Category Archives: Cows

Everything that moos on the farm

How we move the cows

Sometimes people wonder how we move the cows. Billy Crystal in City Slickers style (for you young folks, go look it up, great movie) with horses and cowboys? The Gator? Cattle dogs?

Nope. Just open the gate, call a few of the cows who know their name and they come running. Moving today was from the lower pond which is heaven to the cows. You can see that even so they come running.

It wasn’t always like this. Switching over to daily moves has really changed the relationship we have with out cows. A few of the cows will even pay attention while they are eating when you call their name, lifting their heads and paying attention to you instead of the food at their feet. I’ve been working on Benjamin on this and he is getting closer every day. He already eats out of my hand, just not always on command.

I was just gone for a few days

So I left town for a few days. Everything was working ok when I left and all the bases were covered. I get back at about 2am and am at work the next day till late so this morning is the first time I can go check on things.

I get up and find my able interns cleaning up a mess where the paddock hot wire is down, broken, and tangled. What a mess.

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Then I note that the waterer is leaking quite merrily and the pasture is soaked and pugged. Also, the quick connect union in the ground has standing water in it so it must be leaking too. Ugh.

So we go to set up the new paddock, and I find that the gate we installed earlier this year won’t lock closed. And the high tensile wire is loose and floppy. Sigh.

We get the new paddock set and turn on the hot wire, which only reads 2.7k volts. Something is wrong with it.

I’m going to work where I hope something is working!

Despite all that, the weather is unbelievably cool and is expected to continue through the weekend. It feels like fall and it’s the middle of August.

Sabbath update

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Everyone was quietly and peacefully grazing. Cotton was loyally at my side and I thought this would make a nice serene picture for the blog. A cool calm summer morning. As I pressed the camera button cotton took off and I ended up with an action shot of Cotton chasing calves which ended up with a calf almost jumping the hot wire to get back to mom. Almost because she didn’t quite make it and caught the wire (it was off) and drug it half way across the paddock. Sigh.

So Benjamin doesn’t like trees for some reason. All the other cows get excited for trees and like to eat the leaves. Big Ben has another reaction. It’s something I’ve never seen.

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Yesterday’s paddock on the right, todays on the left. The clumps of grass you see left over are all clipped by the cows but not eaten down past the first grazing. That’s perfect.

The fescue is growing strong and the cows simply cannot keep up. This is good because its about time to sequester some pastures for winter grazing. The fescue should go dormant again with the last of this heat and then its time for the fall flush of growth. That should time nicely with this last rotation.

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Yesterday’s paddock on the left, day before yesterday on the right.

The pastures are noticeable in how they look after the full treatment. The super long paddocks were hard to tell where the cows had been and where they had not. These smaller paddocks are much different before and after but still are not overgrazed. It looks like we have the paddock sizes dialed in for the amount of grass we have right now.

The new fence charger has a nice remote that let’s me turn the fence on and off from anywhere there is a hot wire. It also has a nice belt clip so I can carry it around. Well this morning the belt clip came unsnapped and unknowingly to me it dropped to the ground while I was working. I just happened to stumble across it by accident laying out in the pasture. That’s 150 dollars and the way I control the fence. Rule #1 of moving cows is don’t forget to turn the hot wire back on before you finish. Rule #2 is the remote stays in the locker on the gator, period.

The mobile waterer needs some TLC. When its on any kind of grade, water leaks out the top and it runs continuously. This sets the ground in a high traffic area so it ends up being pugged. It’s only for one day so its not really bad but it wastes water. Looks like its time to take it apart and adjust the float.

Mineral feeder update, with some early results

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Minerals continue to be a big hit, but still phosphorous (P) is the far and away leader. I refilled the phosphorous (P) section again this morning. It was licked clean. Thats the second refill since I started this. I noticed that the iodine looked like it had seen a bit of attention and while I was filling the P, the cows started hitting the iodine. Looks like they had a serious P need. The best part is that I was able to check Sam’s PH this morning. He is one of the cows that I have seen eating the P. his PH was about 7.8 or so. That’s the lowest any check has been since I started checking.

