Saturday, July 18, 2015

30 years later ...

My sister and brother are home to visit!  They live 12 and 16 hours away, respectively, and once a year we all get together for a week.

We've toured the farm, camped, gone canoeing, swam, and recreated this picture from 30 years ago!

We don't have even one brown and white calf so far this year, so we had to do with a Holstein.  My brother joked that we should use a cow so it looked like she had grown up too, but we went with a day-old calf instead.  

Speaking of calves, I wrote this article for U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.  You can see it on their site here:  Calf Care from Day One.

On our farm, taking care of our animals is the highest priority and it starts the moment a calf is born.

Our calves are born in the pasture during a three-month period in the summer and fall. During this time, we’re watching the cows to see who’s close to calving. If she needs help, we can pull the calf, but normally she has it unassisted.

After the calf is born, her mother licks her off to clean and stimulate her. When she’s ready, we take her to the calf barn, which we have specially designed for calf care. Each calf has her own individual pen.  We clean off her belly button, bed her down with straw, and feed her colostrum.

The barn itself has curtains, which we open and close depending on the weather. It is also fully ventilated with fans. We built it in a direction so that the natural breeze flows right through the barn, making sure it’s always nice and cool for the calves, the way they like it.

To ensure the calves are fed the correct amount, we mark the calves the first two times they're fed colostrum. It's really important that calves get colostrum right away, because it contains so many antibodies and we want them healthy from the get-go.

After a week, the calves start eating solids – grain – and drink water all day in addition to their milk. For eight weeks, they stay in their individual pens to make sure that they’re thriving. That way, we can monitor their health and make sure they’re getting all the food they need – and not worry about some bossier calf eating more than her share.

After eight weeks when the calves have received their individualized care and we’re sure they are thriving, we take out the panels in between them and put them in groups of eight. Calves like this, because they are social herd animals.

Like all our heifers, we plan on her being on our farm the rest of her long, healthy life. Starting as a baby, becoming a mother, giving lots of milk, and having a daughter that give lots of milk, we love taking care of them! For our male calves, since we own a dairy farm (and only females produce milk), we sell them to a farmer to raise them as steers. However, we do have about 20 bulls we buy from other farms who are responsible for all our little calves!

There’s all of this…but there are also calves born in the middle of the night, giving vaccinations, teaching them to drink from a bottle and a pail, hernias, stomach problems and constantly checking their manure. Really as a farmer, raising calves has many of the same glamorous details as raising babies. It’s all-encompassing, tiring and totally worth it.

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!

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