The livelihood of livestock farmers depends on the health and well-being of their animals.

Illinois Farm Families Blog

Feb 05 2016

Milk: Farm to Store in 48 Hours

how milk gets from a farm to the grocery store

Learn more from local Illinois dairy farmers like Mary and Jesse Faber at mackinsondairy.com or midwestdairy.com.
Feb 04 2016

My Favorite Time of the Year, #CalfWatch16

Call me crazy, but for some reason I enjoy the craziness of calving on our farm.  The craziness of waking up to do night checks, the craziness of having to clean the barn every night, the craziness of not eating until late, the craziness of grouchy kids (mainly our 6 year old daughter), and the list goes on. 

calf and kidYeah, so it's a bit crazy right now.  We are just about ready to enter our "window."  Yes, the window of calving.  If you aren't familiar with beef cattle and the reproduction and breeding practices, the "window" is the time frame they are expected to have a calf.  This year, on our farm, we artificially inseminated (AI) our heifers to calve on or near January 28th.  This is a timed AI protocol that brings the heifers (or cows) into their heat cycle using a CIDR and medicine.  If we had unlimited time and didn't work full-time jobs off the farm, we would AI our cows based off of standing or natural heat. Unfortunately, not all of our heifers were AI bred. And so we wait... 

We AI or put embryos in our top 8%(ish) of cows.  The five cows we put embryos in were due to calve today - February 2nd.  As of right now, we have one ET (Embryo Transfer) calf that is 5 days old.  The only other one that settled is very close... hopefully tonight.  I checked her 2 times in the middle of the night last night and both times she was as cool as a cucumber chewing her cud.  Whatever sis!  

The rest of our cows that are not artificially inseminated are turned out with one of our herd bulls!  They are due to calve anytime between March 1 and April 15.  A guessing game for sure.  If you follow me on Instagram (@amcgrew8342), you may recall a photo of two (very) premature calves that a cow aborted in late November.  Back to the guessing game.  We took 6 cows/heifers to the vet to be checked to determine if they were pregnant and, if so, how far along they were.  We did this because we were certain one of them was the one that aborted the twins.  It would be easy, they said.  Surely it is not that hard to figure out which cow aborted, they said.  Ha.  

Back to the crazy thing.  I enjoy every second of it.  I especially enjoy it right now because it is very mild for an Illinois winter.  Like 35-43 degree mild!!! Awesome, minus the fact that this mild temperature swing equals mud.  Lots of mud.  I have no mudroom people.  And my kitchen is right inside the back door.  It would be best to just pray for me. :) Our time is coming and old man winter will smack me in the face... with negative temps! 

Originally posted on Outside the Ag Room.

Alison McGrew
Good Hope, IL

Alison was born and raised on a grain and livestock farm in Central Illinois and now resides on a farm where she, her husband and their two children raise beef cattle. Alison and her husband both have full-time jobs off the farm that are directly related to agriculture. Alison is a former high school agriculture teacher, as well. You can learn more about their farm on Alison's blog Outside the Ag Room.


Feb 03 2016

What's Cooking Wednesday: Filipino Pork Barbecue Bowl

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 POUNDS PORK TENDERLOINS, THINLY SLICED
  • 1/4 CUP SOY SAUCE
  • 1/4 CUP APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
  • 1/2 CUP GINGER ALE
  • 1/2 CUP BROWN SUGAR, PACKED
  • 4 CLOVES GARLIC, MINCED
  • 2 TABLESPOONS WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE
  • 1 TABLESPOON TABASCO
  • 2 TABLESPOONS CANOLA OIL
  • GROUND PEPPER , TO TASTE

Dressing

  • 1/4 CUP PLUS 2 TABLESPOONS RICE WINE VINEGAR, OR WHITE BALSAMIC VINEGAR
  • 1/4 CUP SOY SAUCE
  • 1/4 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
  • 2 TABLESPOONS SESAME OIL
  • JUICE OF 1 LEMON
  • KOSHER SALT , TO TASTE
  • GROUND PEPPER , TO TASTE
For Serving

  • 10 OUNCES MIXED GREENS, SUCH AS WATERCRESS, ARUGULA, BABY SPINACH, FRISEE, SLICED RED CABBAGE
  • 1/2 CUP RED ONION, THINLY SLICED
  • DRESSING
  • 1 1/2 CUPS ACHARA , OPTIONAL

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Make the marinade: Whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, ginger ale (if using), brown sugar, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, canola oil and ground pepper in a bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of marinade and store in a sealed glass container in the refrigerator for basting. In a large glass or non-reactive bowl or resealable plastic bag, combine the marinade with the pork tenderloin strips, and let it marinate in the refrigerator overnight. 
  2. Preheat the grill (or a grill pan if preparing indoors) to medium-high heat. Remove the pork from the marinade, discard marinade. If you wish, you can skewer the pork onto bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water. Otherwise, you can grill the meat directly on the grates or in a grill pan to prevent the meat from falling through the grates. Grill the pork, turning and basting occasionally, about 5 minutes per side. Let rest for 3 minutes. Alternatively, the pork can be cooked in batches under the broiler in the oven, about 5 minutes per side. 
  3. Make the dressing: Whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, sesame oil and lemon in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Serve the slices of pork barbecue over a bowl of mixed greens and top with the green papaya relish (if using) and a drizzle of dressing. 

