Friday, December 13, 2019

Bucking Baby Bull

Mischief calved remember Mischief our holstein cross heifer we got for company for Katie. The heifer that lives up to her name.

A young Mischief with Katie.

She was shaggy but you could still see she was a good calf.

She grew well and showed all the signs of being a good cow.

We bred her to Applejack. Her due date was December 14th.

She is big and broad...a lovely two year old, but then she started to udder up. 
All along her udder looked good. Short tidy teats with good attachment and positioning. 
Things changed badly. Her teats which were small, ballooned badly...the hind teats are ghastly and shaped like triangles.

They are showing development problems here, they got much worse.

She developed edema which heifers often do and she had fluid along her belly.  Today when she calved I knew it had the potential for problems. I wasn't wrong. The calving went well. The calf is tall and lanky, weighing in at 85 pounds. He is a really good calf.

He got up quickly and hungry going almost immediatly to the udder. Mischief was so good and stood like a rock. He latched on a front teat and sucked away....then stepped back and started looking elsewhere. I thought that was odd. Her front teats are not good but at least shaped enough a calf can suck them. I check for milk...nothing. Not a drop and the teat feels odd.  So I checked the other front teat. No milk. The nursing had triggered Mischief to let her milk down and it was literally pouring out of her back teats. The back teats are the worst shape ever but I could squeeze them enough to milk a bit. The poor calf tried but just couldn't get a good hold. I milked a quart of colostrum into a bottle and fed the calf. Its so frustrating. Mischief stood perfectly for the calf, she let me milk her as calm as can be. She is beautiful. She had an awesome calf and her udder is a catastrophe.  Her edema is going down. I will massage her udder with warm compresses in the morning. The calf is really strong and I am hoping overnight he figures out the back quarters. I am going to call our Jersey guy and ask about udders and we will deal with it but it is a good example of unknown genetics.

We bought Mischief cheap. The man we got her from said she was half Holstein and half Angus. I was skeptical because a purebred Angus  bull will sire 100% polled calves and Mischief had horns. There are a number of breeds that are black. Simmental, Limousin and Gelbveih to name a few. Angus cattle tend to have good udders, so do Holstein. Udder quality is passed from the bull, in this case a completly unknown factor.

So calving season 2019 is over for us. 2 of 3 cows conceived. 1 heifer calf and one bull calf, both healthy vigorous calves. On the milk front not so good. Lassie is a nasty kicker, it was the reason I quit calf sharing with her last season.  To be honest I had pinned my hopes on calf sharing Mischief. That doesn't look like an option. 
I miss my quiet time milking Katie, Mischief stood like Katie which makes it worse.
So there you have the latest news. If you are considering a family cow but want to buy a heifer make sure you see her mother and get information on her sire and what his daughters are like.

God bless all of you and be safe.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

A Bouncing Baby!

We have the best news, a girl arrived on November 25th. 40 pounds, a sweet jersey brown and healthy and vigorous.

Meet Applesauce...our very first calf born on the farm. Her mother is Lassie and her Sire is the very thin bull we fed up to look as good as his genetics.

 Lassie, the young cow we purchased in August of 2018. She fed two steer calves for us but was a total failure to milk. She kicks with intent to harm and despite weeks of steady and gentle but firm handling never accepted being milked. Now as a fresh mother and after prehandling and working with her udder we find she is still a nasty kicker. She very nearly hurt her brand new calf to try to kill a cat on the other side of the gate.

Applejack...the sire. I called Mr Rider to tell him we had the first calf from the bull and he was really pleased. He has bred 35 head to the bull, most of them his best cows. He said something of note. "The bull is really quiet and that should help with the cows bloodlines. That family were tough to work with.
So truth will tell...I akways wondered why we got a deal on a young cow with high production.

So we will see how things go. The calf is sweet and friendly and this will be a true test of gentle handling over genetic disposition.

Enough of are more baby pictures....

Applesauce is so very sweet and Lassie does love her despite her neurotic tendancies.  I know I love her already and will do everything in my power to gentle her to be a family milk cow.

We are so lucky to have a heifer calf. Mischief is due on the 14th of this month so that will be another adventure. Ralph is spending a lot of time with her and I think hes really looking forward to her calf.

God bless you all and keep safe.

Monday, November 25, 2019

November News Reel....

