Faith Regeneration

Faith does not proceed from ourselves, but is the fruit of spiritual regeneration.  John Calvin

That quote struck me this morning because I know that dairymen across the country have to have faith each day to continue in their farming.  Whether it’s your favorite cow about to calve or a test result you’re waiting on.  Of all the roles in agriculture I believe that dairy farming is the most emotional (and my dad agrees ;)).  The point is we cannot just strike up the faith it takes to live life on our own.  It is a gift from God that we have the strength to do the things He asks of us.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

On our own we are mere humans, but time with God each day will renew us spiritually and through that spiritual regeneration, our faith can grow in Him.  When our faith grows, we will see God’s power in each part of our lives.  As we continue spending with time Him praying, reading His word, praising Him, and serving Him we will see and understand life from a whole different perspective designed just for us.  Dairy farming is emotional and LIFE is just plain emotional!  There are waves we have to ride out every single day, and with God’s help, no matter your profession, you can do it!!  I have had the days where I chose not put my trust in God, and believe me I could feel how weak I was on my own.  God desires to be a part of your life if you just invite Him in with a simple prayer, ‘God, help me today’. Amen and God Bless.

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Selling the Family Jewels

Well the time has come for my mom and dad to retire from milking cows. As a result I have written something to commemorate our family farm.

As this chapter of Watertown Holsteins comes to an end I can’t help but write a little something in remembrance of my family’s dairy farm.   First off it is hard to grow up, and we are all still doing it no matter our age!  My childhood on the farm with my sisters and brother, mom and dad, are filled with so many good memories.  All too often, it is easy not to say or write the things that our loved ones need to hear.  So I am taking this opportunity to do just that.  I consider my mom and dad to be fairly young even though they might disagree, and I am grateful they are just a phone call away.  My parents were both a big influence on me while growing up, and for that I am also thankful.  However, keep in mind I used to joke they had six kids so we could do all the work for them!

The truth is, all the lessons they taught me and my siblings through the family farm life will benefit us the rest of our days.  My parents taught me who God was at an early age, so I knew who created me and all the animals I adored.  However it wasn’t until I was about four or five years old that I became comfortable around cattle since they were so big!  All of my siblings and I had responsibilities in the house and on the farm growing up.  Through my early years I had to unload the silverware, sweep the floors and take out the garbage.  My older sisters always thought I got by way to easy, but I disagreed.  I discovered my favorite task, making the morning pancakes after dad got in from chores though.  I used to sneak outside in the morning before my mom and sisters woke, just to go see my dad milk the cows too.  Then I got my first job on the dairy, sweeping the hallway outside the office, bathroom, and milk room.  I still remember finding some change (placed cleverly by my dad) in all the dirt and feeling so accomplished since I made a few cents at the age of five!  My responsibilities grew as I did and so did the opportunities.  In the morning and evening I got to fill many bottles full of milk for all those cute Holstein calves and in the afternoon build amazing forts in the cottonseed pile.  Talk about a blast for young kids and a nightmare for our mom and sometimes dad too, especially if we forgot to take the shovel out of the pile, sorry dad!  Once we headed back in the house, our clothes mysteriously managed to carry cottonseed in, sorry mom!  Then it was riding on the lawn mower for hours in the evening with my dad because I wanted to drive the mower, but I was too short.  As soon as I was tall enough, I got to be the full-time grounds keeper.  During the summers it was wanting to cut green beans but instead I had to wash them since I was too young to play with knives.  Not to worry, eventually I cut plenty of green beans!  When I was still the baby of the family, my older sisters, Joelle and Maria, helped me ride my bike around the section sometimes every day even though I struggled to keep up at times.  They also opened up the ice cream shop straight from the garage door and made me some very tasty treats.  Then soon I was a big sister and my little brother Samuel was volunteered for daily tours of the farm in his stroller, by tour guide Ana, so my mom could do what she needed.  Then eventually I was taking my younger siblings around the section on bike rides just like my older sisters did with me, and guess who needed the patience then!  As siblings we created a ton of fun memories on the dairy.  Maria and I dug traps with poop in the bottom for my sister Joelle to step in but instead dad found them first, sorry dad!  We ran through the sprinklers, built teepees in the trees, set up tents in the backyard for campouts, shot each other with water guns, pelted empty pop cans with Maria’s BB gun, but not to worry we got back to work.  We got to show calves together in 4-H every summer too, which was a huge highlight in my summers.  My dad taught me how to clip and fit cattle, and I loved the smell of the clipper oil and still do.  As I got older and stronger, my dad let me do more and more.  I got to push the manure from the barn alley into the gutter after each cow took her stall in the early afternoon.  Then eventually I was wheel-barrowing out manure from the box stalls with my sisters and brother.  By the way, that wasn’t punishment that was just chores.

