The five yearlings that had the green weaning clips put in their noses have been separated from their mothers and are learning how to eat hay out of the manger.
Full bales are placed along the manger with fluffed up bales on top. The yearlings learn to lift their heads up to slip into the stanchion to get to the food. Once they put their heads down, the stanchion slides to the closed position and locks their head in. By lifting the hay up for them the first day, they start to get the idea that the sounds and feel of the metal on their neck is not harmful. The one on the left has already figured that out and is not surprised or hesitant about letting the head gate close while he lowers his head to eat.
The five still have the green clips in their noses. As soon as they are comfortable with the stanchions, I will lock their heads in and slip the clip out of their nostrils.
This group is completely weaned from their mothers. There is no bellering or crying, no pacing of fences and no trauma. They are enjoying the chance to eat all the hay they want without adults bunting them away. They are also getting pelleted grass seed screenings and chopped up apples in their diet. The kittens playing in the barn spooked them on the first day but they are getting used to watching the antics.
The first 5 calves have gotten their new jewelry in the form of a green plastic clip that snaps into their nose.
This little clip lets the calves wean themselves while they hang out in the same pasture with their mothers who are able to comfort their babies while their milk dries up.
This handy-dandy tool completely alleviates the pacing of fence lines, the bawling babies, and the mothers who get worked up and try to jump across all lines to get to their calves. The calves are able to eat normally just not nurse.
After a few days the calves can be moved away from their mothers and have the clips removed. At that time, they will be moved into the show barn where I get to spoil them by feeding all the hay they can eat along with a mixture of grass seed screenings made into pellets with molasses and sliced apples.
The babies soon learn that I will take good care of them through the rest of the weaning process.
We have been watching #64, SAF Gauge for a month. She was showing all the signs of impending birth, but she was not ready.
Each day we would check her and each day would have the same conclusion of ‘any time now’.
Finally 4/19/17 SAF Dial was born, the heifer weighed in at 61 lbs. This baby was definitely not overdue, or she would have weighed 80 lbs. Gauge had fooled us the whole time.
Dial was born in the middle of the main herd. I was halfway across the field when I heard Gauge let out one loud bellow, the calf was expelled and plopped into the pasture grass. The rest of the herd danced around with snorting and bellowing of their own. Some of the other calves were running circles around the herd. Everyone was very excited.
Dial was standing up and eating within 15 minutes of birth. The excitement around her her had quieted down as I coaxed the rest of the herd to eat their hay on the other side of the river.
Peach, who was born on January 3 and Respect, who was born on March 25 are getting along wonderfully well. Peach has been showing Respect how to sleep outside in the pasture, chase birds and as shown in this picture, eat hay from the manger.
Peach grabs large clumps of hay while Respect is still nibbling on stem at a time, but soon both will come into the barn at feeding time as quickly as their mothers do.
Respect tries to show his dominance as a bull when around Peach. He will scuffle and bump heads. Peach takes it good-naturedly and just pushes him aside when she tires of his game.
Cow #7 had a surprise for me this morning as I headed across the river to feed the main herd and the cow/calf pairs in the nursery field.
#7 had just successfully delivered twin bull calves and was busy trying to figure out exactly what was going on while she cleaned the pair. I missed the birth by less than an hour when I found her with her double delivery.
I was solely in charge of the farm on this day and it took quite a bit of effort to get the family out of the wet, rainy pasture and up to the barn. #7 was not mean but she sure was confused about the newborns and why I was haltering her babies and moving around in her space while she was trying to deliver and clean up her afterbirth. Continue reading
Imagine a garden hose that has the inner rubber lining thinning and causing the outer wraps of the hose to expand and grow larger than the intended diameter. Some cows experience that same kind of deterioration.
The cow #7 is 7 years old and she has ‘boobular’ issues. The underlying structure of her teats has broken down as she has been maturing. During the summer and winter months the issue is not a problem, but during calving, her large bag and even bigger teats tend to drag in the mud and the muck leaving a most undesirable dinner plate for newborns. In addition, the extra large teats are quite cumbersome for newborns to maneuver around to get a solid grip for a satisfying meal.
Normally, we would cull this animal from the herd because of the extra care needed to keep her and her calf healthy. #7 has shown herself to be of good gentle disposition where we can get her moved from pen to field easily and she is a wonderful mother who has raised several really good calves that have been sold with a nice profit. She has earned her keep even with the extra work.
It may still be several days, but #7 was looking like she was getting close to calving so we moved her out into the nursery field with the other mothers with babies so that her bag could get cleaned up before she calved. We may still have to help her newborn learn to nurse from the ‘balloon boobs’, but at least they will be clean when she does decide to deliver.
One of the reasons we don’t house the main herd inside the barn during the winter is the need for clean, thawed water for the animals.
The main herd is across the river and there is no electricity over there. No lights in the barn and no way to get water.
The cows are able to free roam to the spring in the far back of the place, to drink from the spring that breaks out along the hillside, or go down to the river for water.
The one cow and calf that we have in the barn,with access to the nursery field, do have a water tub inside the barn and we have to pack buckets of water to replenish as needed. A cow will drink 10-15 gallons of water a day, milking cows may drink up to twice that amount to be able to continue producing a healthy supply of milk to their calves.
We have had quite a bit a snow that was on the roof of the barn, so we placed buckets and tubs along the drip line of barn. Most days, once the sun came out, the buckets would fill during the day and we could dump them inside for the cow to drink.
When the temps dip down into the low teens, as they have in the last week, the collecting tubs at the drip line and the water tub inside are all frozen solid. We have resorted to hauling buckets full of hot water down the driveway, across the county road, along toward the river, over the bridge, across the pasture to the barn and through two gates to replenish the water supply.
Weather forecasters are calling for a warming trend next week…until then, I’ll be packing.