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Follow organic dairy farmer Jonathan Gates as he reports weekly from his Vermont family farm. Howmars Farm is a certified organic dairy farm, one of many Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative farmer members who supply the milk that goes into making Stonyfield's yogurts and smoothies. The entire family pitches in on this third-generation farm. Check out some of the happenings on his farm and post your comments. Jonathan loves to get feedback from readers.

Independence Day (not just the 4th of July around here)

After working on the fences for several days, and with a forecast for some dry, sunny days, it was the day we had been looking forward to since last October...time to turn the cows out to pasture!!!! It was hard to believe that that grass was tall enough to start the cows through the pasture rotation when just over two weeks ago we had the last big snowstorm go through Vermont. But May 1 was here, and the cows were headed out the barnyard gate. We finished the morning milking, and I headed out to the strip the cows were going into to fence off the compost windrow. The cows crowded around the gate, watching my every move, noticing that I was wearing the old golf bag that holds the fiberglass posts, spring clips, pliers, corks, and other tools and supplies we use during the grazing season. Once I had the covered windrow fenced off, I headed back towards the barnyard and the 61 pairs of eyeballs that were watching me intently. As I opened up the gate, the stampede began.

The cows, heifers, and steers poured through the gate, the tails and hooves went up, and they were off on the first romp of the spring. Maybe one or two cows put their noses in the grass and pretended to graze for a second or two, but soon they joined their herdmates running from one end of the grazing strip to the other to check out the boundaries for the day. It didn't matter if the animal was a 20-month-old heifer or the 12-year-ld matriarch of the herd, they were kicking up their heels, butting heads, twisting and turning, and just enjoying being out in the sunshine and the fresh spring air. And I would enjoy not having to lug round bales into the barnyard and the barn, and then lug the manure out to the compost windrow or stacking area.

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