Flat Aggie is a great project that my friend Nicole of Tales of A Kansas Farm Mom put together with multiple classes in her community in southeast Kansas (based on a project done by another school). We wrote a report for Mrs. Piatt’s class last year, and gladly volunteered to participate again. You can find links to all of the posts from both years on Nicole’s blog. The basic premise is that the class sends their Flat Aggie, a paper doll, to farms all over the country to learn about agriculture. Aggie then reports back to the class with a letter from the farm. This post is in letter form so that Nicole can print it out and take it to the class. To the class and readers, let us know if you have any questions!
We had a great time with Flat Aggie here at Heim Dairy Farm in northeast Kansas.
Our farm is always a busy place. We milk about 90 cows and raise all of the female calves (heifers) to hopefully become milk cows. In order for a cow to give milk, she has to have a calf, so we have cows having calves year-round. We also raise crops. We plant some forages, like rye and triticale, in the winter and harvest them in the spring, and we plant corn, milo and soybeans in the spring to be harvested in the fall. All of these crops except the soybeans are used to feed our cows. We also put up big round bales of brome and alfalfa hay during the summer, which are also used to feed our cows. And of course, we feed and milk the cows. All of our milking and feeding chores have to be done twice a day, every day, at the same time each day, including holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Our fall fieldwork was finished before Flat Aggie arrived, but there was still plenty to do during his visit. In the winter we try to catch up on things that we don’t get done during busier seasons like planting and harvest. First, Flat Aggie helped us fix some fence around a pasture that we keep heifers in.
We also have some chores that we have to do more often in the winter. We feed our calves hay year-round, but in cold weather they eat more, and the groups on pasture need hay because they won’t have any more grass until spring.
To keep the animals warm, we bed all of our buildings with straw in the winter. Flat Aggie helped spread out some straw for warm bedding in the barn where we keep the cows that just had calves (called fresh cows).
When calves are born, we collect their mother’s first milk (called colostrum) and feed it to the calf with a bottle. Did you know newborn calves can stand within the first hour they are born? After the first two feedings, they drink powdered milk until they’re about 2 months old.
When the calves get older, we wean them off milk and house them in group pens where they are fed grain. Their feed includes corn, cottonseed, soybean meal and several other things. It’s put together just for them by our nutritionist to help them grow big and strong and healthy.
When the calves grow up, they have a calf of their own and become milk cows. The cows have a different feed, and we actually have to mix it up for them every day. It includes a mixture from the nutritionist (kind of like the calf feed except designed for the cows) along with hay, corn silage, forage sorghum, and ground corn. We showed Aggie how we put it all into a big mixer and grind it up before feeding it. Then we unload it into a bunk for the cows to eat when they’re finished milking.
All of this feed is very important so that the cows can produce milk, which has 9 essential nutrients that you and I need to grow big and strong. Flat Aggie was here for DHIA test day. Once a month during milking, our tester measures how much milk each cow gives and collects a sample. This allows us to track the progress of individual cows. They even get grades, kind of like the grades you get on your report card.
Finally, we showed Flat Aggie the stainless steel tank that we store our milk in. The tank keeps the milk cold and clean between milkings, and every other morning, a milk hauler comes in a semi with an even bigger tank to pick up our milk and take it to the processing plant to be put into jugs and cartons and shipped out to stores and schools for people to drink.
Thanks again for sending Flat Aggie to visit. We all had a great time. If you have any more questions about our farm, please let us know!
Best wishes from Northeast Kansas,
David and Jennifer Heim