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Archive for the ‘drought’ Category

The fields are starting to dry out…harvest is just around the corner. 20130828-165537.jpg

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This summer has been pretty good for us. We’ve been extremely busy, always a project to work on! The one thing that’s been unpleasant is lack of rain…again. Luckily, with the wet spring we had, the soil still has moisture in it. The wells and creeks haven’t faired as well.

Today we are finally getting a slow steady rain that should help replenish the wells and creeks. Hauling water to the livestock is never a fun job, but one that has to be done. Today we shouldn’t have to haul! And I’m betting that the cattle and horses are enjoying a bath.

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Our last posed family picture.

Our last posed family picture

It’s been a year…

The last day of February 2012 started out as a great day and ended with a changed world for our family.  For Chad and I, that day was spent at the Governmental Affairs Leadership Conference in Springfield.  A day spent dealing with our government’s lack of fiscal planning and an evening spent talking to our legislators about fixing those problems. The conference ended early with a frantic phone call from Lana.  Our daughters had stayed home with Ma & Pa, which was the norm.  Kenny and Gail were superb when it came to keeping the girls for us during meetings.  With our South Africa trip the weeks before, the girls were looking forward to catching up on some “Ma time”.

Ma and the girls at Tunison's Easter Egg Hunt

Ma and the girls at Tunison’s Easter Egg Hunt

Gail had a busy day.  She cooked for Lenten breakfast, got the girls to school, went to Bible study, was busy planning for the evening session of kids, got the girls from school, spent quality time with them, put on a 2 hour opening session of kids klub at our church for 60 kids, and came home to get the girls ready for bed.  Showering the girls and getting them to brush their teeth were the last things she did.  I believe deep down that she “went” with two of her favorite little people with her.  The bond Lana and Bridget shared with Gail was and is something I aspire to have with my grandchildren some day.

Ma brought them a couple of hog lungs to see the difference between a healthy lung and an unhealthy lung.  She loved experiments

Ma brought them a couple of hog lungs to see the difference between a healthy lung and an unhealthy lung. She loved experiments

In the past year we have all dealt with a huge array of emotions.  There was, of course, the stage of denial, where this was all just a bad dream and when we woke up everything would be back to normal.  There has been utter sadness, anger, devastation, and even joy in remembering what a great lady Gail was.  Not a day goes by that I don’t miss Gail or think of her.  Somedays it’s just a passing thought, like, “Man she would have loved the costumes the cast of Wicked wore.” And other days it bring tears to my eyes when I think about something she missed out on or how she never got to meet her newest granddaughter, Taylor. There are days the anger still shows up and I can’t make sense of it.

Another successful Kids Days on the Farm!  Pictures in front of the straw bales

Another successful Kids Days on the Farm!
Pictures in front of the straw bales

Many good things have happened this year, too.  The kids are all healthy and growing.  Taylor was born to Brock and Jackie. Ben and Genny are expecting a new baby girl this summer.  Kelsey ran her first half marathon.  Kenny has spent quality time with all his kids and grandkids.  Kids days on the farm were a success and we’ve hosted a few more tour groups.  The farm is doing well, even with the drought, our corn crop was not as bad as many other farms dealt with.  The cattle herd has expanded and the wean to finish pigs are getting close to shipping.  We are planning for this year’s crops, which we will be planting before you know it.  Life goes on and we are all making the best of it.

Updated family pic

Updated family pic

We are not the only family to experience a loss that shakes you to the core.  There are others dealing with grief and loss of a loved one.  So, if you knew Gail, please think a happy thought of her today.  Feel free to share a memory with us.  If there is someone else or a family that needs lifted up, please say a prayer for them.  Gail liked for people to take care of each other and I’m sure she still does.

One of Gail’s favorite hymns…

The Hymn of Promise

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

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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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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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