#46 has a new calf, #93

It is calf-a-palooza around here! #46 just had a little bull calf, #93.

#93, banded and ear tagged
#93, banded and ear tagged

Miguel and Vicente grabbed the little calf and made sure he was tagged, banded, and nursing his mom. All was good so they went about the rest of their morning. But of course Miguel went back and checked again just to make sure. He found this cow nursing #46 instead of the wobbly just born calf.

#79 in the head gate
The criminal, #79 in the stockade

#79 was being aggressive and stealing milk, and the little calf wasn’t able to get any. #79 has a mom and is more than big enough to not need to nurse. She was simply being greedy, at the expense of the little calf. Miguel brought her up to the barn and we put her in the head gate, as you see here. I had something on hand for a greedy calf.

#79 with a weaning ring
#79 with a weaning ring

This is a weaning ring. It clips on like a clip on earring and just hangs off the cows nose. They can eat, they can graze, they can do pretty much everything they normally do, except if they try to nurse a mom. The ring is covered in spikes that point up. If the cow tries to nurse, the spikes poke the mom in the udder and she kicks the calf or moves away. No more nursing for greedy calves .

We then turned #79 out in the milk cow pasture to make sure she was away from the just born calf. She’ll spend a couple of days there surrounded by all them milk she could drink and no chance to get any. Seems fair.

We’ll go back and remove the weaning ring in a few months. After our calves are born and this girl has learned her lesson.

We are back to milking and #91 has a new home

Our little Orphan Annie calf, #91 has a new home. Miguel posted a picture of her on Craigslist and had a tremendous response. We found a farmer in Siler City who specializes in animals like #91, who are orphans or their mom doesn’t want to take care of them.

#91 making friends with her new mom
#91 making friends with her new mom

The farmer said in this particular case, he’d just bought a little bull as well so he planned to keep both #91 and the bull and raise them to make their own babies. I certainly hope that #91 is a better mom than her mother was. At least this way she’ll have the chance to be.

#91 at her new home and with her new family
#91 at her new home and with her new family

Today is the first day that we are back to milking like normal. That means we’ll have a normal days worth of milk in the fridge today, but we don’t have any back stock from previous days to help with demand. So as of today, we are still on the one gallon per family restriction but by Wednesday of next week, we’ll be back to buy all you want.

I’m not sure when the rest of our production will be back in business, but for now we are keeping up, barring any more issues like with #91. Once the rest of the cows deliver their calves, we’ll be back to milkapalooza.

Milk supply is being interrupted. #70 has a bottle calf, #91

Monday we found that we had another little calf on the farm. Seems February is a popular time to drop a calf around here.

Vicente came and told me about lunch time that there was a new calf, but no momma that appeared to be taking care of it. I told him to give it a little time, maybe the mom was recovering, grabbing some food, getting water, whatever. No sense rushing into these things if you can help it. Momma cows have been taking care of calves for a lot longer than we have.

But then Miguel got back and they went to go take a look together. There was a new momma, but she had no interest in the calf. #70 is a first time mom, and apparently had decided that this motherhood thing just wasn’t going to work in her life. The guys brought the mom and daughter up to the barn where we could put them together in a relatively small space. Maybe the mom would figure it out? The baby was immediately trying to nurse but the mom kicked her away, pretty hard actually. Then she head butted her away again. So we took mom back into the barn yard and put her in the head gate. This is the contraption we use to handle sick cows, do surgery, administer medicines if needed, etc.

We got mom inside and then locked her up. We have an access panel to the cows feet so we completely removed it to give calf level access. We also took the cows back leg and tied it up so she couldn’t kick (she tried). This gave access to mom’s area for nursing.

Getting that first so important milk from mom
Getting that first so important milk from mom

The little calf went right to work. It was obvious she was hungry and despite the terrible treatment from her mother she was still at it trying to get milk somewhere. The first milk that a mother cow makes is colostrum. This is the milk that passes down the antibodies and the disease resistance from mom to child. It was vitally important that we get the calf to nurse from her actual mother.

More nursing from #91
More nursing from #91

We spent about 30 minutes letting the little calf nurse all that she could. This entailed hovering over the calf because even though these pictures look calm and cute, the reality was the mom would go crazy trying to get out and away from this little parasite. I’d have to scoop the baby up to keep her from getting hurt, let mom tire herself out, then put the calf back to go back to work.

