Here’s a nice video by Ryan Taylor, Cowboy Logic, about Memorial Day. Enjoy.
Here’s a nice video by Ryan Taylor, Cowboy Logic, about Memorial Day. Enjoy.
Spring is well on its way all over the Northern Hemisphere, and certainly so at Sweet Hills Farm. Everything is brand new – whether plant or animal. Here are some pics for you to enjoy.
This month we are very pleased to introduce you to fifth generation farmers, Matt and Kristie Dorsey, who live in the rich and scenic Sunnyslope area of Southwest Canyon County, Idaho, overlooking the Snake River. The Dorseys, with their three children – Wyatt who is 17, and their 14 year old twins, Weston and Delaynie, are farmers, ranchers and dairymen!
Both Matt and Kristie have been farming and ranching their entire lives. Matt’s great-great-grandparents came to the region in the late 1800s, and raised horses for the government. Matt’s great-grandparents began the existing family farm, raising mostly sheep. His grandparents and parents all farmed and raised sheep. His grandparents also ran a dairy. In fact, they bought Holstein heifer calves back east, which were were flown into Boise! Matt’s dad, Tom Dorsey, continued the dairy, so when Matt was growing up, dairying and farming came naturally him.
Kristie was raised on a ranch in Southeast Idaho; it is due to her background and experience that she and Matt began their beef cattle operation.
On their farm, Sunnyslope Land and Livestock, the Dorseys raise beef cattle and dairy cows. They also grow all of the feed for their livestock (which is unusual). Nearly all of their cropland is planted to forage crops which they feed to their beef and dairy animals – alfalfa hay, wheat and barley feed, and a lot of pastureland. In addition, they grow mint, which is sold for its oil that flavors many of the foods we each.
The Dorseys have been busy the past few years adding a new dimension to their operation – Dorsey Organics! The process to obtain organic certification is difficult and can take years to accomplish. For example, it has taken a whole year for their farm and record inspections to be completed. It takes fully three years from the first year of organic methods before each acre of land is certified USDA Organic. Except for the mint, all of their cropland and pasture, which grows food for the cows, is in transition to organic. Matt believes that it will be well worthwhile, because demand for organic food is growing rapidly, and the price he will receive for his product (organic milk) is much higher than non-organic milk.
In their effort is in becoming an organic dairy, they will be transitioning their entire herd from Holsteins (large black and white cows) to Jerseys (smaller, light brown cows). Jerseys produce a smaller volume of milk than Holsteins but with higher fat and buttermilk components, making them good cheesemakers. Jerseys also do very well on pasture – they don’t require as much feed so they’re more efficient than Holsteins in their feed consumption. The Dorsey’s organic milk will be sold to the Sorrento Lactalis Company in Nampa, Idaho, to be made into organic cheese.
Matt and Kristie like the philosophy of organic. They take care of their soil and the land, because that’s how they make their living. Almost all of their land is no-tilled, they don’t plow at all, in an effort to disturb the land as little as possible. This keeps the organic matter of the soil as intact as possible. Matt’s father and grandfather used to till the land, and Matt was the one who actually did the plowing. When he went off to college, nobody was here to plow, so it didn’t happen! So they just converted their operation to minimum and no-till. *If you’d like to read more about no-till farming, click HERE.
In addition to their dairy, Matt and Kristie have a successful beef cow-calf operation. The mother cows calve in the natural environment of their pastures, and they stay on pasture until after they the calves are weaned. At weaning, the calves are 700-800 pounds, and they are brought into the Dorsey’s feedlot, where they are fed alfalfa hay and grain until they are “finished” and ready for market at about 1,200 pounds.
Matt likes to work, he especially likes raising the crops. As for interests and hobbies, he likes to watch his kids participate in their hobbies and sports. For the past couple years, he’s raced RZRs (Polaris) – he likes speed!