Recipe courtesy of Kitchen Confidante and:

Jan 31 2016

Winter is Good for the Soil

Jan 27 2016

What's Cooking Wednesday: Pomegranate Steak with Quinoa

pomegranate marinated steakINGREDIENTS

  • 2 beef Strip Steaks Boneless, cut 3/4 inch thick (about 8 ounces each)
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Marinade & Sauce

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Quinoa

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable or beef broth
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds or sweetened dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine Marinade & Sauce ingredients in medium bowl. Reserve 3/4 cup for basting sauce. Place beef steaks and remaining marinade in food-safe plastic bag; turn steaks to coat. Close bag securely and marinate in refrigerator 15 minutes to 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare basting sauce. Pour reserved 3/4 cup marinade into small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook 15 to 20 minutes or until reduced by half and slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
  3. Cook quinoa in broth in medium saucepan according to package directions. Stir in spinach, pomegranate seeds and walnuts. Keep warm.
  4. Remove steaks from marinade; discard marinade. Place steaks on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered,  7 to 10 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, times remain the same) for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally and basting with sauce.
  5. Carve steaks into slices; season with salt, as desired. Place quinoa on serving platter; top with cheese. Arrange beef around quinoa. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, if desired.

Recipe courtesy of:

Jan 22 2016

Illinois Farm Images on Instagram

Are you on Instagram? Be sure to follow us @ilfarmfam for more images like this one from local Illinois farmers!

calf bottle in dishwasher

Repost from Holly Spangler:

"It's that time of year again: CALVING. My dishwasher and sink will wash bottles, my laundry will catch any manner of nasty calving clothes and blankets, and sleep is optional. So are plans, which brings to mind the following timeless farm wife advice: livestock and weather will be the greatest detriment to any plans you ever make. Amen. And may these little four-legged darlings hold off on the coldest days."


Jan 20 2016

What's Cooking Wednesday: Pepper & Egg Brunch Bake

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 eggs beaten
  • 3 cups lowfat milk
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar,
  • 1 cup Colby or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 slices whole wheat bread, cubed
  • 12 ounces turkey kielbasa, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 ½ cups chopped onion (about 2 small)
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper (about 1)
  • 1 cup chopped red pepper (about 1)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cheese, mustard, pepper and salt. Add bread, kielbasa, onions and peppers; stir well until the bread is completely absorbed. Cover bowl and refrigerate at least 12 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir basil into egg mixture. Pour into a 9×13-inch baking dish and bake for 1 hour or until eggs are set.

Recipe courtesy of:

Jan 15 2016

Sustainability on a Dairy Farm

Learn more about how Illinois farmers make their farms sustainable here.

using manure as fertilizer

Linda Drendel
Hampshire, IL

Linda was a middle school/high school teacher for 25 years, and presently takes care of the calves, farm bookkeeping and has a part-time job off the farm. Each year, the Drendels host the City Moms on their farm for a tour and answer their questions about how milk gets from farm to table.

Jan 14 2016

10 Ways You Know You're an Illinois Farmer

1. You’re prepared to handle anything Mother Nature gives you. Blizzards, rain storms, heat advisories and drought.

2. The care of your animals takes priority over everything else.
3. Preserving the environment is always a factor in your decision-making on the farm.
4. Mud, rough terrain, or icy roads? No problem. Four-wheel drive.

 
5. You can see for miles from the highest spot on your farm - and all you can see is corn and soybeans.
6. As a kid, you spent every summer weekend showing livestock at the local county fairs.
7. Your high school class was less than 100 kids.
8. The younger generation is teaching the older generations how to use technology to make the farm more efficient and environmentally sustainable.
9. You learned how to drive as soon as your feet could reach the pedals.
10. You love inviting your urban friends to the farm to learn about how your family grows food for theirs.



Jan 13 2016

What's Cooking Wednesday: Cowboy Beef Stew

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-1/2 pounds beef Stew Meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 package (12 to 14 ounces) dried bean soup mix with seasoning packet (not quick cooking)
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes with green peppers and onion
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 can (14 to 14-1/2 ounces) beef broth
  • 3 cups frozen diced or hash-brown potatoes (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Soak beans in water overnight in refrigerator according to package directions. Reserve seasoning packet.
  2. Coat beef with seasoning from reserved packet. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large stockpot over medium heat until hot. Brown 1/3 of beef; remove from stockpot. Repeat twice with remaining oil and beef, adding additional oil as needed.
  3. Pour off drippings; return beef to stockpot. Drain beans; discard water. Add beans, tomatoes and beef broth to stockpot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 1-3/4 to 2-1/4 hours, or until beef is fork tender.
  4. Stir in potatoes, if desired; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; continue simmering, uncovered, 5 to 7 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.

Recipe courtesy of: