Category Archives: Animal Rescue

Lots of News

So much has been going on that I’m not really sure even where to begin. A year or so again, everything that has been happening was just a dream. A pipe dream of wishes written out on a scrap piece of paper and internet page links stored in favorites full of useful information. Twitter conversations about plants, seasons, materials and lots of questions were happening then too.

I have made so many great friends in the past two to three years of my life. Some of which I haven’t met YET but share the same kindred spirits. This is a group of people who have inspired, encouraged and guided. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that can attest to the power of the internet, in good ways and bad. What I’m discussing today is the power of knowledge, prayer and positive thinking.

As many of you that read this blog know, I’ve had some big transitions in mind for the farm I live on. Earlier this year, I thought those dreams were shattered. I’m not going into gory details but I will tell you that the whole ordeal took it’s emotional, financial and health tolls on me. It wasn’t the worst situation I had ever been through but I will admit that it ranks right up there in the top 5 fearful months of my life.

I opened up to a few of my friends about concerns I had. I talked to advisors about what to do about myself in the role I was holding to in a death grasp. It’s when I truly learned who to REALLY listen too and whose opinions to dismiss. I do have this word of advice….NEVER LET ANYONE DISCOURAGE YOU FROM LIVING THROUGH WITH A DREAM THAT YOU ARE SO PASSIONATE ABOUT THAT YOU WOULD NOT BE YOURSELF WITHOUT IT!

I had an advisor that told me that I wasn’t the one to make difficult decisions about the farm I have managed and that the animals are a business only. He proceeded to inform me that what I did do with the animals here didn’t have much worth in the “big” picture of things either. He never asked me about what type of protocols or plans I had set into place. All he seemed concerned about what my overall dollar value. It was rather insulting to tell you the truth. Okay, I admit that I am a pauper working toward a bigger dream. I struggle to pay my bills. I work hard and go without to work toward a bigger goal. But seriously, is that all I am viewed for? Nothing more than my “worth” on paper or my bank account? Well, to make a long story short, it was determined that my “real worth” was $675 a month. How about them apples?

I struggled for weeks with this new information. I doubted myself and what my long-term goals were. Then it suddenly hit me. I may only be worth $675 a month now but what about next month or even next year or better yet three years down the road? I started thinking about that kid going through college, building up debt, and working part-time at McDonald’s. I am at a stepping stone. The first step into a new life with a new future. Everything for the past three years has led me to here, worth zero when I started and look, I’ve increased my “worth” by what percentage rate? Just imagine how much I can change that worth in the next three years with proper planning, some of my awesome marketing skills, my photography and my networking!

I decided to take a risk and file an application to a Holistic Beginning Women’s Farm Management Program. I GOT ACCEPTED! Classes start in TWO WEEKS! Whoa, I’m doing what? Oh yeah, I’m not letting some or anyone for that matter tell me my SELF WORTH and I’m sure not letting anyone tell me to let go of what really makes me WHO I AM. You know that passion for nature, animals and the environment? You know that dedication and love I have for the cattle? Well, those are all something that God has given me that don’t have a dollar value! Just ask that rescued cow who lived another 5 years under my watchful eye and who know how it felt to be well cared for! Go ahead, look up into the sky and just ask yourself…is that something you could have done with tenderness and compassion when she first came here? Would you have taken the chance to get to know a scrawny cow who looked like she stood on the edge of starvation? In the end, that same cow you would have made into hamburger provided me with beautiful calves, LOTS of milk, butter and cheese but most of all, she provided a vision of what MY future may hold.

So again, I ask you to not let anyone judge you by what they see in paper or in bank accounts! Only you know what passions are held in your heart and soul. For me, it’s farming and photography combined. For you, it may not be. Look to people who are going to POSITIVELY encourage your own personal growth, NOT what society says it should be. Find what you love to do and NEVER let go of that internal drive that ultimately makes YOU happy!

