2 quarts of warm colostrum in her belly. We had a beautiful white cow die. We called the vet when we saw that she needed more help than we could give her. The vet thinks that it was hemoragic bowel syndrom, they basically bleed to death internally. It was very sad, she was seven months pregnant.
HORSES: Our daughter, Sondra, has 8 horses. She thinks that the one is going to have a baby. The mother is a registered paint, and the father is a registered quarter horse. I will post pictures when the baby is born. There is nothing cuter than a baby horse.
GOATS: Another daughter, Victoria, has three nubian goats. Two does and a buck. They are all registered. The one goat Isabelle is going to have babies. A nubian doe can have up to 4 babies. But the first pregnancy they usually don't have any more than two.
DOGS: Our farm dog Camille had a litter of puppies two months ago. They are ready to be adopted. They are so adorable. They are Choc. lab/border collies. The one must have more Choc. lab, because she loves the water.
PIG: Did you notice that there is no plural on that animal. Our daughter, Sabrina, has a pet pig. No it isn't one of those cute little pigs that people keep in their home. No this is one of the biggest pigs I have ever seen. There are estimates at close to 1000 lbs. Her name is Tilly. Tilly's left front foot is bothering her. We will have to find someone that knows about pigs.

That is all for now. Our daughter, Larissa is headed back to D.C. after a visit home and I have to get up early to get her on the bus.

Did you write your Congressman today?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Scouting for Employees

One of our employees is leaving, so I placed an ad on Craig's list for dairy help. We got several replies. One 20 year old sent this amazing resume (she later confessed that her boyfriend doctored the resume). Not knowing that is was BS, I asked her to come meet with me and take a tour of the farm. She had some general knowledge but lacked experience. We are used to this and were willing to train her. I spent several hours with her showing her the farm and explaining the new technology we use. She realized that she was in over her head and started to chicken out. I told her that we would not expect her to know everything, but it would come with time. She said OK. She would be here 5 o'clock Friday morning.
She emailed me today to quit before she starts. But offered to work for 2 weeks until we find someone else. Now why would I put the effort into training someone so that they can leave? Did she need some more BS to put on her resume. ......I worked on a 500 head dairy farm. (cough, cough)
So I emailed her back and said "no thanks" it isn't worth the effort to train someone for them to leave. Then she starts sending me these long emails again telling me how qualified she was but she didn't like the long commute. Ok! Great move on. Then she sends me this one:
"I had also considered you guys in that going $500 into debt every day would be increased if I were to work there. But I guess if you aren't that desperate then it isn't that big of a deal to be losing that much money per day... I just can't comprehend losing $500/day, it seems like a lot to me."
HELLO. Yes it is alot of money to go into debt. But what are our options? Kill the cows? Don't feed the animals? Let them loose to roam free in the streets of Scranton, PA? - That would make a great "The Office" show. Five hundred head of cattle, calves and youngstock wondering around stopping traffic and fertilizing the Steamtown Mall.
This is a farm that was started generations ago, but because Politicians and the Americans that put them in office, have no clue about what it costs to put that gallon of milk on the grocery store shelves we get comments like the ones she made.
So what do you suggest our options are. We have a mortgage. We have a feed bill. We have to milk the cows. We have to feed our family. Where are you going to get your milk if every farmer in America decided that she was right and we shouldn't go into debt one more cent?
If you watched the Michael J Fox special tonight, one of his stories was about the eternal optimism of the American dairy farmer. We stay in business hoping that things will be better tomorrow. Tomorrows a new day.
Maybe when the grocery store shelves are empty, people will appreciate what we do and the sacrifices we make for each and everyone of you.