Raising A Family on a Farm

The Smith Family

The Smiths – Lewiston, UT

When you grow up in the city, thinking about growing up on a farm seems really different, almost like something out of a novel or a history book. Farm life carries a mystique of hard work and strong family values, early mornings, and the smell of fresh hay. Wanting to learn a bit more about what it is like to raise a family on a farm and how farmers teach their kids about work and values, I caught up with Oralie Smith. She and her husband, Jackson, are raising their 8 sons on their dairy farm in Northern Utah.

As one of 11 children, Jackson Smith grew up farming, and when the couple got married, they knew that having a large family was what they wanted. They felt that a dairy was a really good place to raise kids – good opportunities to be outside and work.

What are some of the benefits of raising your kids on a farm?

I feel like our kids have really learned how to work, and we’ve been able to teach them about managing money. Each of them has chores and there are real consequences to not getting them done – someone else will have to pick up the slack or the animals suffer for it, so it has taught them responsibility.

Our kids get paid for the work they do on the farm, which has enabled us to teach them about money from a really early age.

Money and financial discussions can be uncomfortable at any stage of life, how do you talk to your kids about money?

We just always talk about it. Our kids start out with age-appropriate chores when they are about 6 years old. At that point, I cash their pay check for them into small bills that they can count. I have them count the money back to me, and then we talk about splitting it up. 10% gets set aside for the church, half of what’s left gets set aside for savings and the reminder gets put into an envelope as spending money. When they are young, they are especially proud of their earnings and my little ones count out the bills in their envelope frequently. Sometimes they will spend it on something I would consider frivolous, but they have earned it and it is their money to spend.

Our conversation changes a bit when the kids turn 12. As their responsibilities change, their pay increases, but we also expect them to pick up some of their own expenses – things like fees / equipment for sports teams they are interested in joining, or more name-brand school clothes. Our goal is to teach them about paying for things that will become bills in the future.

When the boys turn 15 or 16, the conversation changes again as responsibilities include things like a car, gas money, school lunch…

Do you ever have tough financial conversations with your kids?

Absolutely! Sometimes big things happen. One of our sons had an engine blow up on his car, another got a traffic ticket, and another got in a little fender bender. This is when we talk about pulling money out of their savings account to cover these unexpected costs.

This isn’t necessarily a tough conversation, but sometimes it’s just tough for me as a mom. My boys reach 15 or 16 and I realize that they don’t need me much anymore – they have money in the bank, they can pay for their own dates, their car, school-related things. I guess that’s the point of all of this, but you always want to be a mom :)

Since your kids have a real and important role on the farm, how involved are they in other extra curricular activities like sports? 

All of the boys have played a little T-ball and soccer. If they express an interest in taking it to the next level, like wanting to join a traveling team, we’ll have a talk about priorities. If they make the sport choice, they likely won’t have time to work on the farm and earn money. Almost all of them have chosen the farm. The biggest thing for us is that we give the boys a chance to make their own choices. They are all into horses, and that’s something that keeps them on the farm.

The Smiths newest addition

The Smiths newest addition

I know your boys each have a dog. Can you tell me a little about that?

When our boys turn 8 years old, they each get a dog. Jackson really wanted each of the kids to have the opportunity to have their own animal. As a perk to living and working on the farm we supply all of the food for the animals, but each of our boys is responsible for caring for his own dog. Jackson has encouraged them to get a female so that they could breed her and sell the puppies to make money. As they get older, they usually get another dog for hunting. Now we have a bunch of dogs, but the boys have done really well with them.

Have any of your kids expressed an interest in coming back to the farm to work and/or raise their families?

Our oldest son just got married, so we are just getting to that point, but we start talking about this from the time they are young. If the kids want to come back to the farm, we want them to go away first, gain some life experience, learn about having a different employer than their parents, and bring something back to the farm that is new (i.e., a new way of feeding). Some of the kids have laid out a plan. Our goal is to have them come back to the farm excited with fresh and new ideas to keep the dairy progressive and able to provide for all of the families involved.

Do you run the farm any differently knowing that some of the kids may come back to raise their families?

We are always looking ahead and asking ourselves the question: ‘When the kids graduate, how will the farm benefit them and their families in the future.’ I think that helps keep us from getting stagnant and set in a rut. We always want to be progressive.

Do you feel like you have any unique challenges to raising your kids on the farm?

I don’t think we do. Whenever I talk to friends, whether they live in the city or on another farm, I recognize that we all experience the same issues as parents. We all try to teach our kids how to be appreciative, how to work, how to pick up things. I don’t think we are any different.

