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Showing posts with label farm. Show all posts
Showing posts with label farm. Show all posts

Friday, February 8, 2013

Update on Parker the Hereford Calf

Fridays are meant for cute calf pictures. 

I can't believe Friday is already here. It was an amazingly productive week, but I am really glad the weekend is just around the corner. So to help put a smile on everyone else's face let's look at a cute calf.

Last weekend we gave Parker, the Hereford bull calf that was supposed to be a girl, a new earring. Technically, that big white thing hanging from his ear is called an ear tag and we use it to I.D. the different calves. Yes, when you only have one it is pretty easy to tell who is who, but as we get more it is important to be able to identify them.


The 3Y is his mom's number and Rev stands for Revolution and that is his sire (father). 
Oh and that cute boy is my husband. 


Parker and his mom 3Y aka Teardrop chilling. 




Friday, January 25, 2013

Will it be a boy or girl?

Babies are arriving. 

Not our babies. Our cows are calving! A few weeks ago one of our favorite cows calved, Teardrop. Remember her glamour shot from this fall?

This picture was taken shortly after the Iowa State Fair.

Teardrop in her working clothes. 

Teardrop was artificially inseminated (A.I.). And we used sexed semen. Yes, not only can you A.I. your cows, but you can purchased sexed semen. Reproductive companies have the ability to separate out the sperm that will create a heifer (female) calf, from the little boy swimmers. Only the heifer producing semen is frozen, as the little bull swimmers aren't strong enough to go through the freezing (to preserve it) and thawing (so farmers can then use it to A.I. their cows). This is a a pretty cool illustration on how it works.

Teardrop was bred with sexed semen. So, we were pretty excited to get a heifer calf. But, wait if you have been following on the blog, Facebook page or Instagram you will remember Teardrop had a bull calf. With sexed semen there is still a 7% chance you'll get a bull calf. We were part of that 7%.

Meet Parker, the bull calf that was supposed to be a heifer calf.


Why would we want a heifer calf rather than a bull calf? Teardrop is a really good cow, and we are hoping that we get some daughters out of her so we can have more of her genetics in the cowherd. In other situations heifers out of a certain cow or bull maybe be worth more. In the dairy industry sexed semen is used a lot because heifers are worth a lot more than bulls. We can only get that milk from the cows, right!

Next time you are stuck for dinner table discussion you can bring up this blog post!

p.s. I am excited to be speaking at the Kansas Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference in Manhattan, KS tomorrow. Maybe I'll meet some of my blog friends in real life!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pregnancy Options: Artificial Insemination

Breeding time. 

You can see our farm logo
on the front of the tank.

Artificial Insemination (A.I.) isn't just for humans. On our farm it is one of the three ways that we get our cattle pregnant. 1. being natural breeding with a bull, 2. we also can implant an embryo into a surrogate mother called a recip and 3. using artificial insemination.

A.I. is a great technology for us to use on our small farm. Purebred herdsires can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $100,000. However, people will freeze semen from these bulls for people to use in A.I. These straws of bull semen can cost anywhere between $20-$250 a straw, which is considerably less than buying the live bull, and a great help to small breeders like the Boy and I.

This frozen semen has to be stored somewhere though. Enter the semen tank.

For our wedding we actually were given a semen tank (along with our stock trailer makeover). Trust me it was on our wish list along with our Pottery Barn furniture and KitchenAid Mixer!


At the old ranch there were lots of semen tanks. One of these large tanks can hold 500 straws of frozen semen. Each dose of frozen semen looks like a coffee stir stick. Sorry I forgot to take a picture of that. 


The semen is kept frozen with liquid nitrogen. See those colored tabs? They are each a canister to keep things organized. When you pull them up it looks like this...


This is one canister. All of those things with the white tabs are canes and contain multiple semen straws in each cane. The numbers and letters are codes so you can make sure you are getting the right straw of semen. 

To review why in the world do we do this?

1. It allows us access to better genetics that we might not be able to buy outright
2. Better genetics we can improve the quality of our cattle
3. A.I. technology allows smaller breeders to have access to the same great genetics larger breeders have access to. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

A new way to farm

And having a little FUN while we do it. 