We have had a good fall. The horrendous heat and dry broke in late October and the grass started to recover.  We had put the cows out on the hayland and that has been good for them.
The lambs were weaned on November the first. Much crying was heard for just 2 days. It was far easier than weaning the steer calves.

 In the big stall, the seven ewe lambs. Six are from our ewes and we bought one Katadin ewe lamb from our Butcher.

Looking out under the stall door. This was fun until Bekka, the Katadin figured she could crawl under the boards and escape!

Here they are on the first day out of the barn.

The sheep have really fit into our system really well. For the most part have been trouble free.  We did have a breeding fail with only 4 of the 12 settling to Samson during early season breeding. After talking to our vet and several sheepmen we found we actually had done well to get any in lamb without using a hormone/flush system. Our ewes are mostly half Suffock, Suffolk are seasonal breeders.
Out of the 4 ewes we got 6 ewe lambs.
Now we are breeding at the normal time for Suffolk and we are seeing lots of romance.
We turned Samson out on the 12th of November. To get an idea of who is bred I am using a very simple tool. A livestock marking crayon.

 The cheap solution
It leaves a wide bright streak on the ewes rump.

I ran a vertical stripe down each ewes rump.  When Samson mounts them the mark gets either rubbed off or really dusturbed. I wasn't sure the crayon would last but it has and is proving to be a simple solution. Marker harnesses for Rams are expensive and a pack of 3 of these Livestock markers was $3.75.
We have now got 7 ewes identified as bred. Its very exciting as the girls have grown into big ewes.

An unbred mark.

The cows are doing very well. Katie finally dried up and I do miss milking her very much. She had produced wonderful Jersey Milk for us for 22 months. She just gets to be a cow now and has grown a wonderful winter coat.
Lassie and Mischeif are due in December. Lassie on the 4t and Mischief on the 14th.

 Mischief is looking wonderful. Her udder is well attached and filling nicely. I don't think she is going to be a crazy heavy milker with her Angus sire but its still wonderful to see her develop.

 Lassie has calmed dow a lot since wegot her and will let us scratch her and check her ligaments
 as she nears her date.

Redneck, the calf we kept for a bull has become very dark. We nicknamed him Mr. Mosey because all he does is mosey along....even to get his supper he's never in a hurry. We watch him though and are always aware he is a bull.

We had our first snow and the pups enjoyed themselves. I have made a bed for them in the breezeway, a thick pile of hay that they love. 

 The first snow was lovely, but the young chickens had never seen it!

 Skye and Meg curled up on a fresh bed of hay.

 The maple trees still had some leaves when we had the snow. It was bright to see the orange leaves and white ground, all accented with the bright blue of a fall sky.

Skye watching the lambs have their breakfast. The lambs love the dogs, the dogs have always been here for them.

The dogs curl up in nests they dig and cover their noses with their tails. Sleeping in the middle of all their animals. They are getting big and are learning about threats and irritations. Right now everything is a threat, they have huge deep barks that are intimidating but still bark at the neighbors horses. Not a threat, but the pups are learning that and bark less all the time.
When our hay was delivered the young man driving the truck got here before us. He said the dogs were really upset and he was glad there was a good fence between them and him. He was surprised they are just 8 months old.

The hens are moulting and look horrible but they still go far afield to forage. We often see the white plume tails of the dogs out with the cows, then on a closer look we see perky poultry tails in the middle of it all.

Our gardens are gathering a winter layer of barn cleanings and the chickens are earning their keep by rummaging through it all. 

We have cover crops on the bare ground and still have endless work to do.  Then when we sit down to a meal and its all from the land and it tastes so very good it is all so very much worth it.

So there is our update.  God has blessed us. We see his hand all around us.

God Bless everyone and enjoy the little things during your days of hard work.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Beef Bonanza

It has taken some time but we have reached another goal for our farm and food supply. We have wanted our own beef for a very long time. I have been blessed to come from a ranching background and more often than not have had a deep freeze with a supply of home raised beef in it. These animals had been bred, born and raised on land we owned and cared for. Some we fed grain to and some were totally grass fed and fattened. We developed a method for blending the use of grain and pasture. This gave us a fine flavored beef that was neither too fat or too lean. The animals had healthy livers and suffered none of the ills of feedlot beef.

