The calves are growing like weeds. There is a lot of romping, jumping and running going on in the fields as the calves learn more about their surroundings. The bunch up in gangs looking for ways to entertain themselves as their mothers begin to give them their space and time separated from each other while still being a part of the main herd.
At this age the bulls and heifers cavort in loosely knit groups but before long the bull calves with stick with more predominately groups with more bulls leaving the heifers to make their own tribe. But the calves come back to their mothers several times during their play to reconnect, get a meal of milk, and hopefully a good licking bath before they take off again in search of new adventures.
We have the main herd moved back across the river to the far, far field but this time we have fenced the hay field perimeter and the herd is only allowed to graze in the small upper field, under the fir trees and around the outside of the twenty six acre field fence. We are hoping to harvest this field first since it is the most difficult to access, hardest to mow, and the field that dries out first once the warm June days bake the dirt.
The new calves learned early about electric fences and the temporary fence around the hayfield is keeping them and the rest of the herd a respectable distance away from the growing grass.
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The cows and heifers that occupy the show barn for their meals have both a barnyard and a gate they can go through to go down into the woods past a large field of grass. They spend most of their days out in the field of grass or under the tall fir trees as they graze and lounge. These critters are also just a fence line away from the garden and orchard and spend time along the dividing line when anyone is out working in the yard or garden.
We happily share the bounty of both yard and garden with critters in the bull pen, the weaning side of the show barn and these show animals. We do not use chemicals in the fields, the garden, the yard or around the farm so we are comfortable feeding everything from grass clippings, to overgrown garden vegetables to apples and pears from the fruit trees. Continue reading
The herd had signaled when it was time to clean up the far, far field about a week ago with their watching the grass grow as they stood along the fence line. Now they insisted that it was time once again to move as they had cleaned up this area they were in. The had scoured the edges of the big field, browsed all the new grass in the middle, and cleaned up under the trees growing along the old railroad tracks and under the big fir trees along the outer edge of the property. It was obvious it was time to move to a new grazing area, so when it was time for the evening feeding, all we had to do was open the gate and the whole herd moved into the main field.
With the main field now the main residence while the herd cleans up, the far, far field can again rest comfortably while the grass again grows. Hopefully that will happen without inviting the big herd of elk, that is more than sixty critters big right now, to wipe out the new growth before we have our cows back into that field.
Rotating large areas for our cattle is good for the fields and does not stress the new grass as it is beginning the spring growth cycle. In the next month or two, we will take the whole herd out of the fields completely so the grass can grow for our hay crop that we will begin harvest in late June.
In the meantime, we will continue rotating the herd through the fields, culling out the mothers as they near their birthing time so they have a chance to bond with the new baby before introducing the new family back into the herd. Right now there are two cows that are nearing that stage and are watching closely.
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Typically, by now the hot summer days would be baking the ground and causing lots of dust on every road and trail. We were fortunate to get our hay crop in when we did because the last two weeks has had many muggy days with light rain showers or thunderheads looming. We are still lower than average for the total amount of rainfall for the year so this dampness a welcomed opportunity for the newly planted seedlings, and for the fields.
It is a different story for those who have not yet been able to get their harvests completed. In the valley, the grass seed farmers have had their fields swathed (cut down) during this stretch where the crop is supposed to be drying, but the ongoing moist days are keeping the ground beneath the wind-rows damp and threatening to rot the crop before the drying can occur. The farmers are starting to doubt their ability to get the crops harvested.
Our far field that was the first one cut for hay, has greened up considerably with the moisture so we moved the main herd back over there to eat the new grass rather than letting it go to the resident elk herds.
There is enough new growth out in the field and around the brush at the tree line to keep the main herd busy for a week to ten days. These are valuable days that we will not have to feed the limited supply of the harvest from the barn, and easing the worries about the harvest being enough to supply the cows through the winter months.
Now the the hay equipment is put away for the season and the small tractor has been freed up for other duties, the rotary mower has been put replaced on the back end of the tractor.
The mower will be used in the smaller pastures and around the hayfields that have gone mostly to dog fennel, dandelions, Canadian thistles, bull thistles and other assorted weeds. Mowing these smaller fields will eliminate the overgrowth of the unwanted plants and allow for grass to again take over if we get a little moisture before the weeds rebound.
This task will be one of those, when-I-get-around-to-it kind of jobs and will be done in small time increments around more important things.
We have been worried about our dry spring weather. We could see the stress on the new seedlings in the forest, the dusty lane around the fields that would normally be swamp messes this time of year, and in the growing hay fields. The grass didn’t look as green as it should and had practically stopped growing. We had concerns that we would have to start mowing a month early to keep from losing the nutrients as the grass dries out. Continue reading
The hay fields that were harvested and turned into pastures finally have a tinge of green.
Since the harvest, the hot and dry summer scorched the grass, it was brittle and brown with little nutrients.
Over the last week we have had a few showers and nearly an inch of rain. That was enough to start the grass growing again. It is a welcome sight to see a touch of green return to the pastures.
PS There is nothing wrong with the calf in the photo. It looks like he is leaning into gale-force wind but he had just stood up from a rest and needed to do a little stretching before walking across the field to join the rest of the herd.