Learning how to watch over younger siblings and how to care for the farm and its animals were blessings my siblings and I got to know early in life.  We all started milking cows around the age of fourteen, though other farm and house responsibilities started long before then.  Believe me, I have milked many cows and I enjoyed it.  Some of the best conversations happen when milking cows!  I got spend hours with my dad, my mom, my older and younger sisters, my brother, and all the hired hands.  All the way through middle school, high school and college I earned money on the farm for each hour I worked.  Whether it was feeding, bedding, milking, painting, cleaning, mowing, driving, farming or gardening.  Mom and dad gave me the responsibility to give an offering to God, save money for what I needed and wanted, and to help others too.

While life on the farm wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows I will always remember all of the good times I had with my sisters and brother, mom and dad.  From showing cattle together, to milking cows together and some days struggling together.  I know that the farm life made my family ties stronger even though we don’t all live in the same place anymore.  The relationships that we have are a huge blessing and their start was on Watertown Holsteins alongside two of the hardest working people I know, my parents.  Mom and dad, never forget that I look up to both of you.  I am proud of you both and all that you have accomplished.  You have a BEAUTIFUL herd of cows, and I am so proud and thankful that I got to learn from you and help you in your endeavors.  You gave me so much, and most of all you taught me to pursue a relationship with my Maker, to give it all I got and never give up!  Though it breaks my heart and brings tears to my eyes to have a big part of the family business dissolve, I know that there’s MUCH MORE to come and no matter what we are blesssed to have one another.

All the blood, sweat and tears have been worth it, there is no better way to grow up than on a dairy farm.

Ana Schweer Ruiz

Check out the Facebook page, Watertown Holsteins for all the details on the sale.  Cow photos posted daily with updates to come!

5 Tips for Visiting a Dairy Farm

If you haven’t been on a dairy farm in the last few years you are missing out!  Dairy farmers are in one of the most volatile industries, from monthly changing milk prices to fluctuating feed prices.  As fast as those things change, advancements in the dairy industry continue at a rapid pace as well.  While all the new advancements may not be seen across the entire industry you may see things such as robotic milking systems, robotic feed pushers and automated calf feeders.  The best way for you to find out whats happening in the dairy industry of your state is…to visit with a dairyman or woman!  Many farmers enjoy visiting about their farms and giving tours so I encourage you to get in contact with a local dairy and set a date!  Here are five tips for visiting a dairy farm.

1.  Call ahead to set up a tour. Dairy farms are very busy seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day.  Though farmers and their employees may enjoy showing you around be sure to ask for the best day and time to visit.  This way they have time to show you around and you can ask a lot of questions or maybe even take pictures.

2.  Wear clothes and shoes that can get dirty!  This may seem like an obvious suggestion to some and a silly suggestion to others, but for the best tour experience I would say be ready to get dirty!  Dairy farmers do their best to keep things clean for the health and comfort of their herd, but cows are cows so there will be manure.  Extra tip: don’t set a hot date right after your tour unless it is with the dairyman or woman hehe!

3.  Ask a lot of questions.  Get the most out of your tour by asking a lot of questions.  As a past tour guide, I loved answering any and all questions posed by tourists visiting my family’s dairy or other dairies that I have worked on.  There is no silly question and the best place to find out how farmers and their employees treat their animals is by seeing the dairy and asking them personally right there on the spot.

4.  Let a calf suck on your fingers.  This is a hilarious moment for most people and brings a lot of joy to young kids.  Ask to visit the calves on the dairy and be sure to let them have a go at your finger(s).  They won’t bite you as bovines only have bottom teeth with a dental palate on top.  After you do this ask to put your finger(s) inside a milking unit to compare the mouth of the calf and a milk machine.

5.  See the birth of a calf.  This might be a challenge on a smaller dairy farm, but cows can calve at any time of the day.  Ask the dairyman or woman if there are any cows calving so that you can see a new life come in to the world.  It is a miraculous experience you won’t forget!  It’s also a great way for kids to learn about mother nature.