We discussed the way we wanted to feed our steers here. To get a steer to a useful butcher size takes heavy feed or time. Time is rarely taken into consideration and it should be. Young animals, like most modern beef cattle fed in CAFO’s are under 15 months when they are butchered. Tender yes,  but also lacking in flavor to any degree. Aging gives young beef it’s flavor. Grass also gives flavor, so older animals, on pasture will give your richer tasting meat without needing sauces or extra seasonings.

We decided to try a mix of grain, time and rich summer pastures. Ben was 24 months at butchering.  He was not feedlot fat but then he is also a Jersey which finish differently than any other breed, dairy or beef. They naturally have a more yellow fat. They do not get rib cover to the extent Holstein do.

He showed good signs of finishing. He had fat pads by his tail head. His cod was holding fat deposits and his flank was also starting to get fuller. However because he was not being fed heavily he did not have fat deposited over his ribs like a beef animal on feed. His brisket was full but not padded with fat.

The butcher hung the carcass 14 days and then we got the results of our grain/grass and time feeding experiment.
 It was exciting when we picked up the beef. It is one thing to see a carcass hanging. It gives you the first indication of your beef's quality.

The kicker though is that first cut you choose to cook and actually eat.  As we filled the deep freeze with a plethora of steaks, roasts, ribs, brisket and ground beef I decided that ribeye would be our test case.

We got everything we could, from bones to leaf fat. However somethings seem to be out of favor these days. The kidneys had be thrown away and we were glad we had made careful notes of the items we wanted.  The butcher remarked that very few customers took the heart, liver and other less traditional parts.

With the deep freeze full, I picked a package of ribeye and we went to the house.
They are not huge like beef ribeye but I would say near perfect size fir us. They looked excellent as I patted them dry. I went with a simple pan fry.

               Rib eye steak from our Jersey steer.
Simple seasoning of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, cooked to a rare doneness and rested.

These steak were excellent, tender and with rich flavor. The fat was buttery and full tasting. There was not a lot of outer fat but the marbling is throughout the meat and rendered out with cooking, the steaks were awesome.

Since we had those first mouthfuls we have had ground beef, chuck steak and a pot roast. The quality was  well worth the time and effort. After we pencilled out the costs we found that the beef came in cheaper than supermarket beef, but we did not count our time. The infrastructure costs are not factored in but the construction of fences needed to be done for all of the livestock. The cost of a dairy calf is much much lower than that of a beef steer. After years of raising beef cattle I have to admit I would not have been able to tell what breed this beef was by taste.
We have fat to render, bones to make bone broth and beef stock.

This experiment has turned out very well. We have much healthier pastures we didnt have to bush-hog. The deep freeze is well stocked with healthy beef that had no drugs in it ever. The animal lived a good life, well cared for and enjoyed. The exercise of chores was very good for us and finally we have wonderful compost aging for our gardens.

If you have some pasture and time....consider raising a steer for beef. It can be shared with family and benefit everyone. Now I had better get stirring the beef vegetable soup. God bless and keep you safe and well.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Yes, Lamb Cuteness is Addictive

Dear Punkin's Patch....

I have followed you for 5 years now. Smiling at your lambs antics, watching them grow into marvelous sheep. Crying when they go to the big flock in heaven and just generally loving your adventures with your wooly friends.

 It was a sure sign of spring when you posted new lamb pictures and you found those special ones to bring home. Burrnie, Baaxter and Maisie hold a special place in my heart.

Now however I can get a more immediate fix for my severe Lamb Cuteness Addiction. Our sheep are gifting us with girls.
4 ewes have lambed and we have 6 of the sweetest lamby lamby's you could ever imagine. (No I am not biased!)
Meet the babies so far:

  This is Mocha, her Mom is Caramel.
She is a chubby lamb and the youngest one. She has mocha colored legs, with a mocha nose and a brown tail.

This sleepy pair are in the shade of our old apple trees. Aberdeen is on the left, she belongs to Barbados and P1 on the right. P1 and P2 are Patches babies, not original names but it works

 Here is Aberdeen and her mom, these are crossbred hair sheep and are not shedding very well. We are learning about the horrible combination of fleece and hair. My good hand shears  cannot cut the felt they develop as they shed.

 Our young dogs love the sheep. Skye was just laying by the gate, watching Patches and her babies.

