Tag Archives: health

Winter Blues

They say the life of a farmer slows down in winter. I beg to differ. Winter time is usually the time we catch up on reading, sit through forage classes and plan out for the coming year. This year isn’t much different for me other than I am reading more on Holistic Land Management and taking some additional business and financial planning classes online. The extra course work, which takes a couple hours per week per class, really isn’t that much but it still takes time.

I have some other classes that I am taking too. Ones on the food system in the US and another on human nutrition. Why am I taking these classes you ask? Looking at from my perspective, I feel as a farmer who works extensively with consumers about food production, it’s my job to be as informed as possible about how food impacts choices when it comes to how you eat. It’s also important for me to know and be able to express how food moves and travels because you never know someday we might be selling our goods all across the US. As for the business and financial planning classes, no matter how you want to look at farming or agriculture in general…it’s still a business where we need to make sure that we are planning and spending funds appropriately but also ensuring that we are making enough money to stay afloat too.

Farming doesn’t have the profitability of many other jobs but it is rewarding in other ways. That’s one reason why it’s important to look at management from a Holistic standpoint since those methods also take a look at lifestyle too.

On top of classes, I am still doing all of the same stuff…dealing with frozen water, cold stress in cattle, feeding hay bales, changing bedding, filling water jugs several times a day, gathering eggs, feeding chickens, caring for calves, keeping the fires going, cooking the old style home cooked meals and still trying to keep up with laundry, dishes and housework.

Life doesn’t slow down for much on the farm. Sometimes we are forced to take breaks from the daily routine due to illness (and believe me, I have to be SUPER ill to keep me away from the barn) but it isn’t often. Even if we aren’t doing the manual labor involved for the farm, there are still other things we do. Research, reading and formulating crop charts, rotational grazing map or looking through seed catalogs…there is always something that can be done.

I have been down and out for a couple of days with one of those illnesses that prevents me from standing too much…but I still didn’t miss the birth of the first calf of 2013. I even managed to capture a video!

I didn’t get to stay out there too long and I am thankful for a cow that is awesome about birthing. I missed the first steps and the first suckle, which happen to be some of my favorite moments on the farm. It’s rather depressing to miss such moments too but, sometimes we have to take care of our own health first or we won’t be any good for anything at all for a very long time, if ever again. So for now, I will deal with my winter blues the best way I know how…learning, researching and communicating via books and the internet. I have to say, I have had some awesome conversations over the phone too about our grazing plans, the success we have had and why I think it’s important for others to consider rotational grazing. Being down isn’t all bad…it just takes some adapting.

I will write more soon about extreme animal care and welfare. I want to give some details about how we cope with winter months when temperatures hover around ZERO with freezing cold wind chill factors, what we do to ensure animal safety during winter, and how grazing has also been incorporated during the winter months. I may have to write up a series of articles but, I think it’s important that people see just how much care and planning goes into animal care during extreme weather.

Hope you are all staying warm…and I will leave you with a photo to contemplate for the next blog! Have a blessed day!

Here is Abel...warm, relaxed and sound asleep. What's "off" about this photo?
Here is Abel…warm, relaxed and sound asleep. What’s “off” about this photo?

Marching Forward

******This post contains graphic images of the birth of a calf.*******

How can it be that time seems to stand still for days or weeks on end and then BANG!!!! almost half the year is gone. I think sometimes that we just get so busy that we start ignoring the little things, like the minutes ticking away. I know that’s how it was for us this weekend. It was here, it doesn’t seem like we did anything at all but then POOF it’s gone.

It isn’t like we didn’t do anything. I washed laundry and dishes in there somewhere. I fixed meals and did chores. I did the normal ho-hum of every day life…but I can’t seem to remember what I did on what days and I have to keep looking up dates on photos to get it right. Maybe it’s just old age. Maybe it’s just my short-term memory loss (caused by a car accident in ’95)…..I honestly don’t know. It just seems that time is going by way to fast!

These thoughts start rolling through my head as I watch a first calf heifer trying to give birth to a calf. It was not an easy one and did require some assistance (the front feet and legs were not properly placed). All births make me think of my children being born and without fail, makes me feel old since my oldest son is 14-1/2 already!!! I can tell you, most days that is a reality check for me. In my mind, I think I am still 25 and I am capable of doing so much!

I am not 25, I am actually the ripe old age of 37 and still a young pup in my eyes. Of course, right? I still think in my head sometimes that I am 25. 🙂 I will be that old grandma that still acts like a kid and goes out to throw small square bales around at 70, that is if I live that long and the MS doesn’t take over. I want to be that lady…we all know one or two of them…that goes and goes. You know the one, every time you see her in action you are amazed at how well she is doing and getting around for her “age”.

Anyways…now that I am done complaining about time disappearing, back to the weekend. Yup, everything was going just as usual. Chores, laundry, meals, dishes, blah, blah blah…seriously, do we see where the farm chores rank! I hate doing laundry and dishes…but I do like to cook! Oh wait, there I go, rambling again….

