Category Archives: Cows

Everything that moos on the farm

We have officially dried off our last milking animals for 2017

Our farm manager from our other farm called me today and informed me that she was drying off as of tomorrow. That’s both the cows and the goats. We will not being making the drive to that farm this week since the milk would be too old by Friday.

Almost empty milk bottles
Sad and empty

So, there will be NO PET MILK in the store from now till our cows start having calves. That should be around January but it depends on who gives birth when. Once we have calves on the ground, we’ll make an announcement here to let everyone know they can start getting pet milk again.

In the mean time, we will be increasing our orders on Simply Natural Dairy milk to supplement everyone till we are back in stock on raw milk.

For everyone who called me the past week and wanted to know when we’d have milk again, and I said this Friday, I’m sorry. I have to let my folks make the best decisions for the animals. I’m not there but once per week so I have to rely on trusted people to make the calls on when it’s time. If she says it’s time, then it’s time.

The cows have come home

Our momma and baby cows spend most of the grazing season at a farm that we lease near our farm. Usually we like to leave the cows at that farm till late October to early November but we’ve been short on grass over there this year and this week we received a call from our property owner that the cows were out. Fortunately our landlord, despite being a successful doctor now, grew up as a farmer. He had the cows back in before we could even get there.

One way to make your landlord your ex-landlord is to have him chase your cows with any frequency. We love our landlord so we try to make his life as easy as possible. Regardless of how much grass was left (not much) we decided to go ahead and bring the girls back here and start prepping for winter feeding.

We still have a weeks worth of grass here (with everyone present), maybe a bit more. We’ll graze the rest of what we have, then start feeding hay and produce instead of grass and produce. That will last till April of 2018. That means we are going to have an expensive winter but some of that time they’ll be getting grass, hay, and produce so it all balances out.

Yesterday we took the trailer, truck, backhoe, ramp, and everyone who was present to our leased farm to haul cows. The process is we start about a week prior feeding produce near or in our portable corral. The cows love the produce and they’ll happily walk into the corral to eat it. After about a week, they have the habit down and on moving day we simply bring one load of produce, drop it in the corral, and everyone walks in. Close the gates and viola!

Except it didn’t work that way, of course. The cows had already wandered off by the time we got there so we took the produce and drove across the farm to lure them back. Once we had them back, we dropped the produce and closed them in. Yeah! Success!

That’s when Vicente noticed that they weren’t all in there. A few minutes later some of the younger cows came wandering up. We opened the corral and they scurried in to be with mom. Ugh. Kids! Always late, always causing trouble.

Then a couple more wandered up. We scooted them inside as well. Stupid kids, why wouldn’t they listen and come with mom when called.

Then three more wandered up. By this point the food in the corral was running low which means the moms are ready to go back out. That means we can’t just simply open the gate because now somebody will come squirting out. Also, one of the young cows was obviously not going to behave. You could see it in how he acted immediately. We chased these three cows all over the woods and they went everywhere and anywhere except where we needed them to go. Why is it always the kids who cause the trouble? The moms I could just about verbally tell what to do and they’d do it.

Teenagers, there is a lesson here. Sometimes you are too smart for your own good. We were trying to move the cows back to food, water, and comfort, and these knuckleheads were stopping the process.

So after several attempts we finally got the cows in the corral and loaded onto the trailer. But not before a whole gaggle of young cows couldn’t figure out how to get onto a trailer and blocked the ramp entrance with their idiocy. Once again, the moms had walked right on. The kids were clueless. We walked a mom back off, then walked her back on to show the dummies how it was done. Then we pretty much just pushed the young ones on the trailer because they still didn’t get it. 

Once we had a trailer load of cows we’d drive the five minutes to our farm, back into the pasture, and simply open the gate. The cows hop off and realize they are back home. They immediately go over to see all the other cows already here and have a big running around party. There is some pushing and shoving as the pecking order is reestablished. You can almost hear the, “Mom’s home!” from the cows as they assert their roles as herd leader.

Cows coming home from Adams farm, heading towards beef cows in light fog
Heading over to rejoin the beef cows.

We took 30 cows to our leased farm last time we offloaded this summer. We brought back 33.

It’s nice to have everyone home.

Calf #82 has died

One of our new moms, #45, has lost a calf. We noticed when we were tagging another new calf that #82, the calf,  looked skinny. The moms and the calves are at our leased farm so we aren’t able to keep as close of an eye on them, only checking them every few days. Miguel texted me (I was delivering a cow to the processor) and asked what I wanted to do. We talked the next day and agreed that we’d either get the calf by himself or if possible get mom and the calf. This was complicated by the fact that the backhoe was down with a blown boom cylinder.