Smiths feeding calves

Farm Chores – Feeding Calves

But what about the fact that you have 8 boys, how do you manage just the day-to-day household chores like cooking and cleaning?

Laughs…We have to buy a lot of food and we have really big pans! Sometimes if I bring brownies to a social function, friends can’t believe the size of the pan. But likewise I look at their tiny pan and wonder who that would feed!

As far as laundry – I try to take care of all of it during the week so I can take the weekend off.

A favorite recipe that is always a hit at BBQs:

Baked Bean (Or 3 Bean Casserole) 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb browned hamburger
  • 1 onion
  • bacon (optional)
  • 1 can pork and beans
  • 1 can butter beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can black beans or garbanzo
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp mustard

Method:

Add everything to crock pot and cook until thickened and hot; usually a few hours on low. This recipe can be doubled and will still fit in a large crock pot.

Note: Can add green pepper if desired and can also mix in different combinations of beans

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Kristi Spence, VP Communications Dairy Council UT/NV conducted this interview. Though she has been living in Utah for the past 10 years, and working for dairy farmers for the past 4, Kristi grew up in Los Angeles.

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Why We Appreciate Our Cows

In honor of “Cow Appreciation Day,” we caught up with some of our contributors and local farmers to ask them, “Why do you appreciate your cows?” Here’s what they said:

Chace Fullmer

“I’ve never not had cows…don’t know what it would be like not to have them. Our cows are the reason I get up every morning – to try to do something to make their lives better.”

Chace with Calf

Chace Fullmer with Newborn Calf

Braden Anderson

“I love working with cows and making a lot of them pets. I enjoy taking my cows to the shows and getting them ready for the shows. I’m appreciative of my cows for the wholesome product the produce. I’m grateful for how they produce our livelihood.”

Braden Anderson

Braden Anderson

Katharine Nye

“Cows were my first friends. When I’d go to work with my parents when I was very small, playing with calves and watching as my parents worked among our herd were my daily activities.  Cows have been a mainstay in my family, and they are a legacy that my siblings and I are working to continue. Our cows work hard for us: taking care of them brings me joy, and knowing that my cows provide the world with a safe and delicious food is just the whipped cream on top!”

Katharine with Calf

Katharine and a young calf

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Do Fireworks Scare Cows?

Recent 4th of July firework celebrations got us thinking…many dogs are petrified of fireworks, but what about cows? We asked Utah State University Extension Dairy Specialist and Associate Professor, Allen Young to weigh in. Thanks to Allen for contributing this post:

As humans, we love to go to scary movies and see things that make our flesh crawl, but if we get scared unexpectedly, we usually go through the “fight or flight” syndrome.  This is where adrenaline surges, we jump, scream/faint, try to run or even turn around and lash out at someone.  There are several times my wife has scared me, and I almost hit her before I realized she wasn’t trying to sneak up on me.  Animals are similar.  They don’t like to be frightened when they aren’t expecting it.  In many ways their “fight or flight” mechanism is more finely tuned than humans.  This is especially true in animals that historically were considered “prey” animals.  Examples of these would be cattle, sheep and goats.  In the old days it was important that they were not surprised by a wolf, bear, coyote or mountain lion or else they could be dinner.

Fireworks

Today, our domesticated animals are maybe not quite as alert as before, but the same mechanisms that are part of their genes live on.  So the question is do loud noises bother cows?  The answer becomes one of how often does it happen?  If it happens infrequently, then they will show similar responses to what you might expect; running and or lashing out would be examples.  However, if the loud noise becomes a “common” thing in their life, they show almost no response at all.  For example, cows that live near airports become habituated to the point that they totally ignore the sounds from the jets and act as if nothing is happening.  Several years ago I was on a dairy that was located near the end of runway for military fighter jets.  While standing in the middle of a corral full of cows, several jets took off with full afterburners.  I was three feet away from the owner and he and I could not carry on a conversation.  The cows – they never even looked up, ran, acted frightened, or did anything to make me think something was amiss.

So, what if you want to celebrate the holidays with fireworks?  That’s fine; but maybe stay away from the cows.  They are not habituated to fireworks, and I’m pretty sure they can’t outrun a bottle rocket.  Move down the street and both you and the cows will have a happy evening.

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End June Dairy Month with a SQUEAK!

The Secret Behind Squeaky Cheese

sharing a post from our sister site “Our Earth, Our Products, Our Passion“.

