Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day!  From our herd to yours.


A couple of weeks ago Allison from Michigan Milk Producers Association came out to take pictures of cattle in the pasture for an article, and she also suggested that my boys pose for the picture above. Believe it or not, they're used to having their picture taken ...

We have 79 heifer calves going into the holiday, including another set of heifer twins!  One side of the barn is completely filled, and now we've started on the other one.


The oldest have ear tags now, which have their number and birth dates.  Isn't she pretty?

If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me! 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Calf explosion

                                     

As the calves keep on coming, the harvest is happening too.

Juuust in between the rain storms, Kris and the guys managed to cut, chop, and pile up the second cutting of alfalfa.  Then the guys (and the little guys) put tires on the pile.

The first calves were born on June 8, and since then we now have 60 heifers.  We've had about the same amount of bulls, but we sell them twice a week to a farmer who raises them as steers.

So all day long, every day, there are pastures to check.  Cows to check on.  Calves to take care of, take into the barn, feed colostrum, and feed water.  The calves get fed milk twice a day, eat grain at a week old, and drink free choice water all day long.

We have a girl working for us who is going to vet school in the fall.  She has a lot of experience on farms, but Kris said he showed her a trick my dad taught him ...

Sometimes you are in a place where you have to help a cow calve by pulling her calf.  Usually you use calf pulling chains.  You put the chains around the calf's front feet and pull it out.

If he was in a pasture far from the chains (admittedly we own four of them, but it happens if you're not in the truck) my dad would take off his belt, loop it around the calves' hooves, and use that to pull a calf.

My dad taught Kris, Kris taught the employees, and everyone uses it as a backup.  Kris and Josh both did it last week.  (Nice, solid belt material!)

When people talk about a belt-and-suspenders solution, I always think of this belt use.  No one around here wears suspenders, but I'm sure - if necessary - they could be fashioned into a calf-puller too.

If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me! 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fathers


Happy Father's Day to the 20 bulls who are responsible for all our calves - and the guy who's taking care of them and us.

Kris worked all day with the calves - wow, there are so many, sometimes I lose count.  We've had nine or more a day for the last three days in a row.  MANY.  Here we are on the last check of the night when we picked up a bull and a heifer.


Here's the bull, just starting to stand:


And of course, Happy Father's Day to our dairy farmer dads!  My dad was helping Kris just this morning, plus in this older picture -


There's also a good chance that Ty might look a little like his Grandpa Wardin.


We've had great examples.  Thanks!

If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me! 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Crop talk



With all the excitement of calves on the farm, we're also always keeping an eye on the crops.

So is everyone.  Brownfield Ag News does a report called Cab Conversations where they interview farmers from across the country.  In this episode, it's Meghan Grebner interviewing Zach Hunnicutt from Nebraska, Theresia Gillie from Minnesota, and me.

Meghan sends us a link and we all use our laptops to be videoed together on Google Chat.  I know I've been using Skype and similar video chats for a long time ... but I am always impressed by the technology!  Really, I have terrible internet service.  (It's due to where we live.  We keep trying to get another internet service.  Three separate times, companies have come here with the intent to sell to us, test our connection, and tell us they're sorry - using the same tone that you would use to console someone about a death in the family.)  So you can hear my voice, but visually in parts you get the impression I'm underwater.  But it keeps improving and I'm confident that SOMEDAY we will have a better internet connection.

The trade off is ... I just walked outside to see one of my most favorite sights in the entire world.  In summer right after dark, the fireflies along the creek are simply stunning.  From the ground to the tips of the trees, they light up the entire creek bank.  I can't get enough of it.

The heifers were in the pasture right behind me, and one of them kept mooing louder and louder.  She couldn't see me because it was so dark, but she must have heard me or smelled me.    Finally I said, "It's just me."  That really sent her off and she sprinted back and forth along the fence, still mooing.

So, you know.  What we lack in internet we gain in outdoor entertainment. Here's to summer!

You can watch the interview here:  Cab Conversations: Get Growing No. 8
If you want to be able to fast forward, go to this link to watch it on YouTube.

My previous episode is here:  Cab Conversations: Get Growing No. 4
Go here to watch it on YouTube.


If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me! 

Friday, June 19, 2015

We were waiting ...

Kris' weightlifting routine

Every time you turn around, there's another calf.  We have 16 heifers in the barn at my last count! We have a lot of bulls too, but we sell them twice a week to a steer raising farm.

