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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"It's Fluffy Time!"

When you live on a dairy for very long the first thing you learn NOT to do is to name the critters. You never know when one is going to croak, or when you will have to get rid of them; either BEFORE they croak on you, or because they have some kind of problem.

However, there are times when a name or a nickname just happens. This one calf came along back when I first started my calfkeeping gig here. My husband went by her house one morning and said, "That calf in the last house is sure fat and fluffy looking." And that is how Fluffy got her name.

Fluffy just had her first calf this Monday. My husband was out there at 9 PM, stripped to the waist because he had to pull the calf. Fluffy was in no mood to cooperate, so it was quite the ordeal. He got her in the trailer, but she decided she didn't want to be messed with so she went after him and he had to climb the side of the trailer to get away from her. Anyway, he finally got a live heifer calf out of he. But she was so worked up she didn't want anything to do with it much. We left them together, but I thawed a jug of colostrum and fed the calf in the AM. It did seem really hungry.

That evening comes to milk her for the first time. I guess every dairyman's nightmare is having to deal with the new heifers. They are a pain. Fluffy was no different. She went round and round out in the holding lot before she came stumbling in. She kicked and bucked and put up a fuss. He put one of those over the back kick-stoppers on her. But we finally got her milked.

Her second milking: she didn't want to come in for that either. She did the same round and round game, plus she added a few bucks and full kicks in for good measure; I mean her heels were higher than her head. She pulled this just as she was going in the door. She slipped, skidded into the milking parlor on her belly, her head and one forefoot came out from under the stall bars.

There is nothing like the sight of 700 lbs of agitated muscle, hide and bone coming out at you to make your adrenaline skyrocket! Ha. But she righted herself and did OK, though she did kick a bit.

Then this morning, DH wants me to finish feeding calves so I can be there for: "Fluffy Time!" as he called it. Ha. Well, she did OK, believe it or not. There is nothing a bovine likes better than the promise of feed. Hopefully she will continue to do well.

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Insurance on the Dairy

For those of you who are self-employed I am sure you can relate to the whole insurance headache. My husband has a second part time job which insures us, but when our baby was born 7 months ago we decided to get her coverage from a different source. Then, since it worked so well, we decided to get it for me as well. Here is the abbreviated story on how THAT has gone:

The fun began in June of this year.

When he talked to the agent on phone to get a quote he, my Dear Husband, made me 2 inches taller than I am and got a quote for the Premium plan which was $236 p/mo. When I filled out the form I put my real height. Well, the agent calls back a couple days later and says when he turned the application in they had to adjust it because I am four pounds too fat for my height (well, he didn't say that, but that's what it comes down to; 4 lousy pounds) to qualify for the low rate Premium plan, and to keep it would be $262 p/ mo. DH didn't want that rate so he called in and said we wanted to change the plan to a gold plan, or some such I forget which. The agent says no problem, just ignore the letter that you will get here in a couple of days. OK.

So, we get the bill in July; it's for the $262 Premium plan still. I also get the insurance card for the Premium plan in the mail. Dear Husband calls the guy. “Oh,” says the agent, “I'll get back to you on it.” Never calls us back. So, DH calls the company and gets someone who says, “Oh you need to call this other number to change the plan over.” He calls it, gets someone who says, “Sure I'll get you set up, no problem, just ignore the bill and we will get something out to you in writing.” Nothing else came in.

August comes, along with the usual $262 premium bill. By this time DH is steamed. He calls again, gets someone who says, “I can fix that for you and the new rate is actually $197. No prob, just send in the $262 and we will apply it to this new rate and you won't owe anything.” Great!

Sept comes, along with the usual $262 bill. The very next day my new insurance card and a welcome to the $236 gold plan letter arrive. Two days later a bill for $472 comes, along with a letter saying we were 2 months behind on the $236 gold plan!! This was last week. (By this time even I, usually pretty contained about such things, am fed up.) DH called again and was again told it was all taken care of and that we only owe $10. I am not sure what happened to the $197 rate, but somewhere it disappeared.

