Wyebrook Dispatch

Category Archives: Cows

WINTER MARKETS

WINTER MARKETS

The cows and calves have stopped their balling and everyone seems perfectly content with their new found freedom. It took exactly 3 days, just like Ryan said it would. All is quiet on the farm once again.

Lauren and I headed to the farmers’ market for the first time in two weeks! They didn’t have a market last week because of Thanksgiving and the weekend before I was out of town and Wyebrook went to a holiday market in the city instead of Malvern. We were glad to be back and so were our customers. However, it was cold. Really, really cold. And we had this misfortune of setting up in a shady wind tunnel. This only made matters worse. Lisa and Donna, the market coordinators, took pity on us and helped us relocate inside the pavilion which was ever so slightly warmer.

Our customers clearly have not read my post about what not to say to someone who works outside. “Stay warm” is not a helpful suggestion. How am I supposed to do that when I have no choice but to be outside and it is 35F with a windchill of 27F? Staying warm isn’t really an option. I have a much deeper respect for all the lovely vendors up in Brooklyn who showed up every Saturday year round, sun, rain or snow. Not only are they 100 miles further north, the market ran 4 hours longer than the Malvern one! I can’t even imagine how cold they must be. Next time I am in NYC on a Saturday I plan to take coffee or hot chocolate to all of them. They are a tougher breed than I am. Thankfully next week we move inside a local church!

Things at the market have slowed down a lot in the past few weeks. Most of our customers today were regulars. Now that it is cold out, people don’t come to the park for a Saturday morning stroll or play date. If you are lucky enough to live near a year-round farmers’ market, show the vendors some love by shopping there. And tell your friends to do the same. We really do appreciate it!

Photo Friday

Photo Friday

Guess what I did? I went wandering with my camera! Finally. One of these days I’ll actually start doing this consistently. One of these days…

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There’s Always One

There’s Always One

Steve hurt his back over the weekend so I hung around to help Ryan. We had two big moves today and I was glad Ryan was leading the charge on both of them instead of me!

First we moved the calves. My favorite group! They were going into the woods with the goats. They were hungry and came as soon as Ryan started calling them. I followed behind just to make sure no stragglers turned around and tried to escape, but that wasn’t a problem. The whole thing took maybe 20 minutes. Maybe.  I wish moving calves went that smoothly every time!

Cooperative calves

Cooperative calves

Then we moved the cows. They were the tricky group. We put them above the pond, right below the cottage and café.

Cows outside my window!

Cows outside my window!

There aren’t perimeter fences for that section so we had a lot of setting up to do. Once we had everything ready, we set about moving them. To make it easier to follow, I’ve drawn up some lovely diagrams.

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You were hoping I’d actually draw a cow, weren’t you? No such luck. This is the extent of my artistic skills.

The cows were in Pasture 1. The solid black lines are the perimeter fences and the blue dashed line is the temporary fence that was still set up. The two gaps between Pasture 1 and Pasture 2 are coil spring gates and the opening at the bottom of Pasture 2 is the gate that opens into the lane. Our goal: run the cows through the coil springs, through Pasture 2 and into the lane. They would then follow the lane around to the are we’d fenced for them above the pond.

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We were worried that the calves would run past the 1st coil springs and get disoriented. This has happened before. They pass the opening they are supposed to run through and can’t figure out how to get back. They see the rest of the herd through the fence, but don’t know to turn around so they just keep plowing on ahead. To try and keep this from happening, we set up some chicken fence perpendicular to the far corner of the coil springs.

We also had a contingency plan. If any of them did run past the chicken fence, I would drop the temporary fence (blue dashed line) and open the far coil springs and call them down that way. Contingency plans are good. You should always have one because there’s always one knothead who can’t get with the program.

The whole herd came galloping through the first coil spring opening, following Ryan to new pasture while I waited to bring up the rear. Miraculously, all of the calves made it through and I though we were in the clear. No such luck. One of the mamas ran past the chicken fence and got herself trapped. I quickly dropped the fence and called her down to the other coil spring opening.

20131014_0028She came running, but by the time she got through the herd was out the gate and halfway down the lane. I wanted to keep her moving in the right direction so I ran behind her all the way down the pasture.

