Category Archives: dairy

Miss Belle

I’m writing this with so much sadness in my heart. Yesterday, probably one of the hardest afternoons of my life, brought an end that I tried to prepare for but found myself severely lacking.

As many of you know, several years ago we took in a Jersey cow in very sad shape.

Belle and Danny the day they arrived. Malnurished, she still provided love to her calf.
Belle and Danny the day they arrived. Malnourished, she still provided love to her calf.

I’ve talked about her countless times because she had such a profound affect on my life. I remember the day she stumbled out of a cattle trailer and became part of my life. I remember sitting with her and the two calves that came with her in the pasture with tears in my eyes. A promise was made to her that day. A promise that she had a home here on the farm for the rest of her days, no matter what may come. A promise that she would be cared for and loved. A promise that every day forward would be what she deserved in life, respect. In a matter of hours, she showed such grace and such a motherly devotion to her calves, she was named Belle and nicknamed Ma. She ended up becoming a mother to many and in one summer season came back to her full potential. The photo video below shows that transition.

As the years went by, she inspired so many changes. We developed the whole future of the farm based on her needs and care. You may all think I’m crazy and say she was nothing more than a pet cow but you couldn’t be more wrong. If anything, I was her pet human. She was the epitome of a lady inside that bovine body of hers. She was gentle enough to stand for anyone to milk her. She provided me with something I never thought possible; a calm personality. She taught me that no matter how bad your life may become, God will bring a change that will have a profound impact. She was a blessing to a woman who was lost in the depths of depression. She gave me purpose and showed me what I should be doing with my life. I will always hold a very special place in my heart for her and I know that there will never be another cow that comes into my life that will be like her. She was unique and special. I want to always remember her like the video and photo below.

My sweet Belle as I picture her in my head now grazing in God's green pastures.
My sweet Belle as I picture her in my head now grazing in God’s green pastures.
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Busy Spring

I am horrible at keeping up with everything that is going on within my life and on the farm right now. I am horrible at time management when it comes to blogging too. I apologize for this and will work harder at doing better at staying in touch and keeping all informed of what’s happening.

Update on Fencing: Still nothing started. Another meeting scheduled for on the farm this afternoon that will hopefully change that.

Update on calving: Including the calf born in February, we are up to 4 new calves born this year. Three of which are heifers!!!! The newest one came last night at around 11 pm. We have just one more to calf. I’m almost hoping it’s a bull so that we have something around to raise for beef.

Update on grazing: Things have been going good. We have extended the rotational grazing out to total around 13 acres for the time being. It’s still all set up with step in posts and single strand braided wire but it’s working 99.9% of the time. We have had just one issue since Spring turn out in April. That was Monday morning…I will explain more further in the section on new seeding.

Update on crops: I am excited to report that the entire farm is now replanted in GRASS! No more bare ground at all!!! So if anyone is interested in a good old Brillion seeder, give me a shout! The last 26 acres planted on May 18 is growing good. The forage oats and grasses are growing great…well, other than where they were grazed due to loose animals anyway. They only “clipped” a few of the tops and minimal damage was done thankfully. Some of the growth is now to our knees! First cutting will be ready before we know it!
Last years new seeding came in fabulous this year! We’ve had some issues with harvest…so let’s discuss the next topic.

Update on Spring Hay Harvest: This is the one area that we are having a horrible time. Between the rain and inconsistant people who have backed out on us (three to be exact) we still have yet to get first cutting done. Last years new seeding is all headed out and not necessarily a bad thing but it would still be nice to get the grasses cut since they are as tall as I am at 5’8″ now.

All in all, it’s been a busy and productive spring. Even with the issues we face as a small farm with limited capabilities, we are managing. Are we managing to the extent we want to be? That’s a big NO. Unfortunately, without the purchase of equipment we don’t have funds for, we just have to go with what other’s working with us do. At some point, this will be easier due to the fact that we do have our own equipment but until then we will make do. Hopefully we aren’t spending out another $1,000 for hay over the winter again.

We have lots of irons in the fire between the beef, dairy and poultry. Between the eggs, meat and milk we are doing okay. But that’s just it…okay. Not great, not fabulous. I hate feeling that we are in a rut but it drives me to work that much harder to get things done. I’m optimistic that someday, I will be able to kind of sit back and be able to look around saying, LOOK at everything that has been done. LOOK at the struggles we overcame! Nothing that’s rewarding ever comes easy and the struggles make us remember how important hard work and dedication are.