After the calf had obviously gotten some milk, we put the two back in the stall to see if mom could figure it out now that she’d done it once. She immediately kicked the calf and wanted nothing to do with her. With that result, we went and got Hedy, one of our milk cows.

#91 nursing on Hedy in the milking parlor
#91 nursing on Hedy in the milking parlor

Let me just say for the record. It is AWESOME having a milk cow who was just standing there watching all this going on. Hedy walked up to the barn with me, cool as a cucumber. I put her in the milking parlor, gave her a treat to snack on, and put little #91 in the right spot. She immediately started nursing while Hedy happily munched away. Once the calf had gotten all there was to get, we put everybody back where they needed to be.

Erin, our milker and milk cow wrangler, volunteered to come up and bottle feed the calf that night (Thanks Erin!!) She then put Hedy in the stall with #91 the next morning (while I slept) instead of milking her. Thanks again Erin. I forgot to set my alarm.

#91 nursing in the stall
#91 nursing in the stall

The calf went to town and had a big breakfast and last I looked in on her was running around and bucking and happy. All was good with the calf. Hedy wasn’t really excited about the change in schedule nor with being locked up for the day but we need a mom to take care of this little calf while she gets her strength. She’s going to need it.

This afternoon, we are turning Hedy back out with #91 at her side. At that point, her existing calf is going to take back over the nursing duties. We will have three calves, and two milk cows, all sharing the same pasture. We may have to supplement with bottle feeding as #91 gets her strength and fights for her share of milk. Miguel is going to list her for sale as a bottle calf which some people like to raise. Hopefully we can get #91 sold to a good farm where she can have a good life. I don’t need an extra cow that doesn’t have a mom.

As for #70? We have a good hamburger customer who routinely needs product. She will be taking our next slot at the processor. I’m a big mean farmer with no heart who eats his cute animals. How terrible and dead inside I must be. But you don’t kick a calf around here and get away with it. Especially a cute little defenseless new born calf. #70 is outta here.

I know we were just getting to the point where we had milk routinely in the store. I’m sorry. Things are going to be disrupted for a while until we get this sorted out. I was just about to the point of telling people you can buy all you want, restrictions are over but it looks like we will be on restriction of 1 gallon per family for a bit longer.

Two new calves born, #99 and #100 to #61 and #54

Why do things always happen on Sundays?

Apparently when I was feeding, I missed the fact that two calves had been born on the farm. It was raining, and I was desperately trying to get finished so I could go drive about 1000 miles starting as soon as I was done, so maybe I was distracted, or maybe they were born later in the day. Who knows?

Miguel saw the calves first thing Monday morning when he went to check on the cows. #54 and had a little girl, who was tagged as #100. #61 had had a little boy, who was tagged as #99.

Vicente with #100 after checking, tagging, and if it is a boy, banding.
Vicente with #100 after checking, tagging, and if it is a boy (this was a girl), banding.
Mom checking out her calf after tagging
Mom checking out her calf after tagging
#99 just after being ear tagged. Mom is right there. You can tell by the drool on his head.
#99 just after being ear tagged. Mom is right there. You can tell by the drool on his head.
Mom and son together after tagging
Mom and son together after tagging

This whole affair was pretty good. Other than some warm rain, and a delay because I didn’t see the calves, it all went well. Compared to what you ask? Well this was the picture in 2014.

February 13th, 2014

We don’t plan on our calves being born in February. We let the moms and the dads work it out. But I sure am glad for these 60 and 70 degree days. It makes everything much easier.

#23 goes to the processor

January and February are our slowest months of the year. It is a bit of a shock after November and December, which are our busiest months of the year. But after the craziness of the holidays, most people tend to hunker down for the rest of the winter and nurse their expanded waistline (me too!) and the bloated credit card bills. Come March, things start picking up and then by April we are back into the swing of things.

Because of this timing, I have to schedule my times with the processor accordingly. June? Need two cows that month at the processor. January? I don’t need any. Why process a cow and stuff the freezers full of beef, only to have it sit till March anyway?

Except this year, I guess everybody went on the hamburger diet. I don’t know. But we are nearly out of hamburger, and short on a number of other things. I have a cow that is slated to go as our next hamburger cow, but it takes 90 days to get on the schedule there, meaning it will be spring before I can get any meat back. That just won’t do.

Fortunately, a local processor has been trying to get me to bring them a cow so that I could try out their services. They are not nearly as backed up as my normal processor, which could be a sign. But they are an old processor under new ownership so they are supposedly trying to turn things around. We can give them a try, and get ourselves out of this bind. A win-win.