Dairymen and women across the United States work hard to help give their dairy cattle a great life which in turn feeds you and I.  Nothing is more important that the comfort and care of their animals which they often put before themselves and their families.  How can you know this is true?  Ask them if they have Christmas dinner and open their Christmas presents before the animals are cared for?  Ask them if they rest on their birthday?  Ask them if they take sick days?  You might be surprised by their answers.  So please take time to visit a local dairy and ask lots of questions from the folks who can tell you the truth about animal welfare on dairy farms.  Happy touring and be sure to let me know when and where you toured a dairy in the comments section below!

 

What Kind of Risks Will You Take for the Life You Want?

According to dictionary.reference.com, entrepreneurship means a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.  This past week I have taken a lot of risks!  First of all I forfeited my position as a part of the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2018.  Then I had the guts to go ahead and get married!  The past two years after college has been a roller coaster of events and experiences that have changed me in to the person I am today.  I am thankful for each and every one of those experiences.  As time passes my thinking process, my maturity level, my sense of purpose and direction evolves.  See I had a dream to be a veterinarian at one point, and it isn’t that I don’t believe I can do it, I can!  I could, but I am taking the risk of choosing a different path that I believe will make me in to an even greater person.  In my pattern of making decisions in life, I try to choose something first because I believe it’s my calling.  I have always known where I belong at the end of the day and it’s not work for me, it’s what I love—-dairy.  I also feel a sense of urgency to do it, and I believe that it will make me an person of even stronger character.  Life will only give you what you put in to it and nothing more. 

“When you get to a place where you don’t go for what you can get, but you go for what you can give, you gonna see your life change tremendously.”
– Eric Thomas

See I realized some things recently, hence all the crazy life changing decisions and the guts to take the risks.  I already know what I have to give, I already know the value of me, and not just my skill set, my talents, my dreams and what my ultimate goals in life are.  I don’t need more university credentials to be able to give what I have now.  For me, I see my time is now!  I realized I can choose to stop getting hung up on a route that in the end is going cost me more than I want to pay in my professional life, and more importantly my personal life…and it’s not just money I am talking about!  It is the things that you can’t put a dollar amount on, the chance to start from the bottom, the chance to leave an amazing legacy.    

So did I just give up an opportunity of a lifetime?  Some would say yes.   Or… did I just kick open the door of my entrepreneurial spirit to the opportunity of a lifetime?  It’s a risk I was willing to take and you can bet that this statement is what wakes me up in the morning——NO alarm clock necessary!!  So what do I know?  Well I’m about to find out in the best education of all, life!

FYI: I will most certainly keep ya’ll posted on what I learn.

March ‘Moo’ness

In lieu of March Madness in the college basketball arena, I thought it only fitting that I go along with the ballers only as March ‘Moon’ess!  March has flown by as one fantastic month here in Idaho.  Unfortunately I wish I could say the same for my homeland, South Dakota.  I am praying everyday that the weather in the Midwest breaks in to a full on SPRING TIME —- sooner than later!  The Idaho weather has been delightful, and I am thankful to be excelling as a AI relief technician for ABS Global.  Last post I mentioned all of the information that a relief AI technician has to learn to be successful.  As of now I have learned the basic reproductive protocols for about 15 different dairy operations in the Boise area.  I’m a firm believer in the idea that you’ll never know how much you can do, learn or remember until you decide to do it!!  When I first arrived in Idaho for work I had probably bred less than 150 animals in my whole artificial insemination career.  Now I know I have easily hit the 1,000 animal mark.  Keeping my ‘one cow at a time’ in mind has proved itself a great mindset.  It’s affirming to hear about, and see improvements in your own job performance.  I am thankful for all the people who have helped me learn and improve thus far, from Watertown Holsteins in South Dakota to Maddox Dairy in California and now working with ABS Global here in Idaho.  The best measure of my success right now is the conception rate for the animals I breed at each dairy location.  For cows a great conception rate ought to be over 40%, for heifers it ought to be at least 70%.  As of now I am meeting all the marks and keeping up with all the breeders here for conception rates.  The best part is, I have lots of time to continue developing my technique and become an even better breeder for the years ahead of me in the dairy industry.  Happy March ‘Moo’ness to all! This post is dedicated to shooting to win, best of luck to all the ballers out there!  I may not be balling for baskets, but I’ll sure be shooting to meet the mark!  After all, we need more cattle to keep on making all those leather basketballs. 😉

Bring it on IDAHO!

