Sunday, November 23, 2014

Little suckers

I am sure I have raised over three hundred bottle calves in my time.  There were a couple of years when over fifty of them passed through here.  I had two or three milk cows and, at that time, a bucket milker.  The cows would produce enough milk for half-a-dozen babies, so raising bobby calves gave me something to do with all that milk; I would milk the cows with the milking machine, pour the milk into a bucket, and pour it into half-gallon calf bottles.  If you wonder why I would have so many milk cows, my only answer is that I love Jersey cows, and honestly, back then, I loved milking them.  I especially loved keeping the calves healthy, which is tricky during the first couple of weeks after you acquire them.  They come to a new place with different germs than the ones on the farm where they were born, so their immune system gets a shock.  Scours is the number one problem, but if you get them through that first couple of weeks and do things right, there is no more problem.  

I enjoyed every part of raising calves:  feeding them, watching them learn to eat hay and calf starter (grain), watching them cavort and play, and seeing them grow like crazy.  I went for years with no bottle calves, but in the last few years, I've started raising one or two annually.  

And now for my newest observation about calves, just one of those things that shows you are never too old to learn.

This is the first time I've ever let bobby calves get their milk straight from the cow.  They only get about fifteen minutes with Grace, twice a day, so they don't really get to do a lot of sucking.  Probably not much more than they would get if they were on the bottle.  If you raise calves on a bottle and they are in a pen together, three out of four of them will suck on one another:  They'll suck on ears; navel; immature, almost non-existent, udders; and scrotums.  As soon as that bottle is empty, they look for something to use as a pacifier.  This is a real problem, because some of them will keep doing it when they are put with the herd and are liable to start nursing on a heifer that has never calved.  In the case of my cow Grace, she has one quarter that gives very little milk because a steer, unbeknownst to us, was nursing her while she was pregnant.  When I raised a lot of bobby calves, I housed them in calf hutches with separate pens, which prevented them from acquiring the sucking habit.  

I'm sure this is very boring to city folks, but I'm leading up to something.  Even though my current three calves get no more sucking time than my bottle calves did, they have not shown a desire to suck on anything but Grace's teat.  There is some sort of satisfaction calves get from actually nursing a cow that they don't get from a bottle.  

Things that make me go hmmmm.    

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Some things are worth paying for

Eight or ten years ago, my son, who had an AOL blog at the time, was talking about his XM subscription radio.  This was along about the time that Cliff's hearing really started to go downhill fast, and tinnitus interfered with his hearing even further.  I searched the Internet for cures for the ringing in his ears but found there were no remedies.  I saw it suggested that it might help a sufferer's state of mind to have background noise going, to overcome the noises in his head.  My son found a reasonably priced XM radio on Ebay and I surprised Cliff with it.  

At first Cliff thought I had done a very foolish thing (what's so special about a radio?), spending all that money on a radio that you have to pay a monthly, or yearly, fee to listen to.  But then he discovered Willie's Roadhouse, a station that played all the old 60's, 70's, and 80's country music he loved, and from then on, he agreed that radio was the best decision I ever made, ranked right up there with my insisting that he build his shop.  

I got notice today that our two-year subscription would automatically renew in January, and our credit card would be charged well over $300.  I'm pretty sure the price wasn't that high two years ago.  I went to the Sirus website (Sirius bought out XM a long time ago) and I saw their claim that costs have risen due to royalty costs.  I went to the shop and told Cliff it was over $150 a year, and he said, "Don't pay it.  That's too much."  

Then I remembered why we got the radio in the first place, and realized if you broke it down to the monthly cost, it worked out to $13 or $14 a month.  I asked him, "Is it worth $14 a month to you?"  

Yes, he answered.  So I came back inside and studied the website again.  There are three different plans that include music stations, and we had the middle package.  Cliff never listens to anything but Willie's Roadhouse, so I checked to see if the cheaper package included that station:  Indeed it did!  That got it down to $10 monthly.  

Cliff is much more hard of hearing than he was when we first got the radio, but he says the reason he so enjoys that station so much these days is that over the years of listening to it, he knows every word of every song they play.  So he doesn't have to hear each word or sound clearly to know what they are singing, and his mind just fills in the blanks.

I went back outside and informed him that I had renewed our subscription.  "As long as you can still hear at all," I told him, "we are going to keep that radio going."  

Perhaps you are thinking he could listen to Pandora, but remember, this is his shop.  There is no Internet in the shop.  Besides, some people are worth spending a little extra money on.