Kristie likes housekeeping and gardening (you can tell – their home and garden is beautiful). This spring, she is getting a jump on her vegetable garden by starting her seedlings in her kitchen. The seedlings keep warm on a heating pad right on the kitchen counter! Kristie also works part-time at the Wilder Canyon-Owyhee School Service Agency (COSSA). She sets up adult training classes for the community – fitness, welding, auto shop, CPR, wood shop, woodland fire fighter training courses. Kristie says this is very satisfying and gratifying work, being able to assist so many people in her community with their education and training.
Their son, Wyatt likes to farm, he is a really good tractor guy, and will drive tractor all day long. Wyatt also loves and is good at football. He’s the left tackle on Homedale High’s Varsity team. He plays first baseman on his high school baseball team, too, and he also wrestled this year, which Kristie says helped him improve his game of football.
Weston also likes to farm and work with his dad. He loves to ride dirtbike motorcycles, and to race RZRs with his dad. He just got a drone, is learning to use that. He can check out the family’s farm fields, he can check the pastures and feedlot to see how the cattle are doing. His high school is offering to pay him to film their football games, and the Owyhee Avalanche (their community’s newspaper) has asked him to do some filming for them. Weston is sort of famous around his community for this.
DeLaynie has many interests and talents – she loves to ride horses. She has a beautiful singing voice and used to sing in the Treasure Valley Young Artists’ Choir. She loves volleyball and softball, and plays on the school teams. Right now, DeLaynie is running track. She runs the 100 yard dash, the 400, and the long jump and triple jump.
Now for the question and answer part of our interview:
What are the biggest challenges you face as a farmer, dairyman and rancher? Oh, so many taxes – property taxes especially. And irrigation challenges; we hope that we have enough water to last throughout the growing season. We appreciate having the water to irrigate right now, and we hope it lasts through until harvest. Also, the regulations and government agencies that make decisions about our operation greatly affects us.
What is the best part of farming for you? There are great rewards to farming! The best thing is that you’re your own boss. Being able to work with your hands and being able to be outside (which can also be a challenge). Raising our family to be responsible, and to take responsibility for their actions, and to teach them to work hard, that there’s nothing wrong with hard work. We feel blessed to have the opportunity to work the land as a family. We want people to know and understand what it takes to raise the food that they buy in the grocery store.
What is your education? Matt has an Associates degree in agronomy from Ricks College in Eastern Idaho, and a Bachelors degree in Animal Science with a minor in Business from Utah State University. Kristie has an Associates degree in Office Education from Ricks College and a Bachelors degree in Business Education from USU. The two met at Utah State.
Do you participate in any civic or industry organizations? Both Matt and Kristie are very involved in their community as well as in Idaho agricultural leadership. Matt: Leadership Idaho Agriculture (LIA) graduate, Canyon County Farm Bureau Board President, Chairman of the Thomas Jefferson Charter School Board, started a charter school (when Wyatt was in Kindergarten), it’s a really successful and great charter school. Past: Young Cooperaters for Darigold (Northwest Dairy Association), President (both Matt and Kristie) and elected to be National Milk Producer Federation President Couple, LIA Chairman of the Board. Kristie is an LIA graduate, Idaho Ag In The Classroom Chairman of the Board, LIA Board of Directors, Canyon County Farm Bureau Board of Directors.
Do you have any stories you’d like to share? Matt was 8 years old and was helping his dad burn weeds. Matt was driving the tractor (!), which had an enclosed cab. His dad was holding the burning wand, and was doing the burning. It got to be lunchtime, so they had parked the tractor by a frog pond, and came into the house to eat. When lunch was finished, Matt ran out ahead of his dad, jumped into the tractor cab and started up the engine. He pushed in on the clutch, which engaged the wheels closest to the pond and drove that tractor right into the frog pond! His dad saw him pop up out of the tractor and into the pond, he ran and got to Matt and got him out of there. They washed him off and then Matt slept for 24 hours. The family never could figure out how Matt got out of the cab, and Matt didn’t know either. They think that it was divine intervention, which has always seemed to be the only explanation.
