Tag Archives: cows

First load of hay for the winter

Tractor loading hay onto our trailer
First load of hay for 2016/2017

This past week, I picked up our first load of hay for the winter. This is the first of about 140 bales of hay we’ll bring to the farm this fall in preparation for winter munchies. Our cows are grass fed and grass finished so besides the green growing grass we have currently, this is what they get all winter. I get the vast majority of my hay from one farmer in Clayton but Dan the Hay Man, pictured above, had some cow hay he was willing to let me purchase again this year so I grabbed a load while he still had some available. This is a good deal because Dan only grows horse hay (a higher quality hay) but occasionally he’ll have a bit of hay that wasn’t just perfect, making it great for cows (they are less finicky).

The trick with getting hay to the farm is:

  1. You need a day where both you and the farmer can meet. That means no tours or customers for me, and no day job or other commitments for the farmer.
  2. You need a day where it hasn’t rained in at least a 3-4 days because, fully loaded, a hay trailer is very heavy and will get stuck in the field trying to get out.
  3. You need a day where all vehicles are running with no break downs.
  4. All employees have shown up work
  5. And nothing has gone wrong on either end (sick cow, escaped pig, down tree, etc).

By the rules above, that means we can get one, maybe two loads of hay every third alternate Tuesday. Since it takes 9 loads of hay to get us through the winter, by my math it takes about two months to get our hay to the farm. That means I’m already behind! Only 120 bales to go.

What a view

The view of cows off of the porch
The view off of the porch

I don’t talk about our leased farm that much. Other than stopping by to check on things or go catch an errant cow, we don’t have to go over there that often anymore. We used to have our entire herd over there but now with just the brood cows and babies, it’s pretty quiet.

But at least once per year, I’m fortunate to get to go over and visit with the owners and talk about the upcoming year, visit with the kids, and pay the annual lease.

The picture above was taken from their back porch as we talked about the upcoming year and some fencing projects we need to work on. The picture doesn’t do the view justice. It was absolutely gorgeous as the sun was setting. In the medium distance, you can just see the cows and calves grazing in the fading light.

It was about this time that I told them we’d be coming to get the cows before too long, to take them to our farm for the winter. Lips were poked out all around. Nobody was happy to see the cute and cuddly cows leave. Oops, I thought they’d be happy to know we’d have them at our place over winter giving their farm a rest. I guess I don’t have to worry anymore that the cows have been misbehaving and wearing out their welcome.

But truth be told, I miss them. I’d spent some time before our meeting just hanging out with the girls and their new babies in the pasture. They came right up to me and started asking where I’d been, complaining loudly that I didn’t come visit often enough. You know how moms are. I’d committed to them they’d be coming home before long and you never go back on your word to a mom. They have a memory like a steel trap!

Short ribs with asian flavor

Flavors from Asia,  they’re complex by nature. You bite in and instantly go “How did they do this”?  Umami is a word in Asian Cuisine used to describe the savory taste.  Short ribs have a bounty of Umami.

The ribs come in packs ranging from 1 lb- 2 lbs at $8.99 a lbs.   With ribs you want 1 lbs per person due to the removal of bone.  While this recipe is for 5 lbs I typically use 2-3 lbs of the ribs.  When doing this freeze part of your unused marinade for later use.

IMG_2108

The secret to short ribs is the cooking time.  Once again we are going to using that trusty dutch oven and set the oven at 280F.  The length of time will vary on the density of meat, towards the end check every 30 minutes.  You’re not just checking for fall off the bone you also want the connective tissue broken down enough to bite through easily.

 Short Ribs with Asian Flavor

  • 1 large Fuji apple
  • 1 large Asian pear
  • 1 ¼ cup soy sauce
  •  ¾ cup sugar
  •  1 red onion, roughly chopped
  •  4 green onions, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
  • ¼ cup sesame oil
  • 5 lbs Short ribs
  • Enough water to cover ribs
  • Green Onions, chopped (garnish)

IMG_2111

Cooking Method

  1. Preheat oven to 280F
  2.  For the marinade: Grate garlic, ginger, apple and pear into a large bowl, making sure to catch all of their juices.
  3. Add the soy sauce, sugar, onions,  sesame seeds, and sesame oil, mixing thoroughly.
  4. Place short ribs to the bowl, use tongs to ensure all of the ribs are coated with the marinade.
  5.  Refrigerate the meat & marinade for at least 12-24 hours before cooking. (The longer you marinate the meat, the better it flavor!)
  6. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.
  7. In a Dutch oven place ribs & 1-2 cups of the marinade. Place in oven with the lid on 280 until tender 6-7 hrs.
  8. Remove and let sit for 10 minutes before removing ribs and breaking down the meat.
  9. While the meat cooks simmer the remaining marinade till syrupy & pour over finished ribs or serve beside them.
  10. Serve over rice or steamed vegetables.
IMG_2135
If you prefer fine dining break down the ribs after braising. The other option is the ever popular caveman style.

Benjamin, our super star bull

I mentioned Benjamin in this morning’s post and it occurred to me that I had not actually made a post about Benjamin. Benjamin is a bull we purchased last year from a fellow cattleman who was getting out of the business. Benjamin is a Spring Field bull which means he’s a superstar, bred for performance. When we give tours, even people who have no idea about cows remark about Benjamin and how massive he is.

Spring Field Angus bull next to a belted galloway steer.
Benjamin, grazing next to a year old ninja cow (Belted Galloway cross)

There is a bit of an exaggeration in the above picture because Ben is a bit closer but it’s close enough to get the idea. Benjamin is easily twice the size of the year old steer beside him.