I’m out for now…more work to get done. Big meeting to prepare for and hopefully a little more good news by the end of the day today!

 

Fencing Followup

Well, now that I ranted and talked about all the issues I have had with fencing companies. I would like to gladly report that after making some phone calls and venting to people I know who used to be in the business I have come up with a solution to the problems.

A post pounder – √

A post hole digger – √

Suppliers for materials – √

 

And here is the real kicker…it’s going to save nearly $25,000 of funds!

Yes it’s going to take some work…but I can get it done. I can even hire some hands to come help me out. Guys I know that will work for their pay.

NO JOKE!

I will be finalizing the order of materials today…which is a full tractor-trailer load by the way! Delivery should be sometime by Wednesday of next week!

As the old saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way!!!

So there…take that you ego-maniacs!

Farm Visitors

Every year, during the time when the local kids have spring break…we start getting visitors. Friends and family members bring their youngsters out to play with the cattle, chickens and turkeys. This is always the time of year that reminds me of the biggest reasons why I raise, care and tend for animals the way I do.

Two days, two families. Smiles and laughter shared that no amount of money can buy.

Our first visitor that came this week was Sue and Ava. If you follow this blog on and off, you will know that Ava came out last year and the year before. Ava is a favorite, loyal visitor.

Ava loves spending time with the youngest calves.
Ava loves spending time with the youngest calves.

Last year, one of the calves kept trying to eat her hair. So this year…she was worried about her hair and kept telling them all “Please don’t eat my hair.” It is really amazing to watch kids with the animals though. This is what makes my job working with the cattle so important.

Not only with the kids…but with the adults it’s important too. You have no idea how many adults want to get “cow kisses”! It’s strange…but I get it. It’s that moment when you feel special with an animal. It’s that much greater because it’s a cow!

Cow kisses
Cow kisses

The following day after Ava came, we had new visitor for this year. A father (Pat) and his two sons (Logan and Connor). I didn’t know who was more excited when they pulled in…Dad or boys.

I haven’t seen smiles so big and so full of joy as when the calves started licking fingers and trying to get rubs on the head.

Pure Joy and Excitement
Pure Joy and Excitement

To those that don’t know me…this is the most important thing about what I do. Yes, I love raising our own beef, dairy and poultry. But, I LOVE sharing my passion for farm animals with KIDS! It’s an experience that I feel every kid should have.

There are really moments sometimes that almost bring a tear to my eye when I watch animals that are fearful of everything, nose up to a child. It’s one of those things for me.

To anyone in our area reading this…you are more than welcome to come visit, anytime. We love to have people stop by, young or old.

In the meantime, I will be out working (more like playing) with the cows…gotta get that next generation trained for cow kisses!

 

 

 

13 Questions

13 questions that were posted on another blog called An Irish Male in America asked recently for people in Agriculture, inspired a couple other people I follow to write their own responses. It got me thinking about the answers. As I read through several other blogs linked below, it got me thinking about what my answers would be and wondering if they would be different. Considering all of us in farming do different things for different reasons, I decided that I would take the time to put my own answers together.

Megan Brown writes her blog The Beef Jar. Even though her operation is in California, I agree with many of her answers. Ahnna writes her own blog Ahnna On About Anything and also answers the questions with much different answers that I would come up with. And Jenny Dewey writes her blog j.l.d. photograph and answers the questions from her perspective of being a butcher’s daughter.  Her blog gives a great insight into what it feels like being behind the scenes at her parent’s butchering business.

I’m sure by now, there are more blogs than these out there but these are the ones that made me think about doing one myself to answer these 13 questions.

13 Thursday Presents…

13 Questions I want farmers/ranchers/AG people to answer (or even blog about!) (Update, I’m now editing this for content…… mainly because there was a real lack of content before… !)

1: What is the worst time of year for you?

I would have to say the worst for me is winter. Not because of the snow we get here on the East Coast in Central NY because I actually like the snow. I just don’t take the cold well. I don’t like getting bundled up in layer upon layer of clothes to go hang out in the barn. It limits my time in the barn too because I can’t take the cold. I manage but it makes me wish for the warm spring days.

2: What is your favorite farm job?

I love all of my jobs on the farm but the one I like the most is caring for the babies. It doesn’t matter what kind…cattle or poultry, doesn’t matter. I’m just a mother at heart.

I even share kisses with the cattle! I love them THAT much!
I even share kisses with the cattle! I love them THAT much!

