Tuesday, December 31, 2013

University of Tennessee Block & Bridle: Rock Top Classic

   A few weeks ago was the yearly Rocky Top Classic Cattle Show.  This year it was back at the Brehm Animal Science Building at UT.  The last time they had it there I was in the fourth grade.  They have been remodeling it for, I don't know, SIX years!  Everyone was hyped up about the heated show barn and the warm water.   The barn where we were tied out was cold and the show ring was hot.   So it was a day of extreme temperatures for the cattle and the people!  My mind didn't stay on the temperature situation for long because on this day, my youngest sister, Elli-Ruth would walk into the show ring leading a heifer by herself for the first time.

Elli and Claire in the new arena.

 She has shown since she was a little one, but always with me and always with a rather large heifer.   This year we have a heifer that's just her size.  I got up around three am to feed and iron her show clothes, BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD.  I woke her up around five. No little kid wants to get up that early but stock show kids aren't normal.  I just mentioned Claire, her heifer's name, and Elli jumped out of bed with excitement!  Once we were ready, we went out into the frigid black morning.  I can't explain how good it felt to have Elli by my side going to a show.  She has normally just showed up in time to walk in the ring.  We stopped and got some Hardees for breakfast on the way to the show.  To stop there on a show morning is kind of like a tradition.   She told the order taker lady where we were going and what she was going to do. It made me giddy with joy to hear the excitement in her voice.   After Hardees we headed to David's (he helps fit my cattle)   to pick up Claire (Elli's show heifer) and my other heifers!  After that,  we got on the road and were headed to Knoxville. When we got there we had to get to work.  Elli is only eight so I let her go run around in the ring.  One of the wonderful  things about a shows is that we are all family!   Kids and Adults work and play side by side and everyone watches out for everyone else. We got everything rinsed and fed and then Elli comes running in telling us she is late and we must get down there!   I let her lead Claire down to the show ring and I swear I could have cried!!  I went in the ring with her but let her handle the halter and stick on her own.  Claire has a temper sometimes so I wanted to be close by if she needed me.   I took a camera to take pictures!  Elli-Ruth did fantastic!   She is still in the Pee Wee division but this summer she will be able to officially compete in showmanship!   After the Pee Wee division came the Junior, Intermediate and Senior categories.    There were three heats of Senior showman, I was in the second.  I ended up showing Claire just because I already had her ready!  I had the smallest heifer in the ring so I kind of stuck out! I got called out into the final heat but ultimately my friend,  Taylor Green,  won showmanship on this day. She has always looked so good in the ring.  Next up was the breed show.  The show moved fast so I didn't have to wait a long time on the Simmentals to show.  Jess, a march calf, won her class. Oppy, a January calf, otherwise known as my Holstein, won her class of like six or seven and then won the show.  Claire, also a March calf, got second in her Commercial show class.  I ended the day with a nice cup of coffee and seeing my heifers buck and play when we got home!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Women Were Made to Farm

Recently, Dairy Carrie wrote a post about why we women (married women, which I am not) say "I am the farmer's wife"  instead of considering themselves farmers.  I thought a lot about her post and wondered why it is so hard for some women to identify themselves as farmers.  I personally consider myself a farmer and hope that I will continue to do so when I get married.  I also started thinking about the different make ups of man and woman and made  a list of why women might make even better farmers than men!  Please men, don't take my list to heart.  You still need to keep farming, because I will be looking for one of you "farmers" to marry in the future, but this post is about empowering the women!
Hips- they don't lie
   I don't know how many times I have carried hay, feed, or a calf propped on my hip.  I hold gates open, move things when my hands are full, keep a cow off of me. and many more things with them.  When I use my hips I feel empowered!!!
Arms and Hands
   I am now artificially inseminating and when it comes to a heifer I can get my skinny arms in her and use my little hands to move inside to breed her. Once, my Pop and I were at a sale and these people locked their keys in their truck! Guess who could get her arm in the cracked window the best, ME!  I got that truck unlocked with the help of a show stick but the other guys could barely get their hand in, I got shoulder deep!
Small statue
   I may not be the skinniest gal on the block but I can get in tiny places most men can't.  I am always the one to pack the nose of the cattle trailers because I am small.  I used to be the one to get in the feed bin.  I am always the one to crawl in the hay loft: one because I can scale the wall to get up and two I'm not scared of the floor collapsing or the creatures that roam!!
    My momma always told me to just bat my eyelashes at my dad and I could get whatever I want!  It seems to work on all the men! My Pop bought me two heifers he DID NOT want because I put on the charm and batted my eyes.  Women are also very detailed.  We see things men don't.  We may see the disposition of calf change before men.   As natural caregivers, we notice when they get sick earlier and are able to identify problems men may not recognize.
It's not all about the physicality of a woman-   The above aspects are all physical in nature but I think their is more to meets the eye when it comes to why women make good farmers.  God has blessed women with traits that go hand in hand with nurturing animals and crops.  Women are very detailed.  We see things men don't.  We may see the disposition of calf change before men.   As natural caregivers, we notice when they get sick earlier and are able to identify problems men may not recognize.  We are multi taskers!   Yes, sometimes that gets us into trouble as we tend to take on too much, but most of the time that allows to think at a rapid pace, analyzing multiple problems and once and solving them all in a short amount of time!
  Farming has always been a  "mans world" but the reality is that women are and have always been a vital part of running an operation.   I call myself Farmer Madison because I have every right to work alongside men any day of the week.  I can't wait to work along WITH  my husband on the farm.  Together we will make a strong team each offering different skills and abilities. And... We can both call ourselves FARMERS!!

