Friday, August 29, 2014

The herd

Starting about a year ago, we began having cattle problems.  I can truthfully say that, for the most part, the problems have all been cause by the fact that I don't pay as much attention to them as I should.  And honestly, after the deaths and mishaps that have happened, I care less about them.  When Crystal (the whiteface you see on the current header) recently lost her first calf because he was too big and she was too small, I made the remark, "I need to just sell them all."  

Crystal came around after calving and seemed to feel just fine.  Then another aggravation came up:  We discovered that Jethro, the five-month-old steer who we thought was weaned, was nursing Gracie, a heifer who has never had a calf or produced milk.  This could do damage to her udder.  In fact, it may already have done so, because who knows how long he had been doing this.  

We put a thing in his nose that has sharp, protruding metal pieces that will poke a cow when a calf nurses her, so she won't allow him access.  A month went by, and then the other day I went out to feed the cats and guess what?  He had learned to approach her so gently that she was still allowing him to nurse.  

We discussed what to do, and decided to take him to Cliff's brother's farm so he could become weaned.  Cliff tried to call his brother for three days, and for some reason he never answered or returned the calls.  On the third day, I said, "You know what?  I think we should haul him to the Kingsville sale, just get rid of him.  All we were going to do with him was butcher him, and Homer (the bull we bought at the same time as Jethro) can be butchered after he breeds our two cows."  

Sunday I saw my opportunity to shut him in the small lot, and hooked the chain onto a nail so the gate would stay closed.  We'd haul him off Monday.  

Every time I stepped out the front door and saw him, the thought would cross my mind that we really should sell Crystal, since we'd be making a trip anyway.  I even mentioned this to Cliff, then thought no more about it.  

Monday morning I got up and glanced out the window to see Crystal in the small lot with Jethro.  Somehow I guess she, or maybe one of the horses, had gotten the chain off the nail and pushed her way through the gate, which then closed behind her.

You don't have to hit me over the head.  We sold them both, and considering one is all dairy and one is half, the money wasn't bad.  So our herd is much smaller now.

Left to right, you have:  Homer, Penny, and Gracie.  

The million-dollar question is this:  Will Homer have the maturity and size five months from now to breed Gracie?  She is due October 19, and we would like her to be re-bred by the time her calf is three months old in January.  Homer will be eleven months old.  Penny is due May 2, so he should be ready for her.  I will be watching closely to see if the bull shows any signs of aggression, since Jersey bulls have a bad reputation.  If he can manage to breed both cows, we'll probably be ready for some hamburger at that time and will butcher him.

We do have a sweet deal with a local guy I contacted through Craigslist:  A cow comes in heat, we load her and go ten miles with her, leaving her to spend a night of passion with either a Red Angus or a Black Angus bull.  We hand the owner fifty bucks and we have a pregnant cow.  When I think about this I ask myself, what are we doing with a bull, anyhow?  

Priorities happen

Cliff and his brother are going to visit their Kansas brother today, so this is one of those extremely rare times when I’m on the place alone.  It’s hard to find time to blog when the baby is here on Monday through Thursday, since she is of the opinion that no adult should be handling a computer unless she is helping them.  So on days when she’s here, I use the IPad to communicate. By the way, I am writing this entry via Windows Live Writer, just to see how I like it. 

My garden has totally gone to weeds.


There are two reasons for this:  The obvious one, of course, is the baby, although if I had the energy of my youth, there are three days every week without her around, so that’s a pitiful excuse.  But it was much easier when I could just go out several times a day and pull weeds when I was in the mood.  I wouldn’t trade the joy that little girl brings us for all the fresh veggies in the county.  The other thing that happened was when, early on, some varmints were taking my tomatoes from the plants before they could even ripen, Cliff put a couple strands of barbed wire close to the ground.  This worked great to keep varmints out, but it also made it difficult for me to use my tiller.  The tiller is normally my main weapon against weeds.  Ironically, the tomato crop this year was doomed from the start.  The tomatoes developed some sort of disease that put black spots all over the fruits.  The hogs, may they rest in peace, got many buckets full of bad tomatoes, so at least it wasn’t a total waste.  I set out twelve plants and canned about seven quarts, I think.  They have, thank goodness, provided us with enough tomatoes for our table. 
The chicks have all survived.  I sold all but two of the older hens on Craigslist, knowing that the seven young pullets will be laying eggs this winter.  I’m seriously wishing there was someone close by who butchers chickens for a fee, because I really want to eat our young roosters when they’re big enough, but Cliff and I don’t have the best history of chicken-butchering. 


The father of the brood of thirteen chicks was a Buff Orpington, but the hens were a variety of breeds:  Aracauna, Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, and Rhode Island Red.  The Barred Rock/Orpington mix evidently has a sex-link sort of coloring:  That’s what those brown pullets on the left are, and so is the rooster on the right.  All the boys of that cross ended up looking a lot like pure Barred Rocks, but the coloring of the pullets really doesn’t resemble any breed!  I love their looks, by the way.  I think I have three of those pullets. 
OK, this entry is long enough.  Who knows, I may try to do another before the day I done.