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 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!


  1. Another good post for those of us who otherwise wouldn't have a clue! I do know it's good to keep the critters off of pasture when there isn't anything there for them so they don't tear it up. :)

  2. Alica, very educational post. You treat your animals very well. How do you store and sell the milk? Some people are very lucky to get milk from your farm.

  3. Oh you explained it perfectly for those who do not understand. That is why I come here I learn so much about all things farming things I know and lots of things I do not. You are the teacher I love the most. B

  4. Running a farm takes a lot of hard work and know how. You had a real good tutorial Alica.


  5. great post. I love reading about cows, they are a great animal. And I have seen cows running and "kicking up their heels", made me laugh!

  6. You are a great teacher! Thanks.

  7. Thank you, Alica, for explaining all of it. I was picturing the poor cows in their stalls all the time, unable to get any excercise. I'm glad you explained how it is done!

  8. Thanks for stopping by my blog and becoming a follower. I LOVE your blog! I have a secret fascination for cows! My Aunt used to live next to a dairy farm. Whenever I visited her, I would always escape to watch the cows being milked. The kittens are too cute!

  9. My two bovine prefer to stay outside almost all the time. Even though they can come to the barn whenever they want, it's very rare for them to be inside other than in the winter.

  10. Excellent post!!! I just love our cows, and they run around when we put them on grass in the spring too! We leave them out all the time except for milking, if the weather is bad, or too cold, or hot!
    How many do you milk?

  11. Your ladies look so well cared for and happy. I'm glad they have people who know cows and provide dry beds and clean places to walk. I was once asked how I knew when a cow was fresh. I told them we had to feel them and sniff.

  12. I love that wreath. What a great idea! Nice post.


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