Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Brief Excursion

I'm actually on vacation this week, it's my spring break from the Salt Mines.  FB and I loaded up all the dogs and went off on a small excursion this afternoon.  We went to a bit of state forest not far from here that neither of us had been to before.  There is a small lake and a portion of the Finger Lakes Trail runs through the area.

The dogs love exploring new trails.

All the little woodland wildflowers are in bloom.  A blurry Spring Beauty coming up right next to a Trout Lilly:

I think it is interesting that both the Meadow Mice up in Canada and Mulewings out in the Midwest (Michigan I think?) have posted photos of the same flowers in the same stages int he past few days.  Great minds think alike, right ladies?

These are the first Trillium I have found this year.

And the trout lilies, some people call them Dog Tooth Lilies, for obvious reasons....

It was only about 45 degrees and we had a hard frost last night, but that didn't stop my crazy water dog.

The Border Collie stare - squared...

Connor has grown up and filled out, but under all his fluff, he is still noting but hard muscle, whipcord and boundless enthusiasm.  He is growing into a very fine dog.

The Water Buffalo has not learned to swim yet, but she is thinking about it, especially when the Canada Geese taunt her just out of reach.  

There is nothing like a brief interlude on a sunny Spring Day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Modern Day Romance

One last set of twin lambs born tonight and lambing is done for the year.  It was a record year as all the ewes lambed this year.  The youngest ewe had a single lamb, but all the older ewes had twins, triplets and the one set of quads.  Sixteen lambs from seven ewes and all healthy - you can't ask for more than that.

The calf is doing great.  He is a big, vigorous calf who drinks down every drop of milk that comes his way.

Nearly all dairy calves are taken away from their mothers at birth. As long as they get enough colostrum and regular feedings, they generally do very well.  Calves are much easier to raise than an orphaned equine would be.

Dairy farms are in the business to make milk and the calves are a necessary by-product.  The heifer calves grow up to replace their mothers and the bull calves usually end up dead or as veal.  Veal calves live short, miserable lives and we want no part of that industry.  Actually, we want no part of any modern agri-business practices.

This calf will stay on the farm and be raised here.  When Shannon, the other Ayrshire milk cow, has her calf next month, we will try to get her to adopt this fellow as well so that he will have a mom and friends to play with.  As a purebred dairy cow, Shannon will produce far more milk than one calf can possibly consume.  If she does not have at least one more baby to feed, she will have to be milked out by hand or risk life-threatening mastitis.

This calf will be raised for beef, but he will never leave the farm, never be trucked to a feedlot and never be separated from his herd.  He will be raised on grass pasture and live as cows are meant to live.  His presence will be good for the soil he runs on, the plants he grazes and the farm he supports.  His manure will replenish the soil and never run into nearby streams.  He will live like a king for two years and then meet a quick, painless end without ever leaving his home or knowing a day of strife.

I know there will be people who are appalled at the idea of eating this beef, but we feel very strongly that it does not matter what you eat, it matters how that food was raised.  This applies to soy beans and tomatoes as much as to beef or lamb.

Jane is hanging out in the sheep pen for the moment.

Jane is very odd in that she won't have anything to do with her own calves and instead, gets fixated on Farm Buddy and acts as if FB is her calf.  Jane has been known to gallop through fences in an effort to get to her "calf" when she sees FB, so she is staying in until she settles down.

This is Jane's fixated, crack-head stare.  She is watching FB and mooing at her to come back.  Fortunately, there is a manger in front of her keeping her from trying to jump through he window.   She is thinking about it though.

Jane does settle down and she does becomes an excellent (if neurotic) milk cow, which is why FB keeps her.  Crack-head Jane is addicted to her oxytocin high and FB is addicted to dairy.  It is one of those awkward, co-dependent sort of relationship.  Truly, a modern day romance:)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Farmyard Obstetrics

My day started as it often does, with a call from Farm Buddy.  She was worried about Mable, this poor ewe...

Mable was acting like she was in labor, but FB wasn't sure how long it had been going on.  This led, inevitably, to our oft repeated conversation about how long to wait before interfering.  After much hemming and hawing, we decided to wait a bit more and see if Mable got on with the job without help.

Ten minutes later, I got another call - Mable had started to lamb and my help was not required.

Ten minutes after that, call number three, my help was definitely required.  Apparently inspired by all these lambs, Jane, FB's milk cow, had decided to unexpectedly have her calf several days early.  Jane is an excellent milk cow, enabling FB's dairy addiction.  However, she is a HORRIBLE mother.