After months of fighting my “worth” internally, I want to report that my “hobby farm” as this kind man put it, is now up to 21 cows, around 75 chickens and a handful of turkeys. I have 110 acres surrounded by beautiful high-tensile five strand fence. I have a full fledge water system for the fields going into the ground in the spring of 2014. I have increased our sales of meat products by 100%. We supplied chicken and beef for our first catering event this year. We have more and more people coming for visits. I am preordered on beef for next year. Demand is blooming for the rose veal. Contracts are in the works for some direct marketing for poultry. Eggs aren’t building up in the refrigerator. AND contracts are in the works to rotational graze additional animals for around $2200 per month until I can build my own herd. To say the least, my next worth has increased double since those fateful words back in June of this year! Just imagine what that worth will do next year as I am raising more chickens, selling more eggs, beef, rose veal, rabbits and pork.

Sometimes we all just need to take a step back and evaluate what our future is really “worth” to ourselves! I can’t even begin to tell you the changes that have happened since I told myself I’m worth more than just a bunch of numbers on a piece of paper. My passion has proven enough that maybe just maybe I can inspire another generation with the help and encouragement of someone like me. In the meantime, I’m going to keep on trudging….and getting better at this blogging thing. After all, I want to share all this new and exciting information I am going to learn!

For now, take a look at this picture.

Not my camera but that is my cattle on the farm!
Not my camera but that is my cattle on the farm!

I look forward to comments on speculation of what’s going on around the farm! This image holds a bunch of clues…can you figure it out?

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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

Working with Cattle

The month of November has had lots of twists and turns. Sometimes when you work in on-farm agriculture, you have to sit back and think about why you do what you do. For some it’s the love of the land and doing the best we can to preserve it while making it better and then to others, it’s just the love of cattle, poultry or whatever other animal is on the farm.

Today, I want to discuss the cattle end of things. Working with cattle is not an easy job. They have attitudes and temperaments just like a teenager would/does. Then on the flip hand, they don’t trust easily. If they don’t trust you, your job is that much more difficult. Working with cattle is not the job for everyone but those of us that do know how rewarding it is when you love them enough and are patient enough to earn their trust.

I was inspired to write this blog today after reading the full story of Norma the cow by Dairy Carrie. Norma was a special cow to Carrie. Her first cow actually. Please take the time to go read the blog post. It is an endearing and true testament of a dairy woman’s beginning and learned passions from a single cow.

During the blog, she mentions that it took some time for Norma to trust her enough for her to get close to her. As a fellow woman, who has close to the same disposition and passion for animals, I understand the frustration that not being able to truly “care” for an animal can bring. Cattle might  be considered a form of pets to some of us, but in reality they aren’t. People like Carrie and myself work hard to get our cattle that way…but they still aren’t dogs or cats.

Cattle by nature have a natural flight response to anything different or unusual. They like pattern and routine almost to the point of having what is similar to OCD in humans. Anything not consistent startles them. When you move cattle, even to a different pasture paddock, they become full of nervous energy.  If you change entry ways into pastures or barns, they almost become confused. Small things like a piece of grass swaying in the wind, if the wind is higher than normal, can spook them as well. Temple Grandin explains some of these characteristics best.

Understanding now that changes can alter how cattle acts and reacts, you can also understand that after purchasing cattle, loading them into a trailer, relocating them into a new environment and also having new people with different mannerisms around can severely affect the “trust” level of cattle. Calves adapt easier than older cows as you can imagine but even in young cattle, there is still a flight response.

In older cattle the time until the “trust” level is established all depends on the cattle, the environment and the handler. We have two examples here. Our Belle, the Jersey rescue, only took a couple of days before she became trusting. After not being fed properly, I think she just innately understood that we transported her to provide her with a better life. She adapted to the barns, the pastures and us extremely quick.

Myself and my rescue girl Belle who trusts me and loves me enough to give me kisses.

On the other hand, our Dexter Cattle that came to our farm the end of last September still do not trust enough to allow you to walk right up to them in the pasture. They will come to you for treats but you can’t touch them. They do not allow you do scratch the ears, chin or back. If you are really lucky, you might be able to touch a back hip if they are super calm that day. The three calves they had this last spring have also been taught to not “trust”. You also cannot just walk up to them in the pasture….BUT if you are patient and kneel down, one of them will come up to have his head and horn buds scratched. You still can’t touch any further back than the base of his neck and you can never touch his legs.

