Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When a Calf Gets Bored...

What does a calf do when it's bored?

The answer is usually, not much.  Maybe she takes a nap...maybe she kicks up her heels...maybe she chews on her neighbor's ear...maybe she looks innocent...

Miss Innocent

...or maybe she jumps over the gate of her hutch and goes for a run!

Isn't she the picture of innocence?  Sweet?

She has you fooled!

Last evening while we were milking, Eric called out..."There's a calf out!"  I went to investigate, and found Miss Innocent running through the yard, across the driveway and around the barn, headed for open fields and the road.   On the other side of the road is a golf course..NOT a good place for a calf to roam.

Jenna and I tried hard to get around in front of Miss Innocent, but she was fast.  Boy was she fast!  Plus, we were running in barn boots, through corn field stubble and rye grass.  She was a bit more agile on her four spindly legs. She had almost made it to the road, when two teenage neighbors came running to help us.  The four of us were able to cut her off and get her headed in the right general direction.  The two dogs didn't help a bit. Slackers!  :)

Long story short...she didn't give up easily.  Eric joined us, and tackled her in the garden.  We got a halter on her and led her back to her hutch.

This morning I asked her what she was thinking...and she just gave me a shake of her head...

She just wanted some adventure, I guess.  All at 2 1/2 weeks of age.

Oh my...what's she going to be like when she's older?!

Friday, February 22, 2013

When a Cow Needs Surgery...

How do you know if...and what do you do when...a cow needs surgery?

First of all, here is a short cow anatomy lesson...

Cows have four stomachs....the last one is called the Abomasum.  It normally lies below the rumen, but if for some reason the large rumen is smaller in size than usual, the abomasum can slip out of place and "float" up around the rumen, usually on the cow's left side.  It then gets trapped between the rumen and the wall of the cow's body.  This is called a LDA (left displaced abomasum)  This usually requires veterinary intervention to fix, but typically the cow makes a complete and quick recovery. Less often, it floats to the right (RDA), and this is much more serious.  In farmer lingo, we call this a twist, or a twisted stomach.

If you'd like to read a more detailed, and very easy-to-understand explanation, click here.

What are the symptoms of a twisted stomach?

The cow goes "off feed", usually only picking at some hay, and she might act depressed. Her manure may be "tight', a result of eating mostly hay and not eating her grain.

When does it happen?

Like several other conditions, it usually it happens soon after she freshens.  (you can read more at the link above)

How do we diagnose a twist?

Here, Jim is holding a stethoscope to the cow's side with his right hand, while flicking a finger of his left hand on her side.  If she's "twisted", he will hear a "ping", indicating gas in her displaced abomasum.

What do we do?

Different vets handle twists differently, but our vet operates by making an incision in her right side, putting the abomasum back into it's proper place and stitching it fast to the abdominal wall so that it cannot slip out of place again. We take the cow to the vet's facility where the fifteen minute operation is performed, and then we bring her back home again.

It's a little hard to see here, but how's that for a neat line of stitches?

This particular cow freshened on Saturday morning, had milk fever a day or so later, and twisted on Wednesday.  We do everything we can to keep them eating after calving...we keep lots of good quality dry hay in front of them...we introduce them very slowly to any different feed than they were getting as a dry cow...but sometimes it just happens.

She came back into the barn after surgery and began eating.  This makes us quite watch a surgery cow begin eating again, and now two days later, clean up everything we put in front of her!

Thankfully it doesn't happen often, but...just in case you ever wondered...

Linking up to Farm Girl Friday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Keeping Warm in the Barn...

Just like last year, the weather this winter has been a bit ummm...unpredictable.  We've had some really bitter cold days, intermixed with some unseasonably warm days.  (I'll take the latter!)

Yesterday and today were cold and windy.  Last evening when I was sitting here at the computer, I could hear the wind beginning to blow, and I could feel the cold creeping up through the basement floor, chilling my feet.

Tonight it's to be in the teens and feel like 8*, and tomorrow it's also to be cold and very windy.  Brrrr... the barn, it's toasty warm...