We should have fresh beef back from the processor next week, probably Thursday. It will mostly be hamburger, because that is what we are short on, but I did select some ribeyes and filets in the cut sheet as well.

Adventures in milking, part 2

I woke up on January 2nd at 5am, to a stupidly cold day. I thought to myself, “Self, this is a good day to do some office work. Where the heat is. With warm socks on. And a hot mug of tea.”

While I was having my little day dream, I checked my phone to see what the world had to offer. 

So at five o’something AM I see this text above.

A deer has somehow hurt itself and is laying on the ground near our fence. It’s alive but mortally injured. Rather than let it suffer, I need to go out and shoot it. Great. That’s a nice start to a day. Murder. But as the owner, boss, and resident gun nut, it’s up to me.

Then the second part of the text pictured above comes through.

“Oh, by and by. I thought I’d mention that the 1300 pound crazy milk cow has scampered off and is running loose in the dark.”

Um, what?!

Hopefully I suggest that she’ll come back to her calf. I mean, surely they only brought mom up for milking, not the calf too. That means that mom, after a quick job, will turn around and head back to baby. So maybe I’ll still get my morning in front of the heat vent??

You can’t see the time stamps next to these, but they happened over several minutes. Several tense minutes between the next to the last, and the last text.

Before the last text showed up, I looked outside and saw that it’s, oh I don’t know, this cold.

I grab my 19 layers of clothes and pile them on. I get the last part of the text message as I’m heading to the barn. They found her. She’s circled all the way back around to the main cattle herd, where I’d taken her from January 1st. She’d jumped the wire, her calf went under the wire, and everyone was home.

There were some attempts to get her back to the barn, which were fruitless. Instead of being part of that craziness, I instead went over to see about this deer. I have no idea what happened to the deer, but it was paralyzed in it’s back two legs. It would either die of exposure, predation, or starvation. Rather than those terrible outcomes, I shot it and drug it back to the barn. 

Well most of the way. Miguel met me with the tractor and a pallet to place the deer on so I didn’t have to drag it all the way.

So we had an escape, a murder, and no milk. And it wasn’t even 7:30 yet.

Fortunately the next day ended quite a bit better. After another merry chase involving the Clarks and myself, we finally got Betsy not just in the correct pasture, but in the barn itself. 

The advantage of being in the barn is it is warmer but more importantly it is only a short jaunt over to the milking parlor so there really isn’t much chance of escape.

Milk pale in front of Betsy
The end product

Milking for the first week is always the hardest. Once the cows discover that we are just milking like normal again, they are waiting at the gate mooing wanting to get started. But that first week is always tough to get them back in the habit. It’s kind of like getting the kids back to school the first week. That first day is awful, the second day, hopefully better but not really. But by the last day of the week, everyone is in a routine and it goes reasonably well.

Adventures in milking, part 1

I mentioned that Betsy had had her calf and that we’d start milking on January 2nd. The way it works here on the farm is the Clarks handle the milking chores. That means that other than random exceptions, I don’t really have anything to do with the milking. But with milking starting up again, along with it being New Years, it meant I had a wee bit of involvement. Or so I thought.

On New Years day, after feeding everyone else, I say that Betsy, Hedy, and the calf were all not too far away from the pasture where we normally keep our milk cows. Moving the milk cows is traditionally pretty easy because they are quite tame and they are used to eating out of your hand. I still had Spork with me so I grabbed a bale of hay that they’d need and some bananas and headed down to the gate. Both milk cows eyes me as I approached and Hedy came immediately when she saw I had bananas. In fact, she walked past me and got in before I realized she was even in the pasture. With Hedy happily munching away, I walked down to Betsy.

I could see immediately that she looked flighty. She wanted a banana but she had a calf and she had no interest in behaving. I got her to eat a couple of bananas but after that she took off and ran away. Sigh. Spork and I closed off that section of pasture and walked her around to where the gate was, and into the pasture. She immediately took off running down to the other gate to escape. Fortunately it was closed already so in the pasture she went.

Understand, this is the pasture where she lives 99% of the time. It’s where her friends are. She’s only being hard headed because it’s different than where she was the previous few weeks. But with everyone where they were supposed to be, I let Erin know she was ready to start milking on January 2nd. 

So ends my involvement in milking, or so I thought. For that part of the story, see part 2.