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Farm newsletter July 31

Posted 7/31/2018 5:01pm by Kerry Gawalt.

Dear CSA members and farm friends,

The month of July was one of the hottest and driest for our farm in the last 20 years. Much of our time was spent moving irrigation, keeping the farm crew and the cows cool. During the very hot weather we limited garden work to the AM only for our employees and kept the cows in the shady barn. Never the less when it is humid, the cows who give off a lot of body heat, make the milking parlor a very sweaty place. Milk production falls when it is very hot, the pastures struggle with hot and dry and the cows must be fed stored feed. We welcomed the break in the heat a few weeks ago but the drought continued until last weekend. Four inches fell on the farm and gardens, the plants and weeds grew overnight, the pond refilled and the frogs are happy. The pastures have new growth from the rain and cooler temperatures.

The summer vegetables are coming in-cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, summer squash, basil, tomatoes, carrots, new potatoes and parsley. Our corn is very close to harvest and melons and onions are growing bigger everyday. While harvesting the summer vegetables we are planting the fall vegetables and seeding the crops to be harvested in September and October. All our cover crops which add to soil health and structure growing in next years beds. We plant oats, buckwheat, field peas, crimson clover, and hairy vetch.

We had a burst of new calves over the last 7 weeks. Royal and Lord Dellamere are the only bull calves and are now steers. The heifers include Debbie, Wrangler Jean, Pixie and Oasis. Lauren, the heifer has moved into a bigger pen before she gets weaned. The calves from March-Willow, Olive, Zakia and Button are ready to graduate to the pack barn. Olive, Button and Zakia are 4-H animals and will be going to the Cornish Fair August 16th to 19th. They are part of our show string of 23 jerseys and 1 Holstein.

We went to the central and south Vermont dairy show where the cows did very well. Highlights include senior and grand champion Holstein and senior champion jersey who was crowned supreme cow. The 4-H kids worked very hard and took care and showed all 17 animals by themselves from milking to feeding to show. Them were awarded the first place herdsmanship award for their attend to their barn, animals, the public and fellow club members.

Maeve the heifer was sold in the National Heifer sale and was purchased by ST Genetics. She will have a career moving the jersey genetic base forward.

It is always hard to sell heifers but we are grateful to the staff of the jersey association to find buyers from across the US for our animals. As fall approaches we will be looking at which cows stay in the barn for the winter, who will get retired to the freezer, who will be sold in the fancy fall jersey sales and who will be the next generation on the farm. A cow has to pay her way on the farm. As the dairy farm economic crisis continues with cost of production to produce a gallon of milk versus revenue leaves very little money for anything, and cow prices fall. This means the average commercial will sell for less than it cost to raise her. More cows are sent to slaughter and the beef prices tumble. It is hard to see this at the grocery store. There is still money in the fancy, fancy stuff like the top selling National Heifer at 71K. More and more dairy farms are going out of business or selling off the cows and farming something else. Farmer suicides are very high. We know farmers in the Upper Valley who have loaded their life's work onto a trailer.

As a consumer and friend of agriculture consider buying American grown crops, stop by a farm stand or get involved at the county or state level in changing farm policy. Farms of all sizes are suffering. The government safety nets are very small and those farmers that signed up for programs like MPP dairy are losing less money than those who did not. If you wonder how a farm is doing, stop by and ask the farmers.