Cheese curds, often called “squeaky cheese,” are a popular snack, not only for the taste, but also for the small mouse like squeak sounds when you take a bite. So what makes squeaky cheese squeak? To find out we asked two local cheese experts, Dave Larsen with Gossner Foods in Logan, UT and Pat Ford with Beehive Cheese Co. in Ogden, UT. They gladly shared the secret.

Gossner Foods Cheese Curd

Gossner Foods Cheese Curd

The squeak in squeaky cheese is produced by it’s cheddaring process and freshness.  These tasty little curds are not a byproduct, but rather the first product of cheese making. The traditional cheddaring process starts with letting the milk ripen, which allows bacteria to convert lactose, the natural sugar found in milk, into lactic acid. This lowers the pH and causes the milk to curdle. The addition of rennet, an enzyme used in cheese making, also aids in this curdling process. As the milk curdles, it sets. After setting, the mixture is cooked and the liquid whey is drained. You are now left with curds which are cut into strips and turned over and over to remove the moisture. This process is called “cheddaring the cheese.” Lastly salt is added to keep the pH from dropping further and improve the flavor. The result: yummy cheese curds. When the curds are less than 36 hours old the protein in the cheese is not yet broken down by the bacteria in the added cultures. This gives the cheese a more rubbery texture and causes that fun squeak.

Beehive Cheese Curds

Beehive Cheese Curds

Curd can be eaten as is or pressed into a mold and allowed to age. As the curds age they loose their squeak and turn into the blocks of cheese typically purchased at the store.

Other fun facts:

  • The orange color (see photo of Gossner cheese curd above) is due to a vegetable based food dye, they would otherwise be white.
  • Cheese curds taste so yummy in part because of the extra salt on the outside.
  • Because they don’t have to age, cheese curds allow quick revenue for cheese makers to purchase new milk, while their other cheeses age.

Tips from Dave and Pat:

  • Cheese curds are great fried, melted over fries, or are great fresh for snacking, or picnics.
  • To bring some of the squeakiness back, pop a couple curds in a microwave for just a few seconds.

You can purchase Gossner cheese curds at their store in Logan, UT and find Beehive Cheese Curd at their storefront in Ogden and at grocery stores across the state.

We hope Dairy Month has been good to you. Take it out with a SQUEAK!

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Sunshine & Smiles: A Day on the Farm

Saturday, June 2nd was our second annual “Day on The Farm.” The promise of delicious dairy, family fun, and the chance to get out of town to spend time on a family dairy farm brought hundreds out to the picturesque Canyon View Farm in Midway, Utah. The breathtaking landscape, fun activities, cute animals, as well as Domino’s Pizza, Aggie ice cream, and yummy Gossner milk created the perfect afternoon. Our photos help tell the story.

Farm Tour Collage

Our State Dairy Ambassadors and local FFA students led dairy farm tours (petting a baby calf included)

When asked what their favorite part of the day was, kids exclaimed “The animals!” “The Bounce House!” or “The Ice Cream.”

Day on the Farm was first launched in 2013 in partnership with Domino’s Pizza and their Delivering Dairy Goodness initiative. It is a day to kick of June Dairy month and celebrate families by giving the local community a chance to have fun and learn more about where their food comes from.

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Our Day on the Farm would not have been possible without the generous donation of time and products from our sponsors and volunteers. The day is sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Utah and food is supplied by Domino’s Pizza, Aggie Ice Cream, and Gossner Foods. This year we had the generous support of Canyon View Farm, home to Heber Valley Artisan Cheese and host of the event, Z104, AgrAbility, Wasatch FFA, Mom it Forward and Innovative Food Solutions.

Day on the Farm Pizza

Thanks to Domino’s for the generous donation of pizza for our event.

Thank you to all who attended and helped us eat 2400 slices of cheesy pizza. We look forward to hosting the event again next year.

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A Cow Show

By Braden Anderson

This past month Utah held their annual Western Spring National Show, known as Richmond Black and White Days to most of the locals.  At this year’s show, dairy farmers came from all over the western United States. and as always, it turned out to be quite a tough competition. Not only is it the longest running show held west of the Mississippi, but next year will mark the show’s 100th Anniversary.

