Sunday, February 27, 2011

If it isn't one thing, it's another . . .

The chickens are laying well.  I'm buying a little less feed now that the snow is melting and they can forage more efficiently.

Pricey is doing quit well.  She is spending the days outside now, back in the barn at night.

I am a bit worried about Essie Mae.  She was born on Easter Sunday in the spring of 2009.  She is a beautiful heifer, perfectly shaped, and well behaved.  I'm afraid I should have separated her from the bull calf she was raised with.  Who knew that he was fertile?  Essie's udder is beginning to fill.  She can't be more than two or three week from freshening.  That means she will only be 23 months old when calving for the first time.  That's a little young.  The only thing that makes me think she will be okay is that Jack is obviously the sire, and he is small.  He has since gone to another herd for breeding.  All of the calves last year were out of Sam, the Guernsey bull.  But I am 99% sure that Essie was bred by Jack, not Sam.

The weather is not good.  I sure hope she waits at least another week or two.  Maybe the weather will be more consistently warm, 

I can only hope for the best, that she puts off freshening for a month, and that she doesn't have trouble giving birth because of her size. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Things are looking better.

Pricey is doing so well that she is going outside throughout the day, since this whole week is expected to have highs in the 40s.  She is out with the rest of the animals today. 

She will come back in the barn tonight for her feed, then will be locked up in the nurse pen for the night.  Tomorrow she will go back outside for the daylight hours.

I am thankful that she is doing so well, and hopeful that this is a nutritional problem, not a neurological problem.  The vet has all but told us that it isn't neurological, since she would have been getting steadily worse no matter how well we fed her.

She is bright eyed, almost never lies down, and is walking without a limp.  I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Update on the Guernseys

Well, Pricey is hanging in there.  She is eating voraciously, and I am starting to hold out some hope that it is nutritional, and not the feared neurological disorder, which would be fatal.

Skipper is just about over her bout of mastitis.

Both girls had foot problems, and they are clearing up.  Skipper is getting extra nutrients as well, each girl getting about four pounds of high protein calf starter with lots of molasses every day.  We will ramp it up to ten pounds over the next few weeks.  They get biotin on their feed as well.  It is good for hoof health, and hopefully their feet will stay healed.

Pricey and Skipper are big, raw boned girls, and they just couldn't live on the diet of grass and hay that our cows get.  They lived on a cement floor before they came to our farm, indoors nearly all of the time, and got plenty of grain.  They gave a lot of milk when they lived that way, but feeding grain definitely degrades the nutritional value of the milk.  Conjugated linoleic acids drop by about 80% when a cow is fed grain.  Cows are, after all, ruminants, and it is unnatural to feed grain.

There is something to be said for raising cows the way we do.  They are tough.  And while they never give the copious amounts of milk that "factory" cows do, they give a fair amount on just hay and grass.  And our vet bills are just about nil.  I've spent more on veterinary bills and medicine on these two Guernseys in five months than I have on the rest of the herd in the past three years.  Yup, they are tough.

We are awaiting the births of Lucky's and Smarty Pants's calves. Their births will be cause for celebration.

So much joy and so much sadness here on the farm . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sad news . . .

Last fall we purchased two new cows, Skipper and Pricey - registered Guernseys, the breed that pretty much guarantees you will get A2 milk, a type of milk that is supposedly better for our immune systems, especially for diabetes, heart trouble and cancer.

These are huge cows!  They are both bigger than our Guernsey bull Sam.  They came from a herd that was raised on cement and ate grain.  We threw them into our grass and hay fed herd and they had to get used to living outside.

It hasn't been easy for them.  Their milk production plummeted, and we didn't get the extra milk we expected to get over the winter months.  One of them was still pregnant when she arrived, and her calf died during birth.  The other limped a lot.  The vet said that they would be fine after a year on our place.  We feed our animals well, and we offer them free choice minerals.

They have not been doing well.  Pricey's limp has gotten worse and worse.  Skipper has developed a bad case of mastitis that required medical treatment, something that has never happened with our "mongrel" herd of outdoor cows.  Our vet is good, but he does have a tendency not to come out until he is sure we REALLY have a problem.  I do not call him for nothing.  Yesterday I insisted he come out to check on Pricey's limp.  It is getting worse, not better, and there is swelling in her ankle.

It is bad news.  If it is neurological, which he suspicions, then Pricey has a very short time to live.  I have come to love her, as I love them all.  This is so hard for me to accept.  He said there is a slim chance that it is just nutritional, and so I came back from the feed mill armed with special feed and vitamins.  We are drying her up, as lactating is just adding to her stress.  She got four pounds of feed topped with Biotin last night, and we will work her up to 10 pounds of feed per day.  She is living in the barn where she is protected from the elements - she was a "hot house" cow, and she just can't take the snow and ice.