3: What is your least favorite farm job?

Without a doubt, it’s cleaning out the bedding pack in the spring. It stinks to high heaven and takes days for the smell to come out of my hair. It’s a pain to get it all scooped out and you can’t do it by hand (packed too tight). I hate using the tractor for this job. It’s seriously the one job I really wish someone else would do!
4: What type of truck do you drive (on the job) and why did you choose it? (this one is a must know, not only do I find American trucks awesome to look at, but with all the truck companies trying to advertise themselves as the “biggest toughest” truck out there, I think it’s about time we round out the truth from the people that put them to use!)

I drive a 2004 Dodge 1500 Extended cab 4×4. I absolutely love this truck! I probably use it harder than I should but I haven’t had any issues with it to date. It’s a tough truck to beat down. Not only that I LOVE the dual exhaust rumble!! I’ve hauled two big ol’ round bales in the back more times than I can count and more animals inside than I have people. I’ve towed wagons loaded down with 10 round bales during hay season. It gets me through wet fields and slings a little mud. Hands down this is the best truck I have ever been fortunately enough to drive. Even overtop of those Chevy’s I used to swear by.
5: What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned in your line of work?

This might be lengthy! One of the hardest lesson I have learned is that farming is still a man’s world. Women might be nurturers by nature but men still seem to control the destiny of what happens. I can’t tell you how many times I have called for parts or in search of equipment to have a man tell me he will get back to me and never return the call. I can’t tell you how many times I have stood on a tractor dealers lot to have them tell me what I wanted and didn’t want. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have almost been over charged for a good/product/service because I am a female. Being in this man’s world takes BRAINS AND GUTS…enough so that you know what you are doing, what you want, why you want it and know what to expect. It’s tough for an independent woman to learn that not everyone will see anything but the exterior.
The second hardest lesson I have learned is that sometimes you need to check your emotions at the door…this is one that I am still working on because I get emotionally attached to EVERYTHING! Emotions also tend to take over my conversations because most of the time I lead with my heart, not my head. It gets me into some tight spots sometimes too. Of course, if I was male I probably wouldn’t have this issue. Just sayin’
6: What do you think is the most valuable tool you have, the one you probably couldn’t live without?

As Megan Brown put it on her page, THE INTERNET! I honestly don’t know how I would educate myself to have the brains to stay on top of things happening in the world. Without the internet, I wouldn’t have met all these great women out there across the world that are struggling to fit in, education consumers and agvocate. I also wouldn’t have kindred spirits out there that I could talk to about the struggles, trials and tribulations of life either. I wouldn’t have a great network of advisors who have helped me set goals, learn different methods of production and give me some encouragement along the way.
7: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your business/what you do?

Personally, I think too many people lump all of agriculture into a tiny little box when in reality every farm is different from the next. Neighboring farms operate differently. I also think that people tend to think that micro and small farms are inherently better when in reality, many of them are worse than some of the biggest operations in the country.
8: If you could invest in a new piece of farm equipment tomorrow, what would it be?(and I mean it, just one!  let’s not get greedy!)

This one is simple! A new tractor that I would be comfortable with. I even have it all picked out. Massey is her name! She’s a red-head too…just like me!

 
9: What was the most serious injury you ever suffered in the line of work?

Hmmm, probably the most painful was the time a steer dislocated three bones in my hand. Hurt like hell when they had to reset the bones back in place.
10: Least favorite animal to deal with?

YEARLING BULL CALVES! They are still playful like calves and don’t realize their size. They are also the only brats they escape the fence…in turn demonstrating to the whole herd how to get out~GRRRR
11: (excluding all of the above) What’s the dumbest question you’ve ever been asked?

Hmmm….I guess it would have to be about the cattle horns. Most visitors think that only bulls have horns. It usually goes something like this….”What are those calves doing under that bull?” Which is actually a cow…but I’m sure you get the point.
12: Favorite beer? (come on, out with it!)(I’ve seen people take their beer pretty seriously, and it’s time to know what a real working persons beer of choice is!)

I, personally, love LaBatt’s. Honey Brown used to be another favorite. But, that being said….I haven’t had a beer in about four years and I think that was a Corona on a very hot summer day after working out in the sunshine all day.
13: Thing you’d most like the public to know about what you do! (I admit you do this every day on your blogs no doubt, but was looking for something addressing maybe a misconception you hear the most about your business!)

