Tag Archives: Dairy Cows

RTDM

As you are no doubt aware, the military has a fascination with acronyms. ASAP, TDY, BHA, it goes on and on. However, you may not be aware that those in the software industry share this particular penchant for strings of seemingly random letters. The similarities between these groups doesn’t end there. As a general rule, with a few notable exceptions (My hubby), most members of these groups tend to favor colorful language not suitable for mixed company. Thus the above acronym. Read the Dang Manual. I’ve made the necessary modifications to write it on my kid friendly blog…in fact have a kid reading over my shoulder as I type.  Point being, so many problems and misinformation could be circumvented if people would just RTDM. Keep this in mind, I’ll be coming back to it.

Last week the husband man was back in Las Vegas for work. We knew that the earliest our cow could calve would be May 20 and that would be if the bull had got right down to business the first day she was available. But there are some things that can theoretically increase the chances of early calving. We figured that the best way to get her to come early would be to have Neil leave town. It’s how life tends to roll for us. Given this possibility my handsome lumberjack built me a stanchion before he left so I could start getting Mei used to the idea.

It’s a thing of beauty. Truly. Mei is getting good at it and it has been a lifesaver for this woefully out of practice hand milker.

Well he left on Monday morning, and Thursday evening I went down to feed Mei her evening Chaffhaye.

I screamed and almost hyperventilated when I realized there were more legs than there should have been. Squeaking into the phone, I told Neil that the baby was here and that I had to run but I’d call him back oh my gosh she had her baby oh my gosh!

This was the best case scenario as it meant Mei was able to deliver a perfectly healthy baby with no outside assistance at all. Carefully we introduced ourselves, and I made sure little one had figured out nursing. It took some time before I could get up close and personal enough to ascertain gender, but we confirmed that it was a girl. Naomi (resident animal namer) christened her “Star” and since everyone promptly agreed (hallelujah) it was official. Baby cows are dreamy. Silky smooth, adorable and so feisty. We are old hands at goat kids (who have the small thing working for them) but I’m pretty sure we are sticking with cows for a while…everyone fell in love. Not that there hasn’t been a learning curve.

With in the first hour we found out the electric fence does not contain our particular baby cow. So we’ve been lucky enough to play several rounds of “find the calf” over the last 8 days. Luckily she gets tired and just hunkers down when she realizes she’s lost. We are surrounded by woods and understanding neighbors, so it’s not a terrible ordeal.

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The first few days, when I was on my own, I could bear-hug her like the above picture and just haul her back to her mama. But a few days ago she out grew my strength, making me grateful once again for this guy.

Now back to RTDM rant. Dehorning her was what we decided long ago for a lot of reasons, just like we did for our goat kids. Goat kids got disbudded with a disbudding iron  and that is probably the best option for goats. To the internets we went and after much reading, we opted to go with caustic paste. We read a ton and went to  YouTube and watched it done and it seemed like an excellent option for calves. Once we got the paste we read the instructions and we quickly realized why people hate caustic paste. It’s because they do everything the instructions say NOT to do especially with goat kids. People, a goat kid is an entirely different creature than a cow calf. RTDM!!!

Well we followed our own advice and after reading we got it done. Best way to dehorn.

One key is to do this early. She was three days old when we did it. First, shave the horn buds.

Next, apply petroleum jelly in a ring around the horn bud to contain the caustic paste. Now to back up a minute, when I say caustic paste I’m talking lye, and some other nasty highly basic chemicals. It reacts with everything and ultimately eats away everything including the horn bud. Not something you want to touch with bare hands. It will literally burn you away. Seems mean, right? Many, many people think so and naturally studies have been done to see just how mean this is. Turns out young calves (like days old) show slightly fewer signs of discomfort with this method compared to a disbudding iron where the skin and horn bud are burned off, with no anesthetic. Older calves are usually given some sort of pain treatment. It is quick and one of the most humane ways to do it.  [I can’t find the study because I found it on my phone not on the computer I’m currently on. If you absolutely need the research and links I will happily oblige, but right now a certain almost 4 year old is demanding my attention.]

Paste is applied with a Popsicle stick. We applied the amount specified in the instructions. If you apply too much it will keep reacting, eating down further into the skull. People who apply too much, naturally will have some issues. RTDM.

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I must state that at this point our calf was just cranky at being held down. She was making no sounds and was not even really struggling. Compared to our goat kids who screamed and fought through the whole disbudding process, this felt so much better. Calmer and much less dramatic. Didn’t even smell singed hair.

Picture on the left is 24 hours-ish afterwards. Picture on the right is about 4 days after the fact. There was no blood, so no fly problems and after about 6 hours of keeping her tied so she couldn’t rub it onto herself or her mama, she was good to go. I could touch it and she didn’t notice a thing.

