All Creatures Great and Small…have a learning curve

Why do calves always seem to turn the wrong end to the camera? Here are some of the newest arrivals. Apparently, they have had little human contact, as they are still skitterish.

Things cooled down a little here from the high 80s we had a few days ago. We actually built a fire in the woodburner this morning to knock the chill off the house. Outside, however, it warmed up in no time at all while we were doing the morning feedings.

Mike got a new load of bottle (bucket) calves the other day and they are gorgeous! There are seven of them total. I did not pay close attention to their sexes when I ‘met’ them the first time this morning, but there is a beautiful Charolais that looks very much like my short-stock Charolais, Sammy. Charlie, Mike’s gift to me for Christmas has a longer build, but his bones are not nearly as thick. There are two White Face (Baldies) in the group, a shy Holstein bull, and the rest are black Angus–although one of those has a lot of red in her coat.

Now, keep in mind that I know very little about cattle. I am finally learning the names of different breeds, although with crossbreeds they can look like one breed and after a couple of months get the markings like another.

Case in point: Cocoa, when she arrived, was a solid deep cinnamon red and I immediately began searching the internet to find out what her breed might be. She was large for her age, not delicately built, but not that meaty either. Maybe she was a Gelbvieh? A couple of weeks ago, Cocoa began getting dark rings around her eyes. I knew from previous calves that was one of the first changing signs of a Jersey. Bummer. She will be harder to sell. Then again, her disposition is so sweet and gentle, we have considered keeping her ourselves as a hand milker. We shall see. Meanwhile, Cocoa is not so much a red heifer any more and looks VERY Jersey.

We also had a red holstein named Hal who changed. As the little bull aged and winter switched over to Spring, his red winter coal disappeared and he became black all over (except his white patches). In the Fall, he grew his new winter coat in a fine, thick, curly black. So it is possible that any of the new calves will change in time, and I expect the one with the reddish-black coat will do just that. What does not usually change in ours is their bone thickness. Cankles on a calf is a good thing. If they have thick ankles and knees and broad hooves, they seem to grow up meaty. Narrow ankles and thin leg bones tend to give us “old men” in our herd. That is what I call the ones who never seem to fill out in the backside, but get a pot belly with feed. Big Un the large reddish bull we got a few months ago is beginning to take that shape. He is about to end up a steer because it will help him to fill out correctly. That idea tugs my heart strings. Steers become steaks.

New brooder Mike built from scrap lumber. The cross bars allow him to put bird netting or chicken wire over it, should it become necessary.

Well, turkeys become Butterballs too and ours are growing really rapidly! They outgrew the swimming pool we set up for them. Outgrew in terms of their size, but also their ability to perform as escape artists took over. Each time Mike went into the garage, they came out from hiding behind the refrigerator, under the air compressor, behind the welder or wherever else to greet him. I think they consider him their Mama. So he would gather his brood up, put them back in their pool and next time…they were hiding under the lawn mower or whatever, again. So Mike spent part of yesterday building them a larger containment area. It is only about 24 inches tall, though, and I suspect by next week they will be hiding behind the mushroom spawn or something. Nevertheless, it is good that he build it, because the 25 Royal Palm chicks I bought are due to arrive tomorrow. They will house together (sort of) but with a bundling board between them.

When I went out to the garage earlier, I notices three of our five cats standing near the door and listening. Uh-huh, if we are not very careful, the little birds will be feline thanksgiving dinner. So far, the cats are only curious and one actually came into the garage while we were in there, heard the birds, and got scared of the noise. Funny! Poor cats…they have lived on a farm their whole lives, but until recently never experienced cattle, turkeys, chickens, or anything except the occasional friendly raccoon, hungry coyote, or scrumptious chipmonk. They are learning too!

I am off to go grocery shopping…yep, I still do that now and again. I haven’t figured out yet how we can grow our own coffee here and what sort of trees produce toilet paper rolls. Have a great day!

About cattlebaroness

I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a BA in History, nearing completion of a Master of Arts in American history. Born and raised first on military bases around the world, then in Orange County, CA, I moved to Kentucky when my children were small. I now live on a small family farm and am learning about farm life, planting and our newest addition to the landscape--cattle. Until a month or two ago, all I knew about 'cows' were that they came in brown, black and white and that some are raised for milk and others for meat. I am a quick study out of necessity.
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