Beefy, the Dexter calf, who likes to have his head scratched

The Dexter cows will come up to take treats from your hand but any type of movement or noise shoots them off in the opposite direction. I will admit…after almost a year of waiting for them to just trust me enough to get within reaching distance, I am elated to have them come to me for treats now. If I go out and sit in the pasture, they will come stand next to me instead of automatically running the opposite direction. Every time they do get close enough to touch which I don’t even attempt (remember: I am trying to earn their trust), I can’t keep the smile from my face.

Mini, the oldest and shortest Dexter cow, getting grass clippings from my hand

Just imagine not having any human contact for your whole life…and then all the sudden there is a person that wants to spend time with you. What kinds of reactions do you think you would have?

Cattle are big and potentially dangerous. BUT to those of us that are lucky enough to earn their respect…we know just how gentle and loving they can be!

This yearling dairy heifer trusts us without question

Farm Camp

Well, this morning was the last morning of farm camp for the visitors from Texas. I am so proud of how much change I have seen in these two young ladies from Monday morning until today!

The first day they arrived, they were scared of all of the animals. “The cows are big, the calves are going to bite, the chickens would peck and the turkeys would attack” were just a few of the statements made by these two ladies. It almost made me think that the whole experience was going to be tough because their mom MADE them come up for morning chores at SIX am. What kid wants to get up that early during summer vacation? Most adults don’t…at any time of year!

By Wednesday, they were actually asking to come up to assist with nightly chores, letting the calves suck their fingers and were not afraid to gather the eggs! I feel blessed to be able to share the farm with them! They have come so far in such a short time! I have to say…I will miss them now during my morning routine.

I have some of the photos up on our facebook page…and will get some up here soon but I need to wait. They will actually be included into a special post that they will be the contributors for!!!!! You will get to hear from them all about the experience. I can’t wait to see what they have to share and I promise to share, no matter what they have to say.

And…since they don’t actually read the blog, I will share now what I have done for them. During one of the conversations this week with Mr. Farmer, it was decided that we would do something special for them. So, I sat down and designed up a logo for the back of a shirt! Much like an event T-shirt! Here is the design.

We will have them all ready for them when they return on the 29th of this month. I still need to do some adjustments but this will be close to what the back will look like. I will get photos of the finished products once they are completed and in hand. Oh and by the way…on the front it will say “Farmer Ashley” and “Farmer Autumn”. Kind of like getting a certificate of completion! If anyone else has some ideas on things we could do for them…send a shout out and let me know! These are all ideas that we will start incorporating for all of the kids that come to visit! Farm camp will be reserved for kids who come 2 or more consecutive days for a whole experience type of thing. But since we do have visitors and repeat visitors, I would love to be able to come up with something for them to take home with them as a reminder for the whole experience.

Any ways, I must run and go do errands today…so I need to get my butt in gear or I won’t have the time to finish it all!

Mother’s Day

I would like to wish all the Mothers out there a Happy Mother’s Day!

Some of you may not have your own children. But to me, if you own a cat, a dog, a horse, a cow, a hamster, or any other animal….you are a MOM! A surrogate mom! On behalf of your animals or your pets…Thank you for sharing your love!

As for Mother’s day around on the farm…apparently, some of our animals seem to think they should celebrate the day too! Belle, aka MA, decided to go the 1/2 mile to the pond just prior to milking time. She decided that she really wanted to stay and eat the grass in the pasture. It must have been extra good this morning because she made me walk all the way down to get her and then she had to stop to eat with every step she took! Our five minute walk up to the barn for milking turned into 25! The whole time, I kept hearing her internal voice saying “But I want to stay here. I am a MOM and I deserve a break this morning!” Too bad she doesn’t realize she could get sick if she doesn’t get milked out…otherwise I would have left her right there!

Once I got her into the holding area, she stopped by to say hi and give the two youngest calves a good lick along the side of the face. After that, she came into the barn. After getting her milked, I gave her an extra nibble of some wonderful smelling baled hay while I brushed her and washed the mud and poop of her rear quarters. I hate seeing a dirty cow…drives me crazy! With her all cleaned up and brushed down, back into the pasture she went. Whatever she was eating out there must have been like candy to her…She took off on a trot to go right back to where I got her from!!!! She sure is something!