I wish people could understand that I am not just an animal care giver. I’m also an agronomist, soil specialist, mechanic, book-keeper, accountant, marketing specialist, graphic designer, writer, photographer, housekeeper, landscaper, consultant and much more. I wish people could understand that being in farming doesn’t mean that life is simple…it’s actually very complicated and complex. Many of us don’t only work on the farm but do other things outside the farm. It’s hectic. It’s chaotic. But we still love it! But just because we love it doesn’t mean that we are sitting back enjoy a 9 to 5 job. It doesn’t mean we get paid every Friday either. It means we go without to do the things we love the most. THAT said, I wish the public would also realize that all I would like to do is get paid (in a timely manner) what it costs to produce our goods with a little bit left over for me…to buy a pair of boots that I would probably wear to the barn. 90% of the time, 100% goes back to the farm in one way or another. We aren’t rich. We don’t have loads of money but we are building memories to last a lifetime and property to pass down through the generations.

Lots of Activity

I thought life was crazy before! I have changed my mind. Currently, we have added in the woes of fence construction, new seeding, grazing management, frost seeding, and relocating temporary fences.

Let’s start with the temporary fence. A great deal of our fence areas are set in with step in posts and braided wire. I hasn’t been a problem until now. The issues that have come up now are long-haired animals (see photo below) just walking through the fence. Hair seems to NOT conduct the electricity within the energized wire. Needless to say, about two to six times a day…I am putting cattle back inside the fence or getting a phone call while I run errands because the cows are out.

Two Irish Dexter calves on the wrong side of the fence.
Two Irish Dexter calves on the wrong side of the fence.

It really doesn’t make much sense. As you can see, the grass is very low to the ground in that area. Inside the area fenced in, some of the grass under the laid over hay is several inches long. In this case, the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence!

This shows the grasses inside the fence
This shows the grasses inside the fence

Now let’s talk about this photo a little more. This is part of our pre-spring grazing management. We have an area fenced in that needed some “work”. The area gets very steep and doesn’t allow for any type of tractor work. So we are using the cattle to do the work for us. As you can see in the photo, the old forage growth within the paddock has provided a sort of blanket for the new grasses underneath to sprout and grow quicker than the worked up field areas that we grazed last fall.

This is just part of the area that we are "working" with the cattle
This is just part of the area that we are “working” with the cattle

The standing stalks of weeds will get eaten, trampled and the ground develops as the cattle hooves dig into the ground. We have already seen improvements…in 2 days! Take a look!

This is at the end of day one in this paddock. Note how the stalks are broken or eaten. Also note the addition of cow pies for fertilization.
This is at the end of day one in this paddock. Note how the stalks are broken or eaten. Also note the addition of cow pies for fertilization.

I will be posting follow-up photos with before, during and after shots. We are trying this as part of an experiment for land reclaiming. They are eating the briars and the weeds! Proof in these next two photos.

Here is Tommy eating Golden Rod stalks that grew last year (2012)
Here is Tommy eating Golden Rod stalks that grew last year (2012)
Cow clipped briars!
Cow clipped briars!
Here is Tommy, sniffing to see if he wants to eat the briar.
Here is Tommy, sniffing to see if he wants to eat the briar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next stage for us will be fencing in the 90 acres we will be using for rotational grazing this year and for many years to come. It’s a big job with over 14,500 linear feet of fencing, posts, wires, etc to have put up! Once it’s all completed we will have enough area to grazing 45 animals. To someone like me with an obsession with cattle…it means I can buy more cattle! (Reminder: I like to buy cattle like most women like to buy shoes!)

We also have 30 acres to get seeded for another grazing area too. Rich has been researching, reading and learning what types of grasses and legumes will be best suited for both the soil and the cattle. He thinks he has finally figured out which blend (a custom mix with lots of plant diversity) he wants to go with. In the meantime, we will be frost seeding clover on last years pastures to start building nitrogen in the ground. Did you know that clovers are nature’s way of providing nitrogen? I didn’t…but it’s very cool! No more synthetic fertilizer for nitrogen!!!

Saturday, we will be headed to a grazing seminar that will help us learn how to become more adapt at managing our grazing plan. I am super excited to go and I will make sure I take LOTS of pictures!

For now…it’s back to chasing cattle, taking more photos and reading more books! Thanks for stopping in to read about my adventures and sharing our little piece of Heaven!

