Wednesday, February 1, 2012
A dark morning here on the mountain very much unlike usual February introductions. It's now up to 31.5° and freezing rain has been falling for a couple hours but ever so lightly here. The weather folks say it will change to all rain soon but since before daybreak the schools and businesses along the Connecticut River over near Wells River, Vermont and Woodsville, NH on up through Bath and to Littleton, NH have had delays due to ice. It has been a strange winter for sure. I was in Monroe, NH two days ago visiting a friend's farm and a brand new snowmobile groomer sat in a field surrounded by grass, not snow. It was a sad view and I am sure the club members feel the same way. Snowmobiling contributes a lot of income to the northern New England economy but not so this year.
The free standing, open concept barn pictured here is a big investment but clearly to me, a non-dairy farmer, the way to go. As I walked through the barn the heifers seemed extremely content and they all looked healthy and happy. The happiest animal of all was the Jersey bull pictured just below here as these are his ladies and he makes that clear.
I did not know until my visit but first calf Holstein heifers (the black and white cows if you aren't familiar) are usually bred with a smaller bull like a Jersey so the first calf does not present a difficult birth for the young mother. Every time I go to a farm or a farm show, I learn something new. The thing I learned long ago was to respect farmers for all that they do for us and never, never question the price of a gallon of milk. Whatever the price, it's probably still too low for what it costs to produce
The wind was blowing and it was cold on the day of my visit but the top of this barn is tight as can be. A garage door company is coming soon to install doors but the company has been very busy and "doors by Thanksgiving" is still a few weeks out. Once installed, this will be quite a package.
The owner/farmer told me that with this arrangement he can feed 75 head in half an hour. There is space for three times that many heifers so you begin to see the sense in this type building which affords the opportunity to use larger equipment to do more in less time. With the difficulty getting good (or any at all) farm help, this mechanization is even more important.
The perplexing thing about agriculture right now relates to fuel costs. I have read several horticultural trade magazines recently and here's the deal. By Memorial Day gasoline is expected to be in the $4.50 a gallon range and by July 4th it should be no surprise that west coast fuel prices will exceed $5 per gallon IF we don't end up in a shooting match with Iran. This is not a favorable thought. It has caused many farmers, even flower farmers like me, to rethink what they are buying and what they are selling and how. All farming has challenges so do what you can to continue to buy local and support farmers and businesses in your area.
Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the temperature is now rising to 33° and the rain looks "all rain, no sleet". Best wishes for a good day. Drive with care!
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens and also as George Africa
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Always helping you grow your green thumb!