20131014_0029On paper that might not seem like a far distance, but these drawings are not to scale. Here’s a photo I took from the gate. I ran there from the ATV. Can you spot it?

20131014_0004I’ll help you out.

20131014_0004aI am supposed to run a half marathon on Sunday. That’s pretty laughable at this moment. There is no way. My eyes have been opened and I am no longer under the delusion that being ‘farm fit’ will enable me to run 13.1 miles without any training.

Back to cows. They are happily settled right outside my window! It is lovely.

Cows outside my window!

ONE WEEK LATER

ONE WEEK LATER

 

Lauren is enjoying a much-needed weekend off so Emily and I ran the show at the farmers’ market this morning. Shortly after we arrived, before we were done setting up, I got a call from Steve who was back at the farm handling chores and such.

My heart sank when I saw his name on the screen. Given how our week without Ryan had gone, I just assumed he had bad news for me. I really wanted to ignore the call. After all, there wasn’t much I could do from Malvern and I couldn’t just up and leave. Emily and I drove there together; I couldn’t just abandon her. Whatever it was he would just have to deal with it or wait until I got back at 2:00. I fought off the impulse to hit “Ignore” and answered the call.

“I just wanted to let you know we got 81!” Steve shared joyfully. It took me a minute to register what he said. The last calf, the final lost soul, was back with the herd. All of the calves were in the proper pasture. He and Tiana (his wife) had counted and recounted to make sure we had all 35. It only took us a whole week to get them there, but everyone was safely where they belonged before Ryan’s return! I wanted to shout for joy, but restrained myself. I didn’t want to scare off any customers. For the first time all week, I might actually get a good night’s sleep now that I don’t have that weighing on me.

Once every 4-6 weeks we host a chef dinner where a celebrity chef, typically from Philly, comes out to the farm and prepares a 5-7 course dinner for a group of 50. I’m not normally around for them (often they are on Sundays and I am already on the road to DE), but Dean is out of town so he invited me to go and asked me to share about the farm which is what he normally does. I’ll share more about the evening tomorrow, but let me just say it was one of the best meals I’ve had. Ever.

Completely unrelated: I figured out how to work the air compressor when none of the guys could. Steve had already left for the day and Emily’s tire needed air. Steve had removed the nozzle to hook up the air wrench so he could fix the trailer wheel. He’d removed the air wrench, but hadn’t reattached the normal nozzle. Mike and Paul were trying to figure it out as I headed out for the 4:00 tour. They eventually gave up and let me try and I got it! My dad will be so proud when he reads this.

THE PULLING OF THE BULLS

THE PULLING OF THE BULLS

 

Sorry, boys. The party’s over. Breeding season is at an end and the bulls are now facing 10 months of celibacy before their next hurrah.

We do open breeding with our cows which is where you put the bull in with the herd and let him have at it. The other breeding method is controlled breeding where you only allow the bull in with select females. You’d do this if you are breeding for certain traits or are looking to raise and sell show animals. We aren’t and open breeding is a much easier option.

The bulls joined the herds back in July and had their two month fling. A cow’s gestation period is 10 months so the calves should be born between the end of April and June. Then the bulls go back in and the cycle begins again.

I was pretty nervous about working the bulls. Things went well last time, but we were taking them to the females. This time we were removing them so I was worried they’d be a bit more testy. Bulls and boars are two animals you don’t want to mess with. Thankfully both of our bulls are calm and they cooperated perfectly. We didn’t have any trouble loading them on to the trailer. Then Ryan carted them down to Lundale where they joined the steers.

Today was Thursday which means chicken slaughter day. The only difference was that Brian and Caleb had a big job this afternoon so they arrived at 6:00 a.m. Ryan, Steve and I were out catching chickens at 5:30. In the dark. That was fun. Ryan had a headlamp. I meant to bring mine back to the farm, but forgot it in Delaware. Yes, I own a headlamp. It’s awesome. It has a strobe light setting. But actually the dark helped us out. The chickens couldn’t see and were still half asleep. It was probably the easiest chicken catching we’ve done.

After all the birds had been nabbed and caged, I made breakfast for everyone, Brian and Caleb included. I figured we were all up early and needed a good start to the day. Nothing fancy. Just scrambled eggs. But they were just what we needed to really get going.