We're always trying to do a better job on our farm, and one of the processes we're trying to improve is our fresh cow protocol.  Fresh cows - which are what you call cows that have just given birth and are lactating - are in a more vulnerable state.  Of course, we've always monitored their health, but now we're doing even more.

For instance, we're now checking each of them for ketosis.  Ketosis is a metabolic disorder that happens when energy demands (like milk production) exceeds energy intake.  Ketotic cows often have low blood sugar.  How do you check cows for ketosis?  They have to pee on a test strip.

Sometimes it happens right away, but sometimes it takes awhile to get her to urinate.

It's hard to make plans in the summer that require us to be on time.  Saying, "We were waiting for the fresh cow to urinate," never sounds right at a party.



If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me! 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

More twins, more calves - all heifers!



A six-heifer day!  But with all these births ... it's still really hard to see a calf being born.  Seeing them moments after birth is easy.  But watching a birth is difficult.

We watched a cow who was in labor for awhile, but she didn't seem very close.  We walked away, and a few minutes later she had twin heifers.  Hooray!

A cow was very close to the road, so the boys and I went to try to see her give birth.


She was not happy.  She did NOT like us being there.  Plus, since the cows are always very curious, this is mostly what I could see.  A crowd was blocking her.


When I say curious, I mean super curious.  Even though they see me all the time, they still like to taste and smell me.  There's a lot of protecting my camera from this:


She got mad at the commotion we were causing and stomped off far away across the pasture.  I felt like I was badgering her, so I let her go.  She obviously wanted her privacy (most cows do - they like to go off alone from other cows, even) and I didn't want to distract her.

After awhile, in between feeding calves, Kris and I were watching her and he went closer.  He said she didn't look like she was pushing with enough energy, so he helped her by pulling out the calf.  I felt like this was my fault, because she was distracted and had to use her energy to walk away from me.  (Note - be sneakier.  Perhaps don't bring along three small boys to surreptitiously watch a skittish cow give birth.)  Here he is pulling out the calf:


As he left her to lick off her calf, her friends quickly closed in to watch:


The boys got to help for the first time this year with calf chores.  It is honestly one of their greatest joys.  The bedding down with straw:


The umbilical cord in Kris' hand:


The iodine he uses to clean the belly button area:


The boys marking the calves after they're fed colostrum:






And feeding! Three methods here.  The standing up when you're bigger than the calf, the helping when you're smaller, and the trying-to-coax-to-drink when the calf is very young.




My son asked if they could come every night to help with calf chores, and we assured them we'd come as often as we could and someday they can do them ALL BY THEMSELVES.

Maybe they'll even get good at pulling calves.  They'll have to ... with the sheer volume of our group, we're never going to be able to sneak up on them.  


If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me! 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Calves are here!


It was early Monday morning and Kris drove up.  He said, "Do you want to see them?  Twins!"


We were excited, because it meant calving - the most exciting and busiest time of the year - was starting.  These were a boy/girl twin set, which means that 95% of the time, the female is infertile. She's called a freemartin.  

This is why - when the boy/girl twins are in the mother's uterus, the antigens between them mix.  As a result, they develop characteristics of the other gender.  So a freemartin is genetically female, but due to her male characteristics, she cannot reproduce and will never give milk.

We keep only the females and sell the males to be raised as steers.  

Late last night after the boys' baseball game, Kris went out to get another calf - another little bull.

Then this morning, our heifer was born!

It's humid, warm, and not a bad day to be born.  We went down to visit her in the barn and she was standing up.  She was shaky, like most calves who are learning to walk.  Soon after we got there, she laid down and curled up to sleep.


Cute, right?  She is marked with pink not because she's a girl, but because we mark the calves the first two times they're fed colostrum to make sure they get the correct amount.  It's really important that calves get colostrum right away, because it contains so many antibodies.  We want them healthy from the get-go!

Like all our heifers, we plan on her being here on our farm for the rest of her long, healthy life.  Start as babies, become mothers, give lots of milk, and have daughters that give lots of milk!

It's going to be all calves, all the time from here on out.  If you'd like to visit, please stop by ... but only if you think newborn calves are cute.  Oh, wait, that's everyone.



If you want to know more, you can like my farm page on Facebookfollow @carlashelley on twitter, or get the posts sent to your email by filling out the form on the right. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!