Now if I could just get those Dexters to help me celebrate the day with a couple of new calves…I would be so excited! I am not so patiently awaiting their arrival. The girls are all bagged up, two of them with bags so big they look close to exploding! Their big ol’ bellies roll with the calves movements. The calves more around inside so much that all of them are extremely uncomfortable! Take a look at these bellies!!!!

Very pregnant Dexters trying to get into a position to take a nap

I keep trying to get a video of their rolling bellies as the calves move all around…but haven’t managed so far. I am starting to think that the little ones are camera shy already!

On a personal note, I won’t get to spend the day with my own children today. Which makes me sad…but, for right now, we have to make sacrifices to do what is best for them until some upcoming changes are completed. Until then, I will continue to hold all of my love for them in reserve and when the day comes when I can hold them in my arms, I will give them the biggest hugs ever!

In the meantime, I have to help take care of God’s children. So, I will take in the abused, the sick, the weak and any other ailments that happen, to make their lives better like they will mine. I will give them love and spoil them like so many others won’t. God will bring us together because that is what he put me here to do. I am a mother to many and expect that number to grow as time goes on. I anticipate it, have planned for it and I know that when the time comes when I am needed to help one of God’s creatures…I will be there, giving 110% and 110% of my heart to each and every one of them, big or small!

With that…Thank you again to ALL the Mom’s out there for just sharing the love in your heart!

Acts of Kindness

My Grandpa always told me that do be a good person, I had to perform “Acts of Kindness”. I used to bother him with all kinds of questions about how to perform an act of kindness. He would patiently attempt to explain them to me. He would tell me about holding doors open for people, to assist someone when they needed help or maybe even something small like caring for a sick or injured animal.

After my Grandma had a stroke or two, he used to tell me that sitting with her and talking to her just like we used to was also an act of kindness. Eventually, when she had so many strokes that she had no capabilities of walking and could barely grunt, I finally understood what he meant. Brushing her hair as she lay starring at the ceiling her  eyes full of things she wanted to say but couldn’t, I would perform my act of kindness.

I might be crazy but to me, if I would take that extra care and time with a human, why wouldn’t I do it with an animal too. Sometimes in their lives, they need someone to show them love and compassion too.

I call these situations rescues. These are usually animals that no one else wants to take the time or the energy to care for. These are my biggest acts of kindness. I would go without sleep for days, spend half my time making sure they start warm, get food in their bellies and attempt to give them a chance at life.

From an abused dog who is still so scared sometimes she hides in the closet to a tiny little starved piglet….it doesn’t matter. I feel obligated to give them a chance…to care for them and give them the best chance of survival. It doesn’t matter what condition they are in when they come, every single one of them steals a little piece of my heart as soon as I lay eyes on them.

This morning I am sitting here typing, shedding a few tears for a poor little runt piglet that I knew for less than a half a day. She came home with Mr. Farmer last night, so cold and so skinny. I worked to get her all warmed up to have her get violently sick. She just kept expelling stuff out of her mouth in such large quantities that she literally choked to death. It is so difficult to try to do everything humanly possible under those circumstances. Knowing that there isn’t much that you can do. I held her in my arms as she took her last breath, part of me sad to see that I didn’t do good enough but part of me happy that she was in God’s hands and not suffering anymore.

Sometimes acts of kindness are achieved through simple gestures like brushing an old ladies hair or smiling at someone while passing them in the grocery store. Sometimes acts of kindness are the very thing that steals a piece of our hearts. Sometimes, those acts of kindness are given by God’s own hand to end suffering. I have been fortunate enough to learn over the years that God has proved us all with more than we will ever know or fully understand. He knows that I learned this lesson from my Grandpa and even that I give a little piece of my heart away with every act I do.

But you know, for every piece of my heart I lose…something always happens to fill it back up. Maybe it’s even someone else’s random act of kindness that will make a difference in my day.

On a side note, when it comes to animals in need there will never be a day when I will turn one away. Farm animals, cats and dogs are the one’s that seem to happen to me the most. I have several people and organizations that have been known to call me or Mr. Farmer about these types of cases. I do my best to nurse them just as I would any human in need. Not all of them end up as success stories but, no matter what, I know that these animals are not alone when their time comes. They have someone holding them in their arms with a heart full of love.