Spring Field Angus bull utilizing a fly treatment rub
Benjamin enjoying a back scratch

I noted in some previous posts that the flies were especially bad this year. We did do something about it. We built the contraption pictured above, with Benjamin as the Vanna White model. This mobile back scratcher lets the cows rub the areas where the flies congregate and treats them to try to keep the numbers down. In case you’re wondering, the wheels and tires are from the bent axle we replaced on our little trailer. Nothing goes to waste. As you can see Benjamin barely fits under the metal cross bars. The year old calf in the first picture can’t even reach the white part to scratch his back.

Spring Field Angus bull, Benjamin.
As nice of a bull as you’d ever meet. He literally eats out of our hands.

Benjamin is a good bull, and will be with us another 18 months or so before he moves on to a new owner. At that time, Boyd will take over as our herd bull and we will sell of Curious so there’s no incest. That’s assuming father and son can get along for that long.

We’ve really added some nice genetics into our herd with Benjamin and that should continue with Boyd into the future. Boyd likely won’t be the specimen that Benjamin is, but after what happened to Maggie, I think I’ll take a bit smaller bull.

More 4th of July weekend, we are milking again.

Milking a homestead cow.
The Clarks and their first day of milking

Ok, it’s actually their second day but the first day the vacuum pump was locked up so we just brought Dottie in and gave her a trial run. Pictured above was our first successful day of milking, day 2. For those of you who may be wondering who the new people are, The Clarks have moved into the house previously occupied by the Goldbergs who have moved away to another town although they do make an appearance now and then. Bar-B-Jew was in attendance for our beer and BBQ fest.

Milking a homestead cow
The Clarks and Dottie, first day of milking.

It takes two to get our milker onto the cow, making milking a two person job. I’m sure there is something we are missing in the instructions, one of these days I’ll stop and figure it out.

Fresh raw milk from homestead milk cow.
Our first milk harvest of the new milking season.

Dottie yielded 1.5 gallons of milk. We only milk once per day and leave the rest of the milk for Dottie’s calf Lightning. We don’t have to worry about maximizing milk production since this is just for our use so 1.5 gallons is fine.

Processing raw milk
Processing the milk and getting it into the fridge.

Straining and bottling the milk, then into the fridge for a quick cool down. Tomorrow we’ll have real milk again for our cereal.

I’ve been getting up at 4am as we get back into milking. By weeks end I should be back to 5am like normal. So far things are going well. Hopefully things will run smooth this week and having fresh raw milk on the farm is just another normal thing in a week or so.

Sam, #18, went to the great pasture in the sky

cow grazing in small paddock
Sam, having some private grazing in very lush grass before being loaded onto the trailer

Today was graduation day for Samuel. He was loaded up and took the 1 hour ride to Chadhrey’s  in Siler City, NC. Before getting on the trailer I gave Sam some time unmolested to enjoy grazing this small paddock. This is a paddock where we used to feed hay in the winter and now serves as a holding paddock for when cows are run through the corral. Effectively nobody is ever in here and the grass grows very tall and lush. Sam was pretty happy to enjoy grazing the sweet grass tips unmolested by me or other cows competing for the juiciest bits.

After a good breakfast, Sam hopped right onto the trailer and we had an uneventful ride to Siler City. Sam is the son of Spunky, our old milk cow. When we purchased Spunky, she was already bred to one of Dr. Sydnor’s Red Devon bulls so Sam has always been a little different being here with all the Ninjas. However he grew to be a very fine-looking steer and should make excellent meat. Now we begin the 2 week wait for aging and packaging. Hopefully July 17th I’ll be heading to Siler City to pick up all of our meat and we’ll switch over from the porkapalooza we had all winter to beefapalooza all summer.

And in case you are wondering, this cow is destined for our family. The way they eat, I have to be in the cattle business!

More work on our bloated steer, #40

bloated cow having a trocar installed
#40, back in the head gate awaiting his shave and trocar install.

I’ve written already about treating #40 for bloat. Yesterday we had to continue our treatment and expand what we were doing. Before we could do anything though, we had to get him in the head gate. Unfortunately, by this point he’s pretty aware of what happens when he gets in the head gate and we spent quite a bit of time chasing him around the barn yard. Usually a cow will go where you point him, or at least away from you however this particular cow has ninja blood in him and he decided that the best thing to do was to run straight through Miguel and I. After I landed on my posterior the second time I decided to go get the one cow implement I’d never used, the cattle prod. The batteries were old because it had been sitting in the corner for years, never opened, but it seemed to work well enough to get our little ninja back in the mood to do what we said. I don’t like shocking cows, but I don’t like cows that don’t behave either. So dripping with sweat we locked him in the head gate and went to work.

We tried to be minimally invasive on our previous treatments with our steer since we had had such good luck with the other cows. We only bled off the offending gas and did a small treatment of DSS. Then we monitored the steer for how he was doing and repeated the treatment if things were not progressing well.

Finally yesterday we decided that minimal care wasn’t enough and we had to install a trocar. The trocar holds the rumen and skin open and allows the gas to vent outside allowing the rumen a chance to settle down and pretty much guaranteeing no more bloat.

Our steer is still not feeling chipper but now we have ready access to his rumen to apply more DSS or whatever else we need to try. Hopefully tomorrow will see him feeling better and things beginning to progress towards him getting back in the pasture.

Lastly, a shout out to Summit Equine in Apex, our vet, who helped us through all these bloat cases and helped us with the gear to be able to treat the easy cases ourselves on farm. Being able to treat on-farm is better for us and better for the cow.