010214 – snow cows

With the cold weather and snowy conditions, you may have seen snow-covered animals standing around in their pastures. What’s wrong with them? Do they not have a barn to go in?

If you look at these two examples, it looks like they have had no access to shelter – they have snow all over them! What you can’t see is the big barn that they don’t go in, except when it’s time for their ration of oats, or when it’s really windy out. Same goes with our horses – they were completely covered with snow when I went to feed them this morning. Nice dry barn? Nah, we’re going to stand outside and look for grass in the snow or munch on the hay in the hay wagon!

Snow on their backs means that they have a good winter coat that insulates them from the cold. I’ve “dug down” into their winter coat and their skin is warm to the touch.

They have access to shelter when they choose to use it, and don’t seem to mind getting snowed on, so we leave it be. Silly cows!

 

Day 186 – round up

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Cows look so nice, grazing in their pasture or loafing around inside the barn.  The picture of bucolic country life.  Ahhh.

But Mr. Hyde typically emerges when you need to sort them for any reason.

Sorting cattle is stressful for the humans who are in with the herd, trying to get this one to go that way, and that one to go this way, and also for the cattle, who know something is up, but can’t quite figure out what to do besides mill around and froth.

But this time something happened. ¬†Maybe it’s because we’ve been working with the herd more – not intentionally, but calves being sold here, a few steers to the butcher there. ¬†Maybe it’s because the half-crazy cow left (to return as tasty hamburger in the freezer) and the herd calmed down. ¬†Or maybe because we had fantastic help and/or didn’t try to rush the sorting process. ¬†Whatever it was, the momma cows filed out with only a few cases of pushing and shoving, and the bull and the steers trotted into the pen easier than in a long time. ¬†The younger calves were running around, but ended up running in the opposite direction of the bull & steers, so no one got penned up who shouldn’t have (let my husband tell you how much fun that is – trying to sort out a frantic calf from frantic steers, all with momma cow bellowing on the other side of the gate).

Saturday, the bull will be on his way to his “other home” for 6 months, and Monday, one steer has a date with the butcher. ¬†We’ll turn the other two (a steer and a yearling bull) back out, then re-collect them in the fall for processing. ¬†And do the process all over again.

Day 165 – i see you, chicken

165Some of the hens really like this stand of tall grass next to our house – I’ve been getting 2-3 eggs here every day. ¬†This Buff Orpington hen sits for awhile, goes to eat, walks around, comes back, sits for a little longer, maybe lays an eggs/maybe not, takes a walk, sits down again, and lays an egg if she didn’t before. ¬†Then off she goes and another hen comes along to continue the process.

Not only the humans have routines on the farm – I’m amazed at how routine-driven the animals are. You can just about set your watch to which parts of the pasture (or which pasture) the cows are in during the day. ¬†Recently (because the flies are getting to their summer levels) the cows are in the barn in the morning, work their way out to the back pasture and around it in the afternoon, then head to the front pasture in the evening. ¬†They have their own timetable, which varies throughout the year, but if you pay attention over a few days, you can see the repetition. ¬†The chickens are a little less predictable – they’re everywhere, all the time. ¬†This nest in the grass may get “stale” in a few days, or it could go on for a few more weeks. ¬†Then they move to another area, and I play “Easter egg hunt” once again in the afternoon.

 

Day 137 – cow oiler

137This used to be a “cow oiler” – basically a bovine scratching post, only with the addition of the “oil”, which is a kind of fly spray. ¬†There is a thick rope that dispenses the fly control liquid that goes from the top of the vertical pole to the horizontal leg, like this:

It’s an easier way than spraying the cows down with a sprayer – they get to scratch their backs, and get a dose of fly repellent at the same time.

 

Day 96 – calf sorting

Once a year, we sort out the 5-8 month old calves to band for steers and pen up to sell to people who want ot have a cow for their own herd or want to feed a steer out for beef.

There is a process: pen all the herd in the barn, sort out the cows that stay, run the calves into a pen, run them out one at a time to be weighed, then ear tagged and banded (if it’s a bull calf). Of course, that’s a simplified version of the process. And there are so many variables – weather, number of people helping, and not least, the calves themselves. Some are calm, some are feisty, some can be downright mean.

This year, we got them penned up and the first few got through the process with minimal fuss, for calves. We have some new tools that make the process safer and more efficient, and those tools were working.

Then the wheels fell off. Long story short, we stopped the process because someone was going to get hurt. The 8 calves for sale are still penned up with all the hay they can eat, and have calmed down a lot since this afternoon.

angusIn the end, we’re all a little bruised and a lot sore. ¬†We’ll take what happened this year, make adjustments for next year, and do it all over again. ¬†Cattle (heck, running a farm in general) keep us on our toes in more ways than one, because there are always things we can’t control, from birth to sale.

It’s pretty quiet out there now. ¬†Some of the momma cows are a little uncomfortable, if they were still nursing one of these calves, and the calves themselves aren’t sure what just happened. ¬†But they have a load of hay, so eating will keep them busy. ¬†And we’ll see what it all looks like in the morning.

And a giant thanks for our family and friends who came over to help – it does take a village!

 

Day 88 – frosty cows

088It’s a chilly morning and there is a layer of frost on the ground – and on the cows who stayed outside last night.

Now before anyone starts with the “poor cold cows – you should put them in a barn every night”, we do have a barn for them to go into, and they do go in the barn when they feel the need. ¬†If I’ve learned nothing else, I have learned that cows (and most animals) are smart enough to know when they need to get out of any weather. ¬†When it rains, sometimes they come in, sometimes they don’t. Same with snow, ice, wind – any type of weather we have here. ¬†And if you want to come and try to get them into the barn when they don’t want to? ¬†Good luck!

Cows, horses, and goats also grow winter coats, so even though it looks like there’s not much hair, they are quite protected – the frost on the top of the cow means no heat is escaping from the cow.

The next time you drive by our farm and see critters with frost or some snow on their back, rest assured that there is shelter for them, they’ve chosen not to use that shelter, and they are doing just fine.