We've noticed that no matter how cold it is outside in the winter, the temperature in the cow stable remains a pretty consistent 52*-54*.  With the cows inside and the doors, windows and hay holes all closed, they keep the barn feeling warm.  Milking with insulated coveralls over our clothes is quite comfortable.  We still have to drain water lines in the west side of the barn sometimes, but only if it's really cold and windy.

Did you know a cow's normal body temperature is 102*?  All that body heat does wonders in the winter.  (In the summer time however, it has just the opposite effect. More on that  another day.)

Totally unrelated to keeping fact it makes me cold just to look at the picture...a couple of days ago, Jolynn found her way up into the oak tree and worked her way out almost to the end of a rather thin branch...

photo credit Jenna

...and she stayed there for a long time.  We don't know why she was up there, almost twenty feet off the ground.  Perhaps she was chased there by a dog??  Or maybe she was stalking a bird??  Or maybe she just wanted some adventure??  She finally turned around and made her way back to the trunk of the tree and just at there.  Staring at us.

We weren't sure how long she would sit there, but she didn't seem to be in any kind of distress, so we told her that she would need to find her way down on her own.

And she did.

Silly kitty!

Friday, February 15, 2013


This week we said a goodbye to "someone" that was a long time coming...

#315 went to market on Thursday.

First off, let me say this...

We take the health and comfort of our cows very seriously.  We do our best to keep our cows around as long as we can, as long as they are healthy. It's never fun to see a cow go to market, but sometimes in reality, we need to sell or slaughter animals that for whatever reason aren't a productive part of the farming operation. I think in nineteen years of farming, we've only sold two or three other cows because of "temperament issues".

This particular cow and I had a love/hate relationship.  Minus the love part.   Back in November, she and I had a close encounter that left me hurtin' for a few weeks.  Granted, it wasn't 100% her fault (maybe only 95%).  She and Jim got along ok, but sometimes he's not available to milk her, so this week she took her final trip on the cattle truck...

I don't ever enjoy seeing cows going on the truck, and I did have the heart to feel sorry for her just a little bit.

But I will say this...I don't like being intimidated by a cow, and milking time is a lot less stressful for me with her out of the 4th row.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Middle Eastern Lentil Dish

I've had food on my mind lately...can you tell?

Bear with me as I share one more delicious recipe that I came across recently, as I was browsing my cookbooks...

This isn't a recipe that initially sounded great to me...the combination of lentils and salad?  But then I looked at it more closely.  (I've always enjoyed the nutty flavor of lentils, but not everyone in my family feels the same way)  I thought the salad also looked simple and good, so I decided to give it a try.

Good decision!

Middle Eastern Lentils

Lentil Mixture:

2 large onions, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup uncooked brown rice
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups uncooked lentils, rinsed
4 cups water

In a large kettle, saute onions in olive oil until soft.  Add rice and salt.  Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.  Stir in lentils and water, bringing to a simmer.  Cover and cook until ingredients are all tender..about 50-60 minutes.

1 bunch leaf lettuce (or one bag pre-washed salad greens of your choice)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced
2 green onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar

Mix dressing ingredients together in a jar or container with a lid.  Shake well to mix ingredients, and pour over tossed salad.

Serve lentil mixture on a plate, topping with salad.

Give it a try!  It's a simple, hearty meal that is surprisingly delicious!

We had this for supper last night, and the leftovers for lunch today...and it's just as good the second time around!

Linking up with Farmgirl Friday!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Clipping Cows...

You know how you feel when your hair gets really long...and shaggy...and dirty?


Let me rephrase the question...

You know how it feels when you get a fresh hair cut?  How your head feels a lot lighter...and your hair feels so fresh and clean?

I would imagine that the cows feel the same way!

Over winter, the cows grow their thick, winter coats.  They tend to collect dirt...sawdust that is used for bedding...fodder that is used in the gutters behind them...silage that they toss back onto their backs...and yes, manure that splatters on them from their impolite neighbors.  This is a good time of year to get some clipping done, since our afternoons aren't so busy.  Some of the cows don't like the sound or feel of the clippers, so they're out of luck...but a lot of them seem to enjoy it.

It's like a spa day...and I think they are glad for their fresh hair cuts!