Sometimes, everything is so quiet around the farm you can here the rain water seeping into the ground. The birds will be singing and chirping. The sun is barely up, a slight fog hanging in the air. As the fog gathers into bigger drops, you can hear them pattering on the metal barn roof and the leaves of the trees.
It’s a peaceful kind of quiet when all you really hear is nature all around you. No cars, no horns or loud exhausts. No blaring television or radios. No artificial lights. Just brown earth, green grasses and leaves. Just bugs and birds. Just the trickle of water running in a stream.
To me, that is Heaven on Earth.
Today…I will be “quiet” and leave you with a few photos that capture what I see with my eyes. Too bad I don’t have any audio to add to it…….
After working to get the planting all done on Saturday…we figured that Sunday would be a good day to relax a little. Mr. Farmer slept in until about 9 am or so while I got up and did morning chores.
My morning started right off with issues…not ones that normally happen and I am used to be with calves escaping from their own little paddock area. Two of them (Tommy and Del) knocked the top barrier right down and into the main part of the barn they came! After finishing up milking. I put them back into their own area and fixed the barrier…got their milk feed and boomed…here they come into the large portion of the barn again.
This time I let them run around while I turned the cows out to pasture, let the chickens out and finished all the feeding for everyone. Then I put them back into their paddock and went to sit on the picnic table so they would calm down some. AND oh yes…you did read that right: We have a picnic table in the calf pen. It’s there because we try to spend some extra time with the calves getting them used to us and it always works great for when farm visitors come to spend time with the animals. If I had my choice, each one would be located next to a big old tree…maybe someday!
Now that I had chores done, I went into the house, had my coffee and relaxed until Mr. Farmer rolled out of bed. After that, we delivered the wood splitter to his Uncle’s house and picked up the cattle trailer. It was time to relocate the service bull to their farm to breed their first calf holstein heifers. We came home, backed up to the main gate and went to get him out of his paddock. In the meantime, the calves that are just under a year old decided to bust down the gate and go outside the fence for a fast paced run in 80 degree weather! All three of them were running all over the place kicking up their heels and going as fast as their legs were carry them.
As I was chasing them through the new seeding field of alfalfa…they heard Mr. Farmer rattle the gate and they went shooting down the hill and right into the paddock. UGGGG I was glad they were in but after chasing them up the hill in the heat while wearing jeans, I was not a happy camper!
Needless to say we backed inside the pasture to the next gate that divides the paddocks between young stock and cows. We managed to get the bull up to the trailer and then coaxed him in with a heifer in the side door looking on as he loaded up. Finally! The bull was loaded, the young stock was out roaming with the cows in the rotational pasture and we were on the road. The easiest thing was unloading him. He took off across the tall grass scoping things out and completely ignoring us. Around 3 pm, we dropped the trailer off and headed home.
Since we had relocated the cows and heifers to the new paddock yesterday, Mr. Farmer decided he would mow down the first field so that it wouldn’t over grow. So off he went with the mower while I wandered the fields looking for the perfect moments to capture with my camera. All the girls and the one young steer were all getting along great. Which seemed like a major blessing for us. I managed to finally get Mr. Farmer’s parents up to see the new calf while he was up and running around. Mr. Farmer’s Mom, Kate, who shares a birthday with our Katie-girl (and who Katie is named after) loves the Dexters. So she was thrilled to finally get to see the little bugger, who by the way zips over and under these fences like he is completely immune to the electric jolt he gets when he touches the hot wire…he has calmed down on that now that the bull is gone. Hopefully that means he will start growing and we won’t have to add in another strand of fencing to keep his butt inside the fence!
Mr. Farmer got done mowing around 5 pm and we decided to come into the house, out of the hot sun and relax with a cup of ice water to cool down. I don’t think we sat for more than five minutes when the phone rang. The voice on the other end says, “Feel like coming to chase that bull. He escaped from the pasture and is headed down the road the last time we saw him.” UGGGG….here we go again! Off we go, five miles down the road to chase the bull.
After searching for a 1/2 hour, he was finally found out walking back toward home!!! The lure of a bucket of grain led him back to the heifer barn. Once inside the heifer barn, it took five of us to corner the little bugger to get a collar and lead rope on him. Once we had him fastened up so he couldn’t escape, we started checking the fence (which we were told was working fine) and behold two or three wires that were broke and no power was flowing through the lines. They are going to work on the lines today (Monday) and hopefully get everything all fixed so that he can head back out to pasture and roam with some girls.
