What a crazy morning! Lucy had her calf, a little heifer I named Margo. The barn cat that we hadn’t seen since we brought him home two weeks ago finally decided to come out of hiding and let the whole family pet him. I’ve got two ducks sitting on eggs and a dozen in the incubator. Then the mailman calls and our chicks arrived already! I wasn’t expecting those until at least tonight if not tomorrow.
I am once again in need of yet another bookshelf… and a place to put it. I don’t know if I could convince Mike to build me a mouse proof room in the barn for a library. I’m sure he’ll figure something out for me. He’s good at that.
For now, I’ve started reading “Veterinary Guide for Farmers, New and Revised Edition” by G.W. Stamm copyright 1975. I’m learning all sorts of things; shots, sutures, temperatures, diseases, viruses, blood, puss and stool samples. No one is sick or injured but it never hurts to know that you read something about that and now what was it… That’s how this will go. Someday one of the cows will be sick and I will be standing there thinking “I know I read about what’s going on here, hmm.” I’ve never been super interested in surgery and such. M*A*S*H* is pretty much the extent of it (and of the military movies too). I can stomach it but ‘eh I can do without though too.
Another Sunday morning calf was had this week. Second and last of the season. Again, a steer who couldn’t have been here for very long before we got out to the barn. He was still wet and Lucy was cleaning him off. He is even smaller than Gus, which would make sense. Lucy is full Dexter and was bread with an Angus, giving a calf that was roughly 35-40 pounds. Louise (Wheezy) is half Dexter and half Angus, baby Gus (3/4 Angus, ¼ Dexter) was 45-50 pounds give or take a few. I’m glad they were both steers; meat in the freezer. We would really like to expand the herd by another heifer or two, but they need to be Dexters. The more Angus in the cow, the more pasture they need and more hay for the winter. Not to mention, the Dexter temperament is usually on the less aggressive side. I still would rather they walk beside me rather than behind me but even more so with an Angus. Next year, hopefully the calves will be heifers, from our bull; 100% Dexter. All that aside, Lucy’s calf arrived and we missed church.
Because the calf (who I have yet to name) was so new I didn’t stand around for too long to make sure he ate while we were out there. Instead we watched for a while and went back to the house to get ready for the day. We had a busy Sunday planned, the usual day of “the rest” and started right in. We got our “town” errand done and were home by noon, much later than usual but that’s the way it goes. Once home we checked on the calf and Lucy and went about our work. It wasn’t too long after that we realized neither of us has seen the calf eat all day. Lucy looked like she was going to burst.
She was making a good effort to get the calf to eat. She would get him standing, all lined up and in position to eat, giving him a few nudges in the right direction and he was not interested. Not even a little. He just turned his head and walked away to his favorite patch of straw and laid back down. Lucy has had more calves than we have been a part of, this is our third and her fifth or so, I don’t have the records in front of me. Either way, we still don’t know how to fix most special situations when it comes to calving. I called my uncle and explained what was going on.
“Any advice on what we should do?”
He said we should bottle feed colostrum as soon as possible and that will sometimes get them going. “Don’t bottle feed for too long or you will end up with a bottle calf.” (I would take on a bottle calf if it were a heifer that I planned to milk, but a steer for the freezer, well, only if necessary and not on purpose.) He dropped everything he was doing and got the calf bottle and extra colostrum they had together for me. I’m so thankful he had some on hand! I was on my way in no time.
Once home again, I mixed the biggest bottle I’ve ever made, and the little miss and I headed to the barn. Now for the tricky part… getting the calf out of the pen without mama getting mad. While Mike untied an overlap in the cattle panels, I opened the gate to the chicken run for the kids. Sounds horrible I know, but in all honesty that has been the new favorite for them. The little boy laughs as he chases the chickens trying to pet one or feed them grass. The little miss, well, crawling in and out of the chicken door is her favorite. It’s probably not recommended but they are in sight, safe from the cows in the event one gets out, and having a ball (and bathed as soon as they are done). With the kids safe and a small space in the fence, Mike was able to squeeze in and grab the calf while Lucy was slightly distracted with a little cracked corn.
Have you ever bottle fed a calf? I hadn’t. I had no experience feeding a calf and this calf had no experience eating. Talk about blind leading the blind. With Mike keeping the calf in place, close to the fence (he kept trying to back up), mama on the other side watching very closely, I did what I could to get that calf to take a bottle. It was a slow process, I found it worked best to hold his chin with one hand and open his mouth a bit with my fingers while weaseling the bottle in with the other. We kinda got the hang of it. It was messy and sticky but once we figured it out as best we could the kids were over to “help”. Both were excited to pet the little guy and the little boy was so happy he got to feed the calf.
That evening it looked like he was eating, not as much as I think he should have been, but eating none-the-less. The next day, he was more active, not running sprints like Gus, but up and around and eating. He’s making progress and that’s what matters.
It’s been just short of two weeks ago that the cows came home. It was nice to have everyone back on the farm where they belong. The girls were bred and are due late spring. They spent their time away with my uncle’s herd of Angus. They were comparable in size to this year’s calves it seemed. So as we drove by they were easy to spot from the road. I didn’t visit them nearly as much as I should have, but one Sunday we did stop in after church. They were all on the other side of the pasture when we arrived. I stood at the fence and called for Lucy. It wasn’t too long before she wandered slowly over, Wheezy followed keeping her distance. She refused to eat from my hand as she used to but I was just happy she still came when called.