The year 2014 has rolled in faster than any other I can remember!  Home for the holidays, it was nice to see my family and many relatives before I headed to a job offer in the Boise, Idaho area with ABS Global.  After spending five more weeks in California with Maddox and Ru Ann Dairy zoning in on reproduction in dairy cattle including embryology, this job seems a perfect segue to continue deepening my dairy knowledge and experience.  I arrived for training in the beginning of January and spent two weeks in the Twin Falls, Idaho area with some of the artificial insemination (AI) technicians there, including the official ABS Reproductive Management Solutions Trainer, Jesus Berumen, who trains technicians from around the globe!!  It was a great way to improve my AI skills and broaden my understanding of what my position entails.  I am a relief program AI technician which allows me to fill-in for the other AI technicians on their days off.  Each technician has a specific route of dairy farms or heifer ranches he or she covers on a daily basis.  There can be anywhere between 1-4 (or more depending on the day) stops in this area for each technician.  There are 3 full-time technicians and the Area Sales Manager here, each one has a route on a daily basis.  So I am in the process of learning each location’s reproductive management protocols and procedures.  That includes each place’s pen numbers (farm layout), stage of lactation or age for each pen, color of tail-chalk used and what each color is associated with, if the heifers are bred with sexed semen or not and how many times, which gates to open after I am done and which ones not to open etc.  The list goes on and on…believe me that’s not even 20% of the information.  It is A LOT of details, but my supervisor here and the fellow technicians have been very helpful, quickly answering my questions.  In total so far I have learned most of those things for five different locations.  Thanks to my handy dandy notebook and pen the protocols are documented for the most part!  There are more locations I will learn about in the coming days.  So far I am enjoying my job as working with cattle is something I have been doing for so long, I just have to keep the locations of where they are at straight, as I just moved to this area!  This job requires a lot of memory usage.  That’s one thing I have always been thankful for, remembering!  I am striving to get all the information packed in to my brain, perfecting my AI technique, as well as gaining speed while heat-detecting and tail-chalking!  So I’m dedicating this post to putting my body and mind, motivation and dairy enthusiasm, and AI skills in high gear!!!  Bring it on Idaho!!  Let’s go, one cow at a time!!!

What it’s Like Becoming a Snow Bird at Age Twenty-Four

Spending more time at Maddox Dairy and RuAnn Dairy training here in California this winter has me questioning, “It is really December?! I mean, I’m used to Carhartt’s, stocking caps, wool socks, snow boots, frozen snot, and frostbitten cheeks by now?”  I have to chuckle when I put on my layers in the morning here for the 40 degree temperatures.  There is no questions that it is chilly in the mornings here as well, but I know where it’s A LOT colder!!  Don’t take my words the wrong way, I am definitely not complaining.  Escaping some of the South Dakota winter weather is one thing I thank God for every day that I am here!  

Recently I have been training about 3 days of the week with Dr. Daniela, DVM Embryologist, and 2-3 days breeding cows with the breeders Ismael, Julio, and Robert.  I am doing my best to keep their outstanding conception rate up as artificial insemination (AI) isn’t necessarily my forte in dairy at this time.  (But I do have confirmed pregnancies at my home dairy!)  That’s why I am doing more and more of it, practice makes perfect!  Practice, practice, practice!!  I’ve learned quickly that understanding the bovine reproductive tract takes time, and a lot of patience.  As I learn more about embryology and AI simultaneously, palpating (examining by touch) numerous cows has developed my ability and confidence for artificial insemination, and taught me how to detect a corpus luteum (hormone-secreting structure developed on the ovary after ovulation, degenerates if pregnancy does not occur) or follicle (contains the oocyte prior to ovulation) on the cows’ ovaries.  Last year I wrote about embryo transfer and the reasons why I believe many cattle and people in the dairy industry benefit from it.  However I haven’t written as much about dairy reproductive management because I honestly have much to learn about this particular segment of the dairy world!  If a heifer doesn’t have that first baby, she will never produce milk.  That’s basic biology in mammals!  What should you learn from that: reproductive management on any dairy is a top priority to keep cows producing high volumes of milk!  In the coming weeks I hope to share more about what I have learned about dairy reproductive management, embryo transfer, and ovum pick-up procedures and the integral role they have in keeping dairymen and women in business!  

