Why Dairy Farmers Love Sand like a Child at the Beach

There is something about building a Sand Castle at the beach that is so satisfying and spectacular.  The sand feels wonderful beneath your toes and molds to your body.  The sand can be formed into anything your heart desires.

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Image from parade.com

On our dairy farm, our cows are equally excited about sand.  Sand is their bed.  Sand is the best bedding we can use for both our cows comfort and health.

Sand Beds

Freshly Raked Sand Beds

At Fairmont, we use “deep sand beds” which means there is not even a floor to the bed, it is all sand.  The sand molds to cows bodies, just like ours at the beach, making a custom bed for each animal.  This type of bedding has proven to be the top choice for dairy producers when it comes to leg comfort, providing a soft spot for the cows hocks to rest and an easy material to get back up in.  Sand also beats out other bedding choices due to the nature of it being non-organic (not related to or derived from living matter), meaning the growth of bacteria is a non-issue compared to bedding with shavings for example that comes from a living organism.  The growth of bacteria in bedding can lead to infections of the udder, called mastitis.  That is why it is very important for our cows health and the quality of our milk to use the best bedding we can find.

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Our girls enjoying their beds!

With all of the positive aspects of sand, finding a plentiful and consistent source for our bedding is often troublesome.  With our recent purchase of the Norman Dix property on Route 2 in Plainfield, we found sand!  If you are local to our Central Vermont area, you may have seen the project we were working on this winter.  We have been digging sand and running it through a screener to ensure a high quality bedding product for our cows.  By extracting the sand we were able to improve the field by making the unused hill in the middle of the field usable!  Another added bonus was driveway material that was screened out of the sand.

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Our trucks have been busy this past winter hauling sand to the main farm in East Montpelier to stockpile top quality bedding for all the beautiful ladies at Fairmont Farm!

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This girl is captured getting some beauty rest in a clean and comfortable sand bed!

Our cows…the reason why we love sand like a child on the beach.

 

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Drag Hosing….the Future of Manure Spreading

Being able spread manure without driving manure trucks to and from the farm….this is now possible through drag hosing!  This spring we hired Eric Severy to do some drag hosing from the main manure pit at Fairmont Farm as well as our new satellite manure pit at “The Haven”.  We do recognize the impact we have on our community and our neighbors and are excited to share that by keeping our trucks off the roads by drag hosing 225 acres, we were able to reduce that impact!

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Drag Hosing on Vincent Flats Road in East Montpelier.  This picture is taken between half a mile and a mile from the Farm.

This system takes quite a bit of setup which involves A LOT of hose, use of town culverts and owned and rented land to spread the hose on.

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Pit Crawler at work in the Fairmont Farm manure pit.  This crawler stirs up the manure and sand (from our bedding) to make a consistent and spreadable product.

This is where the drag hosing begins!  From here a pump works to move manure from the pit through the hose and all the way to the fields.

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Manure Pump.  From here the hose followed the back of the barns…

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Went through the pasture…

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Under a culvert….through another pasture…

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Down the road….

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Through another culvert….

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Across a field (which happens to have a great cover crop on it!)….

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Through another field….

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and finally…to the tractor spreading on Vincent Flats!

This was a really fun experiment for us this spring, something that we are excited to give another try either in the fall or next spring.  We were able to move manure much quicker with this technique and there was less wear on our equipment and the roads!

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While we would love to use this technique on all of our fields, we have a large number of fields that are a distance away and the logistics would not work out.  For those fields you will see our equipment out on the roads, you can check out this post from last spring on road safety.

Corn planting looks different than it used to….

Our cropping goal, at Fairmont Farm, is to be 100% no-till with cover crops, and we have nearly met this goal for a number of years now.  However this year we were about 70% no-till with a cover, 15% no-till without a cover and 15% minimal tillage.  Some of the reasons we have done more tillage this year were: repairing damage to fields from manure spreading in wet conditions, and field stacked manure from barns that are not compatible with our liquid system during the winter months.  The reason for having some fields no-till without a cover is due to the late harvest last year, we ran out of time to get a cover crop planted on some of our later harvested fields.  So, what is no-till and what are cover crops?