Our Cows at the 99th Richmond Black & White Days

Our Cows at the 99th Richmond Black & White Days

What Goes On at a Cow Show:
It takes many hours of preparation to be all ready for a cow show.  Everything from walking the cows several months before the show to washing and grooming them to giving them a special diet that fits each cow individually. Once arriving at the show we make sure all of our cows are comfortable by giving them nice bedding consisting of straw and wood shavings. In addition to getting plenty of water and exercise, these show cows get constant attention from their owners. Like a little baby, we clean their bums after they poop, and we make food (hay and grain) available at all times so they get the nutrients and energy they need.  We also wash and brush the cows everyday to make sure they stay clean and look the best that they can.  As you can tell at these shows, the cows are definitely spoiled.

Awards Ceremony

Awards Ceremony (I’m #131)

I had two cows at this year’s show – a calf who took 7th place in the open show, 1st place in the junior show and received honorable mention junior champion. I also had a cow place second in the open show, 1st in the junior show and take reserve grand champion. It was a good show for us!

Showing Our Calf

Showing Our Calf

I enjoy cow shows and the people that I get to work with. They are some of the most funny, hardworking people I know. Not only are cow shows a great way to socialize and meet with other dairymen, but the experience helps my dad and me buy and sell cows in the most convenient and professional way possible. I am looking forward to next year’s 100th Richmond Black & White Days.

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Cow Health – Caring for Their Hooves

By Katharine Nye

The list of things cows need is long: feed, water, medicine (if they’re sick), ear tags, fluffy bedding, pedicures….wait, what?  You’re probably thinking that I typed that wrong.  Cows don’t get pedicures. Right? Actually, my typing skills are intact.  We refer to cows’ feet as hooves, and the professionals who take care of them are called hooftrimmers.  Or, if you prefer, bovine podiatrists.  But hooftrimmers is more common.

Now, you may be wondering why in the world cows’ hooves need to be cared for.  Cows can be tricky creatures.  A diet that is too rich, Stepping on a rock the wrong way, or experiencing difficulty during birth can all lead to hoof problems.  Most often, when a cow is transitioning – preparing to calve, or recovering after calving – is when hoof troubles arise.  Switching feed, if done incorrectly, can bother a cow’s rumen, and cause all kinds of problems, including laminitis.  Laminitis is the most common term used for cows with lameness.

So How is it Done?

Usually a hooftrimmer has a trailer, called a rig, and his own tools to care for hooves. Rig types vary, but essentially what happens is a cow walks down an alley that leads to the rig.  She steps into it, her head is stabilized, rubber grips come up under her belly and chest, and she is gently tilted on her side.  Cows are large animals and gaining access to their hooves is not always easy.  Stationary, elevated, and on her side ensures a safe environment for both cow and trimmer, and gives the trimmer easy access to see what he is dealing with.  With his main tools, nippers, a grinder and a hoof knife (think extreme pedicure kit), he can gently trim down and file a cow’s hooves to ensure she walks properly and deal with any infections or warts that he may spot.  The cow is then lowered, the doors of the rig open, and she is off on her way.

Cow Hooftrimming

Hooftrimmer at Work

Cow Hoof

Evaluating the Hoof

The way that dairies care for their cows’ hooves varies.  Most often, a hooftrimmer visits a client about one to two times per year to trim hooves, diagnose hoof problems, and consult with the dairy owners.  Sometimes dairies have an in-house hooftrimmer or two, which is especially useful because a lot of problems can start with the hooves – if a cow can’t walk, she can’t eat, and if she can’t eat, everything goes downhill quickly.  Having four stomachs is tough! Having someone there every day, walking corrals and keeping an eye on hoof health, is an incredible benefit to both cows and people.

How does Mountain View Dairy do it? 

Each spring and fall, twelve individuals from eight states and two countries arrive on Mountain View Dairy with an incredible amount of gear in tow.  For one week straight, our twelve hooftrimmers work long, hard hours to make sure that each of our 3,500 animals on site receives a full trim and attention to any other issues they may have.  The week is full of camaraderie, and our eclectic group shares stories and discusses new techniques. While exhausting for everyone, this has turned out to be the best way to care for our herd’s hooves.  It’s a long week, but the quality of our trimmers and the incredible care they take of cows is more than worth it.  It’s unconventional, but sometimes those are the best ways to get things done!

Mountain View Dairy - Hoof Trimming

The Hooftrimming Crew at Mountain View Dairy

For a detailed account of how it’s done at Mountain View Dairy, read the article the Progressive Dairyman.

Hoof health is an important aspect of proper dairy cattle care, and ensuring that each cow receives a high-quality pedicure (albeit without the polish!) helps to safeguard a cow’s overall health and happiness.

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