 Patches had her twins on the grass  in the south paddock. It was awesome. Born quickly and so vigorous they were nursing right away. The bright white lamb is P1, she was born first and has an entirely different coat than any of them. P2 was born yellow. Stress from birth.

Last but not least....Katadin and her girls. They were born on the 15th of July and are growing like weeds. The Dorper ram, Samson, has left his mark. They are long and thick, we are so excited about them. K1 and K2....naming plain white sheep is a challenge. Mostly they just get guessed it.....Lamby Lamby!!

Lamb Cuteness Addiction cannot be cured but it can be treated with the proper access to lambs anytime, day or night.

Thank you to Punkins Patch and God Bless lambs.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Guardians

Ralph and I have always had dogs. Mine were working dogs on cattle ranches and my companions and team mates. Ralph had family dogs and not a border collie in the bunch. Neither one of us has ever had a livestock guardian dog. My Border collies were protecters though and often warned me about coyotes too close or other things going wrong. We had plans for dogs when we got our land. The ideal property  was one with lots of room for dogs. Well the ideal property was not as large as we thought we needed, it also came with one flaw. A flaw we felt we could deal with after proper fencing and set up. It is a very bustling road along the NE edge of the land, in front of the house. The road has given us greif. However we have had the perimeter fence beefed up with additional wire and we use an electric fence. A fence through the yard, between barn and house has secured the stock area. It was time to get dogs.

To me dogs are special, yes they are tools but they also are unique in their loyalties to the world they are in. Bonding with people and other animals that populate their domain. I have always had working dogs that are also in the house. These dogs would not be that. They have to be out at night and patrolling and watching during the day. They will be in the barn and have access to the livestock. Sheep, Cattle, Ducks, Chickens and Turkey's.

 I spent hours looking at LGD breeds. I fell in love with the Central Asian Shepard dogs. Huge and devoted to sheep. I found that first of all there are two use for Protection work in regions of Russia,  and one still used by shepherds in regions of Central Asia. They have been imported with little distinction and you have to be exceptionally careful that you get the livestock bloodlines. Second they are expensive beyond a small farm. Off the list they went.

 Central Asian Shepherd Dog.

 Anatolian shepherds were my second choice. Short haired which I felt would be very good in this climate with the heat and humidity. They do tend to be a bit stubborn and to my frustration I found are difficult to train to small livestock and poultry. Sheep and cattle they are outstanding but not chickens so much.

            Anatolian Shepherd

 I have always loved Great Pyrenees but I was worried about their heavy coat and heat and humidity. However the more I looked into them the more I found out how good they are with all livestock and tolerant of children and are easier to introduce to visitors of your farm. There are a lot of them in use here in our area.
                     Great Pyrenees

 So we had information stored away and I got out the file and started rereading it. We also took advantage of local sheep farmers and our feed store guy. (He is an asset beyond measure) We decided we would look for young dogs and see what we could find. Armed with a list of local sheep farmers we thought we would get serious over the summer and get the dogs in the fall.

 Strange things happen though and this chain of events makes me smile everytime I look at the puppies. We are getting three steers butchered in September. The only processor close to us has a 6 month waiting list. We were at the butcher discussing cutting orders and conversation led to talking about our plans for the steers and what we are doing with the land.   Our butcher runs 150 head of hair sheep. So we had a great time talking sheep issues. Then Ralph said we had plans to get LGD's, what breed does he have?   Much to our surprise he asked if we wanted puppies? He had Pyrenees x Anatolian puppies that would be ready to go in a few weeks. No charge .....we could pick one or two if we wanted. We looked at each other and smiled....Yes we said in unison. Ralph and I were dumbfounded. They are raised with Sheep,  cattle and chickens. The mother is not heavy coated as she throws more to the Anatolian. The father is Registered Great Pyrenees who although only a year old is patrolling extremely an older dog would. Our butcher smiled...he admitted the puppies were an accident. Not that he didn't plan on breeding the mother but he had not planned for summer puppies (The mother had dug out of the barn to get to the male) plus he had wanted to see how the young dog worked. So much for that plan he said. she had 14 puppies! We took the opportunity in front of us, deciding to get two females. We had a month to set up in the barn.