 

 

Extreme Weather Calf Care

All of us across the country have seen some extreme weather this year. Farms with animals have to pay extra attention under extreme heat and cold, not to mention high winds and heavy rains.

Here in Upstate NY, we aren’t facing winter colds as low on the thermometer as some of the others across the country but we are still facing morning temperatures of negative 6 and some wind chill factors.

As any person would, extra care needs to be taken to ensure safety in such extreme cold. This is one of the reason we make sure that our animals have good shelter and a warm place to rest. Cold stress in cattle is very difficult to deal with and should be monitored for.

Cold stress in cattle is just like the stress of hypothermia in a human. Treatment is very much the same. It involves slowly warming the body to get body temperatures elevated without reheating too quickly. Cold stress slows heart rates down and often makes animals very latargic. To rewarm an animal here on our farm, it involves many trips from the house to the barn; blankets being warmed in the dryer for several minutes and then tucked inside a coat to be run to the barn; it involves warm water (often electrolytes to prevent dehydration); and hours before an animal is back on it’s feet again. As you can imagine it is a very daunting task.

Calves are the most easily effected by cold stress. Without fat stores or long haired winter coats, they aren’t equipped to deal with these freezing temperatures. Calves can be stressed in temperatures at 40 degrees if the wind is blowing and there is high humidity. This is one reason why calf care is crucial. By closely monitoring how a calf acts and/or reacts to environmental conditions, you can determine a method of prevention. Many times, something as simple as a calf coat is enough to 1)block air movement and prevent body warmth from escaping and 2)provide a layer of protection against air moisture.

Adding a calf coat for cold temperatures in an attempt to keep a calf warm.
Adding a calf coat for cold temperatures in an attempt to keep a calf warm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paying attention to bedding is also crucial. A calf will not retain body heat if it is laying on damp or wet bedding. We pay extra close attention to this detail year round but will add extra bedding with the use of additional straw to keep them warm. Wheat or Oat straw is important to have within our bedding mixtures because straw is actually hollow. Standard hay is finer and is natural a solid “stalk”. The hollow core of the straw will absorb body heat and help retain the heat. We double load bedding area with straw during colder months to ensure that the animal is nested down inside…much like the shape of a dog bed.

What happens if the bedding and a coat aren’t enough? Sometimes we use heat lamps. The heat lamps, just like the ones used for keeping baby chicks warm, create a warm area under the lamp. Most often, this step will assist a calf from getting cold stress.

Have we had animals with cold stress? Yes, we have. Last, we had a couple of calves group housed within the main area of our barn. We provided them with thick sawdust bedding and lots of straw in one area inside the barn. Unfortunately, overnight on a sub-zero night one of the calf decided to be a jerk and keep the other calf off the bedding. Calves do get territorial from time to time and this does happen. We did not anticipate it happening with two calves over a very large area…but it did. The calf rejected from the bedding then laid down on the concrete floor. Needless to say, as she slept her body temperature dropped and continued to do so until I made my way to the barn.

After seperating the calves into different areas and getting her off the concrete floor onto good bedding…I started treatment for hypothermia. Warming blankets every 20 minutes, dribbling warm electrolytes into her mouth because she had minimal body function and a visit from the vet to make sure I was doing the right thing. The vet administered a shot of Vitamin B and told me to keep slowly warming her the way I was. Proudly, I can say that over the course of 12 hours, her body temperature elevated back to normal and she was back on her feed drinking and eating normally again. Today, she is one of my favorite girls and will be having her first calf this coming spring.

Ruby is one of the friendliest dairy heifers you could ask for
Ruby is one of the friendliest dairy heifers you could ask for

What are we doing different this year? Well, we have a calf that is just days old now hanging out with me inside. With zero fat stores, a wet and slimy newborn coat and the temperatures continuing to drop…we were keeping close watch when he started to show signs of hypothermia with uncontollable shaking that didn’t stop. Not wanting to expose him to the other cattle yet…one option remained. He is a good boy. He lays on a blanket (with an absorbtion pad much like those used for puppy training). He comes into the living room a couple times a day to jump and run around so he stays flexible. When the weather gets warmer, we will start getting him used to cooler temperatures and slowly start working him back to the barn a little more each day until he is back in the barn full time.

Is this the right way? Maybe not…but with me being unable to do some of the normal barn activities, I feel this was the best choice for his chance of survival. Personally, I rather enjoy the little guy being around. I will miss him when he goes back to the barn.

I will miss all of his "help" with paperwork
I will miss all of his “help” with paperwork