#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.

Last hay for winter

135 bales of hay for our cows
135 bales of hay for our cows. We’ve already fed this much by January. 

This past week I finally received in the last hay for the winter. I switched hay farmers this year because my new farmer would deliver the same hay, for the same price, as I was picking up hay from my old farmer. Since it takes an entire day to haul three loads of hay (51 bales), and we go through about 250 bales of hay per winter, that means it takes me 5 full days of hauling hay to get all the hay here. When the price is the same and I get 5 days of my time back, I switch.

Except that’s not how it worked out. Last year my new hay guy delivered like magic. All I had to do was send a text and hay was here the same day or at the latest the next. New equipment, nice people to deal with. It was all good. This year, the first few loads showed up, and then it stopped. And then things got flakey. He kept promising to call, but never did. Over and over again. He threw on a delivery charge when I finally receive the bill I’d requested a couple months before. A delivery charge I’d never paid before. It took several months to finally get one more load of hay and then things fell completely off the rails and he stopped responding completely. Not, “I’m sorry I can’t bring you more hay like a promised”, just stopped talking leaving me high and dry with promises broken. Sigh, I hate relying on other people.

Luckily, the old had farmer I had used for years had a SNAFU of his own and hadn’t sold any of the hay he normally reserved for me. The property owner (the actual land owner, I deal with the farmer who cuts his hay) called me about this time and asked why I hadn’t been by to pick up my hay this year. I explained that I’d told the farmer I needed it delivered and the farmer couldn’t do that, but if my normal allotment of hay was sitting there in his way, I’d come and get it. Since I had about four days of hay left at this point, this was an extremely lucky turn of events.

Three days of hauling hay later and we have the rest of the hay we need to get through the winter. Of course, I had plan B, and C, but I sure am glad it worked out that I was able to go back to my original hay farmer. I think next year I’ll keep him and just find time to haul hay.

We have pet milk again!!

Well, not us. The calf has milk. But after new years, we’ll start having milk again in the store.

This week, Betsy had a beautiful little red heifer who has yet to be named (I’m sure that is in process.)

Betsy's new calf
Betsy’s new calf

Erin has been out checking on Betsy the last few days so she was right there when the calf was born. While new calves on the farm isn’t exactly a rare occurrence around here, this is just one of a few that have belonged to Erin as our resident milker.

Betsy and her calf
Mom and calf, both doing well

For all of you who’ve been asking when we’ll have milk again, there stands your answer. We’d planned on January for a birth but it looks like Betsy had other ideas. So this means the first week in January, if everything goes well, we should have pet milk back in the store. We will only be milking one cow so no mad rushes to buy it all. We’ll be back to one gallon per family, at least till we see what we have coming in daily. Betsy with a new calf should put out a pretty decent amount of milk so we’ll lift the restrictions ASAP.

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.