Manitoba Farm Women - Carla Plett

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FarmFemmes introduced you to Carla Plett this summer. We asked her to come back for another feature this week to talk about how robotic technology has changed the dairy industry. She works with her family at Rumardale Holsteins Ltd. in southeastern Manitoba where they milk around 350 Holsteins on seven Lely robots.

1. How does the introduction of robots impact animal health/welfare?

Robots have many benefits when it comes to animal health and welfare. Since robots remove the human interaction during milking there is more consistency in the way the animals are prepped and milked which ultimately leads to better udder health in the herd. Robots also have the ability to pick out possible sick cows before we may notice anything physical wrong with the cow. Having robots also allows the animals to be milked on their own time.  Another benefit to have robots is being able to customize our robot ration and high moisture corn to each individual cow so each cow can be feed according to their production level.


2. How does the introduction of robots impact record keeping?

In terms of what record keeping we use a combination of Lely's T4C and Dairy Comp (DHI) to keep tract of our herd.  Dairy Comp is our main way of keeping records of our herd but T4C gives us in-time data on each cow for daily management.

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Lely in Action

Display shows cow number, amount of feed, status of each milking quarter and duration of last visit.

3. How does the introduction of robots change the human work in a dairy operation?

Having robots does not reduce your time in the barn like some might think, but it allows your schedule to be more flexible. Robots let you spend the time you would have used for milking to focus on other areas of the barn and herd that you may not have had time for previously.



4. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about switching to robotic milking?

Based on our experience with our herd, if you are considering switching over don't wait - it is well worth the investment!  Since moving over to robots our production and overall cow comfort have increased tremendously.  But it is important to remember that robots should be used as a management tool and that a robot does not replace a herdsman.

Best of FarmFemmes: Connected, Protected, Respected

Originally posted in March 2017 with a follow up post in May 2018

A family business has a unique set of dynamics – everyone is trying to balance their roles as both a family member and as a business partner.  I recently heard the motto “Connected, Protected, Respected” and it really spoke to me. In order to have a happy family and a sustainable farming operation I need to make sure that I am attending to each of those things.  Each of those words can mean many different things, so here is what they mean to me, for my farm and my family:

Connected

To me, this means that I recognize that we are all one unit, working together for our collective good.

  • I facilitate communication between employer and employee.

  • I facilitate communication between the generations.

  • I facilitate communication between the trainees and their family and friends.

  • I make sure that my kids feel connected to farm life.


Protected

To me, this means that I have a responsibility for the safety and wellbeing (physical and mental) of all of the members of my farm family.

  • I am a protector of our farm’s good reputation in the way that I choose to do business and make operational choices.

  • I am the protector of family time.

  • I am the chief safety officer.


Respected

To me, this means that I know that we all have a role to play.  I know my role and my strengths and try to use those strengths to the betterment of our family and of our farm.  I also know my weaknesses and I hope that I can use the strengths of others to help navigate through the areas where I need help.  I expect that our family farm relationships hinge on give-and-take that changes with the seasons, but that everyone is respected for what they can contribute.

  • I say please and thank you for the jobs that I need help with.

  • I recognize jobs well done.

  • I respect time, curiosity and effort.

Connected, Protected, Respected – that is how I would like to view our family and our farming operation.

Best of FarmFemmes: JD Operations Center

Originally posted in November 2017

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I have received many e-mails about my original post about using the John Deere Operations Center for the first time.  Thanks for all of the feedback & questions, keep them coming!

Your questions have led to me doing a lot of research, so there will be more posts in the upcoming weeks as I keep finding out more answers.  In the meantime here are the answers to some of the questions:

1. What display is being used to capture the data you uploaded into the JD Operations Center?

The display used on Deer Creek Farms is a 2630.  

John Deere does have their Gen4 displays available (4640 Universal display), but there are some differences in pricing models to consider.

2. How did you get the data from your display to John Deere Operations Center?

My dad put the data from the display onto a USB stick, and I uploaded it to the John Deere Operations Center using the John Deere Data Manager.  It was a really quick process to do (depending on your internet speed of course).  There are a number of wireless options available, but this was the quickest and easiest (and cheapest) way to get started this year.