The vet said to watch her, to keep her from going down.  We were gratified that she stood immediately to get at her hay.  Last night she hungrily chomped down the high protein feed that the vet recommended.  She was still standing when I left, eating up the last bits of hay.  I am about to go out and check her this morning to make sure she has plenty of water and hay, and then give her another helping of grain with Biotin.  I will also give Skipper some grain, even though our herd is strictly grass fed.  The vet says these were high production cows that will not do well on the grass and hay diet here. 

In the past, we brought in two cows from a grain fed herd.  Eventually we sold one, as she didn't do well on grass, but the other one has adapted quite well.  I was optimistic that our two new girls would eventually fit in, but it appears that it is not going to happen.

We do not do grain.  It is one of the selling points of our herd share program.  We will be selling Skipper as soon as she is feeling better.  I hope that we are also selling Pricey, and not burying her.  All we can do is hope that it is nutritional, load her up with grain and vitamins, and find a home for her where they do not mind having a grain fed milk cow.

I hope I have good news about Pricey in the days to come, but in the end, what will be will be.

Friday, February 11, 2011


This has been a rough winter!  Until yesterday, in spite of the snow we have been spared really cold weather, having dipped below zero maybe a couple of times.   Not so two years ago.  In January of 2009, I went out to milk at 2:00 pm and the temperature was -4º two days running.  That was our high for both days.  My digital weather station wouldn't even record the low - it stops at -21º.  I thought it was broken, looked in the troubleshooting section of the book and found that at -22º, it says something like, "Rebuild the fire and go back to bed.  You don't want to know!"  My neighbor told me the bank thermometer said -26º.  I'll take her word for it. 

Yesterday morning, predicted low was -4º, something like that, but it was -12º when I first looked, at about 6 am.  I had to go into market early.  By then it was -13.6º, and being that it was already 7:30, I thought that was it.  However, when I got back in the house later in the day, I flipped through the low and high temperatures for the day and found that at about 8:30, it recorded -15.2º.  Okay, so that isn't -26º, but frankly, it's cold!  I left market early, and it was a good thing.  Everything was frozen up in the milk room.  Kayla had made a valiant effort to get things working again, but when it finally let loose, it blew off a faucet on the hand sink that had been giving us trouble, and hot water was shooting everywhere in the milk room!

Kayla hauled buckets of water by hand so that calves and cows had at least a little water, and we dug out a set of faucets that came with our new sink.  We never used them because we found out they were "low flow," which is not what the milkers want when they are cleaning up after milking, so we put the old faucets back on and put the new ones in the old barn.  They came in very handy yesterday, and now the hand sink has a new set of "low flow" faucets - and with a sprayer no less!

The chickens, however, proved the point that the temperature has absolutely nothing to do with how many eggs they lay.  I have a light turning on automatically at 6 am and turning off at 8 pm, so they are experiencing a 14 hour day now.  After one week, their production had crept up from four or five eggs a day to 18 or so.  Yesterday, they hit 28, a new record!  And the high temp for the day was about 7º.  Yup, all they care about is daylight.  Cold is meaningless. 

Well, I'm working on income tax.  I have digressed from the task at hand long enough.  Back to work!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

More pictures - wild birds

The birds are flocking to my feeders this year.  All of this snow!  I'm sure it is slim pickings for them as well as the deer.  There is always some spillage out by the Moop, and the birds are there cleaning up.  In addition, both of my feeders are getting cleaned out about every three days, much faster than usual.

I keep snapping pictures.  The cardinals are so beautiful - those flashes of red!  And there are blue jays, of course, the pigs!  And fat chickadees.  I haven't been able to snap a picture of the woodpecker yet.  He is a big one!  I think it is a pilleated woodpecker.  Hoping to get a photo of him to pass on, but he is fleeting.  I've also seen some red-bellied woodpeckers, but they are pretty hard to capture with the camera.

Here are the best of the pics I've gotten this week.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Deer in the garden . . .

Thought you might enjoy these pictures.  I have never seen so many deer this close to the house.  I'm sure they are hungry.  There is a foot of snow on the ground, not good for foraging.  You will notice that in one of the pics, they are inside the garden fence, which has been broken down by cows, so it is really no barrier.  We will fix it before starting to plant in the spring.

Gardening is not far away now, but I wish it was tomorrow.  I am really getting pretty sick of winter.  Last Tuesday and Wednesday, we got about a foot of heavy snow, with a little sleet mixed in.  I've lived here for nine years and have never been snowed in - until now.  The milker couldn't get here on Wednesday, so I had to haul my old body out there and milk on Wednesday.  My muscles aren't used to it anymore, and I used a good bit of pain cream when I went to bed!

No way to get to Purple Porch with my wares.  My neighbor, bless him, finally made it in with his four-wheel drive and blade while I was finishing up the milking, but it was far too late for the trip into town.  Before he had completely finished it, the blade broke, due to the heaviness of the snow.  I've never seen anything like it.  We are used to the powdery lake-effect snow off Lake Michigan.  I usually plow through it with my Prius, no problem.  Not this time!

So here are the pictures.  They are beautiful, aren't they?