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I highly recommend this method for dehorning calves if you can do it early enough that there isn’t any pain (can be within the first 2 days). Not that you can tell by Miss Sassy Pant’s expression, but she does actually like us and is settling in nicely. Now that we are separating her at night so that I can milk in the morning, our only real issue is my hand strength. It is a race to get as much as I can before Mei finishes the bucket of yumminess I bring her in the morning. My hands are doing ok, I’m just terribly inefficient. Sigh. To be fair, Meushi has been an angel and even stood patiently for me to keep milking this morning even after she had finished breakfast.

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This mornings efforts. That is a gallon jar, and the goal is to get at least one of these every morning. Hopefully, we will both get better at this game and Neil can fill in for me with his huge lumberjack hands if my forearms fall off.

 

 

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Spirit Animals

It’s a thing now to declare a person or an animal or an object even to be your spirit animal if it has qualities your either have or would like to have. I’ve decided that between my cow, my pigs, my garden and the honeybees I’m hoping to get someday I’d have the perfect spirit animal. Can I declare my burgeoning farm to be my spirit animal? Is that even allowed?

Meushi. It means female cow in Japanese. We call her Mei (pronounced “May”) and I love her. I liked goats a lot, they were fun and educational to the max, but my dairy cow is a whole ‘nother thing entirely. And she is mine…I share her with the kids, but she kind of doesn’t like the husband guy. Crazy strong milking hands are in my future I think.

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Cows. We’ve never done that before. The internet never disappoints, however, and we are over two weeks in and she is doing great. We have a routine, banana peels are her drug of choice, and come August or September she will be ready for a date with a great little angus bull. That means this time next year(ish) we will have a baby calf running around and hopefully we will be drowning in milk. That baby will go into the freezer about 18 months later. Dude, farming is a long term proposition.

Like I said, she lets me share her with the kids and on occasion she will tolerate Neil. Mei is so docile and sweet; the girls get all up in her business and she just swishes her tail.

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This lady is “chill” incarnate and I want to be more like that. Not to say that she doesn’t like to (quite literally) kick up her heels and go dashing around her yard (she hates the wheel barrow and demonstrates it by running madly around). But nothing says serene like a big dairy cow picking at stuff here and there and mostly just being.

Next to more immediate freezer fodder…sorry. I know some take issue with that and don’t get how I can simultaneously adore my new piglets and be poring over pork recipes and butchering options. I don’t know how either but it’s happening my friends, in my head, as we speak.

Rewind a few years to the purchase of our brand spanking new van. We promised each other, the husband and me, nay…we vowed that this expensive shiny vehicle would never be used for farm stuff. At all. Ever. Yeah, we were adorable.

Since the truck couldn’t make the move with us, our van has hauled muddy t-posts, ply wood, all kinds of feed, and now livestock. Yeah, we were adorable.

Fun facts about feeder pigs:

  • You buy them between 6-12 weeks old for about $30-60 and 20-60 lbs.
  • over the next 5 months or so depending on breed and living conditions, they will get up to a market weight of 250 lbs.
  • From that 250 lbs about 140-170 will make it back to you in consumable awesomeness.
  • They can eat everything from grass clippings to chickens (they are the ultimate omnivore) but won’t in fact eat themselves to death as some think.
  • They are clean (kind of) and given the chance will not be as disgusting as most people think (although they do love them some water splashing and mud).

We always knew we wanted to try raising pigs. There was the perfect porcine playground built here before we moved. However, we always figured we’d wait until later. But then we went to a local farm stand and a lady was there selling her homegrown pork. It was obscenely expensive and we said, “Forget that noise, we’ll do it ourselves!” and so we did and we are. As per family vote, they are named “Pig1” and “Pig2” (think Thing1 and Thing2 from The Cat in the Hat) I wanted to name the boy “York” and the girl “Shire” because their breed is Yorkshire, but I was voted down. Mostly I call them “Pig”. They are so much fun! I love their grunty pig noises and you need to go write down on your list of things to experience at some point — have pig snout pushed in the palm of my hand. Trust me.

The best thing about pigs is that they are veritable machines for taking what life gives them and efficiently processing it into something far better. Lessons for me all over the place with that.

IMG_0566Did you know tomorrow is Mother’s Day? My husband does! He is rocking it this year. He took the kids to run errands in town this morning and I had 2 whole hours to just work outside! Without screams for my immediate assistance or the dreaded quiet of a toddler thrashing a bedroom! I mucked out Mei’s pasture and started on building the soil in the future blackberry patch with the goodness I procured. I got more bricks for the garden paths from the abandoned building behind our property. And don’t even let me start on what I got done in the garden! It was a beautiful thing, and I’m grateful for him. Rumor has it he’s even taking over meals tomorrow and there is a large something wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper on the counter that I think is for me…Oh and those beauties? wild flowers that he and the kids picked for me. Winning. My husband is winning Mother’s Day.

I’m actually going to do a separate post on the Mom’s I’m grateful for in a few days, because they don’t need to share with pigs and cows. It might be late, but I sure do love those great women.

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