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Corn Planting – This picture is no-till planting with a cover crop


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Corn Planting – This picture captures planting new corn directly into an existing grass field

No-till is a type of conservation practice that we use in which we no longer till our fields up before we plant corn.  Instead, the soil is left undisturbed and seeds are directly sewn into the existing vegetation.  We pair our no-till planting with the use of cover crops.  Cover crops are planted after the corn is harvested in the fall and are terminated after spring corn planting.  By planting corn this way, we are simulating a natural ecosystem for the plants.  The benefits include an overall increase in soil health, reduced soil erosion, reduced soil compaction, increase in yield, increase in nitrogen recycling, and increased ability to filter and retain water among many other benefits.  From a management perspective, there are also significantly fewer inputs involved in this system including reduced time, money and fuel.

We currently crop about 3,600 acres, 1,500 of which are corn.  Being able to get all of our corn planted in a timely manner, for our short growing season, with our small and rocky fields was one driving factor when we originally made the transition to a no-till cover cropping system.  However since then, we have greatly appreciated all of the other benefits that are gained with this new system.

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Close-up of our corn planter in action


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This photo does a great job showing the excellent soil health in our no-till system

“Across the Fence” had a great episode on October 22, 2012, they interviewed Ray Archuleta from Natural Resource Conservation System (NRCS).  In the video, Ray has a few demonstrations to show the difference in soil health between conventional land and no-till land.  The no-till land naturally stays together, retaining nutrients and water, far superior to land that has been tilled.  The impact this has on water quality is substantial.  No-till soil is able to handle heavy rains without the worry of runoff from nutrients.  This is because the root systems combined with earth worms and other living organisms aerate the soil and make room for the water while simultaneously creating a natural “glue” that keeps the soil intact.

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2016 Corn Spraying – Front View of the Sprayer

What do you see being sprayed after the corn is planted?  The last part to a successful no-till and cover crop system is the termination of the cover crop so it does not compete with the productive crop.  After the corn (Roundup Ready) is planted we use a Glyphosate (generic Roundup) based program to kill the cover crop.  All of our spraying is done by Bourdeau Bros. Inc., a licensed, certified and reputable company.

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Time for a re-fill!

The above picture is a close up of the BIG spray rig, which is designed to be able to maneuver in between corn rows if the corn has already started coming up.  In this picture the spray rig is getting a refill and the Glyphosate is being mixed up.

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2015 Corn Harvest using 2 Choppers


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High Quality Silage being “pushed up” and “packed”.  Notice the yellow color, this shows a high percentage of corn grain in the silage.

What is the result?  The results for this new no-till and cover crop system is a win-win for farmers and for the environment.  Farmers are able to use less inputs to produce a higher quality crop with increased yield much more efficiently, while conserving the natural ecosystem and preserving soil health and water quality!

The Adventures at Dairy Day Camp

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First Day of Camp – Group Shot!

Last year we ventured into Summer Camps at “The Haven” and LOVED it!  The kids had a blast, we had positive feedback from all the parents and we had so much fun sharing what we do with the campers.

I thought I would sum up our weekly adventures through some great pictures of the kids!

Chores

We started off every morning with chores, making sure the girls had plenty to eat and then tidying up the barnyard.

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Each camper was assigned their very own calf for the week!

Brushing

The campers brushed their calves…

Bath Time

and bathed them everyday.

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They practiced leading the calves daily for the demonstration to friends and family at the end of the week.

Picking Packs

They “picked the pack” to make sure the calves had a clean and dry place to take a nap.

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They played games…

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and made friends.

Calf Feeding

They learned how to feed the babies…

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and grain them….

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and even let them lick their fingers!

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They went on a hike…

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which ended with some excitement when we came out to loose heifers!

