Tag Archives: January

Baby|Calf Watch 2014

5 Jan

The hubs has already spent half the night in the pasture watching for new babies, but is at it again just as the sun is coming up.

Just about 3 weeks away from D-Day, but our cows are in the heat of calving and today many decided to pop out during the first snow storm of 2014. Not only are we expected to get about 8 inches of snow, but the wind chill is suppose to be in the -20’s. Those of us living in Southern Missouri sure aren’t used to these sub-zero temps.

Calving season is my favorite time of the year. All the hard work throughout the year makes it worth it when you see the calves nursing and chasing their mamas across the field.

At this stage in my pregnancy, I can’t really do a whole lot on the farm. However, I do make a pretty good side-kick, secretary, tag-maker and gate-getter. Since I can’t get out of the truck, I snapped some pics with my phone to keep myself entertained.


Extended cab trucks come in handy during these winter calving months. Thawing out this baby, she was one of four who chilled out in the truck with me this morning.



Happy New Year

1 Jan

2013 has been one of the most memorable in history. My brother graduated high school and started his journey in college, Kevin and I received the biggest blessings we could imagine, my sister got engaged to such a wonderful young man, my dad overcame cancer like a champ and my mom continued to serve as the rock of the family; holding us all together with a constant reminder that God doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle and with His guiding hand all is possible.

But 2014 can only trump it. My brother is already planning for the future and applying for internships. Baby Johansen will be here in just a couple of weeks. Wedding planning is already in full swing. Dad gets fitted for his prosthetic very soon and is truly my hero. And none of this would be possible without my mom.

2013 Christmas Card

Calving…ET Style

10 Jan

January marks the start to a pretty busy time of the year for many farmers and ranchers across the country. Why you might ask? Well, the answer is simple, it’s time for those cows we bred last spring to start calving. Although the answer is simple, the process may not be.
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Many chose to avoid calving during this time of the year because of the chance of cold and inclement weather. We don’t have that luxury because most of our customers desire a spring born calf. Luckily, weather here in Southwest Missouri has been pretty mild compared to past years. But as many from around here know, that couldn’t easily change tomorrow.
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Because all of our cows are synchronized, they should all calve between about a two week interval. This isn’t an exact science and sometimes mother nature takes over and cows calve early or later than their expected due date. Just like in humans. Our group of calving cows are checked at least three times a day. Once in the morning, once before dark and then again at about 3am. How do you synchronize these pregnancies? The cows are implanted with a CIDR for one week. It projects a hormone making them come into heat at the same time and therefore bred at the same time.  Once the CIDR is removed the cow will come into heat seven days later.

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You might be wondering why this black, cross-bred cow has a white, Charolais baby calf. Our operation is a little different than normal. We run an embryo transfer (ET) herd. Those in the purebred cattle business want more offspring from their best cows. That’s where we come in. These breeders send us their superior mama cows (we call them donor cows) and we give them hormones that enables them to produce more than one egg during a cycle. While still in the cow those eggs are artificially fertilized. Then before they have time to grow inside the cow they are flushed out. This process is very similar to IVF in humans, but the embryos are either frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored in tanks or immediately implanted into recipient (recip) cows. These cows are similar to what people would call a surrogate mom. The recip cow carries the calf until birth and nurses it until it is weaned. Once it is time for weaning, the ET babies are then sold back to the purebred breeder and our recip cows are once again synchronized for their next breeding.

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Babies of different breeds, owned by different people are born each day on our farm. Because of this, records are extremely important. Each breeder is assigned a different color ear tag that each calf is given. The information on the tag includes: date of birth, sire, dam and the recip cows tag number. This information is also recorded in a notebook kept in the feed truck and is later entered into our computer database program.

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Calves are tagged right after they are born to eliminate any confusion later. This time is also the easiest time to actually catch the calf. They haven’t quite adjusted to life on Earth and don’t know how to exactly use their feet yet. But it is always a good idea to keep an eye on mama cow. She is typically very irritated by this process. Wouldn’t it be easier if they could understand that we are just trying to help?

For us here at Utopia Genetics, we will be calving out spring babies through March. We get a short break during the summer months and then fall calving kicks off in early September.

Does anyone have any memorable calving stories or tricks of the trade that help make this time of the year easier on both farmer and bovine?