I kind of like being up early because the farm is so beautiful first thin in the morning. I always get the best photos then. One of these days I’ll take my real camera out. I keep saying that. Maybe it really will happen soon. Until then, phone photos will have to do.

Ryan and I headed down to Lundale to move the steers to a new pasture while Steve started on chores. I helped him finish up when we got back and Ryan set to work making check lists for us for next week. He’s getting married on Saturday and will be gone on his honeymoon. Steve and I will be on our own for a whole week! I’m sticking around Monday and Tuesday to help.

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After that it was time to clean the chick brooders. For the last time! Cleaning the brooders is my least favorite chore. Chickens are gross, even when they are babies. The shed can just be shoveled out in between batches of chicks, but the brooders have to be scrubbed. It isn’t fun. But we moved our last batch of chicks from the brooders to the shed yesterday. Now the brooders are squeaky clean and will remain that way until next spring. Thank goodness!

Does anyone know what these seeds are? My boots and pants are covered in them after walking through the pastures. Whatever it is, it goes to seed this time of year because this is the first I’ve seen them.

20130918_0021Also, Modern Farmer has declared this week Goat Week. In honor of that, enjoy these photos of our sweet goats. I got to hang out with them today! We’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to spend much time with them. And, yes, that is a goat climbing a tree in the 2nd photo.

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Tagging and Hoof rot

Stuck, Tagging and Hoof rot
Post by our Farm Girl Becca; Girl Gone Farming
It was bound to happen. Only a matter of time, really. Honestly, with my track record I’m amazed I made it this long. I got something stuck. But that is a story for another time.

It wasn’t all me. It was a joint effort really between Arden and myself. She was driving the Polaris, but I was navigating. The grass was so tall. Above my waist in places. We didn’t see the gully until it was too late. It was so muddy. We tried everything. Low gear. Four-wheel drive. But we just kept spinning tires.

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After our best efforts to get unstuck failed, I called Rob to come pull us out. He first tried to rescue us with the four wheeler, but that didn’t work. We were really stuck. So he returned with the tractor. The big tractor. The one that pulls the hay wagon, a.k.a The Hulk. That did the trick. We were saved and I’ll be baking Rob some oatmeal butterscotch cookies. Those are his favorite.

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Rob to the rescue!

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Saved by the Deere

We spent the better part of the afternoon trying to catch and tag calves. Cow 116 had a female baby yesterday and Ryan asked me if I felt comfortable tagging it by myself. I said I did and set off with the two Robs to build a fence and tag what would be calf 344. Turns out calf 344 is a wild child. Young calves sleep a lot so you can usually just sneak up on them and get them tagged before they know what is happening. Not 344. She was up and alert and wanted nothing to do with us. We chased her around for a good bit before deciding to try again later.

That was yesterday morning. This morning we went up with the same plan. Find her sleeping and sneak up on her. Well, we found her sleeping, but when I was about 10 feet away she jumped up and bucked and ran. So much for that plan. The first time Ryan tasked me with tagging a calf on my own I failed miserably. He ended up having to chase her down on the four wheeler and lasso her to get her tagged. That made me feel better. It wasn’t all incompetence on my part. She really was wild!

This afternoon we headed over to the heifers to treat two calves for hoof rot. Hoof rot is almost exactly what it sounds like: a bacterial infection that rots the foot, though it actually attacks the area between the “toes,” not the hoof itself. It is very contagious and can lead to lameness if left untreated. The telltale sign is limping. We treated the calves yesterday so today they were pretty skittish. We finally caught and treated one, but the other wouldn’t let us get close enough to rope her so we will try again tomorrow. Hoof rot spreads through the soil so I am hoping that a few warm days will dry out the ground and prevent the infection from spreading to others.

For those who have been wondering about Sir Fluffkin, he is doing well, though is minions are almost as big as him these days. He’s still with his friends up in the broiler house. I am hoping to move him down with the layers when we get the 500 new ones. Chicken-dog will have so many distractions that she shouldn’t single him out. Sadly, he is becoming increasingly less domesticated. He won’t let me pick him up and hold him like he used to. It’s my fault for not spending more time with him every day, but that’s just the way it goes.