Off to see the Stock Barn

The wonderful stock barn of Athens!
A couple weeks ago we sold some heifers to a neighbor.  When my Pop was loading them, one got way from him.  I think I was at school on that day, so I was no help!   This Tuesday we were going to take her to the guy who bought her.  We also needed to take two old show heifers and CRAZY calf off too.
  It was a rather simple process.  The cows went to the barn quite easily and separated out nicely, so I have no exhilarating story! Except when we got to the stock barn!!!
  Poppa has started letting me pull his truck up while he gives them his name and address.  The last time I did fine.  Poppa has a Ford straight shift and the reverse is up beside first gear.   While trying to not get in reverse I hit third.  I killed it.  I finally got it into first and drove it half way home, according to Pop! 
Just another day in the life with Farmer Madison! Don't kill it!!!

Side Note- Sorry, I have not been posting!  All my fault.  I say I am too busy, but in reality I just hate having to sit down and work on it!  I will do better; however, you might have to read ten blogs in one day!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

That Time of Year

Yes, it's almost Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It also a time for a huge livestock event the North American International Livestock Expo.  According to their website it is the, "world's largest all-breed, purebred livestock exposition".    Each year we try to start packing early, but this year and,  well every year, I end up waiting to pack the trailer until the last minute.  It has been warm in Tennessee up until TODAY.   The forecasters say we may even get a snow flurry this evening.  So, instead of packing last week or the week before while it was warm I donned my coveralls, vest, scarves, gloves, hat, warm socks and begrudgingly went to the barn to pack the trailer. Sometimes we are huge procrastinators.  I haven't blogged much the last few weeks because I have been getting the heifers ready to go.  We want them to look their absolute best on show day.   This year my Dad made us two aluminum half chutes to take with us, because they are light weight and easy to transport.  I have been up at the shop helping him get them all cut and welded up the past few nights and  the "tired" is getting ready to set in.  But... The show must go on.  I am looking forward to an exciting, exhausting, fun, hard working show next week.  My cattle leave tomorrow for Louisville and I leave on Friday.   We are taking seven heifers and one aggravating bull. The cattle will be gone for ten days.

(I actually wrote this post on Tuesday of this week, but have been insanely busy!  It is actually Saturday now, and I am AT NAILE!!!!!   I am so excited!!!    My heifers will be showing today and tonight!  It is so hard to convey my excitement through writing, but just know I AM JUMPING UP AND DOWN RIGHT NOW!!!  WOOHOOOO!!!!)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Veteran's Day