Last week I was featured on a website called www.FarmOn.com. They are an amazing resource for particularly young people in agriculture. The website is full of interviews, videos, workshops and more for those who are looking for advice on making your farm more successful or getting into farming. Topics include time manage, business plans, marketing through farmer's markets, social media advice, the list goes on.

In my post I shared information about the crop side of the Boy and I's farm. In additional to our Hereford cattle we also grow corn. However, we farm a little differently than most of our neighbors as we are involved in a farming group called Farmers United Network aka FUN. It has been an awesome way for us to grow our farm, learn from others, and not overextend ourselves financially.

I hope you'll check out the article and be sure to let me know if you have any questions.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Hunk of Meat Monday: Bacon Shortage Looming

No more bacon?! 

The bacon for my corn
chowder soup
With the number of food items that we can now get bacon included in chocolate, ice cream, bloody marys, and oh lets not forget the traditional BLT, plain old fried up bacon or my corn chowder with bacon (recipe below) what would we do without one of America's favorite foods?

Britain's National Pig Association is reporting that because Europe's annual pig product decreased this past year, and producers are decreasing their herd size due to high feed costs that we could see a global shortage of bacon.

What about our farmers in the U.S. what is their story? The U.S. Department of Agriculture showed in its monthly outlook report from August, that we are also seeing a decrease in the number of pigs in the U.S. Again this is due to the high feed costs from poor corn and soybean crops (that is what hogs mostly eat). Plus, add in the fact that we are exporting more and more of our pork, China has seemed to catch onto the trend, will we be standing in line for our bacon ration?

No, probably not. In this Minnesota Public Radio report Iowa Farm Economist, Steve Meyer, stands that no one in the U.S. or around the world will be standing in line for bacon. However, you can expect to pay more for it next year due to lower availability. To be exact you could pay between 6-10% more for your bacon.

Honey you better start bringing home more bacon, or we aren't going to have bacon.


Corn Chowder
2 cups diced potatoes (I like using red with the skin on)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 cans kernel corn with juice
1/4-1/2 bacon, fried and crumbled
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Sauce 1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups milk 

Just cover potatoes, ohio and celery with with water (I actually like to use chicken broth) and cook until tender. Now add corn with juice, bacon, salt and paper. To make sauce mix butter and flour, over medium-low heat, and then slowly add milk. Stir until thick. Add sauce to rest of ingredients, stir and serve. This will make 8 to 10 cups. 





Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A week of Instagram: Bills, Hot Rollers and Cows

Crazy about those little square pictures. 

I love Instagram. For those of you who are wondering what this little word I am talking about is let me give a quick run down.

1. Instagram is a photo sharing social media site. You use an app on your phone to do it.
2. You can post, follow, like and comment of photos
3. You can add color filters (think of photoshop) to your photos
4. It is awesome and I am going to start posting a little recap each week using Instagram photos.


This was supper last night. Grown-up nachos. My side contains veggies and the Boy sans veggies. Had to get my protein fix before my run. That's right I am still sticking to the running. 


Tuesday was bill day at the farm. We paid a feed bill, vet bill, crop insurance bill, lumber bill and more. Good thing we sold a heifer this weekend. 


Have you noticed the Christmas stuff out in Walmart! I was really tempted to buy these recipe magazines. Some one said there are less than 100 days until Christmas. Not sure how I feel about that!


What do you do on a Thursday night while waiting for the laundry to finish. Dig out your old hot rollers, of course. These are from my high school days, and I used to use them almost everyday. In the mornings I would go feed cattle, come back in, throw these in, and while they were setting do my make-up and have breakfast. They curl didn't hold too well this time. I think I need a setting spray. 


Of course the week wouldn't be complete without cows. These were a few of the heifers we watched sell in Illinois. I posted a video of a different lot selling for $25,000. Yes, $25,000 for a cow

If you are on Instagram let me know, and you can find me by searching for @crystalcattle
p.s. Anyone notice you can't search for Instagram people via Twitter now. Annoying. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cow sells for $25,000

I'm not joking.

