Haylage, 1st cutting complete!!!

What a spring!  I’ll admit I was a little apprehensive this year.  Anyone with Alfalfa in a  mid-western climate knows what I mean.  As the adage goes ‘the best way to make it rain, is go cut hay’.  And to add to the challenge for the first time in over 10 years, we switched custom chopping companies. Two thousand acres of alfalfa hay to shop, unusually wet conditions and a new group to work with, definitely a challenge to contend with.

If you don’t understand farming, the hay harvest is significantly different that your traditional harvest, you can’t just go out in the field and pull it out of the field in one quick operation, it really is a 3 tiered operations.  Mowing, merging and then chopping the crop.  The challenge becomes getting the hay dry enough to chop, hay is like your lawn it will keep growing and growing, and the only way to get it to dry out it to mow it.  Then depending on weather conditions it can take 12-36 hours to get it dry enough to chop it and haul it out of the field.

Mother nature likes to play tricks on us, so we watch the weather very closely for a 2-3 day window to get the three steps done.  A couple of years ago an unexpected storm popped up and this was the result.

Its pretty hard to get equipment out into a field that has floating hay.  It happens, but we work hard to avoid it.

Well this year, mother kept us on our toes, but we are  finished with first cutting!!!   Here are some photos of our last day of 1st cutting Hay harvest.


The photo above shows two tractors merging the already cut and dried alfalfa into one big pile for the chopper to harvest.

This photo shows us chopping the alfalfa into trucks to be hauled to the dairy and stored.

Thanks a lot to 7 Farms Custom Ag, the trucking companies involved, and Bridgewater Farming staff for making this a successful first cutting, everyone pitched in, worked hard to get the job done.

Oh yeah, because hay is like grass every 28 days the fun starts all over.   Due to challenging weather conditions it took us 3 weeks to get a 1 week job done.   We might be starting this harvest all over again next week.

Wheelin’ Sportsman

It’s hard to imagine it’s been 4 years since we nervously agreed to allow the National Wild Turkey Federation host their “Wheelin’ Sportsman” event on our property.  The biggest concern; how can we trust a group on non-farmers and outsiders to protect our land during the most critical season of our farming operation.  If that ground or seed that we place in the ground is not treated with the utmost care it will not produce a plant. Without a plant growing we won’t have a crop, and with out a crop we will need to figure out another way to feed our cows.

Earlier this week the local NWTF group contacted me to remind me the kick-off dinner for the event would be Friday. It went through my mind how much I have learned to trust this group. Last year, we were so busy that even though they reminded us, we completely forgot they were out hunting until Sunday after they completed hunting. This year with a new farm manager seriously focused on getting the tractors rolling and getting seed on the ground, we needed to inform him why people would be wandering around our land.

In all reality, we have the easy part. Bridgewater Dairy along with a group of other farmers donate their land for this special weekend. This is the easy part. The handicapped hunters, and the volunteers deserve to be honored for the work they will be doing this weekend. This weekend there are nearly 20 handicapped hunters, and between 1-3 volunteers per hunter depending on the mobility of the hunter. That is a big group for NW Ohio!


Not all of the hunters could make it for the kick-off dinner, but we were excited to see those that could make it out!

Thanks to the National Wild Turkey Federation for organizing this event every year, and treating our land and environment with the utmost respect!  www.nwtf.org

So how is the digester doing?

I really need to start a list of the 20 most common questions we get about our farms.  For the energy enthusiasts this is by far the top question.  

“How is the digester doing?”

As dairy farmers we often expect and are thrilled to answer questions like:  How are the cows doing? How are they handling the hot/cold temperatures?  What are you doing for animal welfare?   We love these questions!   Not only do we know how to answer them, but they challenge us to do better!

The digester is always a tough one.  Often, it feels like a service project.  We know it has a significant positive environmental impact, but the operation of it can be messy and there are few events that create immediate positive feedback. 

What an awesome opportunity it is witness and assist in the birth of a newborn calf, or knowing the animals for which you care could be producing a milk that might eventually be packaged in a new healthy product like fairlife milk.  Wow!  How cool is that!  

 The generators are producing electricity that run out of the farm through three large black wires!  Yeah, no the wires aren’t jumping around because they are so full of energy they can hardly contain themselves.

I could tell you hundreds of stories about the challenges associated with the digester, but there are many positives as well.  Those aren’t stories for today, today is about learning cool things.

If you have been tracking us for awhile you may know that about 8 years ago we installed a methane digester and two 600 kWH generators capable of providing electric equivalent to the usage of more than 400 average sized homes.  

Anyone have a guess how many hours our generators have on them?

Generators, digesters and pumps all have maintenance issues, some of which we do in house, and some of which we hire out to more skilled technicians.  The really exciting piece of information is that we now have the ability to do a complete overhaul ourselves. 

This is way above my technical ability to describe, but kudos to our team for all their effort.  Generator 1 has run over 30,000 hours since we installed it!  Currently, Generator 2 is carrying the electrical production, but tomorrow that will change.  

The best news is there is very little wear on the overall engine, with some “minor” engine repair this engine is expected to be like new again, and we learned a lot about the operation of these engines in the process.  After some exercise time on Generator 1, we will likely shut down Generator 2 for its overhaul.

Confused about how generating green energy off cows might be a dirty job?  Ask Mike Rowe.  Dairy Cow Midwife provides some great examples of the differences between animal care and digester care!   Or if you know someone on our farm, just ask them about the great digester clean out event last year.  

Drones are among us…

While the rapid adoption of drone’s might be a scary addition to the farming world, there are some pretty cool things being done with drone’s here in NW Indiana.  

Check out these cool photos taken of our manure hauling operation. IMG_2351IMG_2344 IMG_2352



*Bridgewater Dairy and its entities do not allow the use of drones over its operations or properties without written consent.

Winter 2013-2014

Yes, this has been a tough winter for all of us.

Here is a round up of this winter’s numbers so far. Winter By The Numbers

The snowiest winter and the fifth coldest winter ever, and if the forecast holds up we may be getting more snow next week.

Yep, we are ready for summer!!! Although this snow might not melt until June at this point.

If you haven’t read our post in January about “milking cows in a snow storm” you should and then add 4 more snow storms only slightly less stressful than the first. Yep, it’s been a challenging year.

A feel good story… One of our own.

Whether its working outside in below zero temperatures, or in the extreme heat; knee-deep in cow manure or helping assist in the birth of a baby calf;  working long hours to plant a little seed or gazing over a beautiful corn field.  Dairy Farming has its challenges but it also has its rewards.

Bridgewater Dairy Group is proud of all the employee’s that help make us an excellent dairy farm.

Bridgewater Group often feels like family to us, and we know that everyone that helps make Bridgewater Dairy a special place has a life outside of Bridgewater Dairy.  They all have families and other passions and hobbies beyond Bridgewater Dairy and we love to take a part in their lives whenever we can.  

Recently Southwest Airlines put together a blog entry about one of our families. I encourage you to check out the link to the Southwest Blog.

How Southwest Airlines Medical Transportation Grant Program Brought Life to My Family – Video link

Southwest Airlines Medical Transportation Grant Program Provides a Helping Hand to our Patients – story

Brian and Amy Shaw have 6 children, two of these are adopted with special needs.

Thanks, Southwest for honoring one of our employee’s and thanks to the Shaw family for being part of our greater family.