This was enough to really send me into a daze, and the cows and calves had nothing to do with it. Ha. Until you are living the farm life you don't realize that the animals and the land and all won't be your only source of headache and worry.

Anyway, here's a pic of a cute calf to sweeten up this story.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Funny Calf

Here is another interesting calf we had last year, I believe.

This one was a bull, so we sold him, but he was funny. I think somewhere along the line he was missing a chromosome or two. My husband said the springs were just missing from his ears, but I think there was something more wrong.

He always had his tongue hanging out, though calves will do that off and on, but he was pretty consistent with it. Also his tail was kinked up. You can see that it is kind of short, but when I felt it some of the bones seemed fused.

Anyway, other than his appearance, he acted perfectly normal and the folks that buy our bull calves didn't seem concerned.

I am working on more halfway funny stuff to post but there's so much that I don't know where to start. Just keep tuning in.

Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Blind Calf Story

This happened last month. I thought it was an interesting case.

Wed Aug 15th 2007 8:30 AM: Went out and brought new heifer calf and cow in from field. Not too sure how old calf was; umbilical cord sort of dried up, but calf still seemed damp. Left her with cow all morning ‘til maybe early afternoon, then separated them. Beautiful, normal calf.

6 PM Fed calf bottle. She slugged back the whole thing.

Thurs Aug 16th5:15 AM (approx) Calf comatose. Or as near as I could tell. She was on her side, non-responsive, drooling, head on ground, eyes closed or just barely opened. I tried to feed her bottle but she only swallowed convulsively once or twice, then milk just drained from her mouth.

5:30 AM. Husband went out and looked at her. Drug her out of pen and out of the way to be taken to boneyard later after chores were all done. She was barely breathing and as I said, totally non-responsive.This was a real grief as the cow she came from is a great milker and to get a heifer from her was a joy. But...

12 noon on Thurs. I came home from town and was astonished to see her sitting up looking around.

7 PM. She was very weak, but stood up and drank her whole bottle.

By the next day: She is blind! It is so weird. The calf is totally blind. She seems strong enough, gets up, slurps down her whole bottle, but her eyes are white, clouded over like. (see photo)

For the next two weeks she is blind and we don't bother to put her in a pen. She continues to gain strength and wanders around now, but stays pretty close to the other calves. She does get up and come bumbling toward me when she hears me out feeding them. It is funny to watch her; she walks really cautiously with her head stretched out, when she bumps into something she turns and goes another direction; kind of like one of those windup toys that turn when they hit a wall.
Fast forward to Sept. She has regained her sight and except for a strange opacity about her pupils you can't tell her from the other calves.
My husband thinks it was a fever that made her blind. But it was weird.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Genetic Hiccup

Here's a break from my stories....

This is a photo of a calf born back in March of '05. The mom is a b/w Holstein and so was the bull. But both of her grandfathers were registered red Holsteins.
With some lack of originality I named her Red Rosie. She is in with the bull to breed now. We are anxious that all goes well with her. It will be interesting to see if she has a red or b/w calf.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Off the Wall

This takes longer to write and to read than it did to happen, but read on and laugh if you must!

