February 2020: 2019 and 2018 Fall Calves

February 17, 2020

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September 2019 steer in front of a 2018 steer.  We harvest our 100% Grass-fed, Grass-finished cattle around 24 to 30 months in age, considerably older than the typical corn-fattened cattle, harvested around 15 to 20 months in age.

I really like fall calving.  The cows are calving in great shape, as they’ve been grazing pasture all summer.  The calves winter well, drinking their mother’s milk and eating hay.  The cows eat all the hay they want out of feeders and my cows stay in good shape, despite the added stress of nursing a calf.  The calves are weaned in May or June directly onto lush pastures and never seem to miss a beat.

My cattle never see the inside of a barn.  When the weather turns extreme, I use straw or hay to make a bedding pack near a wind break.  You can see the bedding pack in the bottom photo.  Sometimes the edge of a calf’s ears will frostbite, but otherwise they handle the elements very well.

Check out the heavy winter hair coat the fall calves in the bottom photo exhibit.  For some reason, they develop what looks like a heavier coat than the older cattle.  They almost resemble Scottish Highland cattle in their shagginess.

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September Farrowing and Calving

September 22, 2019

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September is a good month for new births, as it’s usually warm and dry.  This September has been warm and wet, continuing a two year trend.

We farrow most months of the year, except for the coldest weeks in winter.  Calving works great in September and October, calves wintering on the cow, and weaned onto the lush spring pastures.  It also helps that I can borrow a breeding bull from my parents, who practice spring calving.

Photo credits to my sister, Rebecca.  I like the perspective she captured in the top photo.  In the photo below, the two day old calf hiding in the weeds almost looks like we’ve adorned him with some type of holiday flowers.

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One Bad Day

June 21, 2019

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As caretaker of our animals, our goal is a beautiful life, with one bad day.  One bad moment actually, as Andrew and the crew at Avon Locker work to humanely kill the animals on butcher day.

Personally, we had a bad day the other day, as my Dad rolled his ATV.  He’s ok, but recovering, as he’s sore all over and his ear needed several stitches.

We were trying to get a cow in and Dad was driving along side her on a side hill and the cow kicked the ATV and somehow it rolled over on top of him and continued rolling off him.  I got to him shortly after and we took him to the ER to get checked out and his ear stitched.

One of the reasons we’ve needed to get cows in is we’ve had 8 sets of twins this year, blowing away the old record of 5 sets.  Our  cows have a difficult time keeping track of twin calves unless we get them in to a smaller pasture by themselves.  If we are unable to separate the cow and calves, we bring in whichever calf ends up abandoned and bottle feed it until it can live on grass.

Below is a photo of a bottle calf we took to the library for a kids program and short petting zoo.  The kids enjoyed petting the calf.  And at the risk of anthropomorphizing, I think the bottle calf enjoyed the attention as well.

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The Snowstorm of April 27th, 2019

April 29, 2019

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Six or so inches of the latest snow in southwest Wisconsin I can recall.  April 14th sticks in my mind as some big snows, so this one beat it by a couple of weeks.  It had been warm and dry previously.  Some of our friends’ children were confused and got excited about Christmas coming!

All the trees, bushes, and plants that were already flowering took a beating, but my main concern was our animals.  My parents practice spring calving, as we don’t have barns for our cattle and April and May is usually quite nice for calving.

Sunday morning we were out at 6 am on our ATVs seeing if any calves were too cold.  We looked for any new ones, as any calf that is actively nursing often, is very tough and can take a great deal of cold.  We had 3 new ones, but their mommas were experienced and managed to find some decent shelter in the woods out of the wind and snow and the calves were fine.

We weren’t as lucky a couple of weeks earlier in another rain and snowstorm.  A heifer was lying near the creek.  She didn’t seem too agitated, but she must have had a difficult delivery as she showed little concern for her calf which was lying in the cold water of the creek, just managing to keep its head out of the water.