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Played some more games,

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and made their own butter!

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Went on a field trip to the main farm to see the calf barn.

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Even managed a little quiet time…sometimes.

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Did some more chores,

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and earned a Blue Ribbon!

We are very excited about our 2016 Dairy Day Camps!  We will be holding two weeks of camp this year:

  • June 27th through July 1st (5 days)
  • July 5th through July 8th (4 days)

The weeks will hold many of the same experiences that the campers had last year but we are planning to add some afternoon workshops as well.  These have not been finalized yet but the campers can expect to possibly hear from older 4-Hers, from service providers here at the farm such as our vet or hoof trimmer, and we are working on a great field trip!

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#farmlove #happycampers #happycows

Please email Clara for a camp registration or if you have any questions, cannot wait to get another group of amazing campers signed up!

email: fairmontfarmvt@gmail.com

www.fairmontfarminc.com/summer-camps/

Exciting Heifers Selling this Spring!

Developing great cow families is something we feel very passionate about.  Our purchase of “The Haven” has allowed us to focus on producing fancy show-age heifers and high genomic heifers and bulls out of key cow families here at Fairmont Holsteins.

Haven Sign Winter

This year the results of all of our IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) work are evident, we are thrilled with all the heifers we have housed at The Haven.  After having great success last year, we are looking forward to what this year has to bring.

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“Fairmont McCutchen Maiden” wins the winter calf class at The Big E!

There will be many opportunities to purchase heifers over the year as we have several sale consignments lined up.


 

On Friday, February 12th, at the GTPI Type Sale 8th Edition in Leola, PA we will have 5 lots selling.  You can look for:

RS8766_Fleury Gen Sanchez Lovely-ET HFB5728

Fluery Gen Sanchez Lovely-ET EX-92

Lot 25 – Fairmont Armani Love-ET (6/2/15)

Lot 26 – Fairmont Brokaw Lucille-ET (9/5/15)

Both these heifers have potential to be 6th generation Excellent!

The Dam, “Lovely”, topped the Lure of Lylehaven sale as a pick for $30,000 and produced over $55,000 in offspring sales through the Celebration of Lylehaven.


 

 

HF32622 VT-Pond-View Atwood Lady-ET

VT-Pond-View Atwood Lady-ET EX-90

Lot 29 – Fairmont O Kaliber Lassa-ET (6/3/15)

This heifer is the pick of four full sisters and also has potential to be 6th generation Excellent!

 

 


 

 

HFB9055 Vt-Pond-View Gold April-ET

VT-Pond-View Gold April-ET EX-92

Lot 39 – Fairmont Sid Azalea-ET (9/3/15)

This heifer is the pick of four full sisters.

Her Dam, “April” goes back to MD-Delight Durham Atlee-ET EX-92 who is the Dam of “Atwood”.

 


 

 

HFK55669 Fairmont DTP Decade-ET

Fairmont-DTP Decade-ET VG-87

Lot 40 – Fairmont Doorman Dulce (9/4/15)

This fancy, square cut heifer has a strong pedigree, her Dam “Decade” is VG-87 and the 2nd Dam through the 5th Dam are all Excellent.  Great show potential for this upcoming year.


 

Other upcoming Sales we will have consignments in:

  • CUDS Spring Classic Sale (3/19/16)
  • Swing into Spring Tag Sale (4/1/16)
  • Cobleskill Dairy Fashions Sale (4/2/16)
  • Woodcrest Bridge to Excellence (4/23/16)

Featured Cow Families:

  • Fluery Gen Sanchez Lovely-ET EX-92 (pictured above)
  • VT-Pond-View Atwood Lady-ET EX-90 (pictured above)
  • VT-Pond-View Gold April-ET EX-92 (pictured above)
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Co-op Moonboy Rescue-ET VG-85 +2621 TPI

FarmLove

 

In honor of February and Valentine’s Day, today I want to talk about #farmlove.  #farmlove is a hashtag you may have seen on several different social media outlets and was created to showcase what #farmlove means to farmers through pictures that only a farmer can capture.Cabot Logo

