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Last night on our way to the Illinois Farm Bureau Commodity Conference we needed to grab some supper. Chad and I based our drive through choice on the fact that Culver’s has a thank a farmer ad campaign. I’m a fan of most fast food chains, but last night I wanted to thank Culver’s with my hard earned farming dollar.

So thank you, Culver’s, for supporting farmers and the FFA program!

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DSC_0306Spring is right around the corner!  There are so many things to get excited about in the springtime.  The grass growing, flowers blooming, and a new crop of sweet little calves running around.  It won’t be very long before we we’ll be planting corn.  It will be time for meals in the fields, tractor rides, and fixing the guys supper at 10:00pm.  The kids will be daydreaming at school about being outside in the beautiful weather and enjoy being in it when they get home.  This weekend we move the clocks ahead and the longer days will begin.

Piglet: October 2012

Piglet: October 2012

To start off the busy spring season we have hogs that are ready to ship. This week we weighed the hogs to allow us to know which ones are ready to go.  We got these pigs in as 15 pounders last October.  My daughters spent a great deal of time playing with them when they were little. It’s a little more difficult to roll around with 200 pound pigs, so the girls don’t hop in with them now.  They enjoyed us having wean to finish hogs this time.  For the last 14 years we have raised feeder to finish hogs, which arrive at 50 pounds.  Although it was a little more work, it was fun to have the babies to raise.

Hogs getting closer to shipping weight

Hogs getting closer to shipping weight

The most exciting part of spring on the farm from my point of view is new calves.

New spring calf

New spring calf

One group of our cows calved this fall, but our heifers should start calving around April 1st.  The heifers are the cows that are having babies for the first or second time.  Even though they are new moms, they know just what to do.  Watching those little calves run around the pasture is one of the best views.  They are so darn cute.  The warm weather and the sunny days make for a great time for calving.  Our daughters are great helpers when it comes to tagging the new calves and keeping track of their births.

The girls with a bottle calf.  Every once in a while we have to be the mama cow.

The girls with a bottle calf. Every once in a while we have to be the mama cow.

Getting the planter ready

Getting the planter ready

We are about three weeks away from planting corn.  A load of seed corn was delivered this week and is in the shed awaiting going in the ground.  The guys are working on the planter to make sure that it is fully ready to go, that all parts and systems are set.  There are many, many decisions that go into each planting season, so we are always trying to stay educated on the latest technologies to make each crop the best it can be.

Lana & Bridget in newly growing corn

Lana & Bridget in newly growing corn

Right now it is cold and windy but, hopefully in a few weeks the weather will have made a turn for the better and we’ll be hot and heavy in the spring farming season.

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Most of my Facebook friends have seen my Ag Fact statuses.  I like to post them now and again.  I love the responses that I get from family, friends and acquaintances.  What I or other farm people might think are common knowledge, really aren’t!  I try to keep a balance in fun info and what I consider to be important.  It’s just kinda fun to let people know a little bit about where their food comes from or an interesting tidbit about it.

Here are a few that I have posted in the past.  Enjoy!

  • Ground beef is the most popular form of beef.  Beef by-products help us to use 99% of every beef animal.
  • Many medicines, including insulin, are made from the glands of the cow.
She enjoyed a little grass

She enjoyed a little grass

  • Pumpkins are a great source of Vitamin A and Potassium.
  • In 2010, Illinois produced 427 million pounds of pumpkins.
  • 80% of all the pumpkins produced commercially in the U.S. are produced within a 90-mile radius of Peoria, IL.
  • The soybean is the highest natural source of dietary fiber.
  • A 60-pound bushel of soybeans yields about 48 pounds of protein-rich meal and 11 pounds of oil.
  • Each year, a person will eat approximately 250 eggs. Eggs contain the highest known quality food protein.
  • The color of an egg-shell has nothing to do with the hen’s diet, but specifies the breed of the chicken laying the egg.
  • The average life span of a horse is around 20-25 years old, though they can live for up to 30 years. The oldest horse died at 51.
  • Tassels, stalks, husks, ears, leaves, roots and kernels are all part of a corn plant…which all but the roots are in this corn silage.
  • Corn silage makes excellent cattle feed.
Me bagging silage

Me bagging silage

  • Pigs give us over 500 different items from leather to glue, buttons, crayons and putty.
  • The average person will eat twenty 240 pound pigs in their lifetime.
Hogs in their climate controlled building eating feed

Hogs in their climate controlled building eating feed

  • It takes 12 pounds of whole milk to make one gallon of ice cream.
  • More ice cream is sold on Sunday than on any other day of the week.
  • A cow has one stomach with four compartments.
Lana and Annie (bottle calf)

Lana and Annie (bottle calf)

  • Cows have an acute sense of smell and can smell something up to six miles away!
  • Livestock AG FACT: The optimal use of natural resources involves use of both animals and plants to produce the nutrients that humans require. For example, about half the land area of the United States is strictly grazing land – not suitable for crop production. That land would be of no use as a food resource if it were not for ruminant, grazing livestock. The United States has more than enough cropland to grow both feed grains and food crops.
  • MYTH: By eating less meat, Americans would improve the environment and free land and resources for the production of food crops rather than animal products that could be used to feed the hungry overseas.

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I was debating what blog topic to write for the Illinois Farm Families website this week. While I was out helping Chad feed the cattle on one of the unusually warm days we’ve had, I thought about how much easier it is to care for all the critters when the weather is warm. But, then I got to thinking about the terrible heat of the past summer and decided that each season has it pros and cons. My preferences are spring and fall! For winter things would go a little smoother when if we didn’t have to worry about frozen waters, cold calves, heaters not working, etc. In the summer things would go smoother if we didn’t have to haul water, worry about overheated animals, or storms that cause power outages.

