Tuesday, January 29, 2008
At 4 AM he has to put on his 100 layers of clothes and then head out to do his chores. There is nothing like going out to do chores in the dark in a wind chill factor of 2 degrees that makes you cringe. The first thing he does is split wood to start a fire in the barn. Cows give off heat, but when it is 5 degrees out they just don't give off enough heat. Then he goes and rounds up the herd. One nice thing when it is frozen out is that you don't have to do as much clean up work on the udders because they don't have any mud to lay in.
After milking he has to bundle back up and put out hay. This is a chore of 1-3 hours, depending on who all needs hay. The milking herd gets their alfalfa plus 2-3 bales of grass hay, then the herds up the road get a bale every 2-3 days, depending on how much they eat.
For one chore hubby has to wait until later on in the day when the sun, hopefully, has come out and warmed up the concrete in the holding corral in back of the barn. He always scrapes the manure off of the concrete, but when it's so cold everything freezes to the concrete.
And speaking of frozen cow pies, when I am riding the 4-wheeler in the fields to do graining and chop ice I have to avoid hitting cow pies, because a frozen cow pie doesn't moosh when you hit it; it can potentially tip you over. ha.
At about 4:30 PM after we have had supper, hubby bundles back up and does the evening milking.
This, of course, is a pretty simple version of daily winter chores because you never know what can happen and there are always the calves that come along. Calves that escape, neighbor horses that visit and get too close to the hay supply, cows that become ill, and of course winter means dehorning the younger heifers. A nasty job at best.
But the end of January means that there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel as far as seeing the end of winter coming. Just a few more weeks...
We are hanging in there until mid-March!
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Anyone who lives out in the sticks and has livestock can relate I am sure. Doing chores in winter is such a drag. Hubby bears the brunt of it, especially now since I have the baby to look after. But I try to do my part.
For starters you have to dress up like the Michelin man (he's this tire company's cartoon dude-all puffy and bulky looking) in about 100 layers of clothing, some of it insulated. I start off with just a t-shirt, then a pair of insulated coveralls, then a flocked hooded zippy sweater, then an old quilted chore coat. Then you finally add a pair of insulated boots, which weigh about a ton and give your legs a good workout. This process takes most of the morning and by the time you have the next-to-the-last layer on you realize that you have to go to the bathroom, so you go and then start the process all over again. When you are finally ready to go out you discover that the baby has untucked herself and you have to try to bend over and tuck her back into her carrier; not an easy task when you can only lean over a couple of inches before you are gasping for air due to the layers of clothing pinching you in half. Once you step out the door you waddle off to the barn to get started.
The past week the temps were in the single digits (Fahrenheit) and did not get above freezing for a few days. This means we add a chore to our list of duties; we have to chop ice on the ponds, a tedious chore to say the least. But I have found, as with most chores, there is always some way you can make it fun. You whack out a fairly good-sized chunk of ice and if you are really careful you can take the axe and flip it out onto the solid ice. Usually it will break into a couple of chunks. Then you take the axe, use it like a hockey stick and see how far you can punt the ice chunks across the frozen pond.
To be continued...baby is fussing.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
They are NOT mine by the way, but they are hilarious.
*If you decide to use the "shortcut" and just throw the pig manure out the window on to the pile instead of using the wheel barrow, make sure it's not the windiest day of the year.
*Never tell a child that yes, you COULD drink straight from a cow's teat.
*Never worm livestock with skin penetrating wormer such as Cydectin without gloves....the poison control will laugh their hind end off at you.
*Never look too close to a bulging bag of water from a birthing whatever, you might get a closer look than you think.
*Never ride a horse after drinking- while still in a cast from the last run-in you had with the same horse- the doctor will be angry.
*If you must gather eggs at night USE A LIGHT or risk having one of the eggs wrap itself around your wrist and halfway up your forearm when you grab it. This could lead to staving in the back of your head on the low overhead which in turn makes it very difficult to get out of the hen house to dispose of the snake on your arm.
*Never assume that city kids will know not to take broody eggs. Never assume that the eggs you're using to make pound cake are not broody eggs collected by a well-meaning youngster. Anyone else seen what happens when a half grown chick gets thrown into a Kitchenaid mixer at full speed?
*When visiting a dairy farm..do not stand behind the cows in the barn..especially when they lift their tails..it is impossible to remove all stains from your clothing..particularly when it comes from two cows at once.
*Don't stand behind a coughing cow either. There's no tail-lift warning.
*NEVER challenge a billy goat when you are on your hands and knees!!
And that is just a sample!
Bobbies: the bull calves we get rid of. (Thank you Donna, for this one)
dry cows: cows on vacation for a couple months until they come fresh
fresh cows: cows that have just had a calf
freemartin: a sterile heifer calf. These generally are the twin sister of a bull calf. We have had quite a few twins while I have been here, if the twins are a bull and a heifer we always sell them both because the freemartin isn't worth keeping to try and see if she will breed.
I haven't been able to get on the computer much lately due to patchy internet service and I haven't really had much time to think up anything amusing to post here. Bear with me...
Saturday, January 19, 2008
weaners: calves that have recently been weaned.
heifer: young female bovine, usually not bred, but we also use this term for a cow that has only had one calf as well.
open heifer: young, unbred, female bovine
in: in heat
springer: bred heifer whose udder is developing
springing: the verb or adjective to refer to a bred heifer that is developing an udder
three banger: a cow that only has three quarters of her udder functioning. Sometimes these can give more than a full-uddered cow
cull: a bovine reject...headed to your nearest fast food restaurant or supermarket meat counter...usually as hamburger.
