Okay, I know I have been out of touch lately and I humbly ask for your forgiveness. Things got a little crazy around here this past month. I had been substitute teaching when I was offered a temporary full-time job at a local elementary school tutoring young children in reading. My living on the farm and not venturing off frequently enough apparently set my body up to say, “Hey! What are you doing?” as it set up battle stations against millions of unfamiliar germs from the children. The body lost that war. I got terribly sick and it wasn’t long before every nickel I earned at the school went towards the doctor and medicines to combat the illness. Sometimes, it just doesn’t pay to try to get ahead. Ha! Needless to say, the blog was the least of my concerns as I continued to work while sick and crashed on the couch when I got home.
During my illness, Mike and I continued taking care of the bottle babies. More accurately, Mike continued while I lounged on the couch. In any case, we can blame my fever if things do not work out on the new venture we decided upon while I was flu-ridden. We are now in the process of building a shed to raise bottle-fed calves( a bit closer to the house) and to over-winter the breeders we plan to keep this year. That means a new home for Sam, Diane, Spot, maybe Big Mama (we suspect she has already been bred) and Hippo (the black Angus/Simmental cross that looks like a hippopotumas), and Pip– I hope. Pip is far to young to breed, but his coloring and bone structure are so beautiful, I am begging Mike to keep him a bull and hoping to find some females to “match.” As I told Mike, just as you can sometimes look at a young foal and know he will be a champion racer, I feel that way about Pip. He is especially beautiful. I don’t know of any cow racing, of course, but he has good genes and those should be passed down.
If there was a cow racetrack, Pip would fit right in. I think that he thinks he is a thoroughbred. He LOVES to run! He’s not afraid, mind you. He likes the speed and will bolt for any reason. Got milk? He’ll run to get a bottle. Got a leash? He’ll run to get away from you. Petting Rowdy? He’ll run to get a pat then run to get away, head butt the other calf and run again, as if to say, “C’mon let’s play!” As I take them for a walk around their pen after they have eaten, Pip runs. It’s almost a shame he has to be kept in the nursery right now for his safety. I believe he would love the wind in his face as he raced through the lush green grass of the pasture…at least until he reached the electric fence! But alas, he is still too tiny to put in with the likes of Frick and Frack, Bruno, Hal, and so on.
We are, however, getting ready to add some of the older nursery calves to the larger herd. Sixty-nine, Seventy, and Spot are all big enough now, I think, to take care of themselves (and get to the food) with the larger group. At least one of these, however, must be banded before being turned out. We really need a head gate and cattle chute for that. I priced new ones yesterday and they ranged between $2,000 and $10,000. Quite a chunk of money for our motley little herd. I found a used one about 50 miles away for just $750, but don’t know how we will get it home. We’ll keep watching and hoping one comes up. So what is a cattle chute? It is a gizmo (not a thingamabob) that you send cattle through to keep them in line (like kindergarteners in the hallways, they do not walk in an orderly fashion to a prescribed location). Then, one at a time, they can be trapped in the head gate to keep them still (and the cattle-tender safe) while one administers injections, bands the males, or performs other necessary health duties too dangerous to be done without the chute and head gate. The chute is not necessary for very young calves because they are small enough to pick up or straddle, but when they reach several hundred pounds (Spot is probably about 400 lbs right now) it is dangerous work– particularly if they have their horns.
It is almost time to sell some of the larger calves too. Frick and Frack may be some of the first sold. They have reached a good size, but being jerseys are a bit smaller than some of the other breeds. I love their markings and their new very bull-like features…they look just plain evil! As Mike says, they look like they should be in an arena chasing a red cape. Here is a picture taken when they first arrived:
If you will notice Frick is barely tall enough to reach to top of the electric fence. Today, he easily could reach over the fence. Look twice at the picture…Frick and Frack are identical twins! When standing near the panels between their pen and the nursery, they look me straight in the eye and I am a bit over five feet in height.
In preparation for the day the calves in the “crib” (as opposed to the nursery or the field) to be moved, we expanded their pasture a bit the other day. I kept the cows occupied, hand feeding them yummy handfuls of sweet clover and grass while Mike expanded the electric fence area. When the loop was complete, I introduced the calves to the larger field, by placing handfuls of clover like a breadcrumb trail. Before long they were out of their original boundaries and realized it! Sixty-nine spotted a tall ragweed plant and, apparently thinking it was the source of the original electric fence, head butted the plant into oblivion. Spot trepedaciously stepped beyond the original line, walked a few steps and kicked up his heels, then began running at full speed from one end of the enclosure to the other. After about five trips, he settled into munching on the sweet clover he spotted growing within his new boudaries. Before long Six, Eleven and Seventy (no, I haven’t named them yet) ventured out and mimicked Spot’s exuberance to my giggles and delight.
A few days ago, we purchased two more “crib” calves from a local farmer and they too enjoyed a bit of running, heel kicking and venturing within the pen. They also made the mistake of letting their curiosity get the best of them and sniffed or bit the electric fence. The stay well clear of it now, just like the others.
It is good that the cattle realize the fence is their boundary. As we set up the cow shed and on a tight budget, it will be the electric fence that keeps them contained here too. I wonder if it works on goats? Did I tell you I’m getting goats, too? No? Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you more.
Until then, have a terrific day. I missed you too!