So what does #farmlove mean to us at Fairmont?  #farmlove comes in many shapes and sizes…these are a few of the things it can mean to us:

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#farmlove is when you are walking through the barn and the girls just want to give you kisses

 

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#farmlove is getting up bright and early no matter the weather so all the ladies are fed, 365 days a year

 

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#farmlove is getting so excited when a baby learns to drink on her own for the first time

 

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#farmlove is this baby being lucky enough to have two loving moms teach her to stand for the first time

 

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#farmlove is getting excited about genetics and speeding up genetic progress through IVF

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#farmlove is couples deciding to celebrate their marriage with us at the farm

Maiden Big E

#farmlove is when everything comes together from the mating of a cow to raising the calf to teaching them to lead and you get a big win in the show ring

 

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#farmlove is when Lovely is just too cute and photogenic to not have her pose for every holiday of the year

 

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#farmlove is a class of kindergartners that are so excited to see a brand new baby

 

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#farmlove is when you are trying to take a picture and Anna just wants to show you love rather than posing

Our “Udderly Crazy” 4-H Year!

March Calves

The Spring Calves enjoying a snack at the Show Barn

The 4-H showing season is now in full swing!  As of April 30, the eight 4-H members of Udderly Crazy 4-H Club have each been assigned projects for the upcoming 2015 season!  Each member is guaranteed to have one show heifer if they are interested in attending the 4-H shows. We currently do not have any members without a project calf, but we would be welcoming to anyone that is only interested in the other events such as quiz bowl and judging!

4-Hers work with their animals all year long to get ready for the Show Season

4-Hers work with their animals all year long to get ready for the Show Season

All of the project heifers have been moved to the “show barn”.  At the show barn, the members have easy access to a space to lead and bathe their heifers.  They are expected to work with their heifers as much as possible; preferably three to five days a week. 4-H members not only learn how to care for their animal and prepare it for a show, but they also learn about record keeping.  Record Books track goals, management practices, health events, expenses, growth, lactation, breeding and calving, production, show results among other things as well.

The Club chatting before the competition.

The Club chatting before the competition.

Our 4-H year actually begins every October.  Our first event of the year is the Dairy Challenge at UVM in November.  For this event 4-Hers attend various workshops completing a quiz after each one.  This is a great start to the year as it covers many different aspects of the dairy cattle project.

Dough Ornaments to Decorate

Dough Ornaments to Decorate

In December our Club enjoys caroling at a local nursing home, where they bring handmade ornaments as gifts!

Udderly Crazy 4-H Club at Quiz Bowl

Udderly Crazy 4-H Club at Quiz Bowl

Quiz Bowl is the next event of the year, our County Quiz Bowl is held in February and our State Quiz Bowl is held in March.  These events use a lockout buzzer system and 4-Hers must be the first to “buzz-in”, and answer the question.  This is a fun way for the kids to show their knowledge.

Picking out Show Heifers for the Year

Picking out Show Heifers for the Year

In April, we focus on assigning projects to all the members and they begin working with their heifers.

Concentrating on Judging!

Concentrating on Judging!

We just attended the Orleans County Judging Workshop on May 9th.  This workshop will teach 4-Hers the ins and outs of Judging, it will be set up like a contest but will be a learning opportunity for the kids.  This year the official was, Fairmont’s own, Ricky Hall.  Ricky was on the Cornell University 2011 Top National Intercollegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Team, after graduation Ricky was a classifier for Holstein Association USA for 2 years before coming back to Fairmont Farm.  He is a great asset for the 4-Hers to learn from! After the Judging Workshop our 4-H Club will participate in State Dairy Judging in June.  For this contest, 4-Hers are asked to place a class of four animals.  They are graded by how closely their results align with the officials.  Another great aspect of Judging is the oral reasons.  Older members give their placement reasons to the officials, this requires the kids to organize their thoughts and practice public speaking.