Backhoe cylinder off and ready for repair
Backhoe cylinder off and ready for repair

We use the backhoe when we load cows as we have to move and place a ramp we built that allow us to load cows from the ground up to the height of the trailer. With the backhoe down, we couldn’t place the ramp, so we couldn’t load the cows. Ugh. Well maybe we can load her from the ground. I’ve done it with milk cows, but they are a lot easier to deal with.

So let’s catch the calf, truss him up and place him the corral. Then when mom comes to be with him, we’ll lock them both in the corral. Then we’ll take junior and place him in the trailer. Then hopefully she’ll jump on to be with him and off we go. If not, we’ll have to force her on which will be no fun but maybe doable. I had to go another direction that day but Miguel and Vicente could handle if all went well. Ok, we have a plan.

While I was on the road, I received a phone call from Miguel. The calf was caught, and the mom showed no interest in him at all. She just walked off. The calf was very weak and minutes later died while in the back of the gator.

#82 dead in the back of the Gator
#82 dead in the back of the Gator

It was if the mom already knew.

From what we could tell, the mom had dried off and the calf wasn’t nursing. I don’t know if this is a result of the calf having a problem, or if the mom had an issue. At this point, it doesn’t matter. “Love your family, forgive your enemies. Do neither for your cows.” The calf is gone and the mom will now be marked for culling. She is #45, one that we were pretty happy about when she was born. Now she’ll be transferred into the beef cow category and be used for hamburger.

More on milk rationing

I had to rush the post out this morning because I was minutes away from our weekly newsletter going out. I didn’t have time to do much more than put out a quick blurb.

One detail I neglected to mention was that we were not planning on drying off one of our cows this week. She did it on her own. This is why we had the sudden notice as I’d only learned it myself just minutes before. At the time I found out we’d dried off, I knew we had GALLONS of orders from people planning on picking them up this weekend. I needed to get the word out ASAP so everyone would have as much of a heads up as possible.

Sorry for the late notice. Everyone knew about five minutes after I did so it was the best I could do.

Milk rationing

A quick note to our milk customers. One of two cows has dried off this past week. That significantly cuts our production. This means that for our regular milk customers, we will begin rationing how much milk you can purchase per week. It also means that if you are a milk only customer (i.e. you don’t shop in the rest of the store) you will likely be cut off from supply totally.

Sorry, but we only have so much milk to go around and we will try to balance between everyone’s needs.

For those of you who’ve never heard of drying off, this is something a cow does before having a calf. It’s for the health of the cow that we allow her to dry off. It lasts a few months. We’ll be back in full production in January of 2018. We will be in limited production from now till everyone is dried off closer to Thanksgiving.

Momma cows move back to our leased farm

I haven’t been at my desk enough lately to publish this post. On August 4th we had all hands on deck to sort all of our cattle and move the moms and babies back to our leased farm. Luckily we had cousin Cody visiting for a couple of weeks so we of course put him to work.

Cody and Miguel sorting cattle in the corral
Cody and Miguel sorting cattle in the corral

Here we have some of our cows remaining in the corral. Miguel and Cody are working them so we get a subset into the crowd pen. Then we’ll work them through the crowd pen, through the corral, and through the head gate where we will sort them into two categories. Staying and Going.

The cows that are staying will be directed out into the pasture. The cows that are going will be directed back into the open barnyard where they get to mill around and play until it’s time to load. All in all it’s a fairly easy job, especially with Cody here to help. My job is to work the head gate and send the cows whichever direction they are going as they come out.

This is done simply by opening or closing a gate that leads to the pasture. If the gate is open, I stand close to the cow and they turn away from me as they come out of the head gate and “escape” into the pasture. No problem. If we want them to instead stay in the barnyard, the gate is closed and the cow simply exits the head gate and walks wherever they want to. I don’t do anything with them except stay out of the way.

Easy. Yeah right. #84, one of our purchased cows, was supposed to stay so the gate to the pasture was wide open. Except he came out and decided he didn’t want to “escape.” He wanted to go back into the barn yard. I stepped between him and the barnyard and shooed him back toward the 16 foot opening. He darted forward and tried harder to get into the barnyard. Not so fast Buddy, I’ve done this a million times. I darted forward as well, staying near his head so he’ll turn and go where I want him. We both reach the hinge post of the gate at the same time. At this point he cannot go forward anymore, so of course instead of going through the huge opening, he went through me instead, in the process bucking and kicking me mainly in the leg, but also in the wedding tackle. I went head over heels backwards, through the gravel, while he ran off to be where he was. It was a bad enough spill that rather than laughing immediately, Miguel asked if I was ok first. Then he laughed. He asked if I wanted to go get the cow and get revenge. I was thinking about it already but I said “No, I’m gonna eat him. That’s revenge enough.” #84 was marked as “Crazy” in the cattle book, which means as soon as he’s finished, he is first onto the truck.

