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Archive for May, 2006

Ready, Reado and Double

Posted by Mike on 30th May 2006

Friday started out with the job to move the herd to a new pasture. Everything seemed to go well. We were able to round up the cattle and get them to the lush grass. Cows and calves were counted as they went through the gate.  Trouble was, one calf was missing. It was one of the twins.  This is not the first time we had trouble with them.

Ready and Reado were born about a week earlier. I think that cows can’t count very well. Their mama (we call her Double) seemed to only recognize one at a time, although she accepted them both.  She is a strong cow with a good udder and able to nurse twins. Reado was the one who missed out, as Double walked off with Ready. Reado called for Double, but Double didn’t come as she already had her calf! It was now our job to get them all together. First, we caught Reado and brought him up to the corral and gave him some milk. He seemed to be a strong calf.  Then, we brought up Double and Ready to the corral for a couple days of bonding.  This worked out well and we let them loose.

The day of the move found Ready napping when the herd left.  It took us a couple hours to find him, as he was well-hidden. We thought that we could get him to walk to the new pasture, but a calf doesn’t understand such things. His instinct is to flee. He got around us and ran back toward the west fence, slipped through and was on the road.  Once again, we were trying to get him to walk to the new pasture.  Exhausted, we only got him halfway back before he got away again.

I should tell you that this particular pasture is about 100 acres with a lot of trees and ravines. It is rough territory to catch a calf. There are many ways a calf can get away and most of these ways wear out people. When Ready got away the second time, we decided to head back to the house and take a break.

A few hours later, three of us went back out in search of Ready. It took us about an hour to find him and this time we didn’t try to herd him.  Our strategy was to capture him. Ready was found in a ravine and the chase was on. Somehow we managed to keep him in the ravine, running up and down the sides, trying to get away from us.  After a couple near misses, I was able to catch him and wrestle him down. From here, we got him tied up and on a sled. We pulled him up and loaded him in the truck.  It’s back to the corral for Ready. He was tired and thirsty.

We gave him two quick bottles, which he eagerly drank down. He then looked at us in the strangest way. Somehow, he was trying to reconcile us chasing and catching him with the kindness of the milk.

It was back into the truck for Ready as we took him out to find Double and Reado. We located Double in the pasture and she started bellowing for her calf. Ready answered as we got him out of the truck. He went right over to his mama and started nursing! Reado came up too and now both calves were with their mama. It was a great feeling!

We drove off to head home after a long, exhausting day. Watching as we drove away, we could see Double, Ready, and Reado together as the sun set.

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Moving to the Farm

Posted by Mike on 16th May 2006

It has been way too long since I last wrote for my blog. We recently moved to a farm to caretake it for the out-of-town owner. Only God could make this arrangement for us, as this farm is right across the road from my land.

As I mentioned, we are caretaking the farm. It is a cattle operation with 78 cows, 27 calves (so far), and two bulls. My wife grew up on a farm, but the rest of my family (including me) are new to farming. We joked during the first few weeks that we were in farm boot camp!  All in all, it has been a great experience. With that said, we have learned some important lessons during the first six weeks!

Lesson #1. Don’t start too fast.  We started too fast, in that we acquired three bottle-fed lambs (and some cats) on moving day.  While the lambs have been a great experience, we started down the path of being overloaded when we got them.  For the lambs, we bought a milk goat named Millie so we would have milk for the lambs. While we were buying Millie, we also picked up a bottle-fed goat.

Lesson #2. You can judge livestock by the environment and people they come from. A week after we got Millie, we purchased a pair of boer goats for breeding.  We were thinking that we could raise meat goats to sell. The problem with these goats is that they don’t like to graze on the fresh spring grass.  All they like is their feed mix and hay.  I equate that to farm junk food.  These goats were raised in a pen and they never learned to like grass!  I should have known it was a mistake to buy these goats, as their owner raised puppies in cages.  All these dogs were frantic and barking at us while we were looking at the goats. In hindsight, that should have been a sign to avoid these goats.

Lesson #3. Have a truck that is up to the job. By now, we were ready to get a family cow. (This was one of our big dreams!) We contacted a dairyman that we met at the Iowa State Fair who milks Jersey cows to see if he had any to sell.  He did!  We arranged to buy Donna for a good price, as she had one quarter that wasn’t producing because of a bought with mastitis.  We also were to pick up another cow for someone else in our area.  I borrowed a trailer, but it turned out that my truck was not up to the challenge.  I ended up buying another truck along the way to pick up the cows.  While I am happy with the “new” truck, I would much rather have looked around more.

Lesson #4. Know when it is too much. With all of this activity: moving, farming, new animals, selling old home, etc., we have discovered that it is too much.  We have now made the decision to sell the lambs and goats.  We are only going to keep our dogs, chickens, and family cow.  We need to focus on learning and doing the best job of caretaking the farm we can.  The extra animals were taking time away from our main responsibilities.  We need to be ready and able before we expand.

I have so much more to write about, but these four lessons will have to suffice for now. Back to work!

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