I know there are more but the laundry is calling, the baby is squalling and it is hard to think anyway when it is only about 10 degess out.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
The big ones we needed are in the corral. It's always touch and go to see if they will go in.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Anyway. This title sounds dramatic but it was my first impression of what I saw in the dark. Thursday morning, it was still quite dark, I was out graining the weaner calves and came up short one in my head count-or tail count, if you will. I re-counted a couple of times because sometimes a small one will get between a couple of big ones and you can't tell, especially in the dark. But, no, there were only 10 calves eating in the feed bunk. So I went trucking through the lot to search for the missing one.
Looking for a missing beast is a job I abhore, especially a smaller calf. I always have this sick feeling in my gut because I never know what I will find. I went around the side of their shed and looked in with some trepidation, but it was empty, then I swung the flashlight around and saw the bizarrest thing; there was a calf suspended partway in mid-air. Her forelegs and head were a foot or so up from the ground. I thought for sure she was dead; she was hung there in the fence with her eye open and staring at me, but then I saw her blink.
Here was what happened. In the night the calves like to frolic around sometimes, or else they get spooked and run. Whichever it was, apparently this calf took a flying leap at the fence and got herself stuck in it. We have cow panels (these are large wire panels, about 4 feet tall with the wires forming about 4-inch squares) wired to metal posts that are driven into the ground. Somehow, in her flying leap, this calf got her left foreleg hooked into the panel about 2 feet from the ground and her head and right foreleg back between the panel and the post. It is hard to describe and make sense. Her head was actually all the way through...I mean it was her neck and rt foreleg that were pinned behind the post. She could just barely breathe.
So, juggling the flashlight and trying not to panic, I pushed on panels; no luck, they wouldn't budge. I unwired the top part and with some pushing and shoving I was able to get her out. She just lay there and breathed. I rubbed her legs a bit and left her to finish chores. Husband went out later and "pulled her ears" he said, and she got up. So far she is doing OK; kind of stiff, but getting around.
For the cake, use one box dark chocolate cake mix (or, if you prefer, a from-scratch equivalent) and bake in 3 round cake pans. (I baked them for only about 20 minutes.)
Let cool completely then level off the cakes.
8 oz cream cheese, softened. 1 packed cup brown sugar. Cream these together until smooth, then add 1 and 1 half cups thawed Cool Whip. Use this between each layer of the cake and smooth, smooth, smooth the edges. (This is what I did: I didn't know if this filling was just supposed to be used between the layers ONLY or to also FROST the outside of the cake so I put in extra whipped topping and frosted as well as filled the cake, because I am NOT good enough to make the filling really smooth on the edges.)
Then you put the cake in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
Melt 4 oz squares unsweetened baking chocolate (I used semisweet once, I don't think it matters too much) and mix well with 3 cups powdered sugar. Add boiling water a spoonful at a time to make a smooth glaze. Pour over cake.
Use extreme self-control and don't eat any until you can show it off! Ha.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Friday, January 4, 2008
Let’s begin with pricing and production.
We get paid per hundred weight; which means that for every hundred pounds we are paid so much. Back a few months ago we were only getting about $11 per lb (which husband says was about what he was getting 20 years ago when he started). That was when, I believe, retail milk was going for close to $3 a gallon. I think retail milk is in some places, close to, if not over, $4 p/ gal, but I am not sure since I don’t buy it and rarely ever price it. I believe at this point, since DFA (Dairy Farmers of America) has done some tweaking to the market, it has gone up a few dollars, but I am not sure exactly what it is as it tends to fluctuate. That what it was a couple months ago at least.
Every time the milk man picks up our milk (every other day) he takes a sample of it which goes to the lab to be tested for various things. We get a bonus or get docked money depending on our “counts.” The PI count is the bacteria count in the milk. That doesn’t allow us any bonus, but we don’t have any problems with that. (We go through a gallon of bleach in a bit less than a week, for cleaning the milking system and all.) Then there’s the somatic cell count; if it’s below a certain level you get bonus bucks. The SCC is just the count of the white blood cells in the milk. You just have to keep your herd healthy.
As far as production goes right now the girls are being fairly cooperative and are averaging around 2800 lbs of milk every other day. We get a bonus for higher milk fat content and they are also complying with that. I think the last test showed that milk fat was about 4.13%. I am trying to remember this off the top of my head, so don’t write this in granite.
Generally milk production slacks off in winter and in summer. The don’t produce as much in winter because there isn’t as much foraging and grazing available, but the milk fat goes way up because they are on expensive and rich alfalfa hay. (Nothing smells as good as alfalfa hay, but it makes their umm…”exhaust” from both ends smell funny. I can always tell when I go into the milk barn during milking when husband has started feeding them alfalfa.) During spring flush, when the grass starts growing, their production goes sky high (meaning that milk fat plummets), year before last they overflowed the milk tank a few times. We had to let quite a few gallons just go down the drain. I tried to collect as much as I could and make butter, but I only have so much time, energy and fridge space. In summer the girls get too hot and just hang out in the creek bottom in the shade and chew their cud, they hardly graze and so they don’t produce much milk at all.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
I wish I'd stayed this cute!
I have also realized that I have neglected to blog about the obvious; milk. On a dairy farm it's what brings in the green, as it were. So I shall discuss milk in my next blog.