On Sunday morning (and yes I verified the dates!) I got up early, did the milking, feeding and normal chores. Then I went through my normal morning inspection to “talk” to each of the cows. My morning inspection consists of checking feet, legs, bellies and heads. I check for any type of sores, bumps, lumps or limps. Most mornings this includes a brush and my hands on the Jerseys. The Dexters are a different story…they are just getting to the point where we can touch them. Frustrating for me because I forget sometimes and reach for them anyway…think of it like this: I am standing in the pasture next to one, talking to another and absent-mindedly reach out and touch the one next to me. It usually results in a near-kick and the cow running. Defeats the purpose and then I have to start all over with a nervous cow. GRRRR!

As I am inspecting all of the cows, I notice that #47, aka Annie, is walking rather strange, like her hip is really bothering her. Now mind you, she was due to calf at anytime…so I figured “Here we go!” I decided to give her about an hour and then go check on her. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t wait too much longer to go check too. I found her in the farthest corner of the pasture, bellering up a storm and anxiously pacing. After running, up hill mind you, to the house to get equipment (including the camera) and Mr. Farmer I was so out of breath (haha: old age!!!!) I could hardly move. Upon arriving back in the pasture and next to her, I could zoom in with the camera to see in close up detail what was going on. *Insert note here: Yes, she let’s us touch her…but she didn’t want us around her at this point.

Here is what was going on…..

Notice that the one leg is slightly withdrawn behind the other. This put the nose (which you can see just above the foot) and the front foot all at the opening. She was struggling and was starting to rip. So, Mr. Farmer decided that was enough of a struggle for a first calf heifer and he intervened to assist.

Much easier after the feet were moved…

For me, this was amazing and difficult to watch. I know all about difficult births and I felt bad for her. Once the head came out, the body slid out easily…that is until the back hips entered the top of the birth canal anyway.

Almost there girl…hold the tension Mr. Farmer
FIVE MINUTES LATER! A healthy and lively bull calf!

A half hour later, while debating names…we decided that he is going to have to be steered for beef just like the other bull calf that was born three weeks ago. All of our steers named here on the farm are aptly named for cuts of meat….so his name is now Sir Loin!

Sir Loin and Beefy, ages: 2 days and 3 weeks!

He was a rather large boy for a Dexter, weighing in around 60-70 pounds! He is huge and as you can see in the photo above…the same size as the tradition size of a 3 week old calf!

Needless to say…I forgot everything else that happened this weekend! It just doesn’t seem as important somehow as a new calf!!!!

Here we go another round…

We are headed off to another auction today to pick up a calf. We have changed some of our incoming market calf protocol to hopefully eliminate any potential issues.

On a second note, it was determined that T-Bone had Type A-Clostridium. The first time I had even heard about it was through my friend, Dairy Carrie. We were discussing scours and I happened to ask if she had ever seen a calf with scours get bloat. She sent me over to a webpage to read all about it and I could help but see the similarity to what had happened with T-Bone.

After reading a post on our Facebook page about the situation, one of my friends that just happens to be a vet student at Cornell University asked if she could do a necropsy report when he passed. It was determined that he had Clostridium. Not knowing that this was the real issue, the treatments he received did nothing to actually cure the unknown issue.

According to the page from The Dairy Site that Carrie sent me to reads as follows for the treatment:

“The treatment of syndromes caused by C. perfringens is frequently unsuccessful. Because clinical signs are usually a result of the toxin, not the bacteria itself, treatment with antibiotics (which act solely on the bacteria and not the toxins) is often less than rewarding. In addition, with many of these syndromes, death or severe illness occurs before treatment can even be attempted; therefore, early detection becomes essential if treatment is to be successful. Typical treatments for calves with milder clinical signs consist largely of antibiotics (especially penicillin) and the use of C. perfringens antitoxin products. Several injectable antitoxin preparations that contain specific antibodies directed against toxins produced by C. perfringens are currently available. While these antitoxin products are developed expressly for use against toxins produced by Types C and D (beta and epsilon toxins), there may be some effect against alpha toxin (Type A) as well. Supportive care with oral or IV fluids and anti-inflammatories may also be indicated. Any treatment plan needs to be developed in close consultation with the herd veterinarian.”

So, now our new protocol involves the same assessment of birthing time which will determine if the calf with receive a colostrum replacer or if the calf is slightly older a product, also recommended by Carrie, called Gammulin. Gammulin is derived from blood to help boost the immune system of young animals. I am not a fan of giving animals drugs just because they are available. Buying a calf from market provides additional challenges and exposures that need to be controlled as much as possible. Through an immunity boost, it will provide the calves a much better chance at leading a healthy life.

I am trying to take the same approach that I would with my children, who get booster shots to prevent sicknesses and diseases that can be prevented. This new protocol has not been an easy transition to make but I feel that I should try to do something to prevent future issues.

If anyone else has some advise or would like to discuss their own market calf protocol, I would love to hear what has or hasn’t worked for your farm. Discussions about what is really working out there in the real world is always helpful.

OH…and before I forget, I am excited about the Spring Jersey Sale coming up this weekend…don’t tell Mr. Farmer but I am going to see what kind of trouble I can get into and bid on some cows! Keep an eye out on Twitter and here for photos as the day progresses!!!

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.