3. I’ve uploaded data, but it’s all messed up because I didn’t name the fields consistently.

No problem.  We had this issue too, if I recall correctly, my dad had 156 fields when I loaded it in the first time due to naming conventions and the number of historical year's worth of data I loaded.  Obviously that wasn’t right, so it took a little finagling to figure out how to merge fields.  That way, it doesn’t matter what you named them, as long as you remember the logic.  Field 2 vs. fd2 vs. pet field vs. closest to house can all be merged if they all mean the same field to you.

Here is how you merge fields:

  1. Log In to myJohnDeere

  2. Click on the open book with a push pin in it icon that’s in the upper left hand corner

  3. Click the icon that looks like a shape file

  4. Click on a field

  5. Click the i button icon about that field

  6. Locate the Merge option, 5th from the top

  7. Use the radio buttons to select the fields you want to merge

  8. Click the yellow merge button

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4. How do I look at the data in reports that I can use for field planning next year?

There are a number of pre-built reports that are standard in the Operations Center.  Some are simply what you did on a specific field for a given year, like the below.  

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These reports can also be helpful when comparing the yields between different varieties.  

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Keep sending in your questions!  I still have 7 more to answer - so thanks to everyone who was interested in learning more!


We are always happy to help you and your farm if you are in the phase of getting started with precision ag technologies, or you are ready to optimize what you’ve been tracking for several years now.  You can either comment below, or send either of us an e-mail at karen@farmfemmes.com or teresa@farmfemmes.com

Best of Farm Femmes: Reflections of a Host Mom

Originally posted in November 2017

It is time for me to try to capture what it feels like to be a host mom… First, I feel way too young to be a mom to our trainees – I would totally prefer to be a cool older sister.  But, putting that aside…

Each year we open up our home to strangers and they become family.  It isn’t an easy process… We don’t have a huge house so you can forget about privacy, and it takes a while to figure out how “on” you have to be all of the time.  This pertains to superficial things, like when everyone wakes up in the middle of the night because of a huge thunderstorm, is it okay to be seen wearing PJs? But it also pertains to heavier things, like conversations about budget, work or family.  We are constantly negotiating how much of this conversation happens in front of trainees and how much is just husband/wife…, which goes back to privacy, and finding the time for those more private conversations.

Having trainees in our home every year also influences how we raise our girls.  They have a totally different expectations with regard to attachments, brothers and what it means to be a family.  It is always fun to see the reaction when they explain to people that they got a new brother yesterday! And the girls are still negotiating what it means for brothers to arrive and leave – this year we had two brother Michaels for a time and that was entertaining.  About a day after Andre left this year our oldest asked, “When do we get more brothers?” Whew… I need a bit more of a break than that!

Our trainees are much more than simply employees.  I like to think that we teach them way more than just about Canadian living or life on the farm.  Some have never been away from home before – never done their own laundry or realized you have to make an effort in long-distance relationships if you want to stay in them.  Some have picked up a few new favorite recipes and cooking tips along the way, not to mention learning about child development, hair extensions and work-life balance. I am sure that they get more “sage wisdom” from me than they ever bargained for, or perhaps wanted!  Being a mom of five is hard work! When November rolls around, I am ready for a break. And ready to have leftovers in the fridge!

Living with trainees has been a seven-year adjustment for me.  It is different every year. The trainees who lived with us when I was pregnant had a very different experience than those pre-kids and those this year where the girls are more independent.  And, our trainees next year will have another different experience as they meet each other, and our ever-changing family. Even though we have a few months as a family of four, we are already in the process of getting trainee placements for next year – April is just around the corner.



