Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Inside or Out...

Yesterday, someone asked me to explain about the adult cows...whether they are kept inside the barn all the time, or if they spend any time outside.  So...I'll try to explain how we manage this...from little on up...

When a heifer calf is born, within the first few days of her life, she is typically put into one of our individual calf pens/hutches.  These hutches allow each calf to have her own space...we can easily tell if she's eating or not, and she has a shelter from bad weather (and the sun), and she can also run out back in the summer time.    It's a much healthier place for her to be than inside the barn, sharing germs with her friends.  This picture was taken this summer right after the hutches were repaired.  Now, the backs have been put on to keep the calves warmer...


After she grows too big for the hutches, the heifer moves inside the barn to the box pens, where she shares space with a few friends.  Here, she gradually gets used to the feed that the older animals eat, and learns to drink from an "on demand" water bowl.  As we need room, and as the heifers grow, they eventually end up in "the outside pen".  This pen allows them to move inside and outside of the barn as they chose.  They have food and shelter inside, and room to run outside, and here they get used to an electric fence for the first time.  This is the outside part of the "outside pen" yesterday in the snow...


When the heifers are about 15 months old, they are bred and taken to "the other farm", where they will spend the rest of the time until they freshen.  Over there, they can go inside and out of the barn as they please, and have a large meadow to graze on in the summer time.

Now, on to the adult milking cows...

At night...beginning in late spring when the temperatures are consistently in the mid forties, and until early fall, the cows spend the night outside, unless the weather is really bad.  They love to go out in the meadow to graze, and lay down to sleep.  Then we bring them into the barn before morning milking....it makes the morning a little earlier, but the cows are happier and they (and the barn) stay much cleaner when they're outside!  When the temperatures are colder like now, and all winter long, they will spend the night inside in their stalls.

During the day...when the meadow grass has begun to grow vigorously in the spring, the cows spend a good part of the day outside grazing and moving around as they please.  You should hear them in the spring...after morning milking and when the air is warm, they bawl, hoping that we will let them out!  When we do, for the first time, they run and kick up their heels!  Here's an old post, showing their excitement the first time they are left out in the spring.

On the hot, humid, summer days, they go out for the morning, and come back in by noon.  Then we turn on all the fans because they don't handle heat very well.

This week for the first, we have started keeping the cows off the meadow.  They had been grazing the rye grass fields, but have chewed it down enough...and there's no new regrowth in the meadow, so they just go out into the barnyard for exercise while we clean up the barn...


They really want to go out into the meadow, but they aren't allowed.  They would just make tracks in it and destroy the grass.

Usually one of us puts fresh bedding in the stalls, while the other watches for heats.  This is what we watch for...the cow that is allowing the other cow to jump her, is in heat.  This particular cow is only fresh 45 days, so we won't breed her yet, but will keep track of her heat, and watch her in another 21 days...


Don't you wish you could do this?


Here they come back into their stalls, freshly bed up with sawdust...


Hopefully that wasn't too confusing!  In a nutshell...we put the cows out any time that the weather allows, and when they won't damage the meadow with their sharp hooves!

On another note...

I had some help watching the cows this morning, while Jim cleaned up the barn...


When I put her down, her brother attacked...


...and she played for a while until she got tired of it...


"Make him stop!   He started it!"

Never a dull moment!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

First Snow of the Season...

It might not be amounting to much, but it's snowing!  Kind of.  It started to rain in the early morning hours, then turned to wet snow around 7:30 this morning.  Now I think it's just a wet mixture, but the ground is still white!

I was working in the house this morning, and around 11:00, decided to go gather some eggs and take my camera for a short walk.  The chickens don't like snow.  Most of them were either inside their shed, or huddled under their porch...


This one was brave...and curious.  She stood there for a while, balancing on one leg, checking me out...


And there was evidence that a few others ventured out into the snow as well...


Next to the chickens, the calves were snug in their hutches.  I put some fresh, dry straw in their pens when I fed them this morning, and you can see here (on the right side) that Jim has put the backs on the hutches for the winter.   They can't run out the back now, but will be protected from the cold winter wind.  The pen on the far left is empty and is being used for extra hay and feed.  When we get another heifer calf, he'll put that back on too...


The older heifers were loving the snow...they ran to the far end of the outside pen to play...


But the cows stayed inside today.  When I peeked in the barn, they were almost all laying down contentedly, chewing their cud and making milk!  The second cow there, #308 was just fresh recently.  It looks like she hasn't quite cleaned up her feed, so we'd better keep an eye on her...


Last night, the forecast was calling for up to 3" of snow, and the kids were hoping for a two hour delay this morning.  Too bad for them, it didn't happen...but it's snow none-the-less, and it sure feels good to be able to be in the warm house, taking a little bit of a break this afternoon!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Stocking Up For Winter...