Getting Ready for the Show Ring

Getting Ready for the Show Ring

Also in June, we participate in the Orleans County Clipping Clinic.  This is an educational workshop led by professional fitters, who attend shows and sales, where they clip and prepare the animals to look their best.  Every fitter has a different technique and the 4-Hers pick up tips from all of them to develop their own style.

Fitting and Showing!

Fitting and Showing!

Grand Champ

Grand Champion

In July, we will participate in the County 4-H Show at the Orleans County Fairgrounds, in Barton, VT.  Our VT State 4-H Show follows in August.  At these shows the kids participate in confirmation class with their animals but also Fitting and Showing.  For Fitting and Showing they are each judged on how well they prepare and present their project.  At the State show, 4-Hers that are old enough can qualify to go on to represent Vermont at the Big E in September. At the Big E, the 4-Hers are solely responsible for their projects for the week.  They are teamed up by state, they care for the animals, prep them for the show ring and show their animals.  This is a very fun event and is a great conclusion of the 4-H year!

4-H Club at the Fair!

4-H Club at the Fair!

Spring has Arrived!

Here at Fairmont Farm, Spring is finally in full swing.  We are happy to have the longer days, warmer weather and hints of green!  With a late start to the growing season, we are bustling around to get everything going.

Fairmont Farm Sign

Blue skies and green grass have just arrived here in East Montpelier, VT at the “Home Farm”

Manure spreading has begun and will continue throughout the spring.  Last year, we stopped spreading manure on our fields before the December 15th Winter Spreading Ban because of snow on the ground.  When the Ban was lifted on April 1st, our fields were still too wet to spread on so we continued to wait until conditions improved (the Accepted Agricultural Practice).  With a little over four months that we did not spread, our manure pits are close to full and we are glad to begin applying nutrients back onto the land.  Although we do use some fertilizer, our manure accounts for a good amount of the nutrients our crops need.  We crop about 2,500 acres in East Montpelier and the surrounding areas and we crop another 1,000 acres in Craftsbury and the surrounding areas.

Fairmont 2015 Spring Spreading

Spreading in Craftsbury, VT at Fairmont Dairy, LLC, what a beautiful view!

We hope that our neighbors and communities enjoy the beautiful farm landscapes around them.  Being good stewards of the land, being a part of our community and being good neighbors is extremely important to us.  You can visit our website and read about our “Manure Management“, we are constantly trying to evolve the system that we have to improve water quality, crop yield and efficiency.  We are very excited about a couple recent projects that will reduce Spring road traffic and greatly improve soil compaction, leading to improved water quality and crop yield.

Fairmont Frac Tank

This is our new “Frac Tank”! It works as a holding tank on the side of the field allowing us to move manure with Semi-Tankers. The tankers can unload into the Frac Tank rather than needing to go on the field, this keeps only our spreaders with flotation tires in the field which reduces soil compaction.

While we do our best to reduce the Farm traffic on the roadways, you will still see a lot of us.  Safety is a top priority of ours, so when our equipment is on the road there are a few things you can remember to ensure both your safety, and ours.  Please remember that we often will turn into or out of a field driveway that you may not be expecting, our equipment is often large and slow but we are not on the road for long.  Vermont Agriculture put out a great Youtube video about road safety and farm equipment, please take the time to watch the video and share what you learn with your friends and family!

Spreaders on the Road

A Fairmont manure spreader heading up the hill to the farm in East Montpelier, VT

Happy Springtime!

Welcome to Our Blog!

Fairmont Family

We plan to use this blog as a place to share exciting news with you and keep you updated on what is happening at Fairmont!

Follow our blog for news and updates, but please remember all the other ways to see what is going on at the farm too!  You can check our website: www.fairmontfarminc.com, like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and follow us on Pinterest!

If you need to get in touch with us, call our office at 802-223-3868, or you can send us an email as well at fairmontfarmvt@gmail.com.