Wednesday, May 5, 2010

General update: rain, compost, & cows

It’s a beautiful spring on the homestead. We’re keeping busy, of course. There are always more projects to do than it seems possible to get done.

There is still a lot of gardening to be done. We got in some early stuff a few weeks ago like potatoes, salad greens, onions, and peas. I’ve been waiting until May to put in the other things like tomatoes, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, etc. We had some much needed rain(three inches) a week and a half ago. This last weekend we received another 11 inches of rain, 8 of them during the day on Sunday. That was more than we needed in such a short period of time. We didn’t have any flooding here, but the small river in the local town flooded several places.

One of the blessings of the flooding in town has been a lot of extra composting material to be hauled from the sale barn. They were underwater, The pilefive or six feet deep in places, on Sunday. So, they’ve had to clean out everything. They called me yesterday morning to ask me to help haul away wet hay and manure. I hauled yesterday afternoon, all day today, and will be hauling more tomorrow. The guy who regularly hauls off their manure and bedding brought out several loads today, too. So far, I’ve put together a nice little compost pile.

On April 28 Josey, our Guernsey, had a calf. She was due to freshen by the end of April, but she just didn’t look pregnant. Smokey the calfEven though she hadn’t been in heat, I began to wonder if she was actually going to have a calf. She had a little bull calf. We let it nurse for the first 2 or 3 days and then took it off to bottle feed it. It still gets milk from Josey, not milk replacer. I would have left him with Josey, but I don’t want weaning problems later on. She never weaned her last calf, and he was 20 months old when we butchered him. Ramiah named the new calf Smokey.

I also finally got the cows out of the barn and back on grass this week, Monday evening actually. I was regularly cutting them fresh grass to eat every day for a while while they were still in the barn. One of the things that made it so late for getting them out was preparing the milking shed. I don’t want them coming back to the barn to be milked. It’s too far from their pasture and creates other problems because I need to be able to drive where the fence would need to go. Stanchion in milk shed

I had already built a shed to use as a milking shed a couple of years ago, but I had never put it to that use except for a brief period of time last summer. I’ve fenced in a small area to hold them at milking time and constructed a milk stanchion. It’s worked pretty well so far this week.

One of the things I’m doing this summer is rotating the cows onto new grass each day. In fact, my goal is to rotate them twice a day. Since I have to milk them twice a day, I will bring them into the loafing area, milk them, and then put them in a new paddock. I’m going to make use of fenced corridors from which they’ll access paddocks I’ll fence off. While they were in the barn, I fed them hay twice a day, morning and evening. It seems to make sense to give them fresh grass to each on the same schedule, kind of like green hay still on the plant.

One of the challenges for me in terms of intensive rotational grazing has been water. This summer I’m going to haul water from the pond in a tank to fill a trough for the cows. Their water trough will be in the corridor so that I don’t have to move it and so that they will have access to it.Today's paddock

So far, Josey, Tilly, and Buster (our beef steer) have been on four different paddocks. You can see how they grazed today’s paddock (photo to the left). Happy cowsThey were happy to have fresh grass this evening. Moving them twice a day won’t create much more work than moving them once a day since I have to bring them in for milking anyway. I’m hoping that it’ll work out well.



Is that a Dutch Belted cow I see there?


Supposedly, he's 3/4 Belted Galloway. His mama was 1/2 Angus and his papa was full red Belted Galloway. A friend gave him to us to raise for meat.

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