It was a beautiful day today...sunny and not too cold...and it looks like it might be the last one for a bit, so I'm really glad we got some gleaning done today!

Last year I walked through the corn fields after the corn was combined and picked up over twenty, five-gallon buckets full of ear corn that was left in the field.  It would have just rotted away, so I figured I'd feed it to my chickens. That pile of corn lasted most of the winter, and I was able to cut my chicken feed bill in half!  I didn't get near as much this year...I guess that's a good thing, because it means that there was less waste from the combine...but it will be less for my chickens as well.

Jim helped this afternoon...


These adorable neighbor boys helped.  They were so excited whenever they found an ear of corn...


Murphy and Snickers stole corn out of the buckets helped...


And we got a few buckets of corn...



We picked up around six buckets full today, and I had picked up four or five more a few days ago, so my pile is much smaller this year than last.  I waited a little too long to start, so some of the fields that I was planning to glean are now covered in manure from when Jim was cleaning out pens, and made slim pickings. I might head out tomorrow morning if the rain holds off to see what more I can find.

I'm also doing something different with my chickens this winter...

I have thirty chickens, and am lucky to get ten or eleven eggs per day right now.  There are several reasons for this...

...the days are getting shorter, and chickens need more daylight to lay regularly.  We don't have a light in their shed, so they sleep longer and as a result eat less, and lay fewer eggs.

...they're molting, which is a natural way for their bodies to take a rest from laying.

...the egg shells are also getting thin, which is a sign of an aging chicken.  (They have oyster shells in their feed, which should help some, but it's not enough)

In order to pay for their 100 lb. bag of feed ($26.?? per bag) which they were eating devouring in about ten days, I had to sell at least 13 1/2 dozen eggs (at $2.00) per dozen to break even on the feed.  No problem when they were laying well. (Yes, I fed them all the table scraps and garden waste that I could find, but still, they ate it that fast!)  So...I have decided to sell most of the chickens to some Nepali refugees, who will put them to good use.  They will give me what I think is a fair price, so we'll all be happy.

I'm planning to keep my ten Barred Rocks over the winter so that I have enough eggs for myself, and then start fresh in late winter/early spring with new pullets.

What are you doing to get ready for winter?

Linking to Farmgirl Friday

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Thankful List...

I think I would have to say that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday...if only it lasted longer than one day!  Sometimes I think it actually gets forgotten...no sooner do the fall decorations start to show up, than they are replaced by Christmas ones.  That bugs me!!

But no matter what I see when I drive past the outlets, or no matter what songs I hear on the radio...I can still be thankful as often as I'd like!  Here are just a few things on my thankful list...

I am thankful for...

...a hubby who loves me (us)...who enjoys the simple things in life and the value of hard work.

...our kiddos...both teenagers now who might not like to be called "kiddos" but I'm their Mom, so I'll call them that as long as I want to!

...healthy bodies that can heal.  After a freak incident in the barn that left me with a slightly separated shoulder and very sore muscles for almost two weeks, today I can say that I feel almost 100% again!

...my food co-op friends.  Two nights a week, I don't have to think about what to make for supper.  Loving this!

...our Church family...listening...learning...being real...working hard together

...our two teenage neighbor boys who spent thirteen (yes, thirteen) hours raking leaves and cleaning up the yard at our rental property (without complaint...at least not to me!!)

...dogs that don't roam the neighborhood (although they do dig holes all over the yard)

...a hot shower

...our kids' friends

...that I mowed the yard today for the last time in 2012, at least I hope so!

...that our kids enjoy being with their cousins...all of them!

...warm, soft, playful, sweet kitties that have good motors in them

...that our families both live (mostly) nearby

...gourmet cheese potatoes (can you tell what I'm making for our feast tomorrow?)

And the list goes on...and on...too many things to mention...some of them seem a little silly...but there's no better time to think of all the things we have to be thankful for.  Every day.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

What are some of the things you are thankful for?



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Could We Start Over Please...

You know it's going to be that kind of morning when...

...you're laying in bed, hitting the snooze repeatedly, trying to persuade yourself to climb out and face the day (can you tell I am NOT a morning person?)...and you hear heavy footsteps walking across the kitchen floor downstairs...the door to the steps opens and the light flicks on and off several times.  "Alica, could you please come out...a water bowl valve stuck and ran all night, and we have a major flood in the barn.  Plus, there's a broken stall, and there's a problem with the barn cleaner!"

So...you jump up and go downstairs and have to wait in line behind your daughter to get into the out-kitchen where the barn clothes are...she's already up getting ready for school.  (I really am NOT a morning person!) Say goodbye to the kids and head out to face the day.