  Yesterday was Veteran's Day.  On our way to school my mom brought up a very good point; Why do we close schools to celebrate a single person but not close schools on Veterans day?   I know that post offices and other government offices are closed, but why not schools?  She had a point!  My grandfather's are veterans so this hit close to home.  I won an essay contest  a few years ago about homeless Veterans and their plight and ever since doing the research for that project I have always been curious about the lives of all Veterans.  Today, I was doing a search on Veterans and Farming (since this is a farming blog) and I found a blog post titled "From War Veteran to Farmer".  I really love this post.   I have known all my life that growing up on a farm is the best way to grow up.  I feel the peace and calm when I walk outside each day.  I am in awe of nature so it was really no surprise to find out that many Veterans also find solace in farming and working the earth.  It seems fitting that Brave Men and Women would enjoy farming.   Farming is freedom! Producing food for yourself and others is liberating!   I think I will go farther and say that the peace and solace is not directly related to the act of farming but rather to the enjoyment of being out of doors.   I volunteer at a nursing home and one man who had lost his legs in the war longed to hunt and fish.  He was going out of his mind on a daily basis because he had no access to dirt, to fresh air, to memories of hunting as a child.   Another man, also a veteran, who wore his farm overalls every day (he sleeps in them too!) only wanted to go outside and collect some "cackleberries" (eggs)!   My sisters and I organize projects for the home.  Some of those have included planting them a garden, having a harvest party on the 4th of July, and asking them regularly about their farming, hunting, and fishing memories.  They all have the same thing in common.. They want to be out in nature.  The want to use their idle hands.  I, too find peace in taking care of animals and cultivating the land,  I am glad that many veterans are able to connect to the land and take away some of the pain that comes from fighting in war.  The land is always there for the brave and battered.  It will take the punches and listen to our frustrations.  Happy Veteran's Day! 

4-H Banquet

Recently we had our County 4-H Banquet.   It is a time to recognize all the county 4-H'ers for their years accomplishments.   4-H means a lot to me.  Most of the time when kids go into High School they seem to split their time between 4-H and FFA .  Unfortunately and Fortunately I am homeschooled.   This is fortunate because I get to travel around the Country networking with BEEF folks, I get to work on the farm almost full time, I get to spend lots of time with my family, and I have time to extensively study and pursue areas of interest to me.  Unfortunate, because I don't get to enjoy programs like FFA.  Since FFA is federally funded they do not allow homeschoolers or private schoolers to participate.  My mom called their office one day and they explained the whole thing.   She talked to the FFA folks for thirty minutes and gave them statistics on how many homeschoolers there are in the US.  They were sympathetic, but unable to do anything about it.
  Every year, I watch my friends from around the Country don their blue jackets and congregate together to compete and socialize at the National FFA Convention.  It kind of hurts me to watch it, but then I wonder to myself if I am really missing out on as much as it feels like I am.   I usually come back to earth and realize that this world is big and there are plenty of opportunities in and out of organizations like FFA.   I know plenty of extraordinary homeschooler and private schoolers who never got to participate and have been totally successful in life and I know I am one of those kids.  
   I am so thankful that 4-H allows homeschoolers to participate.  I have been involved with 4-H since the 4th grade.  My mom and dad were both 4-H'ers and so are my sisters.   I am currently our Honor club secretary.  I look forward to every service project, meeting and event!   I have life long friends in this program and it has truly taught me life and business skills that I will use forever.
    The long lost point of this rambling story (lol)  is that life is good and it is what we make of it!   It is not healthy to long for something we don't have.  We need to look at what we Do.  When we see the plethra of things that God has given us we will know that we are surely blessed!!!   I know I am!
Me with the rest of the Outstanding Award winners at this years 4-H banquet
I won Outstanding Senior 4-H'er