This weekend the Boy and I made a trip over to Illinois for a couple Hereford cattle sales. It was a great weekend catching up with a lot of friends. The only not cool part - driving through Galena twice and still not getting to stop. Who wants to meet in Galena and drink wine? Pick me.

Back to the cows. These sales are special because they are put on by purebred cattle breeders. What are purebred cattle? Think of a purebred dog. They have a pedigree, registration paper and are typically worth more than mixed breeds.

For example the heifer that started the sale on Saturday brought $25,000! Below is the video of her selling.


$25,000 would make pretty expense steak, however this heifer (female cow) won't be eaten. She instead will be using for breeding and likely shown. Eventually, she may go onto raise a bull calf, that could then go on to sire (father) calves that end up in our freezer. Clear as mud?

So why are some purebred cattle worth more than others? It has to do with three things - genetics, phenotype (how they look) and marketing. In some parts of the country more emphasis is put on certain traits, and a lot has to do with personal preference. The Boy and I raise purebred cattle and definitely have an idea about which ones can make us money and which ones can't. Because no matter how much we love our cattle we they have to make us money because that is what pays the bills. (You can see some of the marketing that we do for our farm on our JJB Cattle Co. Facebook page.)

On a side note. It is hard for me to explain how much I love cattle. I was thinking about this as I was sitting watching the sale. Yeah I had on my new Ily Couture bracelet, designer jeans, J.Crew shirt, sound a little like you? But how many of you have ever had the thought running through your head "I love cattle so incredibly much I have no idea what I would do if I couldn't be around them or have them in my life." Weird? Maybe. But they are my passion, and I think about how much I love cows daily.

If you do have questions and things are still clear as mud comment below or email me. You can find my contact information on the About tab. Have a great Monday!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What is the government talking about?

And is it important to you?

My good friend Chelsea recently this link about the words that both Republicans and Democrats used during each of their national conventions. I actually watched a good chunk of the Republican Convention and some of the Democrats. I will tell you that I quite enjoyed listening to the speakers that weren't part of the prime time slots. During the Republican Convention a lot of personal stories were shared about Romney from church members and people that worked for him or with. I have a whole new outlook on the man.


What words were used in the speeches at the national conventions.  

Obviously things like employment, health care, taxes and immigration (I'm actually working on my U.S. residency right now) are important to me. However, food and agriculture are also really important because 1. that is my livelihood, 2. I want safe and nutritious food sources and 3. it scares me that eventually government won't trust what farmers are doing and will regulate us out of business.

Using the Word They Used Comparison this is what I found. (Click on each of the pictures to enlarge).

Agriculture was spoken:


Well that doesn't look promising. Zero, zip zilch. 

Farm was spoken:


The Republics did a little better here. It was brought up twice. 

Food was spoken:


Thus, far the most popular term I searched. 3-2 for the Democrats.

Environment was spoken:



Only 1-2 for the Republicans. I thought this term would have been a lot more popular. 

So what does all this mean. I am not sure. But it is interesting. Here's to hoping that a candidate who really understands 98% of farms are family owned and we can't feed the U.S. and all those other countries that depend on us on from gardens.

Use the comparison link yourself and let me know what you found out. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bring the farm and class to the dinner table

No I'm not talking about food. 

There is much more to a table than the food you put on it. I secretly imagine what it would be like to throw dinner parties every weekend for all our closest friends. In reality it is more like what can we make that is fast, and we can chow down on before we have to head back to the barn. However, if I was throwing a dinner party this weekend. This is what I would want on my table.

Erik Ekroth Photography
Erik Ekroth Photography
Aren't these name placeholders too cute. I first saw them on Pinterest and that lead me to Hatch Creative Studio an event planning company in NYC.

You could easily buy plastic farm animals and spray paint them white. Again Pinterest wins. Hope you have a fantastic Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The silos came crashing down

In less than 8 seconds it was over. 

This weekend the Boy and I spent the majority of the weekend at the barn. We move into the Iowa State Fair on Saturday, where we will be showing five Hereford heifers (heifers are the girls). However, we got a call in the middle of the day saying we needed to get home because "you are going to want to see this."