It started off as a regular, normal morning. I went out and did the AM chores as usual and was doing the wash-up after milking; where I run wash and rinse waters through the hoses and milkers. My husband, who drives a bus for the grade school, had left to start the bus and warm it up (he keeps it parked up by his mom’s place) and to check on his mother. I was in the middle of finishing the bleach rinse cycle when I took the plug out of the vat so the water wouldn’t go back up the intake hose and the milking hoses would clear out. As I leaned over to do so I casually laid my hand on the porcelain sink that we use to wash our hands; it is right next to the clean up vats. To my everlasting astonishment the sink just fell off the wall.
Now, this is a large older porcelain sink and rather heavy. However, it didn’t go kablooie, it just kind of bowed slowly away from the wall, like it was genuflecting to the milk tank in the middle of the room. As it fell one of the water lines broke and water started gurgling everywhere. For one split second I stood there in amazement; then I realized that the vacuum pump was still running and I needed to shut it off. For some reason it never occurred to me to try and prop the sink up, it was still only halfway to the floor, but I had to turn the vacuum pump off before it burned out. So as I was turning that off the sink collapsed the rest of the way to the floor, breaking the other water line attached to it. *sigh*
At this point reason left me and while I madly looked for a shutoff valve with the water gurgling happily over my shoes I started hollering my husband’s name off and on, as if he could hear me ¼ mile up the road. I ran from shutoff valve to shutoff valve along the waterlines; but this one went to the stock tank in the holding corral, this other went to the water hose into the milking parlor…etc. No luck. So in my panic I grab up the cordless phone and try to call up to his mom’s to ask him what to do. (The water by this time was just cleaning the concrete floor and swirling happily down the drain.) In my panic, I couldn’t for the life of me seem to remember how to use the cordless phone; I had the phone to my ear with one hand and was waving the headset (which was attached to the phone) around with the other. I think I got a busy signal, which sent me off into another level of panic. I slapped that phone down and ran *pant pant pant* back into the milking parlor to the phone on the wall there. I pick it up and start to dial when to my utter and unbelieving frustration I hear on the phone the swishing sound of water. **ARGH!** I hadn’t hung up the cordless! I ran *pant pant pant* back into the other room, make myself calm down enough to remember how to use the cordless and find out there really IS a busy signal. Double **ARGH!!**
Finally, after a quick check to make sure the baby is OK, she was blissfully sleeping in her carrier, on a high spot of the floor, I go charging out of the barn up to the garage, jump on the 4-wheeler, and roar up the road and get my husband; interrupting him from his donut.
To make a long story short; by the end of the day all was fixed and there was a shutoff valve in the barn as well as in the well house. Ha!
But we still can’t figure out how the sink worked its way UP off the brackets on the wall.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Dairy Realities

Prior to my marrying a dairy farmer and moving to the dairy I was ignorant of the majority of happenings on one. I grew up in rural California where my father had a cow, but she was sold when I was about 5, so beyond the very basics I knew nothing about the day to day conditions or events of running of a dairy farm.. In downtown Portland, where I lived for 12 years before moving to Missouri, one doesn’t see many dairies beyond one called the Belmont Dairy which is actually a large grocery store with spendy lofts for rent on the upper story. There are many dairies in rural Oregon, but I was not fortunate to have visited any of them and picked up any practical knowledge. So once I became an adult what I learned about dairies I learned from the cow commercials I saw on TV when I visited my mom back in California; Holsteins are immaculate, live in lush, knee deep grassy fields, where the bulls yak companionably and the cows chit chat like a group of gals gossiping over a steaming latte.
Then, upon arrival into day to day dairy living I was introduced to the facts of real dairy farming, which I had suspected was more likely the truth; cows don’t care where or what they lay in, or what their tails get coated with, dairy bulls are more likely to maim than to converse and, while bovines are herd animals and like company, they are quick to form a pecking order in the herd and will abuse those who are lower on the totem pole than themselves.
In cow commercials one does not see the vermin; ticks, flies and other parasites that inhabit the dairy along with the bovines. Keeping the cows disease free is quite the never ending chore; a constant worry and headache for the farmer. Speaking of which, the dairy farmers are also conspicuously absent from said commercials, or if present, are never shown slogging around in ankle deep mud in spring or slipping on the ice and snow in 10 degree weather in winter.
Once past such things however there are certainly fun tradeoffs in dairy farming. For one thing you are your own boss; you may lead a rigorous life, but there is no one standing over your shoulder harping about customer service or productivity. There is a certain magic at 5 in the morning when the moon is full and the owls are querying into the early morning air. At 2 in the afternoon when it’s 105 degrees outside you can jolly well go take a dip in the river and there is none to say you nay. Oh, yes, the calves and their knock-kneed charm. There is no escaping the fact that the calves are the most exasperating and fun element of dairy farming. It is less than charming to get slobbered on by them, but watching their capers it is easy to fall under their spell of fun and carefree joy. I dont' want to ruin my blog on calves, so I will leave it at that.