Watertown Holsteins Complete Herd Dispersal

The catalog for my family’s herd is up and running, folks!  Please pass this along to anyone who loves the Holstein breed!  Thank you! It is May 12 at 10:30am near Watertown, SD!

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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!

Why Do We Transfer Embryos?

Growing up in the dairy industry on my family’s registered (purebred) Holstein farm taught me a lot about what the ideal (true-type as we call it in the dairy world) Holstein looks like. At a young age I started judging and showing dairy cattle so that deepened my understanding of what desirable characteristics both dairy farmers and dairy cattle judges search for. Through a course at South Dakota State University, where I gained my Bachelors in Agriculture Dairy Production, I learned more specifically why each of the characteristics are desired and what their specific purpose is. Each trait or characteristic that a dairy cattle judge views as ideal has a purpose beyond just “looks”. For example, the udder is the most important part of a dairy cow because it is what produces the delicious milk for all of us. So when a judge is looking at an udder, he or she wants that udder to look a certain way, because often times when the udder is phenotypically correct (looks correct) it CAN perform it’s function well, by producing a lot of quality milk! There are many more details to looking at an udder as a judge, but I hope that helps you understand the general idea. Beyond learning about specific characteristics, I personally learned what the ideal Holstein looks like through working with dairy cattle most of my life, and got to see why these traits are necessary and why they help the cow. The topic of this post is about embryo transfer making that a long introduction that doesn’t exactly cover the very scientific, technical procedure of transferring embryos. While there may be some of you interested in the science side of embryo transfer that isn’t why I am writing about it today. I would just like to help folks understand why we do it. Although the science is very interesting so I would encourage you to read this book, found at the Hoard’s Dairyman, http://www.hoards.com/bookstore/EMBR. I share a copy with my brother, and highly recommend it!

First the definition of embryo transfer, according to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, Veterinary Medical Board, “Embryo transfer is a procedure whereby an embryo is removed from a donor cow and placed in the uterus of a recipient cow for the duration of gestation (full-term pregnancy). The procedure is commenced by administering hormones to the donor cow to induce “superovulation” (meaning the cow ovulates more than one egg) whereupon the animal is usually artificially bred. Approximately seven to ten days later, the transfer takes place by administering an epidural anesthesia to the donor cow and removing the fertilized ova by a manual procedure of directing a catheter through the cervix into the uterine horn. Several doses of small amounts of nutrient medial are placed into the uterine horn and then pulled out by either suction with a syringe or gravity flow. The media recovered from the uterine horns is searched for ova and those deemed viable are inserted into the recipient cow in a procedure similar to artificial insemination.”

Last summer, while interning, I had the opportunity to shadow a veterinarian, Dr. Daniela, also known as the embryologist for the Maddox Dairy and RuAnn Dairy, for a couple of days (www.maddoxdairy.com for more information). My other experiences around embryo transfer are on my family’s dairy, Watertown Holsteins, where my younger brother, now certified in embryo transfer, performs the procedure. In the past we have also had another great embryo transfer technician from Simple Dreams Genetics Inc. of Hull, IA. So here’s the point, we along many other dairy farmers and ranchers use embryo transfer to help increase the rate at which our genetics improve. As stated earlier, the traits we want in animals help them to live happier and more productive lives. We choose to flush, (slang for embryo transfer, in reference to flushing the uterine body) cows because they have those desirable traits that make give their bodies longevity, productivity and beauty. Another huge part of the decision to flush a cow is knowing the cow’s pedigree, who her parents and grandparents were. In the dairy world we call her mother, her dam, and her father, her sire. Then granddam for grandma, and grandsire for grandpa. Currently there is a huge boom in genomics in the dairy industry, and that also largely affects which cattle are chosen for the embryo transfer procedure. By increasing the rate at which our genetics progress in our herd, we can increase the number of animals that have the desirable characteristics, and decrease the number that don’t. Basically we would like more beautiful cows, who do a fabulous job producing high quality milk. Instead of waiting for that one beautiful cow (who has the desirable traits, pedigree, and produces lots of milk) to have one baby a year, we can have multiple babies from her! The thing is, she doesn’t have to physically have all of the embryos found thanks to being able to transfer the embryos to recipients for the full pregnancy. As the world population increases to 9 billion people by 2050, farmers and ranchers across the livestock industry will be expected to produce more food. As we look to do this we want and need to have cattle that perform their best, look their best and because they look their best, in turn will feel their best since these traits help that cow live a longer, happier and more productive life. Having my cows feel their best is very important to me, so next time you hear about embryo transfer remember it is not only about having better cows, but cows that feel better and do their job better too!

Be sure to email any questions to me at schweerana@gmail.com. I love telling people about one of my passions, dairy!

Drying up some cows! Vacas secas! Vacation time ladies! #holsteins #dairyfarmer

An average lactation, the time a cow is producing milk in a year’s time is about 305 days.  Dairy cows have a “vacation” every year that dairymen refer to as the dry period aka maternity leave.  This vacation usually averages about 60-75 days.  She is generally seven months pregnant when she is going on her dry period.  So this means that her body has slowed in milk production as she progressed in her pregnancy.  The last two months up till the cow has her baby is her vacation, and she won’t produce milk again until she has that baby.  In the photo above I have tubes stuck in my hat that seal her teats during her vacation, protecting them during the dry period.  The teat sealant is only put in to her teat canal, not up in to her udder.  Before I seal her teats she is milked and each teat is thoroughly disinfected using an alcohol swab.  It is also common for cows to be given a dry cow tube in each quarter of her udder as well.  Each cows has four quarters each with one teat, completing her one udder.  One dry cow tube is put in each quarter after the teat is cleaned with an alcohol swab.  The dry cows tubes are given to ward off or treat any existing infection.  Because she doesn’t milk during the dry period, her vacation, it is a great time to help her udder become healthier.  The purpose of the dry period and each of the dry cow protocols are done to benefit her udder health, and her health so ultimately she can come back to the milking herd healthy, and ready to produce wholesome, quality, delicious milk for you and me!

Milk tester is here! We check each cow’s #milk production every month here on our #dairy. The meter reads above 40 pounds for one milking. That means she milks about 80 lbs/day! Which would be about 9 gallons of milk!! #holsteins #milk #drinkup (at Watertown Holsteins)

Well hello again number 12, last time we saw each other it was at the Bos #Dairy Sale near Fresno, CA. Fortunate to be taking care of this beauty for a few days for a neighboring #dairyman! #holsteins #sorryabouttheweatherdear

For all the #JerseyShore fans, this is the “cow” version haha! The #Guernsey is one of the six major breeds of dairy cattle. The other five are #Jerseys, #Holsteins including Red and White Holsteins, #MilkingShorthorn, #Ayrshires, and #BrownSwiss!