Daily Winter Cattle Watering

January 14, 2013

Cattle Tank Waterer

I wanted to house my fall-calving cows with calves on the south side of my farm this winter.  I couldn’t figure out a good way to walk them back over to where the heated Ritchie waterer is, so I purchased the 110 gallon tank, pictured above.

465 is the cow in the photo.  She is my oldest cow at nine years old.  Coincidentally, she was the model cow in last year’s post about the Ritchie waterer.

I needed a way to keep the water thawed.  So I purchased a sinking tank de-icer.  The first cold night it blew a 15 amp fuse.  I thought I was in for trouble, but I replaced it with a 20 amp fuse and it has worked flawlessly since.

Sinking Tank De-Icer

One drawback is I fill the tank with a hose at least twice per day, draining the hose well after each fill.  I figure each cow is drinking between 15 and 20 gallons per day.  I don’t notice the calves drinking much because they are still nursing their mothers.

In the photo below you can see the herd eating hay out of a feeder.  13 cows, 12 calves, and 1 bull are eating a half of a round bale of hay per day.  If similar quality hay is valued at $200 per ton, and a round bale is 1500 lbs, then the herd is eating $75 worth of hay per day.

Tank Waterer and Cows Eating Hay

Goodbye to Cow 521

November 26, 2012

We pregnancy-checked my parents’ spring-calving cows a few weeks ago.  Cow 521 came up open.  I have always liked this cow and I posted a picture of her a couple of years ago, shown below.

I am tempted to add her to my fall-calving herd which is in the midst of breeding season now, but instead I chose to buy cow 447, which the vet said he thought may be pregnant, but only a month along.  447 is a better bet than 521 because it’s unknown why 521 is open.  She may have reproductive problems which render her infertile.

Still, it’s sad to see her go.

Another Set of Eyes

September 1, 2012

Frank, with his horses.

Frank is another set of eyes, checking on my fall-calving cowherd.  He lives in the house which is situated near the middle of my rented pasture.

His yard protrudes into and is surrounded by the pasture on three sides.  When he has his morning coffee on the front porch, he is checking my cows.

For me to check my cows, it’s a mile ATV ride.  And if I get there at the wrong time, and they’ve gone into the woods for shade, I’m out of luck.

One day in August I only counted eleven cows.  The next day the same cow was missing.  I asked Frank to keep an eye out for her.

I started walking the woods looking for her.  The woods is a jungle, pictured below.  I realized, crawling under Multiflora Rose brambles, that the cows hadn’t even explored the whole woods.

I spent two days combing the woods looking for the missing cow.  Frank rode his horse where he could, looking for the missing cow.  I started using my nose, figuring the stench from a decaying animal would lead me to her.

On the fifth day, 949 nonchalantly walked out of the woods with a little black calf and rejoined the herd.  At that point, I realized I can’t micromanage.  Frank and I just count.  We’re at seven black calves now.

Camouflaged Calf

August 20, 2012

The cows have started calving.  I have a difficult time finding the calves because their mothers hide them.

There is a two-day old calf in the center of the photo above.  Below you can see a close-up of the calf.

The calves are coming out in shades of black even though their moms are red, because their daddy was a neighbor’s Black Angus which jumped the fence and hung out with the cows.  The calf below looks like a chocolate Lab.

Apples in Rented Pasture

August 16, 2012

I was fortunate to rent a pasture this year, close to my farm.  I had a vet preg-check my sixteen fall-calving cows this spring, then vaccinated and fly tagged the twelve which were bred, and put them in the pasture May 1st.

They have done really well, even in the drought, because  I under-stocked the pasture.  I wanted some experience grazing the pasture before I put too many animals in and then had to feed hay or destock.

Now they’re enjoying the wild apples which grow in the woods and in the open.  The cows have a route they walk everyday, checking for down fruit.

The tree above is strange.  Half of it has no apples, the other half is loaded with apples.

I usually eat a few every time I check the cows.  Each tree’s apples taste different, but they’re all good in their own way.

Summertime Drought

June 25, 2012

We’re in the midst of a summertime drought.  The second cutting of hay is considerably smaller than the first cutting.  The first field in my cutting schedule is seven acres.  Its yield decreased from 25 round bales of hay for first cutting to 3 and one third bales for second cutting.  Second cutting is always smaller than first, but this is abnormally so.

The permanent pasture my steers and hogs use is drying up fast.  My backup plan is to graze hay fields.  So I put a temporary electric fence in and started grazing a hay field, pictured below.

Summertime droughts are not uncommon here.  Rarely do we have crop failures, though.  So irrigation for crops is not used.  An exception is my partners, Carrie and Eric.  They rely so heavily on their pastures for chickens, sheep, and dairy cows, they’ve decided to put in a pasture irrigation system called K-line.  I’m interested to see how it works for them.

Grazed Barley/Rape Field

June 20, 2012

In the previous post, BC asked for more photos, and specifically what the field looks like when they’ve finished grazing.  This is the field, four days after turning in 31 steers and 30 hogs.  The field is about 3/4 of an acre.  The hogs received some grain besides.

In my next post, I’ll show what I did with the field now that they have finished grazing.

Cattle/Hogs Grazing Barley/Rape

June 18, 2012

This is the Barley/Rape field on June 15th as I turned the steers and sows in for grazing.  I planted it April 27th and posted pictures on May 11th.  Growth is slow the first couple of weeks, but really takes off after that.

Grazing Winter Rye II: All Business

April 8, 2012

Five days after turning the cattle into half the winter rye field.  They ate it down to nothing.  And I have a round bale of hay available at all times.  But they want the green stuff.

When I turned them into the field five days ago, they did some running around, feeling their oats.  This time they were all business.  They knew what rye was, and they wanted it.

I love turning cattle into a new field of luscious forage.  Imagine tucking into a really good meal, and you won’t run out of food, and you won’t lose your appetite for about four hours.  I imagine this is how the cattle feel.  Nice.

Happy Easter!

Grazing Winter Rye

April 5, 2012

I planted winter rye after corn silage harvest last fall.  I spreaded the bedding pack manure from one hoop building evenly over the field, disced the field lightly, and planted a bushel of rye per acre with my drill.

It came up nicely and gave me a few days of grazing last fall.  The real beauty of winter rye is that it stays green all winter.  When the snow isn’t too deep, it’s nice to find a sea of green in a dead and dormant winter landscape.

Winter rye also takes off growing in the spring faster than anything.  It has an alleopathic effect, meaning it’s competitive with other plants.  A quick glance in the field found no weeds.

In the photo above you can see the cattle in the rye, kept in  with a single electric wire.  The field with the ATV is alfalfa/grass.  The dead area is where I concentrated the driving of machinery, keeping the compacted/damaged area in one place, rather than scattered throughout the fields.

In the photo below you can see the saying is true, “grass is greener etc,” even when it’s not.  I’m amazed at cows’ body knowledge.  They will reach under an electric fence, mere inches from being shocked, and rarely get shocked.