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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.

Need a tractor part? Email us a digital picture

The true grazing season is over here at Howmars Farm, even though on nice days the cows still head out to the pastures to nibble on what's left in the paddocks. Today we were going to go to the full winter feeding schedule which meant putting round bales inside the barn to feed in the feed bunk. We have been feeding hay in the bale rings in the barnyard since early October. Just before I was about to put the bale grabber on the loader to bring the bales in, the joystick for the loader went slack and I knew something was wrong. I looked under the tractor and saw that one of the cables the joystick operates was not anchored like it should be, but I wasn't sure of the problem. I went into the barn to call Dragoon's Farm Equipment to speak to Wayne.
 
Wayne wasn't sure about the problem, but he asked if I had a digital camera and could I get a picture of the problem. Back under the tractor I went to snap some pictures. Once I loaded the pictures on the computer, I could see the problem. A broken bracket that anchored the end of the cable. I emailed the pictures, and Dragoon's let me know the part would be here in a few days. So much for using the grabber. Time for the old bale spear. Using the spear, it took about twice as long to bring in the bales but we got the job done. Once in the barn, we peeled back the plastic and net wrap on the bales, and then I cut the bales open with the chainsaw. The cows were eager for the tasty 3rd-cut bales, and Willa, one of Stonyfield's have-a-cows, was among the girls that just had to have a taste of the fermented grass.
 
The girls were happy with their meal ( a happy meal for cows?) , but it would be a few days before we would be happy with our loader tractor. Until the new part comes in, we will use the bale spear to feed round bales to the cows and young stock, and it will be harder scraping out the manure in the freestall barn and in the barnyard with a loader whose bucket we can't curl up or down. Just a minor headache we'll work through until the UPS man makes me happy with the parts delivery.

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Ain't technology great?!!! (when it works)

Blessings,
China L

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