Cheese Lovers Newsletter (1.15.2021): A new year of opportunities!
Hello Cheese Lovers!
We were fortunate to be able to take a break from newsletter writing and some cheese activity the past week after the holiday rush. We also took a two-week break from deliveries to try to reset and look forward.
The next 52 weeks
First, we hope thinking about good-tasting cheese in your mouth could be a welcome distraction from the terrible events of this week and the past year. We are extremely optimistic about a much better 2021 for all of us, and hope you do your part in having a positive attitude. We too have been caught doom-scrolling or doom-watching the news in 2020 and early 2021; especially with Minnesota being an extra center of so much negative activity.
Second - the Good News:
Blessings of 2020 -
• Our staff were tossed through a lot, but charged through with us. Despite personal situations and executive orders forcing us to shift often last minute, they are the reason we are still standing today... from interns to part-time to full-time at both the farm and creamery, they worked incredibly hard, and mostly with covered faces
• YOU of course made 2020 happen. When we were notified in early March that our March 17 cheese batch had no place to go, with a combination of some amateur photos and massive sharing on social media, YOU gave us faith that we could run a delivery service. We had hiccups, errors and the occasional mis-direction (who knew there were so many Lifetime fitness locations in a five-mile radius of "St. Louis Park?" But thanks to our staff and you, we can confidently say that 99% of the deliveries happened successfully, and as far as we are concerned we did our best to make it right on 100%.
• Restaurants - they fed us, they sold our cheese, they've battled through terrible changes in their business model. PLEASE support them with purchases of food and gift cards, as we will need the good ones in 2021 and beyond.
• Wayne - you don't know him, he likely won't see this, but he's our UPS driver. He helps us figure out how to meet him when we miss the truck if a cheese make goes late, and how to get our "contest cheeses" to a UPS location somewhere for optimal arrival if traveling cross-country.
• Started a delivery service, first by pickup truck and then by delivery Cheese Van with help from a COVID-related grant from both the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Stearns County... and with the help of the media and social media gained literally thousands of new fans and customers along the way.
• Completed new composted manure and liquid manure storage facility to better our nutrients and eliminate trekking through snow drifts on the worst winter days with help from grants and support from the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District
• Completed construction of new Walk-In Cooler with the help of Tom to help commingle more outside cheese (with help from a Dairy Business Innovation Alliance grant)
• Uncles Tom and Randy also helped upgrade a number of buildings, pieces of concrete and equipment throughout the acreage this year
• Completed construction of a new storage facility with the help of Elrosa Lumber Company (with help from a Dairy Business Innovation Alliance grant)
• Nearly completed construction of a machine shed to protect our hay, straw and equipment
• With some unfortunate exceptions, ourselves, family and friends stayed healthy and happy.
In that spirit, we'll list some upcoming 2021 excitement -
• On January 22, see if North Fork Whiskey Washed Munster is named a National Good Food Foundation award winner (https://goodfoodfdn.org/awards/) - the entry batch was actually made by cheesemaker Tim back in the summer... results are in, we just won't know until January 22!
• We are planting our first 120 hard apple cider trees in spring 2021, with 1,000 more to arrive in 2022, after encouragement of our friends at Milk + Honey Ciders of St. Joseph
• If we can get the pandemic to subside further, the third-ever Redhead Creamery CURD FEST will take place on Saturday, June 19, 2021.
Exciting possibilities are afoot to ensure our long-term crop and nutrient disposal abilities, labor needs and ... that's all we can say for now!
From the farm Q & A -
Q: What's the new big orange tag on your cows' ears?
A: It is a simple question, but last week the day arrived. We purchased a technology called CowManager, which will help us monitor two major measures on a constant basis (receiving data every 8 to 10 minutes) and hopefully provide us two outcomes.
CowManager, and similar technologies, are fit in the ear (like ours are) or around the neck (as a collar) to record rumination and activity. Activity is pretty straight-forward in layman's terms, but there are years of research behind the proprietary algorithm: a gyroscope inside the eartag measures how much the cow is moving compared to normal. When this activity is way up, it is likely the cow is coming into estrus or ovulation - at which 4-12 hours after onset would be the optimal time to breed them for a successful pregnancy. There are other things we are just beginning to learn about activity which could correlate it with other diseases and disorders. Animals are tough - they can't tell us when something hurts. This is why if you fail out of veterinary school you end up in medical school (that's an old joke... based on the fact that on a percentage basis it is harder to get into veterinary school than medical school).
The other measure is rumination. Rumination is the amount of time cows spend chewing their cud. Rumination for cows should be about 450-550 minutes per day, but again the algorithms help measure the cows' rumination against their normal amount... so the change deviation is what we are watching. If this rumination drops while activity goes up, the cow is almost certainly telling us she is ready to be bred.
There's much more to it, and it is something Lucas studied in graduate school, but for activity monitors 1.0, your lesson is complete for today.
Happy New Year! Stay happy, optimistic and healthy, and we hope to see you or you see our cheese, soon.
Alise, Linda, Jerry and Lucas