I grabbed and put it on the back of the ATV and drove it to the barn.  We stuck a feeding tube down its throat, (when calves are this cold they lose the ability to suck), and gave it a warm colostrum replacement.  I rubbed its body with straw, but I realized it wouldn’t be warm enough to survive the night, so we took it to the basement and put it in warm water for a half hour or so until it started to revive.  Then we towel dried and used a hair dryer to dry even more thoroughly and then left it in the basement overnight.

The next morning the calf was standing.  We walked its mother into the corral and helped it nurse for the first time.  After all that, momma and baby were fine and we turned them back out to pasture a couple of days later.

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Spring? Green!

June 3, 2018

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Spring is the shortest season in Wisconsin.  I should be used to it by now, but the transition from winter to summer, startles and amazes me every year.

The first outdoor market of the season, April 14th, was so cold, I wore insulated bib overalls which I only used once all winter because they are so warm.  Memorial Day weekend,  only 6 weeks later, was in the 90s F with high humidity.

Plant growth explodes.  April 20th was the last snowstorm of the season, falling on little green growth.  Now, on June 1st, forage is waist high.  One more paddock to graze and the cattle will have been over everything once.  I’ve been moving them every 5 days.

It feels like I’m behind on everything, with too much forage.  But if you don’t have too much forage on June 1st, you will definitely have too little on August 1st when the weather turns dry.

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The top photo is of my Phoebe girl, a twin I helped get started in life.  She always comes over to get a scratch from me.

The next two photos are of two year old steers, who will be butchered this summer.  The background shows yearlings and fall calves.  And green, beautiful, beautiful green.

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Spring 2018: Farm Update

May 1, 2018

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Braden finished his movable chicken pens and I helped him move his broiler chickens out to pasture.  We have had the coldest April on record, so there isn’t much pasture, but the chickens seem happy in their new home.

Braden put his own spin on a Salatin style, movable chicken pen.  I hope to post with more detail in the future.  The pens are moved daily to fresh pasture.  The pen is keeping the predators away from the chickens, and the chickens are really thriving.  He is still planning on having freshly frozen chickens for the May 26th market.

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I helped Daniel rototill the garden and she has started moving her indoor started vegetables outdoors, and also started direct seeding some of her crops.

I rototilled the sweet corn plot and plan to plant next week if the soil continues to warm. We should have delicious sweet corn around the first of August.

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Winter/Spring farrowing has gone well, and I have lots of healthy feeder pigs.  My fall-calving herd has wintered well on our home-raised hay, and are chomping at the bit to get on fresh pasture.

Cattle aren’t particularly smart, but they are masters at body language.  They know exactly what it means when they see me repairing electric fence.  I’m sure they are salivating as much as when Pavlov’s dogs hear a bell.

 


Winter 2018

February 4, 2018

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Winter 2018, mild, mostly frozen, animals and people doing well.  Above is one of the hogs exploring, and below are some of the cattle resting on their bedding pack, with hogs exploring at the left of the frame.

I wrote that last week.  Winter has decided to come back hard in February, with below zero wind chills and several inches of snow last night, February 3rd.

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Thank you to everyone who has purchased meat, or boxes, or halves, this winter.  Your business is appreciated.

I added several new products, (Brats-links and patties, Breakfast sausage patties, Cottage Bacon, Canadian Bacon, Ham Hocks).

I also tweaked the Classic Pork boxes.  Check them out and let me know if something interests you.

 

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I am farrowing several litters in one of the hoop barns with farrowing huts.  The sows get to choose which hut to farrow in, and also make their own nest inside the huts.

When it is this cold, I never have any trouble with a sow choosing to farrow outside of a hut, which can be a problem in the warmer months of the year.

I haven’t lost many piglets, even though its been colder than I would prefer, (below 20 F).

Except for one very big Landrace sow who chose to carry way too much bedding into her hut and farrowed on a very cold night.  All her piglets died.  My theory is whereas the other sows made a nest with at least a little room for the piglets to nurse, see photo below, this sow was so big with so much bedding, the piglets were simply unable to start nursing due to lack of room.

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