A few weeks later, 6:50 am, Ralphs phone rings.....its not a number he recognizes so he lets it go to voice mail. 6:54 am, my phone rings is Amon....our old Amish neighbor who sold the land next door He is inviting us to Amish Wedding carry out?  What? His oldest daughter is getting married....would we like to come for carry out? We were not invited to the wedding but friends are often invited to come and get a plate of the wedding meal. It was such a nice gesture we happily accepted and at 11:00 am we headed over to Amon's new farm. It was incredible, the ladies filled two carry out plates to the brim with fresh creamed peas, mashed potatoes, dressing and some fantastic fried chicken.

 We were thinking since we were not far from the butchers we should drop by to confirm we were serious about the puppies. We still had two weeks to wait. The day took a truly interesting turn when we got to the shop. Our butcher was fixing his baler, he smiled and exclaimed balers always break in good weather. Then he introduced us to his wife....she promptly asked if we were here for the puppies. Well it seemed she was quite eager to have them gone, they were just at 6 weeks. Yes they were eating puppy food. So off we went, the short drive to the farm and meeting the dogs was a blur. In no time at all we were driving home with two chubby fur balls on the floor next to my feet.

They like the barn and sleep under the feed room during the heat. They come when called, not like a Border Collie but still pretty well. They sort of patrol as they amble up to us. They love the Turkeys and are good around the chickens,  it helps the Momma hens set them straight about chicks right away.
They have grown faster than I had imagined. At the Vet, last rabies shot, Skye was 35.9 pounds and Meg 34.6 pounds. We will be getting them spayed at 6 months. The Vet says its much better to let them get a bit older to have the surgery.

Now as I write Meg and Skye are sleeping under the woodshed. Its cool there. Central to the livestock and best of all beside the orchard where the ewes and lambs are. They can watch them. Skye lays with her head on her paws, the only movement is her eyes, but they are scanning the pasture. They are 4 months old. Meg is the patroller, Skye the guardian.

Meg will walk the fence around the sheep and poultry. She checks out the cows then returns to the orchard. Skye will get a drink when Meg gets back.

They are still very young but you can see them begin to develop their skills. Don't get me wrong they are still puppies. They chewed their dog brush to bits and come to the back steps when they know they shouldn't. They like tomato scraps and watermelon rind. They watch closely when I milk Katie. They play at wrestling and dig holes.
The lambs arrival though has brought out the guardian instincts. The ewes like the puppies but now they have lambs they stamp a warning if the pups get too close. Katadin bashed Skye solidly...I was worried Skye would retaliate but she didn't, she learned the space limit and to stay back if a ewes stamps her feet.
We marvel at our LGD's. They fit in to the workings of the farm.

God Bless you and your endeavors. Plan and hope and dream. Work hard and have faith.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Milk Update

We had heavy cream on our fresh blueberries this morning.
I have tall cold glasses of milk whenever I want. The puppies get milk on their dry food in the morning.
We enjoy the luxury of having our own 'real' milk everyday.

I posted about how Katie did not get in calf from natural service and how we faced a dilemma with her not being in calf.
We had decided to wean the calves and start a milking schedule again.
Well here is the latest information on milking an open cow who has been lactating since September of 2017.
Her initial production when she arrived in January of 2018 was 5 gallons a day. We calf shared as it was just far too much for us. She fed Ben, Rocky, Bullwinkle, Redneck and Spotify. We pinched as needed and never lack for milk.

She is in good condition and such a sweet cow I am very pleased how things are continuing.

I was milking twice a day after we weaned the last two calves. That was giving us two gallons, sometimes two and a half per day.
Still a lot of milk for just two of us.

I have talked to our Jersey guy.....he suggested we milk her just once a day for a week and see what her production  does.  I asked about mastitis with just once a day milking and he said it was unlikely because of her low production.

So I have enjoyed quality time with Katie, every morning for a month now and I would call it a success. The first week her production dropped to about 3 quarts a day, then  it slowly started to come back.
Now I get one to one and a half gallons a day. Its a near perfect amount for us. She drops below a gallon during standing heat but comes right back.

Her udder is fine, no heat and no signs of mastitis, she stands patiently while I milk and yesterday, she started chewing her cud and tried to lay down. Its a relaxed atmosphere.

So we are going to continue to milk Katie and enjoy every moment. It will be an experiment and allow us to keep her. 

Now I am making tapioca pudding, with Katie milk.

God Bless you and keep you safe.