High Grove Farm Journal – October 2023
Nov 06, 2023 (Westby, WI)
By Jessica Rogers
October left in haste this year and quickly redirected life on the farm into new routines and winter preparations as the cold weather settles in for good. These changes in weather make big differences in daily life on the farm. Looking back at last year, the cold hit around the same time but it feels so early to me this year!
Hello, I am Jessica and once a month our family shares a look back at life on our small dairy farm in Wisconsin. My husband Drew and our children Carter, Caleb and Laney and I have all been trying to adjust to working in the cold again.
On one of the last dry, warm days, we decided to tackle a project in the cow yard that we had been wanting to do since we moved in. We bought this farm a few years ago but it hadn’t been an operating dairy for 20-some-years and it really shows in many areas. One spot was the concrete from the switch pen into the back side of the barn. The cows were starting to injure their feet on the broken up old concrete and our temporary fix of fresh screenings was just sinking into the ground after rains.
With the help of Drew’s brother, Dustin, we poured fresh concrete in this spot and anchored it to the existing concrete with rebar. This upgrade, although small, makes a HUGE difference to the daily operation. Switching cows is now quick and easy, and the cows walk without hesitation through this area. It is also easier on our equipment. We drive through this spot as we clean cow yards and carry out feed each day.
We hurried through morning chores a few days later and drove to La Crescent, Minn. to go on a “pasture walk” hosted at the beautiful grazing farm of Art and Jean Thicke and Chad and Melissa Crowley. They are the proud owners and operators of Enchanted Meadows Organic Dairy Farm and are Westby Cooperative Creamery producers too! You can learn more about their farm here.
What is a pasture walk? Pasture walks are a wonderful way for producers like us to learn from each other, see each other’s farms up close and implement new methods that have worked well for others in their grazing practices. It is also a great time of fellowship between like-minded farmers who want to bring health to our herds and life to our soils through grazing and other sustainable practices.
We were able to continue grazing another full rotation around our farm before the cold weather hit. Since then, we have moved the cows to the furthest fields, which is where we planted oats after we took the corn off this fall. The oats have been growing nicely even with the cold weather, and it’s provided grazing for the cows who just love eating out there each day.
We were able to get one more harvest of Sorgum Sudan before the cold weather, but it was small. Our area – and a lot of Wisconsin farmers – are short on feed this year because of the drought. We decided to de-stock on our farm instead of trying to feed that many animals when supplies are short. We sold off some large groups of heifers and are keeping a leaner herd of young stock.
Thankfully we bred a good portion of our heifers and cows to angus, which we can sell as beef cattle. It’s a boost to farmers as milk prices are low again. We also replenished a good amount of our dairy cow herd with heifers we raised. We’re hoping we won’t feel too much of a hit from selling those larger groups of young stock in the next couple years.
Digging potatoes in the gardens was a last-minute chore one night, but we got it done and filled the storage boxes with Yukon Golds and Norland Reds to feed the family for the winter. Raking leaves and clearing out the gardens hasn’t happened yet, and I still need to plant garlic if the weather allows.
There is always so many things to get done as summer fades. We hope you and your families can get it all done as well. Be sure to give yourself some time to enjoy the beauty of the changing seasons before it’s time to prepare for the upcoming holidays!
Thanks for stopping by,
-Jessica Rogers is a Westby Creamery farmer-owner who is sharing glimpses of farm life with us.
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