When this story was being told later, SWMBO asked if Cody has learned any new words (cursing). He said, “No, he stuck to the classics.” I laughed about that for days.

We loaded about four loads of cows on our 16 foot trailer. Cody was a big help, of course. You can see him through the head gate in the picture above. 

The cows love the other farm. They have free range and shade all over the place. The farm had been left fallow for a few months so the grass had recovered nicely. They should be able to stay there till early November. We dropped off 30 cows, calves, and Boyd our bull. Everyone made it there safely, except for me. I had a big bruise from the kick. Oh well, another day of farming.

We killed a cow, by accident! Part 2 #37

So our patient is in the head gate in record time. I have all the gear I need to go to work and I shaved down an area to work on and I”m injecting Lidocain. The cow looks fine and this should only take a few minutes and we’ll be done. He breathing is a bit labored (that’s why bloat kills them, they can’t breathe) but give me 10 minutes and this will all be over.

Then our patient decides he doesn’t like being in the headgate and start bucking and thrashing. I’m holding a needle in my hand so I immediately pull back so nobody gets jabbed. Thrashing about isn’t abnormal and usually it’s just a test to see if this thing really holds. Once they figure out it does, they usually settle right down and stand still. 99% of the time things are very calm. This is just that few seconds of the 1%. No big deal. A few thrashes and the cow slumps. I hear a huuugh of a big exhale and look at his head. His mouth is open, tongue hanging out, and there is no intake of breath. I’m not sure what foul language I used, but as my nephew said later, “I stuck to the classics.”

This cow had just stopped breathing and was laying, effectively dead, in the head gate. His heart didn’t know it yet, and his brain didn’t know it yet, but in the next 45 seconds he’d be dead and there was nothing I could do at that point.

I grew up watching M.A.S.H.  I always remember Hawkeye Pearce as being funny, drunk, and basically against doing anything until the patient needed attention NOW. Then he jumped in and did what no one else could with blinding speed and intense focus. I was always in awe of his (and any surgeons) knowledge and ability. I knew I’d never be a surgeon, and never in his situations as depicted on the small screen.

Except here I was standing there with a cow that had seconds to live suddenly. I called Vicente back over and had him start handing me things that I needed (kind of like Margaret Houlihan). I assembled a scalpel quickly, then made my incision in a quick second. By that point Vicente was handing me a trocar. I inserted it, made sure it was in correctly, and pulled the plug to release the air and take the pressure off of the cows diaphragm. Once that was clearing correctly, I released the head gate to get the pressure off of the cow’s head, relaxing the airway. Then I waited. It felt like an hour but it could only have been a few seconds.

ONE. BIG. BREATH…..

And nothing…..

Then one big breath again, and another. And another.

A quick thank you to the man upstairs and then it was back to attending to our cow. His eyes were unfocused and he was drooling at this point. The gas from the bloat was long gone and he was breathing if not normal, at least normal enough. I stayed with him for a good 5 minutes just making sure he came back around. At this point he was laying in the head gate, on the ground, and had no interest in getting up. He was reactive to stimulus but not your normal cow, confused and groggy but alert. Eventually I went and got him a bucket of water which he looked at but didn’t want.

#37 after dying and then coming back to life from bloat
Our patient #37, after his warm reboot and before we could get his leg out

Vicente suggested we open the escape chute which basically swings open the entire side of the head gate. Even with that open he still laid there about 20 minutes just collecting his thoughts. It was obvious he had had a warm reboot and all the operating systems were still coming online. He looked around at everything as if for the first time. Eventually he stood up and walked out of the head gate. He still looked around as if everything was new but he walked back to the rest of the herd and resumed the rest of his day. He’s now fine and back to normal.

So what happened? Bloat puts pressure on the diaphragm of the cow, making it harder and harder for the lungs to inflate until eventually the cow can no longer breathe and passes out. Death quickly follows. When the cow thrashed in the head gate, one of his legs kicked open a bar and was hung outside of the gate (see picture above). It was on the opposite side of where I was so I didn’t see it. This elevated his rear end, putting additional pressure on his diaphragm. As that pressure took effect (loss of consciousness), his front end dropped while his head was still elevated, making things worse.

It only takes a few seconds for all this lack of breathing to cause loss of consciousness. In a person if this happened, I’d pick him/her up and relieve the pressure, or push the leg back in. When it’s a 1000 pound cow, you can’t just move them around like you want. Afterwards it took us a good 5 minutes to get his leg back in, with Vicente and I both working at it. All we could do in our situation was relieve the bloat and drop his head to clear the airway, which is what we did. We couldn’t have stopped the thrashing and it was just bad luck that his leg popped out.

I did feel a bit like Hawkeye Pearce after it was all over though, minus the drinking of course. It was too hot for that.