Jim was right, there was a major flood.  One of the water bowl valves in the second row stuck all night, and there were about 3"-4" of water in this area you see here between the 2nd and 3rd rows.  Here it is all cleaned up...it's one way to deep clean the barn!



I swept, and swept, and swept some more.  All that water went into the gutters.


The gutters are probably 8"-10" inches deep, and soon after I started sweeping, they were completely full, almost running over.  This is after the water has all been swept up and Jim's been scooping for awhile...


He scoops the water out of the gutter and into the barnyard...


What a mess...


That took about 45 minutes, but is now finished.  The cows were mooing hollering because they were hungry, which only added to the chaos.  We had to wait to feed them though, until we could push the feed carts through.  Now we're running the cistern today, to give the well a break after the water ran all night long.



(the ironic thing is...last night I got home late after picking up Eric from an event, and I heard a water bowl running.  I thought about poking my head in the barn to check it out, but figured it was just a cow having a drink.  Had I looked, most of this mess could have been avoided!  Always trust your instincts!!)



Here's problem number two...


Luckily, this cow stood still and stayed in her stall, just as if it wasn't broken. This is a primary reason that the feed carts are locked away whenever we aren't in the barn and the gates are all shut.  Had she wandered around and gotten into some feed, it could have been very, very bad news for her health!

And here's problem number three...



The barn cleaner chain is supposed to go around the sprocket, but as the chain wears thin, it gets loose and sometimes slips off, out of place.  This wasn't too hard of a fix...although Jim had to be pretty careful that he didn't get his fingers pinched while I worked the switch as he got it put back into place.  He tightened the chain and it was good to go.

Looking back at the past five hours, it really wasn't as bad as it all looked at 6:00 this morning.  Two of the three problems are fixed, and the stall will soon be too, as soon as I get off the computer and go help.

Never a dull moment!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Finishing Up...

I think I can safely say that we are now officially finished baling corn fodder for this year!   The good weather stuck around and cooperated quite nicely. The rain and snow that we were supposed to get last week never materialized...yay...and Jim baled all the fodder that he wanted.

I didn't keep track of how many wagon loads he baled, but it's somewhere right around a dozen.  The last four, he didn't unload, but just backed them into the barn at the other farm, full.  Since we don't need those wagons empty until next spring, why not?  It takes some maneuvering to get those wagons into place...it's a tight fit, and I sure couldn't do it, but he makes it looks pretty easy.

After school today, I drove the truck while Jim and Eric picked up the last few bales that didn't fit on the last wagon...




...and we got to see this as we were finishing up...


All around us today, neighbors were baling fodder, baling and wrapping hay and rye, trying to finish up all that they could before they ran out of daylight and nice weather.

As I write, the wind has picked up and the temps have begun to drop.  It's to begin raining over night tonight, and I think our mild weather will be history. I'm bummed about that...I'm a fair weather fan, and there are still flower beds to clean up, and lots and lots of leaves to rake.

I guess I'll have to pull out the coveralls and get to work!


Linking to Clever Chicks Blog Hop

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Baling Corn Fodder 2012

Well...we finally saw some beautiful blue sky today.  It was partially covered with high clouds, but there was some blue showing through...and some sun...and it felt a little warmer...yeah!

Jim started baling corn fodder this afternoon.  Yesterday the corn stalks that were left after the combine went through were flailed (chopped) and this morning he raked them into windrows.  I caught up with him this afternoon, filling the first wagon...

video

He was happy with how well the baler worked.  Corn fodder is notoriously hard on a baler, but things went well today.  It's close to thirty years old, and hardly missed a bale!

During milking, and before it got too dark to see, Jim, Eric and some friends unloaded two big loads into the mow above the outside pen.  The young ones had some battles with dusty corn fodder.  All I can say is that I'm glad I was milking and not involved in that itchiness!


We'll use this for bedding up the heifer pens.  It makes a great, absorbent bedding.  They unloaded the rest at the other farm, where they had plenty of light in the barn to see what they were doing.

Hopefully tomorrow, Jim will be able to bale a few more loads before the rain comes.  After that, he'll have to wait until the fodder dries out to bale more.

It's a great feeling to get the fodder baled...it's the last harvest related thing that we need to do before winter comes!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sunrise...

Sometimes it feels like we'll never see the sun again.  We've had blah weather ever since last weekend, before Sandy blew through.  A few glimpses of the sun here and there, but mostly a gray cloud cover...and  we might get a little sloppy snow later this week.

Yesterday morning however, we were treated to this gorgeous sunrise...


After a few minutes, the sun was again obscured by clouds, and I haven't seen it since.

But I know it's up there, and for that I am thankful!