At Pleasant Meadow Creamery, being in a western state, we learned long ago that a Wade Rain Wheel line is absolutely necessary to have green grazing 5 or six months per year.
Prior to getting wheel lines, we would have the fields dry out in early August, and our solo cow would already be looking for hay.
We therefore sought to install an irrigation system. It involved building a dam on the creek and irrigating from the creek. This worked to water one pasture, with one wheel line, but only barely because we would draw the creek down after just two or three hours irrigating and we would have to shut down for ten hours to recharge.
Finally, we sunk real money into putting in an irrigation well. To drill and develop the well (which we developed ourselves) cost over $24,000. It was worth it though, as we now have an irrigation system that can water 45 acres and run 24 hours per day 7 days per week week in and week out.
In a normal year, the system runs either 44 or 55 days, depending on whether we do five runs across the fields or four. This summer is a four pass summer thanks to rains as late as July 8. It has been dry dry dry since then, but not on our fields. Every 11 days, we put down about 2.5 inches of water.
Without giving us much in the way of notice, Darci calved yesterday evening at around sunset or before. This is a second calf for her. She had a bull.
Normally, cows give us some advance notice, besides what the calendar is telling us, about their impending calving. Their udders will fill. Their tail heads will show more due to relaxed ligaments. They’ll get fidgety and go through a “nesting” phase.
Darci didn’t do any of these things, other than that her tail head looked a bit more pronounced days ago.
Yesterday eve, with the heifer and dry cow group out all day grazing, I asked our milking guy toward evening if he had checked Darci the night before when he went to bed. He said, “Yes. She was looking strange and scratching herself among the trees while all the others in the group were around the barn laying down.”
The minute I heard this, I knew that was likely a 24 hour sign. I immediately grabbed my headlamp and went walking to see if she was at the barn. When I got there, everyone was there but her and her sister. Uh oh.
I headed to the field. I first walked to the north line, then west, then south along the western perimeter. The grass on that side is still kind of tall, so I use my flashlight to look for glowing eyes. Deer reflect back as greenish, and there were a few sets of those. Finally, my light caught on golden eyes low in the grass at the corner of that pasture. Golden eyes tend to be bovine eyes.
As I approached, I could see it was Darci laying down. I asked her, “are you in labor?” No sooner were the words out of my mouth when I looked a few feet away and there was a bull calf laying, already dry.
Such a bad farmer I am! No farmer should flat out miss the calving, yet it does happen. If she had needed help, I might have been too late to do any good for the calf. As it turns out, all was well.
She got up, and I noticed her sister, Dorothy, a 16 month old unbred heifer standing in the grass about 50 feet away. The little boy made a good effort to get up too, and pretty much succeeded.
Normally, we like to get at least 3 pints of colostrum in them within 45 minutes of birth. They never are capable of doing that on their own, boy or girl (the boys are usually slower).
I guessed he had been out maybe at least an hour or hour and a half. So, I went home and grabbed a wheelbarrow. We use the big blue ones with double wheels, put a little hay in it as a bed and headed back out with my daughter in tow to retrieve the boy and the cow.
I loaded him up and started hauling him in back. We tried to make sure Darci smelled that he was in the barrow, but she didn’t do it and kept trying to go back to his last known location. Finally, we got her to pick up his scent in the barrow and then she followed us calling to him.
I had Amber (daughter) get hold the wheel line sprinkler steady so we could pass by the irrigation, over the 4 inch hose, through the field gate and on to the maternity pen.
The boy was fully mobile right out of the barrow. Darci got water – a full 5 gallons – always a requirement after calving. The cows can be depended on to suck it all down. I then gave her hay and managed to get her to stand still enough for me to hand milk half a gallon into a calf bottle and immediately feed the boy. He sucked it down, and off we went to bed. Darci was already contracting to expel the placenta.
This is a model calving, besides my inattentiveness. Most go something similar to this, but not all. In fact, the last calving we had, about two weeks ago to the day, was what is called a “three Amishman pull” at 3:30 in the morning. That is another story for another post.
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September 7 – Labor Day – 2020 has brought us a severe windstorm with power outage in the AM hours that has seemingly knocked out power everywhere in our area.
All our South stores are empty shelves and will be until tomorrow.
We also lost one of our last remaining aspens – snapped off halfway up – that hasn’t been lost in prior storms, a spruce tree in the heifer pen, roots and all, and lots of branches.
We were just getting set for bottling when the storm and all its dust hit. We made the immediate decision not to do that, which was a good move since the power started flickering and then went off. We switched to backup generator, but it has limitations on running the place and we have to meter what we run and where.
One day, we’ll put in a big diesel generator, but we’re not there yet from a financial standpoint as far as cost/benefit analysis and payback. Cost to put in a brand new one is over $11,000. Of course, we have had multiple big storms in the last 24 months with at least one day outages if not more.
So, we meter milking, milk cooling, running our backup well versus the high capacity deep well, and irrigation is off completely until the grid is back. Fortunately the wheel lines had water in them and have held position without getting blown – a significant proposition since they are both mid-field and not staked down.
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In fact, this will allow us to put out better content!
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