I don’t know the science behind this yet, but it does seem to be working. It will be interesting to see what other minerals start getting attention as their PH comes back in line. It’s also interesting that my soil tests showed a ground that was too acid, but in P and K was just fine. However the cows seem to need P really badly and they are not acid, but are alkaline. There is definitely more going on than the soil test indicated to me.

Kencove fence charger, and my treatise on chargers in general

Kencove electric fence tester
Kencove electric fence tester. If you have electric fencing, you NEED one of these.

Before we started paddock shift grazing I had some really nice fence chargers that did a great job. They were about 1 joule of power but for one hot wire on top of hog wire with no contact to grass they did great.

Then we added some temporary fencing and stopped having the cows mow the grass right down to the ground. So I bought a 2 joule fence charger. Double the power!

Yeah, that didn’t work. So I called Kencove and asked them what I needed. I had heard great things about the Stafix chargers and they recommended that I get a 6 joule charger! Now were talking. We’re talking massive power, which Miguel confirmed when he accidentally touched a wire. So all was good in cow land.

Then I decided to put the pigs in the pasture. That required putting the wire down on the ground and therefor further into the grass. It also meant adding more high tensile wire which was also in the grass. When we did all that, the voltage dropped all the way down to under 2000 volts which barely keeps cows in and you can forget about pigs.

So back to Kencove I go to shell out even more money. I explain my problem, and let it slide that I hold them personally responsible for not selling me way more than I needed the first time. They recommend I get a 12 joule charger which is double what I have. After several rounds of this I have finally learned and I ask what is bigger than 12 joule. After a snarky comment about a 54 joule unit they sell we settle on the 18 joule charger. Pictured above is the result, through the grass, through all the connections, 6000 volts at the business end of the poly wire. Now that’s what I am talking about.

What I’ve learned.

A charger cannot be “too big.” If it is overpowered it will simply ramp down its output and loaf along. This is speaking of modern chargers here. Now if you go lay against the hot wire, it will ramp up and light you up. I’ve never seen anyone or anything go back for seconds on a hot wire.

Everybody lies. The first chargers I bought were “50 mile” chargers. We estimated that they were about 1 joule. Who knows, they aren’t really rated. Mileage, estimates, ratings, specs. They all are pretty much meaningless.

The day you install your new charger is actually the worst day to test because more than likely prior to spending money you went around and cleaned up all the possible shorts, bad connections, fallen limbs, etc. the fence is wearing its Sunday best when you pop your new charger in place and of course then tests at a great output. Then day by day things get worse as the grass grows, it rains, etc. by the time the power is down on the fence to unacceptable levels, it’s too late to return the charger you bought.

It would have been way cheaper to buy the biggest charger I could ever conceive of buying the first time than to have worked my way up one by one. The only saving grace is that the Stayfix charger will work off of solar so I can use it in the back pasture where we don’t have power. Something I did plan for should it not be big enough.

A proper digital tester like the one pictured is worth it’s weight in gold. The first one I owned came with the Stafix charger. It doubles as the remote. It finds faults but more importantly it gives you accurate readings without having to insert a ground probe. That means you are much more apt to actually test your fence which is really the key. Every time you turn the fence on and off you are also testing the fence. One grounded reel or line and cows are everywhere.

Mineral feeder refill

Today I refilled the phosphorus for the first time. All of the other minerals are completely untouched. The phosphorus was completely empty. Yesterday while giving a tour I saw one of the cows actually eating the phosphorus so this is the first time I’ve seen the cows use the feeder. Again this morning I saw the same cow use the feeder for a different mineral. I don’t know if any of the other cows are using the mineral feeder, I sure hope so

I checked a cows pH this morning and found that it had dropped half a point from when I started the free choice feeder. Their pH is still too high but we are making progress.