Another story is about son Weston. One time he went to a dance, but came home early in order to disk a field – he wanted to get a jump on the fieldwork. Now that’s a dedicated farmboy!
Is there anything additional that you would like for our readers to know? The public’s negative perception of farmers can be difficult for us to handle. We want people to know that we are stewards of the land and of our livestock. That is how we make our money. We care for our land and our animals, and they care for us.
You may remember Dolly the Ewe – she was a rescue from the animal shelter. She had been found abandoned and frozen to the ground, emaciated, with 50 pounds of wool hanging from her. You can read about Dolly; Pinto the BlogDog wrote about her in December, 2014. It’s his #20 post.
At that time, our good vet, Dr. Matt checked her out. She’s an old ewe, he said, 7 years or more, she has a bad hip, and he suggested that we not breed her. “She’s probably too old anyway.” So, we brought her home, fed her, cleaned her up. She is one of our flock.
Ha! I kept her away from Loverboy, the ram last fall – across the pasture for weeks. Finally, she ended up on his side of the fence. When I discovered the crayon mark on her back, showing that she had been covered by him, I said to her, “Dolly, you scamp, getting yourself pregnant! You have a bad hip! Doctor said you shouldn’t!”
That ewe looked me square in the eye and said, “Look here. I haven’t been near a ram in 7 years. Loverboy has been flirting with me for weeks now. And besides, have you checked him out? He’s a specimen! No way was I going to miss out on that!”
Well, well, well.
So, late in her gestation, I separated her from the rest of the ewes-in-waiting, brought her into a quiet place where she could rest, and wouldn’t have to walk far from food to water to bed. She went 8 days over her due-date. But finally, with no problems at all, she delivered twins – a fine ram and a lovely little ewe.
She loves her babies, and she’s a wonderful, tolerant mother. For a couple weeks, I kept her separated so that her movements could be minimized. But now that her lambs are a bit older, they three are on pasture with the flock. She’s happy.
Next time, I’ll put a chastity belt on her.
A beautiful photograph of Farmer Mary Hillebrecht of Escondido, California. Mary was profiled in December, 2013 (see “Meet the Farmers and Ranchers” page). She is a citrus and avocado grower, as well as an organizer of several successful farmers’ markets in San Diego County. You can see that her season is in full swing.
When you eat a juicy orange or some guacomole dip, think of Mary and other farmers like her, who grew it for you!
Happy Mothers Day, Ladies! I would like to tell you about two mothers who I hope you’ll agree are pretty special.
The first is #901, the mother of our triplet lambs. #901 was one of my favorite ewes and sadly she left her triplets orphans. She was born in 2009 (hence the first number on her eartag), so this year she was 7 years old, and this was her 5th or 6th set of babies.
Her belly started getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Toward the end of her gestation, she started moving slowly, then limping, and the day after her due date, she went down and wouldn’t get up. I called our vet, Dr. Severin and explained. He said she had toxemia, and it didn’t look good either for her or the babies. He suggested a couple of home-remedies to try, or bring her into the clinic. We loaded her in the back of the Escape, and zipped to the vet.
Toxemia, he explained, is where the mother cannot ingest enough calories and energy to support her in utero lambs, so her body literally begins to use up itself in order to provide the needed nutrients for her babies. Doc gave her an injection to snap her out of the toxemia, and also Oxytocin, to induce labor. Nothing happened.
So, my choice was to lose both the lambs and the mother, or do a Cesarean and save the babies. He said I could try to save the mother, but the surgery cost would be three times that of just saving the babies, and there was a very high chance that she would not survive. We sadly, decided to save the babies and euthanize the mother.
The vet and his staff were delighted to find three healthy, full-term lambs, each weighing 7 pounds! I had on hand powdered colostrum, nipples, heatlamps and baby-lamb formula. They spent their first 5 days in our bathtub before we made a cozy little home for them in the jugs in the barn.