Lastly, if you reside in a frozen state quite literally at this time—my thoughts prayers go out to you!  I am soaking up all the warmer weather I can before I head back to South Dakota in a couple weeks!  Stay warm and keep smiling, spring always comes eventually! 

Dr. Daniela the Embryologist

The first photo is Dr. Daniela fertilizing some oocytes in vitro (IVF)!!  The next photo is in preparation for what she is able to do in the lab, it is called Ovum Pick-up (OPU), where a technician uses the ultrasound machine and a needle to aspirate the ovaries of cows to ‘pick-up’ the oocytes on them.  Learning how to make bovine babies in a laboratory, it has been one awesome first week!!  From learning how follicular waves work, to how each hormone affects superovulation, palpating ovaries, and learning how to move the cows reproductive tract – mastering these things are just the beginning!

It feels great to be back in the Golden State, and I am enjoying the warmer weather as I’m used to colder South Dakota weather in November.  As one who tends to over-think many things about life, this week was no different.  Not only did I learn a lot of the the details of embryo transfer and in vitro fertilization, I learned a lot more about myself as well — a win, win!  Praying for guidance and looking to make choices that I will be happy with later in my life has always helped me make decisions.  The future is not certain, nor is life.  So I came to the conclusion this week (FINALLY!! …and will certainly need reminding in the future) that I don’t need to stress about my veterinary school applications, the future, or honestly anything.  For many, it’s way to easy to get worked about things that we have no control over.  I know I am not alone on this.  Control, what does that even mean?!  We have to give it up!!!  We’ve got to keep doing our best no matter what we do, and keep learning. 

For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  —-Jeremiah 29:11

“The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over.” —-Steve Maraboli 

“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.” —-Ralph Ellison

“Incredible change happens in life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” —-Steve Maraboli

This verse and these quotes are reminders that we need to trust and take a leap of faith each and every day of our lives, no matter if we are young or old.  

 

Chase Your Dreams and You’ll Find Your Path

This week is a time of change!  The only thing in life that is certain is change.  Everyday we all make hundreds of choices and our choices determine our path here on earth.  Home working on the dairy this week, I’m also spending time with my love, my closest friends and family, and getting ready for another adventure in California.  My time there last summer impacted me greatly and I look forward to spending more time there!  I will be working primarily with Dr. Daniela Demetrio DVM, the embryologist for Maddox Dairy and RuAnn Dairy.  I am certain that I’ll be blogging more about it in the coming weeks.  

It was not a hard choice to head back to California but no one can know exactly when cupid will hit you with one of those dangerous arrows.  A very inspiring individual walked in to my life over a year ago; I met him while I was working on my family’s dairy last August.  Up until a little over two months ago, I saw him here and there and always wanted to get to know him better.  Well it just so happened that he was coming to the SD State Fair this fall where I just happened to be working, and ever since my life hasn’t quite been the same.  I still love my God, love dairy, love my family, love life and have so many dreams and goals that I am chasing.  Romantic love isn’t something that I ever tried to have any crazy expectations for.  It isn’t something one can “plan” for.  As a typical girl I dreamed about falling for someone but I didn’t know it could happen so fast or that it would happen right now!  The greatest part about having a special person in my life is that I know he’s my best friend.  ”A friend is a hand that is always holding yours, no matter how close or far apart you may be. A friend is someone who is always there and will always, always care. A friend is a feeling of forever in the heart.”  Though I am headed to an exciting adventure I am feeling bittersweet about not being near my sweetheart.  It’s hard to part ways but I know that this is how it has to be for a little while.  A true friend wants what is best for you, and wants you to be happy, for you to chase your dreams.  That’s when you know without a doubt that someone loves you.  A friendship that turns into love is the best, I am so grateful for who God has placed in my life and in my heart.  God will always be my first love, but I am so thankful for how this man compels my strengths, challenges me to be greater, but does not doubt my determination or courage to do it, he believes in me and treats me like the woman that God made me to be.  

“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.” —John Sculley.  In my life, I want to be the best me I can and look ahead for what I can do for others!  “The significance of a man is not what he attains but rather in what he longs to attain.” —Kahlil Gibran.  As I continue in this adventure, I am excited to keep raising my sights on what God lays before me and pray that as I make choices they will positively impact others around me!