With triple digit weather this week, I have been asked about the health and welfare of our animals.
Last month as we trudged through hay season, we decided that we would not show animals at the fairs this year. The bottom line came down to Mike saying if he was going to show cows he would need to take 2 trailer-loads of critters (10 – 12) in order not make money but at least make enough to offset some of the fuel and time needed to be away from the farm, with my input saying that with the 2 of us, we are not capable of caring and handling 10 or more animals 14 hours at the fair and still coming home each day to care for the ones still here. Continue reading
I have been mowing down those dang-blasted Canadian Thistles for several days now. I tend to follow around where the main herd is grazing and mow close by so that they will help with cleanup of the vegetation.
Although they don’t care for thistles, the cows will pick through the fresh mowed weeds, grass and brush before it dries. Once new growth appears on the mowed off stalks, they will help keep the weeds from again taking over by browsing the tender tips.
As we completed the fourth and last field, the counter on the baler read 3073.
This number is good news and bad news.
The good news is that we have the barns stuffed full and there is plenty of feed for the herd. The bad news has to do with me.
Over the years we have spent on this farm, we have tried to produce enough hay for our herd without needing to go out to purchase and haul home more feed. The last 3 years we have had to augment our hay supply with purchases. I had adopted a mantra that was nearing the nagging stage, “five less cows, five less babies.”
It never seemed to be a good time to cull out the herd. Once I was told the market was too strong, the animals were too good a value to get rid of. The next year I was told the market was too weak and we would not get enough money for the animals if we sold them. Last year I was told that our current genetics are ‘just right’ and the critters were too high a quality to be thinned out.
I finally wore him down with my mantra holding strong through the years, Mike started to weed out a few candidates and he did bring down the total herd membership even though it was not yet as low as I was preaching about.
Now with the hay season nearing completion, we have enough bales to feed all the animals that we currently have. So we do not need to sell anymore of the breeding stock at this time. My mantra is on hold for a little while until the herd uses up this good supply of hay.
Much like a line of demarcation, the space between here and there should be straight. Or at least that concepts that our minds are comfortable with. Straight arrows, fence posts smooth as clock ticks to the cars that drive by, gardens growing in formation, the list can go on and on.
On the farm, the landscape changes between dry areas, low wetlands, razor-edged embankments, steeply grooved canyons with river banks, with slopes, dips and curves everywhere. Yet, there are times when a straight line would work well. It seems that at just that moment, the direct route can be lost in the shuffle of trying to accomplish just that task.
I happened to notice our “straight” temporary electric fence that runs through the pasture that will be our hay field in a couple of weeks.
The cows munched all the foliage as they walked from the barnyard to the other pasture area and our straight fence just isn’t what I thought it was.
I blame it on the terrain.
I had noticed that something had been nosing around the cedar seedlings that we had planted and placed protective cages around.
Out of the 25 seedlings in this area, only 1 plant with cage had been left alone. The rest had cages torn off the bamboo poles, had the poles broken off at ground level, or the cages were completely missing from the area just so the seedlings could be exposed for grazing.
The tender cedar trees were just too much of a temptation for cows, calves, elk or deer that could smell the delicacy beneath the protection of the cage.
I spent several hours re-caging what was left of the seedlings in hope that the cages will stay in place through the summer for the plant to get settled into the ground. As I worked my way around the hillside, I did see a few of the cedars that we had to replant that had been pulled out of the ground completely. Some survived, but most did not.
I had to do some looking but I did finally find the two missing cages scattered away from this planting area.
One of the cages had been carried nearly 50 yards away from this hillside. We are now back to being cagey.
The view from the bridge shows one worker hard at the task of trimming back the blackberry bushes.
While other cows and calves were resting comfortably in the field this cow was doing her best to trip back the new tips of the row of blackberries that grow alongside the bridge on one side of the river.
We harvest these blackberries in the summer and early fall. Since there are so many growing in this area, there is more than enough for the cows to trim them and for us(along with neighbors and friends) to get our share of the delicious fruit.
Little and big alike plunge right in as they head across the river to the next area for the fast growing grass. Calves as young as a few hours old are able to ford the river. They walk upstream, right by their mothers side and the current holds them firm against the belly of their mom as they walk across.
The calf by itself in the middle is more than a month old and does not worry about being close to mom now that it understands how to ford the river by himself. On the other hand, the calf will never cross the river without being part of the herd. If he misses the event at the time the whole herd crosses, he will wait on the far side until his mother comes to escort him across. In the meantime, there is a lot of bellowing and crying back and forth until the family is re-united.
This herd was being sorted and moved this day so that they can graze around the far hay field. The field itself has already been closed off for grazing while the grass grows for the upcoming hay crop.
The herd is familiar with the the rotation of areas and are happy to move from one spot to the next with little prompting.