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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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Wordless Wednesday

Rain headed our way!

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Wordless Wednesday

Expecting another winter storm…we may have tractors get stuck in the snow when we are trying to get all the livestock fed…

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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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Happy Birthday, Madalana Rose!!

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10 years ago today we were blessed with our first beautiful little girl. She has grown and changed so much since that day. It’s mind boggling to think of all the things she has mastered in a quick ten years: walking, talking, eating, bike riding, horseback riding, tractor driving, shoe tying, piano playing, dancing and so many other things!

Lana is definitely her own little person. Funny, creative, smart, silly, artistic, sweet – she is so many things all in one.

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It is amazes me how fast ten years can fly by, but what fun they’ve been! It will be fun to watch the girls grow and change over the next ten years.

Happy, happy birthday to you, Lana Rose! May your year be as fantastic as you!

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After attending the Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders Conference this weekend, I thought it would be good to touch on the child labor laws issue that has been a real problem for family farms.  My husband Chad wrote to our government officials about his thoughts on children being allowed to work the family farm.

Lana drying off a newborn calf that was too cold

Lana drying off a newborn calf that was too cold

I’d like to share his comments with you and throw in some pictures of the kids on our farm.

Lana and Bridget painting the new horse fence

“I’m a sixth generation farmer from Illinois, living in the same community that my ancestors settled in the mid 1800’s.  I feel very blessed to be able to raise my daughters in a place that has such deep roots.  We are not a large farm, but we are a corporation for business reasons.  We utilize help during the summer to put up small bales of hay, mow, work on fence, work with livestock, and any other odd jobs that we try to get done during the summer months.  A lot of the time the ones who are looking for a very flexible work schedule, are kids in high school. 

15 year old Blane helping with cattle vaccinations

This is a great opportunity for us to be able to help them out when we need a few extra hands to work while the weather is good, as most of the farm labor we use is all our family.  We always keep a close eye on them, and would not ask them to do a job if we did not feel that they were capable.  While they are here we watch over them not like an employer, but they are watched as if they were our own kids. 

I understand that the proposed rule would not allow my daughters to work on our “corporate farm”.  Our girls are ten and seven, and have been around livestock their entire lives.  They are both very skilled at being around both hogs and cattle.  I love them both very much, and want them to learn some of life’s lessons that can only be learned by being out on the farm following me around just as I did with my dad and grandpa. 

Bridget working along side her Grandpa!

I find it very interesting that when we have people out helping with livestock that our girls are telling them how to move around the cattle, where to stand, what tone of voice to use with them, just things that unless you’ve been raised around it you don’t understand. 

Niece Monica relaxing after unloading feeder pigs

Bridget with her chickens

 We have nieces and nephews that just love coming to the farm.  My niece from Arizona comes and spends a few weeks in the summer with us.

 I know that farming is a dangerous occupation, and that there is risk with having kids out on the farm.  I also realize that there have been several accidents recently, as when they happen it really hits home.  But I feel that it should be the parents’ responsibility to be sure that their kids are kept safe.  Whether my girls choose to work somewhere else or on our farm until they are eighteen, I will always be sure that it is a safe environment, as I’m the parent and ultimately responsible. ”  Chad Schutz

It is truly important for kids to be able to be responsible for something and to learn how to work.  As you can see from the pictures, it can be fun, too.

Lana feeding Annie the bottle calf

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