Friday, November 1, 2013

To the Auction We Go

   Tuesday was the big day!  We usually take our calves to the stock barn to sell twice a year.  We take  calves that are  between 7 and 8 months old.  The fun part about all of this is getting the cattle moved from the field to the barn to be loaded into the trailer.   We knew this was going to be a time consuming operation so in true family farm fashion the whole family, except for my mother who was cleaning the kitchen, came out and helped.  I unloaded the trailer and  turned off the fan and the radio that I leave on for the show cattle to enjoy. I didn't want the young calves to be stressed by the noise.  My pop backed the trailer to the barn and we were ready to rock and roll!   Dad, Ashton (my 15 year old sister), Pop and I all walked to the field.  Actually, Pop drove the 4-wheeler.  The calves are used to Pop and his 4 wheeler because he drives it to the field twice a day to check the cows.   If there is one thing I've learned over the years, it is that my Pop has a special bond with his cows.  They've known him and his 4-wheeler all their lives!  Once in the field we got our game plan together!  There were two sets of cattle:  1. the ones on the hill and 2.  the ones on the lower side.   When moving cattle, you have to remember that they have their own minds.  It is important to move slowly because if you get them too excited then they will start moving in all directions.  We got all the cows moving in the right direction and then Pop came along on his 4-wheeler and said, "Get up, go to the barn" and they went!!!  Dad, Ashton, and I watched the fence so no little calves ran underneath it.  Our fence is unusually high because we usually get the hay tetter stuck in the wire!  As Pop drove them to the barn we made sure none got outside the lane we were driving them in.  The final turn to head up to the barn, "THE LANE", was the hardest part.  The fencing is not great in THE LANE.  We should do some work on it, but I have grown accustomed to it so it probably will stay the same. Dad kept them going up to the barn in THE LANE slowly but surely making sure to not force them so none got away.  One little bull calf managed to escape, but luckily we didn't need him today!   Once in the barn, the fun began!  Besides getting the calves for the sale separated,  we had to band three calves and sort five heifers out.  The first thing we did was band the youngest. He had manure on his back, right where I had to hold him.  That was gross.  We then sorted some more cows out of the barn and banded the cutest little bull! It was one of my old show heifer's second calf.  I want to hopefully show this white legged steer when he gets around six months old.   The third calf that we were supposed to band was as fast as lightening.  It became interesting fast as we tried to catch him.    We try to run a low-stress operation so this was going to be difficult! He wasn't the last to test our patience however!  It took us around ten minutes to catch this bad boy, it then took three to band and hold him!  We got him done and let him go slowly so he wouldn't get away too fast and get hurt.
  Cattle are herd animals and feel better in numbers so we try to keep at least one cow with the calves until we no longer can.  It was time to finally start cutting the three cows out of the calves so we could get down to sorting the replacements and sale calves out.  We sorted those five out into the barn and put the sale calves into the pen waiting on the trailer.  I went to get water for the replacements and one heifer decided to run me over.  I was being stupid and not paying attention so it was partly my fault.   She lunged back on her hind legs, ready to run me over.  She was blowing snot and shaking her head.   I ran for the hay manger a little late, because I am over confident sometimes.  I got away...this time. I was shaking and everyone was laughing and saying they've never seen me move so fast and why didn't we have the camera running.   We still had to get water for them but the heifer was still fuming.  We guessed she was probably just scared.  We ignored her and didn't try to provoke her in any way, but we had to get the water and this time it was dads turn.  The afternoon turned into our own version of a rodeo as I watched my dad jump from the barn floor to the fence and hover there just holding himself  up by his hands.   So, what is the moral of this story?  Be careful around cattle!!!!!   Cattle have individual personalities and sometimes they don't behave the way you think they should.  Good management practices and knowing how to move cattle will alleviate much of their stress.  I have attached a helpful link from Colorado State, by Temple Grandin, about handling Cattle.
Here it is!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Thursday, October 17th,  I hitched a ride with Jennifer Houston of East Tennessee Livestock Center  and we traveled to a social media workshop being held by the Tennessee Beef Industry Council (TBIC).  The TBIC had a fun day planned out with three speakers.  Lauren Chase, Ryan Goodman, both of Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA),  and Pamela Bartholomew from Pick TN Products,  were there to teach us about using social media to advocate for our cattle and/or our farms.   Everyone was excited to get started learning about Twitter, Facebook, Webpages, Pinterest and other social media apps.  We started the day by gaining a general understanding about why we should use social media and how it can impact our farm, and the typical consumers perspective of agriculture in general.   Then one thing that I took away from this portion of the day is that I am always doing something on my farm and it is probably of interest to those who are not familiar with how farms work.   I should be telling them about it..  I can do this through social media with words, pictures and video.  After lunch, we went to groups based on our level!  I sat in the front row, first seat..... This of course is typical homeschooler behavior .  I sat down next to the cutest older couple who own and operate Arrowhead Ranch.  Like many, they weren't raised with technology and truthfully they weren't too thrilled about having to get along with it either!   They now have a Facebook page, a website and a Twitter Account!   During the workshop, we used the hashtag Social Beef on Instagram and Twitter all day long so they were very practiced by the end of the day.  They looked so cute taking this huge step for their angus farm through social media!  We all chipped into help those that were new to the platforms and a fun time was had by all!   Sometimes technology seems frustrating and out of reach for those that weren't raised with it.  I understand that, and applaud those who reach out and grasp onto new concepts. If you are not moving forward in your business you are moving backwards.
 Once we got twitters made and all the other social media things people wanted, we closed the day out with a drawing for "Big Sky Boots: Working Seasons of a Montana Cowboy" which Lauren Chase made with the help of Montana farmers and ranchers.  I didn't get the book, but I came away with something greater.  The higher knowledge of #SocialBeef and friendships with TN farmers.

One of my favorite TN Girls (via Kentucky) Janna Sullivan
with the TN Beef Industry Council
Working hard!
Julie Walker!!!!
Lauren Chase, Me, and Ryan Goodman. Hashtag I love Lean BEEF!!