“The triplets” are now over a six weeks old, are vigorous and busy. They drink from a bucket with nipples on it, are eating hay and grain, and are gregarious and funny.
I have only to say that this mother, #901 did give her life so that her babies could live. I admire and miss her.
Our second Mother-of-the-Year is #1102. She, too was gigantic in her gestation. I trembled with fear lest she go into toxemia too. But, now I had knowledge of the condition, and with our vet’s direction, was able to administer propolene glycol during her last days of gestation, whenever I fooled myself into thinking she was limping.
One night, long after I had gone to bed, I heard a baby lamb baaaing south of our barn. “Huh,” I thought, “All of our babies are north of the barn. Could a coyote have carried one off?” I slipped back into sleep and again was awakened with baby-lamb-baaing. I staggered out there and viola! There was #1102 with a lovely set of twins out in the small pasture! I said to her, “Good girl! But what was the deal with your big belly – having only two babies in there?” She followed me as I carried the two little lambs into the jugs, set up their heatlamp, watered and fed her, and went back to bed.
A couple hours later, when I came out again, there were so many babies, I blinked my wondering eyes! There was not one, but TWO more babies! FOUR LAMBS! She looked at me and said, “Now you know why I was so gigantic! Apologies, please!”
“Gosh, I’m astonished!” said I. To add to my amazement were their birth weights – 10, 11, 11, and 12 pounds. – that’s 44 pounds of baby lambs she was carrying around. Good grief!
Now my concern was feeding all those extra lambs. A ewe has only two nipples. And, ewes often reject extra lambs. “Ah, well,” I thought, “I’m already bottle feeding three lambs, what’s a couple of extras?”
I fed each of the quads powdered colostrum from a bottle, just to be sure they each had enough. But they wanted nothing to do with me after that! Their mother said, “Hey, woman, I’m no slacker, I can take care of my own babies. So, just feed me well, and I’ll feed them, got it?” OK, good deal! So now, we’re power feeding her, and she’s power feeding her four lambs. Long suffering, as she constantly has a nursing lamb, but a protective, devoted, hard working mother none-the-less.
Never have I seen finer mothers than #901 and #1102.
Truly Mothers-of-the-Year. HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!
It’s finally over, and it went great. In the end, they’re all nursing, the mothers are healthy and holding their weight well. We have little lambs all over the place; they really do frolic, leap and jump, and it’s easy to waste time out in the pasture or barnyard watching them. Their mothers are extremely protective and patient with them, and, though they won’t nurse another ewe’s lamb, are careful and watchful of all the lambs in the flock.
As you may remember, the sire is a purebred Texel ram – a magnificent fellow. The dams are of two types. Most of my ewes are mixed breed white faced – Dorset, Columbia and Rambouillet crosses. Also, I have several California Red ewes, who are smaller in frame and stature than the white faced ewes. All of my ewes are of high quality and are proven mothers.
The difference in their lambs is remarkable. The white faced ewes all produced big, leggy, white lambs, with birth weights of 12 – 18 pounds. The California Reds all have much smaller, red lambs with refined heads and faces, and their newborns are 8 – 12 pounds at birth. As summer goes on, I will take note of their daily rate of gain and finally, their finishing weight, to determine which is the best type to make the most efficient meat lamb.
This year we ended up with only 3 single lambs, a set of orphan triplets and a set of quadruplets (I will tell you about them next time) – all the rest were twins! Very unusual!
It is a huge relief to be done with lambing. I was totally sleep deprived (happily so), and did a happy dance when I realized I finally didn’t have to set my alarm for 1:50 am, and could sleep the night through. Now, though, the task is to keep everyone healthy and alive, and to maximize the daily gain in the little ones while keeping their mothers healthy. This takes great attention, no slacking off until after market time!