Pushing Cows

Sometimes this farm seems too big. The fields too big to manage, the forest too big to attend to all the sections, the roads too many to maintain, the list goes on. Other times the farm seems too small. The fields not big enough to produce the amount of hay that we use for a rough winter, the barns not big enough to hold all of our equipment, the feed storage and all of our little projects that need to be under cover.

We had barns on the farm when we first moved here in 1978, but they were huge, cumbersome behemoths that were in serious need of repair and//or replacement. They were tall with huge upper lofts to tong loads of loose hay from wagons. The tongs were attached to a track that was manually pulled out an upstairs door and dropped to the wagon, secured to a bunch of hay, pulley-ed back up to the door and into the loft where it could be dropped into the storage area. We called this first barn, “The Falling Through.” It was in sad shape, it was also built raised above the dirt level of the ground because this was a soggy area. The beams that held the floor aloft had rotted over time and one was more likely to fall through some of the flooring, or slip through one of the many holes that we were afraid someone would break an ankle just doing the chores.

We replaced the barn with one that we could drive equipment into, have a solid floor and have a big area for hay bale storage since loose hay was no longer a way to store feed. I was worried the barn that was being built was too big, the storage area seemed massive. We even put up a half-court basketball area in the space. That game only lasted the first year while we were waiting for the cement to cure and the next hay season to start. Now the barn seems too small and there is never enough room in the barn for the critters, the feed and for the projects or stored equipment.

The same goes for the acreage. This time of year the farm seems too small. We are constantly shuffling something, or many things out of the way in order to get one other thing accomplished.

Right now it is the main herd that we have to keep moving around. They have many small fields and areas where they can roam, graze and lounge around, but the areas are not close to each other and the cows are not able to keep the areas pastured evenly. So we have to spend time each day, pushing the herd from one grazing spot to another until we have the first big hay field harvested. Then we can move the herd to the large area and the surrounding forested acreage while we get the rest of the hay fields completed.

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Cattle Intentions

The main herd has been watching the far field. They have noticed that the grass has been growing over there and we have noticed them spending quite a bit of time along the fence line watching the field from afar with what looks like longing in their eyes. The herd sire, Prowler has been the most noticeable as he stays rooted into one place while the rest of the herd meanders around or heads up into the forest to look for the spring grasses in the open areas.

To appease the herd and to take away free grazing rights from the several herds of elk, we moved the herd through the nursery field and over to the far, far field for a week or two of fresh pasture. By moving the herd we opened up twenty six acres of field along with nearly ten more acres of forage area around the field. We went ahead and combined the nursery field  inhabitants with the main herd for this spring jaunt in a new area. The six new calves mingled in and had no issues fording the river to get the new pasture with their mothers.

This grass on the other side of the fence is definitely greener since it has not had the herds grazing on it over the winter other than those pesky roving herds of elk.

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Not Mean, But Damage Anyway

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Our herd sire, Prowler has been keeping company with the main herd of cows on the far side of the river. He is a rather gentle critter, he is not one to go around the periphery to contain his harem. He does not bellow or snort to get attention, he tends to hang out in the middle of the herd rather than lead or follow. Although we never turn our backs to any bull (rule number one), Prowler has never raised any concerns about working with the herd while he is in their midst. So the damage that was incurred the other day surprised us. Continue reading

#4 Sable and Mink

Now that we FINALLY have the herd wrangled back together again after several days of missing critters here and there, it is time to announce the newest members of the herd.

While three of the pregnant cows went missing,  #4 Sable decided to go into labor. angus cow with twitchy tailSable is easy to spot from all the other cows because when she was a newborn, someone in the herd stepped on her tail and it broke a couple of times. It doesn’t seem to bother her at all but  she is unable to swish her tail side to side like other cows. Any time  she tries to swish, she lifts her crooked tail and twitches it up and down. If it were a fishing pole one would think she was jigging for a big one.

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From across the field we first noticed it was her by her twitchy tail and that she was  hanging by herself in the thick brush down by the river, a small calf was following her close behind. She and her baby are happy to be out of the brush and in the grassy fields with the rest of the herd.

Welcome to the farm, Mink. That is her resting in the grass just beyond that twitchy tail. She is a sweet little heifer that weighed approximately 58 lbs. at birth. Her sire is Night Prowler.

When Things Go Wonky

This is a continuation of the post from 5/29/2019 titled, Ya Just Never Know.

So I told you about moving the main herd out of our way after ear tagging some of the older calves and the fun time we had taking out the irrigation line with the mess of digging a trench to bury a new PVC line.

We had anticipated the cows would be able to graze for five to seven days without running out of grass or new growth on the under brush surrounding the far field, but things did not start out well. We were surprised when after only one day over there, one cow had figured out how to escape from one side of the fence to the other. She was making trails, leaving plops and eating as much tall grass as she could in the small 6 acre hay field while her herd mates hollered at her from across the fence. We had to coax her from the 6 acre field into the 26 acre field and across the expanse of that field and open up the ‘run’ made with temporary electric fencing so we could open the gate and let her back in with her herd. Continue reading

For Fun

‘Twas the day before Christmas, And all across the farm and house

Many creatures were stirring, including Mr and Mrs mouse

The mangers were filled with sweet smelling hay

And the cows were all eating, gobbling, you could say.