While the girls were out Elvis and G.W. settled right in. They have become so tame. I’m so glad we are not going to eat G.W.. He is so friendly, he will walk up to me in the pasture to be pet. I can get the burdock off of him without any fuss. He is so sweet. Elvis is the same. I already dread the day he has to go. That’s going to be a rough one.
Elvis took G.W. under his wing and they became good buddies. This was made more apparent when the cows came back. Wheezy’s horns look to have grown 6 inches while she was away and she has learned she likes to use them. Hers have grown much more forward instead of upward as Lucy’s are. As soon as they hopped out of the trailer they began chasing the boys around trying to establish a pecking order again.
I don’t like. Not one bit! Those boys are so sweet and they just get pushed around.
Because the girls get so territorial over the big hay feeder Mike made a couple smaller feeders in the barn. I was worried that the boy’s weren’t going to get any feed. Every time they get in the barn Wheezy runs them out. They look great! And work well. I asked for 2 more once I saw them installed, then we could remove the big feeder and give them a little more room in there.
Last night Wheezy and I had a little “get to know you”. It wasn’t a full blown “come to Jesus”, I’m hoping it doesn’t get that far, because that will end one of two ways: I come out on top and she will mind from then on out or she will take that round and when I recover she will be turned into hamburger. Lucky for both of us it didn’t go that far. I’m giving both girls the benefit of the doubt that they haven’t been home for too long and are still getting readjusted.
I went into the pen with an arm full of hay for Hank (his feeder is next to the fence most easily accessed through the cow pen). I wasn’t a few feet in the gate when Wheezy lowered her head and came towards me. It wasn’t a leap or real charge, there wasn’t enough room between us for that, but it was obvious she thought she was going to establish a Queen Bee status with me. This time she got an up close view of my boot. Right between the eyes.
She wasn’t expecting it and she backed up pretty quick, tripped on her own feet and then stood there for a minute processing what just happened. We had a bat inside the front door of the house, only because shortly after we moved in I found it marking a gopher hole in the field, brought it in and hadn’t thought to move it since. But in the last week Mike had finally moved it to the barn and it happened to be right outside the pen. I grabbed the bat, hay in hand, and told Wheezy to get out of the barn. She left, I fed Hank and went on my way.
I didn’t have to use the bat that night. I hope I never do. I don’t want to hurt any of our animals but my 115lbs up against the 700lbs of horned Wheezy, I’m going to need Jesus and a bat if she gets mad.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and my bat…” well it’s close anyway.
This morning Mike and I moved the big feeder so it’s no longer next to the outside door in hopes the boys will be able to make their way in to the other feeders on the wall. Wheezy came in and said hi. She kept her distance.
Lucy is still skittish and has kept her distance since coming home. Hopefully it won’t take too long for her to warm back up to us and Wheezy will calm down again too.
Here is it, we made it through winter, spring is here (hopefully) and I am dreaming about this summers work. We made our “Big Project To Do List” for the next few seasons; put together an estimated cost for each project and figured out how much we needed to try and “squirrel away” each month. Let’s just say the lists are long and the budget will be extra tight, but doable.
We have our pasture plans set. We drew up dividing fence lines for inside the main line. The cows will be able to rotate grazing between 4 different pieces daily, to every other day, depending on how things look. This will keep them in nice green grazing all season.
The pile of “barn cleanings” will be moved out to the vegetable garden and orchard plot. Those plots will just be worked this year as soil prep. Turned over every so often and allowed to lie empty and soak in the compost. The vegetables for the season will be grown in the small berry garden for this year; an “eat fresh” garden. It will be much smaller of a garden than I like but it will be something to get my toes in the dirt.
This winter I read “Fields of Plenty” by Michael Ableman. It was not what I was expecting but a very enjoyable read. I was glad to read this:
“”I don’t understand how any farmer can feel the land with shoes on,” he says.”
It just proves I’m not the only one who likes to do my work barefoot. Socks are only worn with boots around here. When my boots come off at the door the socks do too. As soon as most of the snow is gone and it is time to get things going in the garden and yard the boots are usually left at the door. I prefer to feel the ground beneath my feet. Unless I’m in the coop or barn, then I like my polka dot mud boots. Chickens peck the skin on my feet and as warm as a fresh cow pie is, I’d rather not have it between my toes if I can help it.
I have started to do chores again, not all the time, Mike and I share those for now. I am once again starting over with Lucy. I haven’t been able to work with her for a few months and haven’ been out to visit her much since I handed off the chores. She was doing so well too. I hate starting over, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. This time around it shouldn’t take nearly as long to get her back to “milking calm”… I hope.
Wheezy, may or may not be pregnant. I haven’t been able to pin her down to check. We are going to keep a close eye on her just in case.
Elvis is very friendly, Mike has been working with him when he does chores. Hopefully I can get him halter broke this spring as well.
The new chickens and turkeys are on order, some more layers and a bunch to butcher. The coop is all ready for the new bunch. I am too. We picked out a few different breeds. It will be nice to have some variety out there. The “old” chickens are still laying daily and most will make it through this years butcher, some will be stew birds or canned. Their rowdy behavior is not something I desire around here.
A few more days and the snow will be gone and spring work will be here. I can’t wait!