Hogs in their climate controlled building eating feed

Hogs in their climate controlled building eating feed

Our hogs are raised in climate controlled buildings. There are sensors that we set to control the temperature, air flow, fans, and ventilation. We make adjustments as the hogs grow. We are raising a group of wean to finish pigs right now. They require a little bit more TLC at the beginning. They were started with special feed mats and heat lamps to get them growing well. As they have matured, the mats and lamps have been removed and they are eating out of the regular feeder in each pen. This winter we have not had to worry about frozen pigs, bedding them down, slopping through the mud to feed them or trying to keep them cool in the summer. Hogs can’t sweat and can get overheated easily. It has been 15 years since we switched to feeding out all our hogs inside. It was an excellent choice for us and the hogs are all the more comfortable for it.

The cows laying in extra straw that we rolled out for them

The cows laying in extra straw that we rolled out for them

Our cattle are pretty easy to care for, but there are challenges in the winter and the summer. In the winter we deal with frozen automatic waters and hydrants, the cattle require extra bedding in their shelters and extra feed to keep them warm and full. Newborn calves can have a harder time keeping warm and when the weather yo-yo’s it is harder to keep everyone healthy – cattle and people included. We are still hauling water to the wells in the winter and we have to keep our water trucks unfrozen to do that. The summer months we need to keep the cattle cool. The bulls don’t always breed as well when it is hot – just too hot to do their business. The summer drought kept the grass from growing much. We started feeding hay a lot earlier, feed prices went up, and we hauled water to the wells.

Drought year - no grass growing

Drought year – no grass growing

We love what we do, even with all the challenges that are faced. Raising livestock is rewarding. There is nothing like seeing a newborn spring calf running and bucking through the pasture, or sitting in pen with little piglets chewing on your boots. The pros definitely outweigh the cons in raising livestock.

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And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the township board.” So God made a farmer.
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“I need somebody with arms strong enough to wrestle a calf and yet gentle enough to cradle his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait for lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies, then tell the ladies to be sure to come back real soon and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say,’Maybe next year,’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from an ash tree, shoe a horse, who can fix a harness with hay wire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. Who, during planting time and harvest season will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from tractor back, up in another 72 hours.” So God made the farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to help a newborn calf begin to suckle and tend the pink-comb pullets, who will stop his mower in an instant to avoid the nest of meadowlarks.”

It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, brake, disk, plow, plant, strain the milk, replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with an eight mile drive to church. Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh, and then sigh and then reply with smiling eyes when his family says that they are proud of what Dad does. “So God made a farmer.”
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Author Unknown

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This year has been full of ups and downs.  It is hard to put all the emotions we on Schutz Farms have gone through into words.  The beginning of the year started out with trips to Hawaii for Farm Bureau and South Africa for a family wedding.  Five days upon returning home my mother in law passed away completely unexpectedly.  From February 29 through the moment you read this, we are still going through “firsts”.  First Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. Life goes on and we all have done a great job of pushing forward.  Our farm has expanded to welcome a new little lady, born to Brock and Jackie, and we are excited to have another baby on the way for Ben and Genny.

On the farm we have expanded our cattle operation, started a group of weaned pigs, bagged silage for the first time, hosted kids days and Japanese tour groups.  We have also dealt with a drought and having to constantly haul water to the livestock – even now.  What an interesting year.  The following pictures give a glimpse of our lives during that time.  And boy is it hard to whittle down the pics!

We look forward 2013 and everything it brings us!

January 2012

February 2012

Trip to South Africa

March 2012

Gail passed away

April 2012

May 2012

Kids Day on the Farm

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

Silage bagging  – School starting

September 2012

Harvest begins

October 2012

Harvest

November 2012

December 2012

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For the first time in my history on Schutz Farms (over 18 years) we are considering chopping silage to feed our cattle this winter. During non-drought conditions we utilize wet DDG’s as a part of our cattle feed.

Wet DDG’s

It is a by-product of the ethanol making process, it is a nutritional feed and it mixes well with straw. We have purchased the wet DDG’s for as low as $15 a ton with is usually running around $50 a ton. Yesterday we purchased two loads for $120 a ton and it is getting harder to get any loads at all. The dried version, which we use in our hog feed, prices are rising as well.

This summer, before the rain stopped, we baled a few hundred round straw bales to use with our DDG’s as feed for the winter.

Straw bales

The cattle won’t really eat the straw without a wet feed to mix it with. That brings me back to the point about silage. We haven’t used any silage, only because we didn’t need to. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we will be chopping and bagging some to have a good quality wet feed for the winter.

This year has been unlike any in the recent past. There are a many farmers and ranchers that are selling large parts of their cattle herds because they just don’t have any feed. Their fields won’t have any crops produced, their pastures have no grass, and it is too expensive to purchase enough to feed through the winter. We are lucky that we have corn that is able to be used as wet feed as well as shell corn this fall. Many farmers don’t have that luxury this year. We are trying out different feeding methods to feed our cattle.

In January I wrote a post about too much rain… https://schutzfarms.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/rain-a-blessing-and-a-curse/. I had no idea that we would be so short on rain this summer.

Hauling water to our wells for the livestock

Please keep farmers and ranchers in your prayers. We are trying our best to feed our families and yours. The prices of groceries will go up slightly over the next year, but remember even with the drought affecting our food supply, the prices will only go up 3-4%. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that much. It’s also really important to remember that even with the drought we have enough corn in the US to produce food and fuel. We can feed everyone and make ethanol. The by-products from the ethanol are a great feed source! In time the rains will return and a new crop year will begin. Everything will even back out and we will continue to produce the most economical and healthy food supply any country has!

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