Nary a critter was hungry, the winter had not yet turned frigid

Morsels and mouthfuls were there for the taking.

With full tummies they meandered this way and that

Looking for space so they could bed down at last.

When what to their wondering eyes did appear,

was a large herd of elk, each one bigger than any steer.

They munched on lawn, and devoured fallen filbert leaves,

The went through fences as easy as they pleased.

From the dogs arose such a clutter, howling and yipping in tune

With I in my slippers and Mike in his robe, we leaned out the door

He hollered and whistled for the herd to go, it was his chore.

“Oh ladies and bulls!” he called from the porch, he ranted and cooed,

“You have got to move on, our farm is not big enough for our herd and  you.”

The lead elk cow barely stirred and tried to simply ignore,

But the hooting and shouting and broom waving irked,

It riled the herd and prompted momentum, that’s how it worked.

A thunderous noise reached a crescendo, an adrenaline stage

As the herd bolted and headed off for another place to graze.

Leaving the footie prints deep in the mud, the herd continued on

To munch and crunch some other person’s lawn.

(apologies to Dickens)


Tip Of The Elk Iceberg

We counted 11 elk out playing in the field. They were a rowdy bunch, running one way and then another, kicking up their heels and scuffling around with each other.

Elk in field.They would come up to the fence to peek at the cows and calves that we had in the close pasture.

They were a curious bunch and at one point it looked like they wanted to jump the fence and head right into the yard around the house.

Elk in field.The black corner on the lower right hand side is the head of one of the cows. The elk would come up to the fence, less than 10 yards from the cows before scampering off again.

When a loud log truck drove by on the county road the small herd took off out of the field. We watched as they headed out of this pasture, through an old log landing and out toward our property on the other side of the river. That is when this small group joined back up with the rest of their family. It was the large herd, now well over 60 animals strong and eating all the newly sprouted leaves on the clover in our smallest hay field.

The large group of animals when joined with this rowdy group took off running across the small field, over the fence, down through the river, over another fence and into our far field. Still not done running, they crossed the big field, again crossed the river to another field before jumping fences and heading up into the tall timber on the hill.


Finding Tansy

While mowing down stickers ( Canadian Thistles), I have been coming across a lot of Tansy Ragwort.Tansy Ragwort growing with Canadian Thistles.

According to Wikipedia:

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is a perennial, herbaceous flowering plant of the aster family, native to temperate Europe and Asia. It has been introduced to other parts of the world including North America, and in some areas has become invasive.

The seeds of this invasive and poisonous plant float in on the breeze and travel the waterway depositing themselves in the rich loam from high water and in the fields.

Horses in particular are susceptible to the toxic properties of this plant. Cows and people can be affected also. If left to multiply, the weed could take over the hay field and the hay would  then be toxic to the herd.

The plant has to be dug out with the roots intact in order to keep it from re-growing. Once the plant is out of the ground we have to take it with us away from the fields and river so the seeds from the drying plant do not drop to the ground for future plants.

Elk During The Morning Chores

A tree in the foreground, elk on the hillside beyond the river.Getting ready to head across the river for the morning feeding, I looked past the tree and the bridge that crosses the river and saw a herd of elk along the hillside.

Traveling over the bridge, the view became clearer and we saw at least 20 elk heading toward the hay field for a day of grazing.

A herd of elk in the distance getting ready to jump into the pasture.This is the mid-sized herd from out of the 3 that visit the farm.

Once we were over the bridge, the herd caught the sight and sound of us moving toward them. About half of them were already over the fence and in the hay field when the herd reversed direction and bounded back out of the field.

A hillside beyond the field and the mid-level trees.The herd traversed through the green trees and jumped another fence to get onto the hillside that had been clearcut and replanted several years ago. Still, it was hard to track the group on the uphill climb.

About 300 feet above the hay field, I caught a glimpse of the herd.

A herd of elk on the top of a hill.Because the hill had no big trees, I was able to watch the silhouettes against the sky as the animals trailed along the top of the ridge.

From this spot, the elk have 7 miles of timber ground that spreads out toward the ocean. I hope they find good grazing so that they will stay out of my pastures.


As Seen From Afar

One of the elk herds has descended on the far hay field/pasture with a vengeance. It was hard to count as they kept moving, swirling around in a slow-dance version of circling the drain as they pick through blades of grass that are now exposed after the snow finally melted. The total neared 50 as far as I could tell with at least 3 bulls in the bunch.


This far field was supposed to be the grazing area for the main herd in a couple of days. We take fields out of rotation for feed after we spread manure out on the grass. The elk have determined that the field has broken down the manure and the grass is ready for eating, they beat us moving the cows to this pasture.

I can’t blame the elk herd, they are probably hungry from this unusual winter, and this grass that we had so generously fertilized for them 2 months ago is just the best tasting area they could find.

We are still planning on moving our main herd of cows over to this far pasture, but in the light of the current grass-stealing events, we will have to move the cows back out of this pasture sooner than planned and augment their feed with hay.