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Jailbirds

My great-grandmother used to say that things happen in threes. Today was one of those days.
It all started when we went to feed the pigs in the breeding runs. They normally come meet us at the gates to the pens because they are friendly and know we have food. In the six weeks I’ve been here, none of them have ever tried to escape. Until today.

The big red sow came to greet me at the gate as usual, but  instead of backing up as I entered, she continued to push forward. At 300+ lbs., it wasn’t hard for her to shove me out of the way. I tried to push her back in but to no avail. Luckily, she trotted over to the boar’s gate and froze. This is known as standing heat and means she is ready to be bred. We couldn’t just let the boar out which meant we had to get her into the boar’s pen. Easier said than done. With both of us pushing, we managed to get her in and just left them to it.

Next we moved the layers. Normally we do this on Thursday but the layers are currently sharing a pasture with the calves and the calves section was in the way yesterday so we put off moving the layers until today. Things were fine until I opened up the fence to let Steve drive the tractor out. The chicken-dog bolted. Not good, but again we got lucky. She is strangely attached to me (I promise I ignore her!) and ran right to me. I was able to grab her and drag her back into the pen.

After lunch we had to move the heifers. These heifers have been nothing but trouble since they started calving. They aren’t very good mothers. They ignore their calves. They forget which calve is theirs. They seem to like their calves, but refuse to let them nurse. Or they are excessively overprotective to the point where they charge us if we get within 20 yards of their calves. And their moods change from hour to hour.

When we went to move them, the moms all seemed more interested in fresh grass than the whereabouts of their babies. After we got everyone moved over to the new pasture, we found 4 abandoned babies in the old one. (I now know that you should walk through the herd to make sure all of the calves are awake and standing BEFORE you try to move them.) Steve and I tried to chase them over to the new pasture, but calves aren’t like cows. They aren’t predictable and two of them bolted. They went under the polywire fencing and off towards the gate we’d left open. We hadn’t closed it because we thought the polywire would be enough. We were wrong.

The poor (dumb) things ran straight out the gate into a briar patch where they got themselves stuck. Steve dragged the first one out and we toted him back up to the pasture with the rest of the herd. As soon as we put him down he bolted again. And again he ran away from the herd. This time I managed to chase him back in with the group. Let me just say that running in work boots is very different from running in my Vibrams. We went back for the other guy and this time took him all the way into the center of the pasture before letting him go.

Both of the escapees were steers. Numbers 308 and 310 (the 8th and 10th calves born in 2013). It takes 18-24 months to get a steer to slaughter weight on grass. I don’t know where I will be in 18-24 months, but wherever I am, I will come back to enjoy a burger made of 308 and 310. I am sure it will be the best burger I’ll ever have.

Post by Becca;  http://girlgonefarming.wordpress.com/

Up and Running

What a day! While the café technically opened yesterday, today was our first full day and it went off without a hitch. The weather was perfect, the people friendly, and the food delicious. It was almost relaxing after all the crazy yesterday!

The tours got off to a bit of a slow start. There weren’t that many people around at 12:00 and we had the wagon parked behind the market so people just didn’t know about it. When 12:20 rolled around and Rob and I still had an empty wagon, we decided to change tactics. We pulled the wagon around in front of the market so people would see it and then got the girls in the market and café to drum it up for us.

The 2:00 tour had about 12 people and the 4:00 had 15 or 17. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and they had a lot of good questions for me. The chicken-dog was a big hit, as were the baby chicks (our last stop). We had a lot of people who were first time visitors which was great! Rob is an excellent tractor driver and having him made my life a lot easier for sure.

We have several new products for sale in the market: cheeses, pasta, yogurt, raw milk, granola, assorted whole grain flours – all local! Along with our meat, eggs, honey, and produce, I’ll never have to go to the grocery store again. It’s like I’m back in Brooklyn with everything I need just a block or two away. Now if only I could get Simon to come down and do my laundry once a week…

Also, the sow gave birth! We have a litter of piglets and they are precious. I’d been hoping she’d give birth today (the 27th) so the piglets would share my birthday, but they came last night. I guess that’s close enough. I will try to get some pictures soon. Mama is being a good mom thus far. She’s protective, but not overly aggressive, and she hasn’t accidentally smothered any of them yet, which pigs have a tendency to do.

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Post by;  Becca http://girlgonefarming.wordpress.com