In our farm yard is a grain storage facility that our family and a number of other farmers in the area use. However, in front of the newer grain bins sat two old cement bins. The bins were probably put up in the 1950s however they needed to come down because we no longer used them, and the extra room will allow for new improvements to the storage facility. 

A pair of Amish men came over to help take them down. And it went something like this. 


The Boy also took a few videos of the silo. 
The first time it didn't quite make it to the ground.



And then there was success. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Corn Report: Have you heard of corn pop?

Yes corn pop, not pop corn. 

It's time for the second edition of Watching the Corn Report. Every other week I plan on posting picture of our cornfield.

The corn is growing like crazy as you can see below. We are lucky that the corn is growing so well because we definitely could use some moisture, and we are about to get some cold weather. The corn that was plated smaller might be a little chilly the next few nights. In this post though I also want to share with you a by-product of corn. Just keep reading and you'll learn about a little thing called Corn Pop.


This was the corn on May 15. I read the initial corn report click here


This is what the corn now looks like on May 30. Way bigger.


And this is what Corn Pop looks like. Actually, the technical name is Sweet Corn Soda.

Awhile back on a work trip though Oklahoma one of my coworkers and I stopped at a store called Pops. I am pretty sure they had every flavor of pop that you could ever imagine. I had to buy a bottle of the Corn Soda. Tonight was the big taste test, I plan on reviewing the five other flavors including bacon later in the week. 

The Boy, his parents and myself were the taste testers. Reactions were as follows:

The Boy: I'm not drinking this. 
The Mom: This tastes like the juice from can corn
The Dad: Like the water from boiled corn. 
Me: This is not good. 
The Boy: Ok so it wasn't as bad as bacon. 
Me: So maybe this wasn't a good idea
The Mom: I think I can taste butter

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This gal is a proud farmer and I like make-up

Trust me the two can go together.

I think one of the reasons why I love my life so much is I truly get to do something I am passionate about every day - farm, play with cattle, speak about agriculture, the list goes on. I found it funny last night when two of my Twitter friends, who are both agriculture girls, @LBelleoftheBlog and @jenlynndewey started chatting (tweeting) about our love for make-up, because frankly that is another passion of mine. I love make-up.

Laura - LBelleoftheBlog has recently moved to an area of the country that MAC make-up stores aren't that prevalent. Kind of like my no MAC stores in Iowa situation. She started to tweet about the MAC products that fortunately the mailman had delivered. Jennifer - jenlynndewey quickly joined in on the conversation. And it turned into what our new favorite make-up products are.


Jennifer is oohing over this Kat Von D Eye Shadow Palette.


My own recent make-up MAC purchases. I am loving this new Pro Longwear Lip Creme called Postively Dashing. It stayed on through the afternoon, burgers, guacamole, and sangria. Perfect for girls that don't have time to be touching up their make-up all the time. The eyeshadow is called Antiqued - kind of a red/brown/coppery color, and then Studio Fix Foundation. 

The thing is that we have spent plenty of time around livestock, pastures and crops, and yet we still like to have a little girly side. Maybe no matter how much you smell like a cow you can't hide you inner fashionista.

I changed by Crystal Cattle Facebook page profile picture today. I love these agriculture banners that Bella Spur has created. Check out this album to choose your own agriculture banner. Maybe they can make me one that say proud to be a farmer that love make-up!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Corn Report: It is out of the ground!

Another season of watching the corn grow. 

I am excited to start blogging again about the corn. Especially, since the Boy and I have our own field. This is also a little scary because it costs a lot of money to buy all the seed, fertilizer, rent the equipment (we call these input costs). We definitely need to have a good crop to cover all these initial costs.

We are farming just over a 100 acres this year. There are 1.3 acres in a football field to give you some perspective. 
The corn was planted a few weeks ago, but it took a really long time for it to finally pop its little head out of the ground. Who would have ever thought I would be so excited when the Boy texted me last week that the corn hard arrived.


