Monday, May 26, 2014

How do you take care of a new calf?

Calves on our farm are born out in the pasture.  We calve seasonally, which means all of them give birth in the spring and summer.  That way, they can have them outdoors while the weather is still nice for little calves.

Our second calf was born today!  After Kris picked her up, he took her to the calf barn to bed her down with lots of straw.  Then he got iodine to clean off her belly button.  

He then got colostrum from the mother in the milk parlor and poured it into a calf bottle.

Look at that foam!

While he warmed up the milk ...

He cleaned her belly button.

Then it was time to feed the sleepy calf.

After she was full, the boys helped take everything back into the milk room to wash up.

There are lots of bottles to wash when you have tons of calves ... the dishwasher is ready!  (I know people who enjoy washing dishes.  I'm not that person.  We're a big fan of the dishwasher.)

 Kris gets lots of help from our team and our boys ...

See the background?  All of them are pregnant!  We're ramping up for a busy calving season!  

 Quiz questions!  For extra fun, ask these of the person next to you who didn't just read this.

1. True or False.  When calves are born, farmers bed them down with hay.

2. What do farmers commonly use to clean calves' belly buttons?

3. In mammals, what is a mother's first milk called?

Scroll down for answers ...





If you answered 1. False (straw), 2. Iodine, and 3. Colostrum - congrats!  Come on over and help with some calves!  That dishwasher is nice, but everything around here isn't near as automatic.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The view

I know people have all sorts of views out their windows - oceans, mountains, spectacular sunsets - but I love our view of cows in the pasture.

We had so much rain last week that after we had the cows out, we had to put them back into the barn again for a few days.  It was so muddy out there that if they walked all over it, they'd completely ruin the pasture and it would be just a giant mud hole.  (Yes, they can do it that quickly!  Think Woodstock.)  So we put them back in again, it dried up enough, and they're back outside!

Now that it's spring there are a million things going on at once - we finally got our new mixer wagon delivered.  It's 50% bigger than the last one, so feeding all the cattle won't take as long.  We put in new cement and a new driveway on the calf barn.  Machines have been breaking - like always, and some have been returned, fixed.

But aside from all that, it's just nice to be out in the pasture again.  The cows and the boys agree.

Monday, May 12, 2014

First calf! And your chance to see more

The first calf of the year was born today!

She's early ... she was in a pasture by my parents' house so my mom saw her first and called Kris. He picked her up, cleaned her belly button, fed her colostrum, and bedded her down with tons of straw in the calf barn. He found her mother so we can start milking her tomorrow morning.

He came home to tell us and of course we all wanted to go to the barn to see her.

She was like most newborn calves - sleepy, all cuddled up, and cute.

She's the first one in the barn, and it seems huge ... just waiting for more calves!  Soon all 152 calf pens will be filled.  

As Kris' shirt says - Clinton County has a great event called 'Family Fun at the Farm.'  It's FREE and super entertaining.  On June 14, two farms (Cook Dairy Farm and Sonrise Farms) will host visitors.  You can see cows being milked, learn about grazing, feed a calf, and take part in many other activities!  

There aren't any tickets or anything - just show up.  You can find out more about it here.  Kris is volunteering at it, as are many other farmers, so you can get any of your questions answered.  

You're welcome here, you're welcome there - and if you're not close, just look at that calf picture.  151 more cuties to come!  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


We let the cows out on pasture today for the first time this spring - and it's a beautiful day.  They're always so excited ... they stampeded from the barn right out to the pasture as fast as they could go.


Friday, May 2, 2014

They're not fat, they're pregnant

Have you ever seen or slept in an antique bed?  Or gone into really old houses?

Before amazing nutrition and super grocery stores, people were shorter and smaller.

(In fact, when I was touring an old house - it may have been Monticello - we commented on how small the bed was, and the tour guide assured us that the bed was regular sized and it just looked short.  The entire tour group collectively called him a liar and told him our beds at home were WAY longer.  Since then I've slept in an 'antique' bed which is synonymous for 'sleeping diagonally to fit' bed.)

The same goes for our dairy parlor.  When it was built in the 1970s, our cows were smaller.  My family was milking Guernseys, which are a smaller breed.  Then my dad started breeding Guernseys to Holsteins, which still made them smaller than purebred Holsteins.  Many years of different crossbreeds later - now, we're milking Holsteins bred by Holsteins.  They're just a bigger cow.

Of course, they're even bigger when they're pregnant.  (Who isn't?  Oh, celebrities?  They don't count.)

This has caused a problem in our parlor.  We milk ten cows on a each side.  But when they're pregnant ... we can only fit in nine on a side.  They're just too big to fit!

Not only does this slow the milking down, but we want our cows to be comfortable.  So, yesterday and today we put in a new ... brisket rail.

Delightful, right?  The name of the rail is the same name as the part of the cow that you eat!  Did you already know where the brisket was located?  (I didn't.  But I was solid on the ribs.)

As with anything that happens in the parlor, it has to happen in between milkings.  So right as soon as the morning milking was done, the builders quickly did one side of the parlor, finishing just before the afternoon milking.  Today they're doing the other side of the parlor.

The red line shows where the new brisket rail will be.

The cows will now have more room and we'll be able to fit in ten on a side again.  Even the seven-months pregnant ones.  Their briskets will be comfortable, they'll eat to their hearts' content, and they'll sleep in beds that fit them.

And if any tour guides tell you that the cows aren't really bigger - you just think they are - feel free to point them to me.