Jane is perhaps the most neurotic cow I have ever met.  She is addicted to the oxytocin high she gets from being milked and will follow FB around nagging to be milked, but she is totally freaked out by the existence of her own calves. The only way to safely deal with her is to quickly separate mother and baby.  This is not the way we like to raise things around here, but, as FB wants the milk anyway, it works in this one instance.

Jane is also enormous, fast and extremely unpredictable during these times.  She had also managed to have her calf out in the mud with the rest of the herd all in a frenzy around her.  With the memory of my hay supplier friend who was killed last year by one of his mom-cows fresh in our memory, I headed over to the farm to help.

We got Jane captured and put into the barn with only  a minimal amount of drama and then initiated emergency calf-transport procedures...

We got this guy dried off and into a cozy spot in the barn...

...put Jane in the stall next to the pigs because even these monsters are no match for Jane.

Meanwhile, Mable had indeed gotten on with the job.

Since she had things well in hand, we got Jane milked out and transferred that milk, with its all important colostrum, into its proper container....

Sailing on her oxy high, and away from her space-alien baby, Jane calmed down and settled in to enjoy her molasses water and a big pile of second cutting hay.  To heck with babies, Jane knows what her priorities are.

Since all the maternity wards were full, poor Mable ended up having to share her delivery room.

Later on, after some more adjustments, she was moved to a private room free of bovine interference.

The calf has had two more bottles of milk today, crack-headed Jane is happy in her little world of oxytocin highs, free from terrifying calves, and the sheep are all content.  There is only one more ewe left to lamb and then no more babies expected until June when the rest of the cows calve.  That will be the end of the farmyard obstetrics for this year.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Lambs, lambs and more lambs

More lambies born today....

Rosa had a set of triplets this morning.  Fortunately, she had them mid-morning, when FB was around to help because she definitely needed help.  The first baby was backwards and trying to come out tail first.  FB got that sorted out and that baby was soon followed by a second.

Less than an hour old....

Rosa wasn't quite done though and baby number three was also backwards, stuck and needing help to arrive in the world.  

Mom was pretty tired after the delivery and needed some help getting up, but was soon back on her feet and doing well.  The ewes always get a bucket of warm water with molasses in it after giving birth.  The sugar and electrolytes in the molasses gives them a bit of a boost and the warm water helps relax and soothe all their shifted innards.  Rosa is a good mom and much enamored of her babies.  Two girls and a boy, the brown one is the boy.  Takes a bit after Ramsey:)

The quads are all doing well and are learning about the joys of the great outdoors.

There are three boys and one girl in this colorful group.  The mom here is Flora, who is a Tunis/Blue-faced Leicester/Border Cheviot cross (I think).  If I haven't gotten this completely muddled, the father is also a Border Cheviot.  It is interesting how all those scrambled genetics show up differently in each of these quadruplets.

This is the little ewe lamb, and she left today to be raised as a bottle baby, which will ensure that she gets enough milk and take some of the pressure off of Flora.

There was already a lot of squabbling over the milk bar.  Hopefully, this will allow the ewe lamb to grow up to be part of another flock and Flora will be able to manage with three babies instead of four.

Still 3 or 4 ewes to go before lambing is done for the year.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Soaking up Spring

We've been having some really beautiful, rare Spring weather.

Everyone wants to just wallow around in all the sunshine while simultaneously feeling the rush of Spring that is moving way too fast.  There is such a sort window of opportunity in the Spring to get everything done.  Just a brief few days when the green goes from nothing to overwhelming and you had better be ready or it will get way ahead of you for another whole year.

At least, that is how it is for us foolish humans.  Others of us know how to soak in the sun while the soaking is good.

For beekeepers, this brief window is a very critical time of year.  April is the starvation month for bees and often a time of heartbreak for beekeepers.  These few weeks when the weather warms, but before the dandelions come up and the pollen comes out, is when a hive is most likely to run out of their winter stores and starve to death.  Often just days before the nectar and pollen come out.  This is the time that you will see honey bees gathering grit off the sidewalks and dust off your birdseed in a desperate attempt to find food.

Dandelions are a beekeepers best friend.

I decided that I am going to try to have bees once more.  There is a young man who has taken up beekeeping just a few miles down the road and I have ordered two nucs from him.  If all goes well, they will be ready to come to the farm in June.  I am giving it one more try, but don't get too attached.
We are still waiting on the rest of the lambs to show up.  They are certainly taking their time, God knows why.  

Meanwhile, the wiser among us will continue soaking up Spring.