Each week I will take a photo of the corn to show how much it grows. And trust me it grows really fast. There is a little saying "knee high by Fourth of July," last year the corn exceeded these expectations. It has been fun to see the green tint appearing in all the Iowa fields.


p.s. check out my new running shoes! And please don't judge my white legs. This was literally the first day (other than the honeymoon) that I have been able to wear shorts. Plus, this Canadian girl doesn't tan very well. 


As the Boy like to say we are outstanding in our field ;) It has been a great year for planting corn. According to Monday's USDA-NASS weekly Crop Progress report 90% of the nation's corn has been planted. That well ahead of last year's schedule when only 56% of the corn was planted at this time last year.

Be sure to tune in each week for more pictures and corn facts. Also, if you want to go back and read last year's post check out the Watching Corn Grow tab. And if you have any questions that you would like answered through the summer you can find my email under the About tab. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Happy 50th Birthday Barbie - Barbie Lessons on the Farm

This post was originally wrote in back in March 2010, however since it is Barbie's 50th Birthday today I thought I would reshare. 

What Barbie taught me about being a farm girl. 

Growing up my sister and I loved Barbie. We had tons of dolls, the house, a couple cars, a Barbie horse, the clothes, a popcorn machine, a swimming pool, etc. And yes our Barbie's had bank accounts, money was usually exchanged in the form of Light Bright pegs (LiteBrites were used for many things, keep reading). Our Barbie's also were very involved in agriculture. The occupation of vet was quite often played.

That was the great thing about Barbie she could be whoever we wanted her to be. So while our friends were playing Rockstar Barbie, ours were discussing treatment options or reproduction strategies for our cattle. Which leads me to my next story.

My parents didn't hid much from my sister and I as we were growing up. We knew the circle of life was apart of the farm. We also were pretty familiar with how it began. I remember we used to have this slide that looked  kind of like a chute. (A chute is what we put cattle in to hold them still while we are working with them). And we had these stuffed animal dogs and horses that their bellies would velcro open and shut, revealing bean bag babies inside. It was always a surprise how many you would get the first time.

And this brings me back to the LiteBrites. Yup, those were the straws of semen for A.I. (artificial insemination). See where I am going - chute, stuffed animals that reproduce, semen. Yeah, that's right at the ages of six and eight my sister and I were A.I.ing our stuff animals, just like we had seen dad do it.

Guess we were destined to be farm girls.

* For those of your who didn't grow up on a farm we use A.I. as a way to source better genetics for our herd. A bull can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 dollars and you can buy semen from $15 to $100. Since our farm is small this is a great way for us to use the same genetics as larger ranchers without the extra expense. 


On a trip to Minneapolis we got to go to the Mall of America. Inside they had a Barbie store! Every girls dream.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Live. Laugh. Farm.

Starting your weekend off on the right foot, kind of. 

I hope all of you have a great weekend planned. My includes not traveling! My poor suitcase is going to wonder what is up when it lays unpacked at the foot of my bed. This weekend agenda includes calving cows, playing catch up with work projects, and hopefully getting all of our pictures scanned in for our wedding slide show.

I saw these pictures today and it brighten my mood. Earlier we had a bull calf born. Then after that we had a second bull calf born. Unfortunately, the Boy had some trouble with this one. The cow was having a hard time having the baby on her own, so he called the vet and together they pulled the calf. Unfortunately, the bull calf was born dead. The vet said there isn't really an answer to what may have gone wrong, but he said that the baby could have been dead for a few days.

Stuff like that happens on the farm. To make the Boy feel better I whipped up a batch of brownie batter that he brought home from the grocery store the other day. I was so impressed with how little time it took with my new Kitchen Aid. However, when they came out of the over they looked a lot more like cakes than brownies. Yup, that's right I had grabbed the wrong box. But hey who doesn't like cake!

Have a great weekend, and if you get a chance check out Agriculture Impressions on Facebook, and also their Etsy store where you can buy these prints.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Corn Report: Life lessons learned in Chicago

Really good insight 

No matter where I go I
always seem to find a cow.
As I mention this week I took part in the Tomorrow's Top Producer conference put on by Farm Journal. If you aren't from a farm keep reading, I think you will really enjoy some of the information. It was one of the best conferences I have ever attended. I wish I could have stayed for rest of the event, but the Boy was staying, and I had a job back home and cattle to look after. (We are really lucky to have someone that helps us out when we are away, but try not to rely on him too much.)