Clear Your Calendar

Today is the last day to register for the Manitoba Farm Women’s Conference. You can find all of the information here, including the agenda and registration details. However, here are the basics:

WHO: You and all of the FarmFemmes you know

WHEN: November 18-20, 2018

WHERE: Winkler, MB

WHY: This year’s theme is Putting You on the To-Do List. If you can’t make time to attend the conference, maybe you need to stop and smile at the irony…

FarmFemmes will be presenting a session on Monday afternoon, entitled You Can’t Have a Family Farm Without the Family – Finding Balance

This lighthearted presentation will talk through the challenges we face as women in a world of modern agriculture, in balancing farm and family.  This session will cover ways in which we can all use tools, technologies and teams (because really a farm requires a lot of teamwork) to be successful, grow a great crop and enjoy your partner, kids and community.  In recognizing there is no one-size-fits-all approach, attendees will leave armed with ideas and sore sides from laughing at the trials we all have in common as we navigate farm and family!

We will also be moderating a lunchtime conversation about going deeper in developing relationships within women’s ag organizations on Tuesday.

Come join us in Winkler for the conference!

How to Stream a Webinar

There is a lot of information available to farm femmes and farmers, but a great deal of it is via Podcasts or Webinars and we don’t want to make the assumption that everyone knows how to access Podcasts or steam a Webinar.

Podcasts:

Both Teresa and I subscribe to Spotify which works internationally, so no problems when I am traveling between the US/Canada/Europe/Asia. You can download episodes, songs etc. which is great when you are out of cell phone signal range or want to use your house wifi to do all of your downloads. There is a free tier, it just includes advertising, so you can give it a try at no cost and see if you like it.

I don’t enjoy headphones in general, and not in tractor cabs where I still want to hear the sounds, so I ordered a basic Bluetooth speaker on Amazon [Tribit Speaker]. It’s about $30 per speaker, so if you knock it about, lose it getting out of the cab, or drive over it with a tractor tire when you forget to take it off after fueling up (not from experience of course), you aren’t breaking the bank.

Webinars:

To join a webinar is relatively easy, but it can be intimidating the first time. Things you need to attend a webinar:

  1. Stable internet connection

  2. A computer with speakers OR

  3. Headphones to plug into your computer so you can listen OR

  4. A telephone (I often put mine on speaker phone)

  5. A webcam is NOT REQUIRED

A few tips if you are having trouble with the stable connection.

  1. It can be the webinar host’s issue… they have to plan for the number of concurrent attendees

  2. You need at least 4mbps download speeds for a web conference not to be glitchy

  3. If audio is offered via a telephone number (you call into a toll free number with a participant code) rather than using audio over your computer you will conserve bandwidth

  4. Start with a pre-recorded webinar rather than a live webinar so the number of concurrent users is lower.

The biggest hurdle is just in joining your first webinar. You will quickly learn what does and does not work in terms of internet speed (if at home doesn’t work, try going to your local dealership or coffee shop for an hour of wifi use in town). Try different webinar providers, if one speaker doesn’t seem to load or is always glitchy, you can find a different speaker and webinar and see if you see the same issues.

As we head into the season of fall work, and learning the latest grain marketing strategies, we hope you can now add podcasts and webinars to your arsenal.

Halloween Farm Prep: Star gazing apps

Combining farming and technology is our passion at FarmFemmes, and that means sharing the unique fun of the wide open space of a farm. One of our favorite things is the dark sky, that almost pure darkness where the stars really pop.

This week, you may be out with your kids trick-or-treating after dark which is a great way to get started showing them how amazing nature’s nightlights are. If you live in the country, it might take a while to get to your neighbors, so you can do some star gazing along the way!

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Here are some fun free apps to make star gazing high tech.

  • Star Walk 2 [Free]

Super simple. Tap the compass, point the phone at the sky and it will show the constellations above you.

There are plenty of other features, but this is the one that makes you feel like a constellation expert in no time flat.

  • Sky View [Free]

Easy to setup and find stars and their trajectories right away. Also, a really easy camera mode if you do find a constellation that the kids are really impressed with.

Hope these fun apps are a great way to combine the amazing benefits of a big sky, wide open spaces and family on the farm. Happy star gazing!

Protecting Your Assets - Fieldwork Friday

A farmer’s land is one of their biggest, if not the biggest, asset. There are many ways to invest in soil health, and right now fall field preparations are top of mind. Finding the right balance of tillage and fertilization and balancing pasture, alfalfa and crop rotations are part of protecting the land.