As I write this column, its 60 degrees and sunny, and just a few piles of snow remain. Perhaps the sunshine and longer days are finally here to stay. I couldn’t be more eager for a change. Checking my weather app for updates on when the next snowstorm will hit and making efforts to plan my week around it is frustrating. Driving to and from the farm in darkness on icy roads through snow drifts and zero visibility conditions hasn’t been fun. Our hired help not being able to make the drive to the farm to help out on the worst days make chores take even longer. Treating heifer calves for pneumonia as they struggle to deal with the constant weather changes adds stress. I truly hope a winter this ruthless, paired with the strain of low milk prices isn’t something I’ll have to endure for at least another 20 years in my dairying career.
    A few particular events over the past few months are weighing on my mind. First, a meeting with my dad, uncle and I didn’t go as planned and ended abruptly with me storming out in tears. Next, I had finally gotten our calves back on track after dealing with crypto issues for about six weeks. I beamed with pride as I walked through the barn two weeks ago with two of my calf consultants, and they commented on how healthy the girls looked. Two days later my perfect, aggressive, spunky 8-day-old calf lay down immediately after drinking her milk, indicating she was not feeling well.
    While walking our bred heifer pen checking for any that needed hoof trimming, I found eight with swollen hooves, indicating hoof rot issues. This is very unusual and certainly made me annoyed, as they created a new problem for me to treat and monitor. As our vet walked in for our herd health check last week, he asked me if I’d been looking at our first lactation’s performance. I admitted I hadn’t spent much time looking at our records lately. He pointed out our freshening heifers weren’t performing to their potential, and we needed to troubleshoot. In times like this, I often repeat the serenity prayer in my head, asking God to grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
    First, I must accept that these problems occur, and fortunately I have the ability to take charge. I talked to my hoof trimmer about the hoof rot in our heifers, and we found it is from feeding wet haylage. We hit a bad spot in the bag and after two rounds of treatment, I believe this problem is resolved. For my precious calf, I gave oral electrolytes and IV lactated ringers every 12 hours for three days. I nearly cry seeing her spunk return as I walk to her pen. Even more uplifting is seeing the younger calf next to her still healthy and aggressive. I was terrified of the scours spreading. Next, I’ve been digging through our records and spending lots of time thinking about what’s holding our first lactation ladies back. I’ve got a few areas to discuss with my dad, uncle and our vet. First, I need to improve our calf raising, which I am in the works of pushing our calves towards an accelerated feeding program. Besides this, I’m being more diligent about recording treatments in calves and heifers so we make better culling decisions pre-freshening. Next, I want to discuss our service sires, and if we should be focusing on different criteria when selecting bulls. Finally, I want to monitor our forages, as I believe our heifers deserve the same treatment as the lactating herd. This would have a positive impact on their weight gain and conception rates as well.
    I need to accept the things I cannot change. After conducting several great meetings, I know I’ve taken a step back. I must accept that my dad, uncle and I are extremely different in our personalities and how we view our operation. While I’m hesitant to schedule another meeting, I know it is my job to force us to sit down and listen to each other. While growing up, my dad instilled in us that you must get along with your family. You never give up on your family. I’m sure anyone with siblings can relate to the constant struggle of getting along. Though your DNA is identical, your personalities have seemingly nothing in common. I’m grateful for this advice from Barbara Bush, “Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people – your family, friends and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.”
    Laura Scholtz farms with her father, John Rosenhammer, and uncle, Greg, on Roseview Dairy near Sleepy Eye, Minn. They milk 200 Holsteins and run 580 acres of cropland.