Here are the little nuggets of life impacting advice. And if you don't read all the way through at least scroll down to look at the pictures. 

You can have everything in life you want, if you just help enough people get what they want – Zig Ziglar A philosophy I think everyone should incorporate into their lives. 

It's who you know, who you read, who you share information with, and good timing that will get you to the top. Why do the same eight famers choose to sit with each other every day at breakfast. Expand your network. 

Allowing people to make meaningful decisions allows them to take ownership.
Giving your employees a sense of entitlement allows them to take accountability. 

Chris heads up our farm's
marketing group. 
Not making a decision, is making a decision. 

Are you a win-win person? Strive to be the business that always goes more than half way. 

When times are good for the company, time should be spent preparing for the downturn. There have been cycles in business for 200 years, and as long as people continue to have greed and fear there will continue to be cycles. 

There is not a human that doesn't have fear, but courage outcomes fear. 

The farms that are growing the fastest are the best communicators. 

Most popular communication style for farmer is the Teller. Their communication tendencies are fast-paced & outspoken and questioning & skeptical. The fear is loss of control. They need to know who is in control, can be very direct (this sometimes leads to hurting others feelings, and are results oriented. They represent 40% of all farmers. 

Planner is 2nd most popular #farmer communication style - cautious & reflective and accepting & warm. They manage their fear of change through planning for it. They avoid communication conflict.  26% make up this group.

19% of farmers are detailed communicators. They are questioning & skeptical and cautious & reflective. They stick with what is proven. A downfall is that they can have analysis paralysis. They can also be sensitive to suggestions and take it as criticism. 

Only 15% of farmers are socializer communicators. (This is me). The will let you know what's on their minds. Fast-paced & outspoken and love being around people. Find their ideas by talking out loud. Fear not being accepted and they need to be recognized. 

70% of farms or agribusiness will not be passed from 1st to 2nd generation because of failure in succession planning. The failure rate from 2nd to 3rd is 90%, and 3rd to 4th is 96%. Pretty scary fact. 

What is your praise/criticism ratio 
Three kinds of toxic employees that have to be removed from companies – victims, know it alls, non-believers 
People can change, but you can't change them. They have to want to. 

Those that are part of the generation that are 35 years and young fear failure the most. The situation may work out, but it is not the exact way they envisions they find that to be failure. 

Whoever paints the best vision will be the person that people will follow. 

I will definitely be attending more of the Farm Journal series of seminars and conferences. Even though I might not know how to plant a field yet (ok let's be honest, I don't know how to really do anything with a tractor) the information that these speakers gave really impacted me. 

Now for a photo recap:

This is what you where to a farmer's conference
I think I could have counted on one hand how many female participants there was at the conference. 


These conference usually mean a few good meals. The first night the Boy and I went to Morton's (an awesome steak house, but Sullivan's is still my number one). The second night was The Chicago Firehouse. Definitely recommend it. 


We stayed at the Chicago Hilton, which is an amazing hotel, with tons of history. Every President of the United States since the 1940s has stayed at this hotel, and more specifically the Conrad Hilton suite was the room most resided in, including the Obamas. We got to go up to the Conrad! This is the beautiful view from the two story room. If you looked off to the right you could see the helicopter landing pad.


This was the staircase that brought you down to the bedroom floor. It was also the staircase that was used in scenes from Home Alone 2.


I think I could make use of a bathroom like this. 


I have never seen so many beautiful chandeliers in a hotel. The main ballroom was once a skating rink, and could fit 10 two story houses in it. 


Farmer's helping feed the world. 


Wait, how did that get in there? I mean maybe I took a quick trip over to Nordstorm's and Top Shop and did a little bit of shopping. I didn't buy this beautiful Kate Spade purse, but next week I'll show you what I did find. 

It was a whirlwind of a trip, but I left energized and ready to make a difference. I hope you have a great weekend, and don't forget you have until 6 PM CST on Saturday to get you entries in for my Turquoise Thursday Giveaway.
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