FFA & Family Ties

30 Mar

Spring means green grass, warm weather and colorful flowers seen and felt by all of us. But to agriculture education teachers and FFA members across the country, spring means contest season.  A busy time where students are learning how to judge livestock, identify plants and prefect their parliamentary procedure knowledge. As a former FFA member and agriculture education teacher I have competed, trained and judged these springtime rituals.FFA & Family Ties

My favorite thing to compete in, train and judge was public speaking. My exposure to this started at a very young age, long before I was an actual FFA member. My dad was a former ag teacher and taught many students the art of public speaking. I remember sitting in the living room floor listening to different freshman recite the FFA Creed over and over again, until it was perfect. Years later it was my turn. I memorized the FFA Creed and started practicing it with my dad. I have to admit it wasn’t all glitz and glam. He was tough and knew what it took to win. Hours of standing in front of the TV in the living room paid off though and I made it all the way to the National FFA Convention. In the years to follow I competed in all the different public speaking areas with my dad as my coach. These experiences gave me the confidence I lacked and prepared me for future leadership opportunities. Once I became a teacher, I caught myself telling my students the same things my dad had told me. “Talk with your eyes.” “Pull your chin down to show sincerity.” “Pause, pause, pause.”

I share all this with you today because I recently heard my dad recalling a public speaking contest he competed in when he was in the FFA. Read on as he shares his memory.

It was January 1974 and with a big ice storm hitting Southwest Missouri, my ag teacher had decided it wasn’t safe for him to take me to Jefferson City to participate in the Missouri Association of Fairs’ 1st state public speaking contest. Five hundred dollars was at stake for first place, but power was out across rural Missouri and ice covered most roads. My Dad put a big water tank in the back of our farm pickup, filled it almost full with water to add weight to make traveling on ice easier. We left home about 2:00 in the morning traveling from Aurora to Jefferson City where Missouri Association of Fairs Convention was being held at the Governors Hotel.  I remember sliding through an intersection in downtown Eldon, but we made the trip without an accident. I competed in two rounds of competitions held throughout the day and the winner was to be announced at that evenings banquet. I don’t remember the entire food menu at the banquet but I do recall having difficulty staying awake through the cold peas and mushrooms, which was a strange vegetable combination for this country kid from the Ozarks. The winning speech was to be presented at the banquet, and when they called my name, I was too exhausted to show much excitement. I had always been trained to not use a manuscript during a presentation. This proved to be poor advice as I forgot where I was in the middle of the speech and stood silent for what seemed to me like hours finally remembering where to pick up and finish. I got my picture taken with the Governor Kit Bond and was proud to not throw up the cold peas and mushrooms.

January 2012, in the Missouri Association of Fairs and Festivals 38th year of sponsoring their State Public Speaking Contest, it was a warm January day when my brother Jonathan Bellis was the state winner receiving a $1000 scholarship.  My dad’s winnings of $500 almost paid for a full year’s college tuition in 1974.  Jon’s winnings 38 years later, although appreciated just as much as my dad’s, will cover about a third of his first semesterFFA & Family Ties

I have to admit I got a little emotional while listening to it. It reminded me of what a parent will do to help a child succeed. Just as my dad spent hours helping my sister, brother and I; my grandpa risked a snowstorm in 1974 to make sure my dad’s hard work wasn’t a waste. I am a firm believer of close family ties and I am honored to say the FFA has played a huge part in strengthening an already strong family bond.

Thank you dad for everything!

January In The Hills

31 Jan

My great grandma Helen was born in 1911 and grew up in the hills that I now call home. Through her adult years she began to keep a diary about her life, her love of nature and passion for agriculture. She only finished the 8th grade, but education was always important to her, important enough to help her great-grandkids through college. Her love for reading and writing traveled to my mom and even to me. I am honored to now have her old journals and I would like to share this entry I recently found about the hills in the cold month of January. It is unedited and depicts her original work.

“Another year, what will it bring? The sun already lean towards spring and summer. But we still have the long slow haul up the cold slope toward spring, January seem a long month to me. We will face the killer wind, but days begin to lengthen. You can watch for the snow birds to come ahead of a snow storm, Indians call the moon in January the wolf moon, that when hunger drove the pack. These are good evenings to sit by the fire and listen to the wind with a good book to read. So many people today don’t know anything but a T.V. instead of listening to the night sounds, winter music is the creak of snow under your boot, the boom of ice on the frozen lake or river, the song of sleigh runners as you move along.

Then always a January thaw, then the snowdrifts always a beautiful thing, but makes work and sometimes our roads close here in the hills.

When January is gone we look toward spring. Seed catalogues to plan and dream dreams.”

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