By the time we got home, we had to go look up our cows out to pasture and bring them back up to the barns for feeding and milking. Needless to say…by 7 pm I was more than ready to sit down…and for the first time in two years, I had a beer! I am so glad that yesterday isn’t the normal routine. I wouldn’t be able to stand it.
Now that you know the stressful day from yesterday…I will leave with a few photos and the highlights of my day! My tiny little blessing and miracles that occurred during the midst of too much other stuff gone wrong.
Our planting is ALL done! After nearly a month of dealing with rain, ground that was way too wet, broken down equipment and work schedules giving us grief….we managed to get ‘er done! I have to say it is a huge relief knowing that all that seed is in the ground. Now we can watch the grass grow…no pun or funny lines intended!
Now it’s back to life as normal…well, as normal as farming life goes anyway.
Since we are talking grasses today, I have to tell you all more about this rotational grazing that we are doing now for the cows. We don’t have it set up yet as an intensive grazing program, but we are headed there. Rotational grazing, as described by a fellow farmer, is developing as many “spring” grass pastures as possible. By rotating paddocks the cows are always eating new growth grasses, which are higher in many of the nutrients required by cows for body condition, growth and milk production. It also eliminates much of the manure stock pile that would normally occur if the animals were kept in the barn, thus eliminating the need for spring, summer and fall manure spreading. The animals naturally take care of it themselves! This is also a natural way of rebuilding the soils due to the established root growth and when then animals walk, the break off organic matter that enriches the soils. There is much more that can be explained about the grazing…but for now, I will leave it as just the basics. We will save the full benefits of rotational grazing for a blog write up all on it’s own.
Right now, we have three paddock areas divided over five acres that we sectioned off using temporary fencing for the time being. We monitor the paddocks daily to see what type of regrowth has occurred on the two paddocks that are out of rotation and also the paddock that is in current rotation.
Once the current paddock has much of the grass eaten down to a couple of inches, it looks an odd greenish/brown color…that is the time we know to transition the cows into the next paddock. The photo above was the last few moments of the cows spending time in paddock two. They were then transitioned to paddock 3. Currently, we are running between 10 to 14 days per paddock. That allows for 20-28 days until the cows are returned to each paddock. It all depends on regrowth and forage availability within a paddock.
This past month full of rain has actually caused the paddocks to get ahead of us. The grass is regrowing so fast that the current paddock is growing back faster than they can eat it down. We are going to transition the cows from paddock 1 today, tomorrow we will mow and bale what is left within the paddock while they are grazing on paddock 2. Since the grass has grown so fast, we see no other option but it will begin to supply the forage materials we will need come winter time. Remember, this is all a learning experience for us so if we do it wrong…we will let you know so that if there is someone else out there who is looking at rotational grazing like this…maybe we can save you a headache or two!
Our newest Dexter bull calf, aptly named Beefy (because stocky just didn’t seem right) is growing fast!!!! You should see him out running, jumping and kicking. He is amazing to watch. He has a VERY protective group of cows out there with him…including our Jersey.
It’s good to see how protective they are of him. It makes me worry that much less about him out running around with the herd. All of the girls treat him like a spoiled child! If he is laying down in the grass while they are foraging, one of the girls will go check on him about every 15 minutes…poor boy probably feels over-mothered.
We are currently watching and waiting for arrival number two! #47 aka Annie is showing major signs of progression. We are monitoring her very closely because this will be her very first calf. I am hoping that she will cooperate and have him on a nice day like today…AND a time when I can get a video of the birth! She is such a sweet girl and that would just make my year to be able to capture such a momentous moment for all of us.
Well….speaking of which…I think it’s time for me to take another pasture walk and check on my girls with cameras in hand! Hope to share some great happenings the next time I come back!!!!
After a long and very stressful week, I decided to take a break this morning doing two things I really love to do! Taking photos and spending time with the cows!!!!
After having an unexpected visit this morning at chore time that actually helped me get morning chores done a little bit faster, I came inside and sat down in front of the computer…my fingers hovering over the keyboard trying to wrap my head about what I wanted to write for the upcoming article I need to get together on a farm I went to an interview for yesterday. My head just wanted in it. I couldn’t focus on the topic at hand…so I decided I just needed to go clear my head and what better place for me to do it than out in the pastures.
