The call we had a week ago about our loaner herd breaking out of the pasture and eating the flowers in the neighbors yard was a fortuitous kick that got us motivated to get the loaner herd home. Continue reading
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Our loaner herd of cows consisting of Topanga, her calf and three bred heifers had been serving on pasture grazing duty at a neighbor farm since spring. This herd has been doing a fine job all summer long, keeping the pastures trimmed up and the fire danger low for the farmer who no longer keeps his own herd of livestock. It is a win, win situation, we don’t have to worry about feeding the critters and the neighbor gets pasture maintenance.
By August of a typical year when the summer sun dries the dirt beneath the grass and there is no new growth, we move the loaner herd back home. But the muggy summer without the sweltering high temperatures and the thunderstorms of August kept the grass growing so the neighbor farmer was happy to keep the herd well past the normal dates. That worked well for us since Topanga was quite pregnant at the time and we don’t like to haul animals so near to calving. It was August 17 when Topanga birthed her heifer calf, Donna. You can review her story from the post called A New Late Addition dated 8/21. Continue reading
The three heifers and the more senior cow, Topanga, have been effectively keeping the neighbors grass trimmed during the summer. On a typical year, the grass would have all dried up by now and we would have moved the traveling herd home. But with these series of small storms, we have had enough moisture to keep the grass growing so the four critters are quite content to continue with their work. Continue reading
The fall weather, with quick changes from bright and sunny to breezy and showers, highlights the colors on the farm. But on this day as we were beginning the evening chores, it was a surprise to see the red nose and lips of one of the cows nearly light up as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds.
It was a long shot to be able to show the antics of this particular cow because we were inside the barn loading hay onto the Gator when she was spotted ‘looking good.’
Her nose must have been damp before she stuck her head into the mineral tub. The result looked like perfectly applied lipstick.
Looking good Topanga, looking real good.
The little heifer Zion is more than a month old now and believes she is the queen of her domain. She has been growing quickly and the fluffy coat she was born with is serving her well.
Here she is still blowing steam as she zips into the barn with her mom at feeding time. As soon as Topanga has had her fill, they head back out to the field to nibble on grass spears that are sticking up through the skiff of snow and ice that is on the ground.
The first time Topanga and her baby Zion showed up with the main herd on the outside of their nursery field, we had assumed that the baby was laying next to the fence and when she got up found she was on the wrong side (it happens with newborns all the time).
With Topanga being such a good mother, she would have found a way to get over, around or through the fence to get to her baby. We looked for her escape spot but could not locate it and figured the breakout was an anomaly. So we put the pair back into the nursery field and forgot about a closer fence inspection. Continue reading
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, large animals are not as dumb as they may seem. Although normally they abide by the rules of the farm and get along with their fellow critters(including humans), they can also be quite conniving when they decide to mutiny or if they just get into a ‘mood’. Continue reading
It’s hard to get a picture of Topanga and her new baby Zion together. Zion is a very busy youngster and with the two of them in the large hay field turned nursery, she has a lot acres to investigate. Zion only stops playing long enough to nurse for a bit before heading out to new adventures. Topanga is a wonderful mother and even though she is really busy grazing the day away, she doesn’t let Zion get out of her sight.
The temperature had dropped during the night to 20 degrees and the morning started with clear blue skies. The frosty grass still shivered in the shady spots and stayed that way in many places, never quite getting above freezing before the sun went down beyond the wooded hillside.
Zion hasn’t a care in the world as she scampers around the field.
About an hour after this picture was taken, the main herd had lined up on this side of the electric fence to watch the duo hang out in the coveted field. I couldn’t even get a picture of momma and baby while the gaggle of onlookers lined the fence and blocked the view because all it would of showed would have been beef backsides and I already posted one behind scene this month.
Topanga seems to be the instigator when it comes to leading groups of cows through the river to graze along the far banks. As she gets closer to calving, the odds increase that she would deliver her baby while on the wrong side of the river.
To curtail her dangerous activities, we have separated Topanga from the rest of the herd. She is now sequestered in the hay field that we locked all the other cows out of. Topanga has sole dominion over 36 acres of short grass, fresh running water through every swale, trees along the fence and the barn is open to eat as much hay as she wants while getting out of the elements. Right now she seems to prefer the outdoor life even when it is still raining and only goes in the barn when she wants to eat.
Just how close she is to calving is still a mystery. It looks like she can deliver at any time. She lost her mucus plug yesterday and that usually indicates less than a week of gestation left.
Now that we separated Topanga from the rest of the herd, no one has crossed the fast flowing river and she doesn’t seem to mind solitary confinement. For that matter, I would not be opposed to time out if I was pampered as much as she is.
We have a close connection to our herd, the farm dogs and the barn cats. We are all doing this job of farming together as separate parts of the whole.
The feeding of all the parts leans heavily on the humans planning ahead and storing crops so that the winter is not a constant search for sustenance.
The cattle are also very good about knowing what vitamins and minerals are missing in their diet and will supplement needed compounds by heading over to the mineral tub in search of what is missing. If we did not have the tub available to the cows, they go in search of them on their own and have been known to eat dirt or tree bark and lick rocks in the quest to keep their bodies supplied.
During the fall and winter we check the mineral tub often to assure the cows have access during this time of gestation. I had mentioned earlier that Topanga is closing in on calving time and a couple of others may have calves before the end of the year with the most of the cows delivering between January and June.
Today Topanga is monitoring minerals being added to the tub. She got a few good licks in between Mike adding the Magnesium rich molasses block, the loose multi-mineral mix and the salt. She stayed at the tub for several minutes before the next batch of animals came in search of supplements. Sometimes it seems that the cows are smarter than the human counterparts in finding what is needed for their health.