I just start walking slowly, noticing different things that are all around me…from a protective mothers to the smallest of plants. It reminds me of the big, wide world we live in and how small our lives are in the big scheme of life. All we can do is to take each moment as it comes, enjoy the little things and keep a good spirit about the next step, the next moment instead of looking at too much at once.
So, now I will leave you with a few photos as a glimpse into my little world…….
Muck boots have become a staple of our dress code around here for the past week. Everything is muddy and wet. Rain is a good thing but too much of it always causes issues.
Our alleys for the paddocks are now nothing but mud…so today, we are going to load a bunch of stone into the muddy mess and see if we can cure this issue. Too bad we couldn’t use shale stone…but I refuse to risk injury to the animals for sharp stones!
We still need to get that 30 acre field planted back into grasses. It seems like every time it starts to dry out…in comes another storm. We are aiming for this weekend and the first part of the week. Of course, it would be nice if we could just get out there to pick stone which, of course is an issue with everything else that is going on around here. What makes it even more difficult is Mr. Farmer working a full-time job and myself work two part-time (and NO that doesn’t include anything on the farm).
So…I decided to try something! I put an ad on Craigslist for all of this shale stones! AND low and behold…people are actually willing to come pick stones if they can take them for FREE! And wait…I don’t have to do it or make time to do it!!!!
Even four or five truck loads will help…anything! Look at these photos to understand what I mean…..
Not all crop land looks the same. We don’t have flat stoneless fields or rolling acres with feet of topsoil. As you can tell, we have ground full of stones and very little top soil. This is one of the biggest reasons our future plantings will be no-till. The field shown above will also become part of a rotational grazing system too. This will assist with the build up and retention of top soil. It isn’t going to be a one year fix to repair the damage but more like a 5-10 year remediation!
This is just one small example of what farmers like us do…we repair the damage to the environment created by others. This field has actually been used by a commercial dairy for three years and after seeing what kind of environmental damage his uncaring, unsustainable mind was doing to the land….we put our foot down for Mother Nature and said that’s enough! We really didn’t have the extra money to do it ourselves but we will manage and will start rebuilding and recuperating from the damage as soon as possible. The first step is getting the seed in the ground!!! Four days of nice weather coming….WE ARE GOING TO ROCK IT OUT! no pun intended!!!!
Grasses are an important part of a cows diet. It is the natural item for them to eat and is easily digested within their ruminants. Many farms do not utilize pasture programs but here on our farm, we see it as an opportunity to provide a low cost portion of the cows diet.
We have been doing a bunch of research lately on pasture management and for us, it is a great opportunity to be able to utilize land that is a little too steep and causes concerns about erosion and run off.
In intensive grazing, you only provide an area that is big enough for the cows place on it to eat the majority of the forage off in about a day, sometimes less. Since we don’t have enough land with growing grass at the moment for that type of operation (or water for that matter), we have decided to use a 7-10 day cycle. By allowing a 7-10 day cycle on each paddock, we can easily keep the lane to the barn and the water open. You need to understand too that currently, there are just five animals out there. One adult jersey milking cow, three dexter cattle that are due to calf at anytime and a young jersey bull that isn’t a year old yet.
To get all of this started, we needed to figure out how we wanted to set it up. Since we are also in the process of looking at perimeter fencing, we really didn’t want to set this section up, only to have it change within a year. So we decided to use temporary fencing. Our temporary fence involves step-in posts that are about four feet long with loops on the sides. We first went around the perimeter of the field and set in posts about every thirty feet.
Then we decided to use braided wire, electrified to keep animals in and out, along the posts. We ran just two wires around the perimeter and one wire along the divider posts.
As you can see, this fence is really nothing fancy. Even though it is really very basic, it works rather well.
Now we have three fairly large paddock areas divided into a 4-1/2 to 5 acre field! The animals are really enjoying themselves and eating lots of green grass. Next week, sometime between Wednesday and Saturday, we will relocate them into the next paddock area to give this area time to regrow and provide them with lush green grass in about 3-4 weeks.
By the time it is time for them to re-enter this field, the bull will be relocated to another farm for a service bull. I am hoping that around the time he leaves, three young dexters will be out grazing with their mothers by then.
But, for right now, the cows have more area to eat. It will save us feeding so much hay and we can cut down on grain a little too.
As for the calves, after a week or so, we will transition them into the area that is the original pasture. It is time for two of them to be weaned completely and once they are moved into the grassy section, it will leave the barn open again so we can do some extensive cleaning without have to worry about the doors being open and calves escaping.
I think I will go back out and watch the cows for a bit in the new pasture……..